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10 Best Horror Movies of 2017

From French cannibals to Aussie serial killers, ‘Split’ to ‘Get Out’ – our picks for the year’s scariest shockers and beyond-great genre films

Could any horror film of the past 12 months compete, scare-wise, with the terrors that lurked outside your front door, or that greeted you daily in your news feeds and TweetDecks? In terms of nightmares, 2017 often felt like a waking one, complete with an endless supply of monsters and predators, and no sign that you’d be waking up from it any time soon. It was the year when you could buy a ticket to the long-awaited film adaptation of Stephen King’s It and watch a psychotic clown threaten to snatch all that was dear to its helpless victims – and then turn on CNN and see reports on a real-life version of the exact same thing. 

But if you think of horror as being a release valve – the place where we exorcise our collective fears and anxieties – 2017 was the year that we needed scary movies the most. And by the love of all that’s unholy, the genre more than delivered: You could get horror films in a variety of flavors, from the socially relevant (Get Out, a runaway critical and popular success) to sensationally escapist and/or campy, from better-than-average franchise extenders (Annabelle: Creation, the latest in the ever-expanding Conjuring-verse) to slasher-hall-of-fame entries for Jigsaw, Leatherface, etc. Ghost stories, gorefests, slow-burning dread and jump-scare jolts, serial killers and supernatural soul-stealers, legendary auteurs up their old tricks and first-time filmmakers who pushed things in incredible new directions – there was a smorgasbord of fright to be had.

The year gave us disappointments too, of course – the devil help you if you were anticipating Universal’s “Dark Universe” movies being a bounty of thrills and chills instead of D.O.A. from the get-go, and the less said about The Bye-Bye Man (or Rings, or A Cure for Wellness, or …), the better. But it also delivered a handful of films that would easily make our all-time canon. Here are our picks for the 10 best horror movies of 2017.  

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‘Get Out’

It was the inescapable horror movie of 2017 – both a pitch-perfect throwback to writer-director Jordan Peele’s beloved Seventies “social thrillers” and a right-now racial state-of-the-nation address that touched a raw nerve. A lesser filmmaker might have reduced the story of an African-American photographer (Daniel Kaluuya, giving great cry-face) going to meet his white girlfriend’s liberal parents – and having the strange feeling that something is very wrong – to little more than a collection of socially conscious jump scares. Instead, Peele turned Get Out into something unique: A straight-up scary movie that laced its satirical jabs with genuine menace, weaponized a gleeful sense of tweaking “woke” folks and gave form to all the free-floating communal dread of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” era. Released right after a racist President was sworn in to office and still playing in theaters when white supremacists marched in Southern streets, this hit horror film became instantly emblematic of our warped moment. We all live in the Sunken Place now. DF

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‘Raw’

Many folks walked in to French director Julia Ducournau’s extraordinary, extreme debut expecting to test their mettle. (The movie that caused fainting at festival screenings! Mon dieu!) A little under two hours later, they exited the building having seen a genuine Grand Guignol masterpiece. Following the story of a college freshman (Garance Marillier) who slowly finds herself developing a taste for some off-the-menu delicacies, this gnarly look at a cannibal’s coming-of-age flips the script on notions of empowerment even as it turns stomaches. In terms of next-gen horror filmmaking, this shock to the system serves as an introduction to a major new talent (that shot of our heroine chomping into her arm en flagrante delicto is gorgeous and haunting and sick as fuck). In terms of using genre to tackle the female-body politic, Raw is one hell of an art-horror dirty bomb, smuggling in transgressive notions about control and womanhood under the cover of fake–Type-O splatter. Bon appetit. DF

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