The most underappreciated horror movies released in 2017

So far, 2017 has been a great year for horror. From sleeper hits like It Comes At Night to box-office breakers like It and Get Out, we've seen all genres of horror films roll out on the silver screen, serving up both pants-wetting scares and critical acclaim on the same terrifying platter. But for every high-profile clown killer, there are a dozen low-key horror movies that slip straight onto DVD or—more frequently these days—video on demand, where they sit like long-forgotten Easter eggs beneath the first snow drifts of the coming winter. Here are the under-appreciated horror movies you missed in 2017.

The Devil's Candy

Mixing heavy metal and horror, The Devil's Candy follows a struggling artist, played with what we can only describe as creepily natural creepiness by Ethan Embry, who moves his family out to a house in rural Texas. When the house's previous owner begins making sinister nighttime visits to their new home, the family's already turbulent lifestyle descends into terror. 

The Devil's Candy made the rounds at horror festivals in 2015, but it wasn't until 2017 that the film got a more widespread release via video-on-demand services. Written and directed by Sean Byrne in his sophomore feature directorial role (his previous film being The Loved Ones, an equally unique sleeper horror flick), The Devil's Candy plays with themes from old-school occult films while confidently slipping into its own modern take on the genre.

One of the highlights of The Devil's Candy, though (and there are many) is Mads Heldtberg and Michael Yezerski's musical score, which uses heavy metal riffs to infuse the film with the whole spectrum of emotions, dancing between dread, joy, terror, and heartbreak on the same six steel strings.

The Evil Within

It'd be easy to say that the story behind this movie is more interesting than the movie itself, but that would take away from what is actually a very well made, highly visual horror movie that'll no doubt leave a lot of viewers with some very specific nightmares. Still, though, it's impossible to talk about The Evil Within without a mention of writer/director/millionaire-oil-heir Andrew Getty, who spent more than a decade meticulously crafting this schizophrenic passion project before passing away in 2015 from complications related to methamphetamine abuse.

The Evil Within tells the story of a mentally handicapped man named Dennis (Frederick Koehler) who lives in a mansion with his brother (Sean Patrick Flanery). After his reflection starts telling Dennis to kill people, things go downhill pretty fast. The end result is a mashup of nifty visual tricks and prosthetic-heavy body horror that will certainly go down in history as one of the strangest horror experiences of the decade. Unfortunately, Getty never got to see his finished film—it was released two years after his untimely death. And judging by the movie's Rotten Tomatoes page, very few other people saw it, either.

Berlin Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a real, disturbing condition in which someone who's been kidnapped develops a sense of affection for their kidnapper. Berlin Syndrome plays with that idea by following an Australian tourist who has a one-night stand with a man in Berlin, only to find herself locked in his apartment. The struggle that follows is pure psychological horror that dives deep into the mindset of survival and the subtleties of psychosis, all anchored by a phenomenal performance by Australian actress Teresa Palmer and a bone-pounding low-end musical score. Sometimes touching, sometimes brutal, Berlin Syndrome is definitely a trip abroad that you won't forget anytime soon.

The Blackcoat's Daughter

Like The Devil's Candy, writer/director Ox Perkins' slow-burn possession film The Blackcoat's Daughter was made in 2015 but didn't secure a release until 2017. Starring American Horror Story's Emma Roberts and Dexter's James Remar, this film centers on two girls who are left at their prep school after the rest of the kids go home for vacation. It turns out that both girls are hiding a secret, and soon events spiral out of their control in the worst possible way. 

If you're looking for a gore-fest filled with jump scares, you're better off looking elsewhere. But if you want to spend your night with an atmospheric horror film that bleeds tension and where nothing is what it seems, queue this one up.

A Dark Song

You couldn't ask for a more powerful directorial debut than A Dark Song, and Liam Gavin—who pulled double duty as both writer and director on this smart, engaging portrayal of ritual black magic—is definitely a director to look for in the future. 

Eschewing the cliches of the possession/demonic genre, Gavin has crafted a surreal, minimalist film that may be one of the most technically detailed occult movies of the last decade, if not ever. There aren't any jump scares, and precious little blood, but the build-up over A Dark Song's sparse 100-minute runtime is just as satisfying as the ultimate climax. If you're the kind of person who enjoys a movie as much for the journey as for the destination, A Dark Song might become a new horror favorite.

Dig Two Graves

Dig Two Graves isn't a typical horror movie; it's more of a hardboiled revenge tale packaged in a horror wrapper. Which isn't to say it's any the worse for it. The story centers on a young girl who makes a pact with a group of gypsy mountain men to bring her dead brother back to life…if she's willing to pay the price. But little does she know that she's only the latest person to be drawn into an inter-generational feud that goes back for decades.

This indie thriller premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival in October 2014, then quietly sat in the shadows until it was released online in 2017, but it was certainly worth the wait. Dig Two Graves blends revenge, thriller, fantasy, and horror themes into one twisted tale of power gone wrong and a young girl who may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for her family.

Lake Bodom

Teens partying in the woods? Check. Mysterious killer on the loose? Check. Mounting body count of aforementioned teens? Check and double check. Smart twists that keep you guessing throughout and actually come together at the end in a complete story? Spoon out the check-aroni and cheese because baby, you got a stew going

Lake Bodom may look like a run-of-the-mill scream-fest, but the movie's biggest twist is selling itself as a teen slasher flick when it manages to be so much more. If you've never heard of it, don't beat yourself up. After a short festival run, this Finnish horror release slipped quietly onto Shudder, a VOD service specializing in horror movies, virtually ensuring that only a handful of people outside of Finland would ever lay eyes on it. But for horror purists, Lake Bodom is definitely worth tracking down.

The Void

Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski first teamed up to write and direct the 2011 horror comedy Father's Day, a neo-grindhouse homage to the ultraviolent "exploitation film" genre that hit its peak the '70s. Their 2017 follow up The Void uses the same genre-specific cues as that film, only this time they pay homage to cult '80s body horror. 

The Void is messy, weird, and a ton of fun, focusing on a police officer (Aaron Poole) who finds himself trapped in a hospital when mysterious, hooded figures show up outside and start killing anyone who ventures through the doors. But while staying inside seems like the safest bet, he soon finds that the greatest terror is living in the bowels of the hospital itself. Cue blood, guts, and some of the best practical monster effects this side of a Cronenberg supercut.

House on Willow Street

Admittedly one of the weaker entries in this list, House on Willow Street may well fall a bit short of the mark in pacing, but the premise and visual design more than make up for its other flaws. 

Directed by Alastair Orr, House on Willow Street is about two crooks who kidnap a young woman in the hopes of snagging a ransom from her rich father. Little do they know, though, that their victim is possessed, and soon she begins to turn the tables on her kidnappers. House on Willow Street doesn't do much to defy genre conventions, but it serves very well as a bloody fun romp into horror for a lazy evening. Turn off the lights, pop some popcorn, and settle in for all the jump scares you can handle.

The Dark Tapes

At this point, we've nearly had our fill of anthology films. The fad arguably kicked off with 2012's V/H/S, but has since grown to encompass all the V/H/S sequels, The ABCs of Death (1 and 2), A Christmas Horror Story, Holidays, and Tales of Halloween, to name a few. For all we know, there's probably a Black History Month themed horror anthology out there, because if you follow a cockroach into the floorboards, you're bound to find a nest. 

So when an anthology film comes along that not only exceeds expectations (which were basement-level low) but shatters them completely, it's worth a mention. Perhaps because the filmmakers already had so many stale examples to learn from, The Dark Tapes successfully ratchets up the terror while avoiding all the pitfalls that have doomed so many other entries in this genre.

The anthology is composed of four different stories that are actually connected—nothing new there—but the deft camerawork and tight script make all the difference here. If you want to be alternately grossed out by alien monsters and scared witless by paranormal visitors, The Dark Tapes is the perfect choice. And while we're on the subject of anthologies, 2017's XX is another above-the-notch entry in this genre, and unlike The Dark Tapes, that one's available on Netflix.