TOP 10 HORROR MOVIES OF 2016
While 2016 sure seemed like a year long nightmare we would never wake from (even after it ended), it was a pretty fine year for horror. The genre is alive and well, despite being almost entirely abandoned by the big studios. Over the last couple of years, indie filmmakers and studios around the globe are putting out some of the best films the genre has seen in almost 30 years. Here are my top 10 favorites of the year, as well as a handful of honorable mentions worth your time.
10) THE INVITATION
I knew director Karyn Kusama from Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body, so my expectations were pretty low. Maybe that helped this movie make the list? Either way, I went in expecting not much and ended up loving it. Granted much of that love has to do with the ending. I might not be as dismissive with her next film.
9) THE NEON DEMON
I'm a fan of some of Nicolas Winding Refn's other films (Bronson, Drive), so my expectations were a bit higher. The movie itself maybe didn't quite meet them story-wise, but this a movie that is so damn beautiful it demands to be seen. Keanu Reeves is worth the watch alone.
8) TRASH FIRE
I've never seen anything from Richard Bates Jr. before, so I went in to this blind. It helps that I never watched Entourage, so actor Adrian Grenier didn't distract. Some may hesitate to call this a horror movie in the classic sense, but it's still as unsettling as anything else on this list. Anyone who has a strongly dysfunctional family should appreciate this movie.
7) 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
The first feature from director Dan Trachtenberg, dwelling in the J.J. Abrams Cloverfield cinematic universe, but not a sequel. This movie was a pleasant surprise to everyone when it came out. Not just because it appeared from nowhere, but because it's so much better than the found footage dreck that was the other Cloverfield movie. In fact the only thing I didn't like about this was the very end and what felt like a forced upon tie-in to a movie we have yet to see.
First time Turkish director Can Evrenol sure knows how to brew up some nightmare fuel. With help from first time actor Mehemet Cerrahoglu (Father). This movie really got under my skin and left a lingering stain in my brain, which I'm not sure I'll ever remove. By no means does this movie go to the extremes of something like A Serbian Film, but it is not for the timid.
5) GREEN ROOM
Jeremy Saulnier follows up his equally worthy Blue Ruin, with one doozey of an exercise in pure tension. Bittersweet that it's also one of Anton Yelchin's final films, but we get full on evil Patrick Stewart to boot. If you've ever been in a band and had to play gigs at some questionable places, surrounded by even more questionable people, this movie is for you.
4) UNDER THE SHADOW
This gem is from first time Iranian director Babak Anvari. It's been described by some as "The Iranian Babadook". What this movie has, that most of the others lack, is a very real world sense of impending dread, besides the supernatural horror. While the movie is set in late 80's Iran, it could as easily be Syria today. Besides supernatural horrors, this protagonist has to deal with an encroaching war and an oppressive patriarchal society, all at the same time.
3) THE AUTOPSY OF JANE-DOE
From Trollhunter helmer Andre Overdal comes the easiest movie on this list to recommend. It has the best chance of appealing to any stripe of horror fan and it very much follows classic horror structuring. That doesn't mean it's devoid of surprises, it just feels very familiar. It speaks to how amazing the pacing and performances are that it can hold this much excitement while taking place almost entirely in a single room. This is a great October movie.
2) THE EYES OF MY MOTHER
Nicolas Pesce is a filmmaking talent to watch. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and unsettling movies I've seen in a long time. Of all the movies on this list, this one stuck with me afterwards the most. While not extremely graphic, it's a very disturbing ride. Most will find it a bit difficult to watch and not because it's in Portuguese. An amazing cinematic achievement for a first time director.
1) THE WITCH
When I saw this movie in May, I suspected it was going to be number one for the year and number one it is. Yet again a first time director, Robert Eggers, goes to extreme lengths to achieve a sense of realism. Every detail of this movie is part of a meticulous tapestry to transplant you into rural 1630's New England to despair along with this poor forsaken family. Shot in only 25 days on a micro-budget, it is everything that is great about film and the horror genre. This isn't a movie made to sell out a multiplex, it's a work of pure passion and it shows. This movie will undoubtedly show up on a number of "best of" lists, regardless of genre. Keep an eye out for this director and new directors in general.