2016 was a strange year. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that, either. This goes for the horror genre as well – after all, anything is bound to be strange after the monumental year that was 2015. There seems to be a trend happening with horror cinema; we are going in very artsy, almost introspective direction. However, I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan. My picks for the top ten best horror movies of 2016 are sure to bring in some debate, but so be it. That’s the great thing about this genre; there’s so much to pick and choose from.
In making this list, I found that most of the films that were put on here were chosen not for artistic value, but storytelling, and the feeling they conveyed. You will not find The Eyes of My Mother anywhere near this list besides in this opening statement. This is a movie that I feel is very indicative of the type of film that I do not enjoy. I found that film to be very much “style over substance”, and it bored me nearly to tears.
On the other hand, I had to justify to myself why The Boy shouldn’t make it onto this list. In its simplest form, The Boy was a fun 90-minute form of horror escapism; while it wasn’t innovative or “high art” in any way, what it did succeed in was telling a good story that I could be ensnared by. I look for numerous things in horror movies, and I can find at least one in almost everything I watch; character development, emotion, story, subtext that I can relate to/understand, and general entertainment. Some movies exhilarate me. Some scare me. And some, believe it or not, bore me to tears – usually because I don’t feel that they include (or don’t include enough of) one of these five things.
Keep in mind that this is only one writer’s opinion and you are more than welcome to disagree. In fact, I would love to debate with you – what did you like this year? What didn’t you like? Let’s debate.
Here are my picks for the year’s ten best horror films.
BEST OF 2016
10. Ouija: Origin of Evil
I know what you’re thinking. “There must be a mistake!” No, you read that right. While the original Ouija is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, director Mike Flanagan somehow managed to make a highly enjoyable, very scary sequel. While I won’t even try and lie and say that the movie doesn’t rely on jump scares and silly cliches, Origin of Evil is simply a fun way to escape the real horrors of the current climate. This is much more than you could say about a lot of films.
9. The Witch
While I was originally unimpressed with Robert Egger’s debut, something drew me to the film long after my initial watch. Since then, I’ve watched it about four times, each time enjoying it a little more. There’s much more implied in the film than one may realize at first glance. Not only that, but the cinematography and set design is nothing short of astonishing. At first I found it boring and hard to sit through – now I find it compelling. Perhaps there’s a little more black magic in the film than any of us realize.
8. Green Room
Man, what a movie. Seriously disturbing. A lot of horror this year has dealt with the monstrosity of the human race – and as they say, art often reflects our daily lives. Green Room featured Patrick Stewart’s most evil role yet, and honestly, I hope he never does it again. It made it hard for me to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation for a solid month or two. For me, that’s a long time! Respect must also be given to the late Anton Yelchin, may he rest in peace.
An excellent horror anthology. While I thought last year’s Tales of Halloween missed the mark in more ways than one, Holidays seemed to take everything I thought wrong with the previously-mentioned film and do it better. It’s highly bizarre and deranged, with notable entries by Gary Shore and Anthony Scott Burns.
Many thought that the Ghostbusters reboot would be horrendous. I didn’t think it would be bad, but then again, I didn’t foresee it being one of the best horror releases of 2016, either. Ghostbusters, corny jokes included, made me smile the entire way through. Kristen Wiig absolutely slayed this role, and with cameos by all four original Ghostbusters (yes, all four), what is there not to love?
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
You want to talk about tense? 10 Cloverfield Lane is tense. John Goodman – no words. He’s an absolute monster here. I don’t think I can ever watch Roseanne the same way again. The film is claustrophobic and mysterious and is sure to raise your blood pressure by at least twenty points.
Mile Flanagan makes this list of the best horror of the year for the second time with Hush, a highly unique take on the slasher genre. While having a movie in which the final girl is deaf may seem like a cheap gimmick, Hush managed to make it original and interesting. But, in reality, I don’t care about originality. I know that may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, but hear me out. Yes, Hush is original, but its originally can’t compare to just how entertaining it is. I am a fan of movies that make you feel, whether it’s happy, sad, scared, or empowered. Hush will make you feel all of these things, and for that, it deserves a spot on on the best horror movies of 2016 without a doubt. In other words, it kicks major ass.
3. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Netflix has been absolutely killing it this year. Pretty Thing came out of nowhere – it just appeared on the streaming service – with no news of it coming my way whatsoever. I had not even heard of it before I compulsively added it to my queue. What I found was a haunting ghost story; quiet, understated, and powerful. Beautiful and scary. I absolutely loved it.
Baskin is the Turkish Hellraiser, except all pain and no pleasure. I mean this in the absolute best of ways. The film was just downright disturbing and terrifying. A group of men go into a building to find actual Hell. How could this situation end up being anything other than horrific? The colors and aesthetic of the film really give it a unique vibe that is highly unique and highly unsettling. Like many of these films, Baskin is currently available on Netflix.
1. The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 is not only one of the best horror movies of 2016, but one of the best horror movies of the past couple of years. The second tale of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren is full of equal parts heart and horror. While it’s not a perfect film, it comes pretty close. A lot of what horror is missing these days is the inclusion of the human condition. The characterization here is simply phenomenal; for all intents and purposes, the Warrens are like the true “Avengers” of horror. Whether or not the story this is based on is true, The Conjuring 2 is a heroic tale of the battle of good versus evil and the human condition.
While I could just end it there, I won’t. Aside from the story of the film being top-notch, the care and the attention to detail put forth in this film is monumental. The camera sweeps and glides through the wonderfully-crafted set pieces seamlessly, and each shot seems both intentional and important. The pacing is phenomenal as well, and in terms of technical aspects alone, no other film on this list can even touch it – not even The VVitch, which also has been highly (and fairly) praised for its art direction.