2017 was a horrific year, but it was also a great year for horror cinema. 2016 gave us some instant classics, but I would argue that this year’s offerings were more diverse, fascinating, and forward-thinking. There were mainstream films—IT, Annabelle: Creation, and Happy Death Day, to name a few—that I didn’t personally love, but their success has paved the way for more genre cinema overall. We’re finally seeing stories that reflect our times. I had the honor of witnessing this upsurge of conversation and success at Sitges’ 50th anniversary event, which was my cinematic and personal highlight of the year.
In terms of television, Twin Peaks: The Return has to go down in history as one of broadcasted horror’s best moments. Lynch dialed up the intensity and the surrealism in his new installment, and the result was stunning—not only spiritually terrifying, but beautiful and moving as well. I’ll be haunted to the grave by that voice growling, “Got a light?” A few films—The Devil's Candy, The Crescent, and The Ritual—horrified me in this visceral manner as well.
Queer horror also saw some monumental attention, meaning there were actual queer characters in horror this year. From Raw and The Untamed—both gorgeously frightening fest hits from 2016 that were just now theatrically released—to newer offerings like Thelma, My Friend Dahmer, and The Book of Birdie, it seems the boundaries are finally being broken down as queer-sensitive voices eschew subtext for frank depictions of gay love within an uncanny or macabre context. I want to see this trend continue in 2018.
Beyond this, I thought it was a magnificent year for arthouse and “prestige” horror as well. Audiences seem to be learning that a well-made, deliberate film can still be qualified as “genre.” We started the season with Get Out, which is a perfect example of how sociological themes can fuel genuine, fiercely intelligent horror and remain entertaining. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer took the genre to a new absurd height, while A Dark Song made a gamble by going for patience and truly depicting what it would take to execute a magic ritual.
For sheer creativity, I also loved (or was mesmerized by) The Lure, Dave Made a Maze, and The Shape of Water, while Revenge astounded me through its unstoppable style and wickedly smart play on tired tropes. Prevenge, Better Watch Out, and Creep 2 all took somewhat trashy concepts and raised them to a fascinating height by trading cheap shock for the unthinkable: nuanced characters!
There seemed to be an uptrend of gothic cinema this year, which seems like it might continue in 2018. A few festival greats from 2017 will be released in the next few months, namely Benson and Moorhead’s wildly inventive The Endless, while Piercing and Slice promise to continue the pattern of masterful independent horror. I personally can’t wait for Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Sarah Water’s classically terrifying The Little Stranger, and I think Luca Guadagnino’s apparently marvelous Suspiria reimagining may become a favorite for me. I adore the original, but you can’t beat Tilda Swinton playing a ballet witch.
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2017? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.