Anyone who really knows me, knows the horror genre is my favorite genre. I wouldn’t really make lists of any other genre of my favorites, but considering horror is my favorite, and people more often than not ask me about horror movies than other genres, I decided to keep up with making my top 10 favorite horrors of the year. Here’s my list for 2016.
1) 10 Cloverfield Lane
After a young woman gets in a car crash, she wakes up in a bunker and is told by the man who took her that everything and everyone above ground is dead. Unsure of what to believe, she must use her smarts, skills, and instincts in order to get through her ordeal.
This film the next addition in the “Cloverfield” anthology series. I loved the first film, and this loved this one even more. It’s not the kind of horror film you’d expect, but it’s so psychologically and physically horrific. The intensity that’s present throughout the film, the paranoia, and the claustrophobia from the confined space make this a pretty damn scary film. It hooks you right from the beginning and never lets go. Even at the end when you think it’s over and you can finally breathe, it pulls you back in. It’s also backed by an Oscar-worthy performance by John Goodman, and a powerhouse performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The direction and use of cinematography is also a factor in making this one hell of a ride.
2) The Witch
The film takes place in old New England, when witches were greatly feared. It follows a family who is shunned from their village and try to start anew in a country house outside of a dark wood. The family then falls prey to a hidden witch within the woods and soon their faith and familial bond is tested.
I’ll start out by saying that this isn’t a horror movie for everyone. I personally found it terrifying. It’s the ultimate slow-burn horror film. Much of the horror at hand involves the use of imagination and it really uses the “less is more” routine to a t. The final act provides for a heart-pounding sequence when everything begins to unravel. It also features beautiful and haunting cinematography and direction to put you into this world and the lives of the characters. It also features a star-making performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as the lead female.
3) Lights Out
Lights Out tells the story of a young woman who realizes her younger brother is now being haunted by the same entity she experienced as a child. This entity can only come out in the dark and has a strong connection to her mentally ill mother. It’s up to her to not only save her life, but also her brother and mother.
The first two films were psychological and subtle horror at it’s finest. This horror film I would say is easily the most physically scary film I’ve seen in a long time. The jump scares may be the same, but god damn they are effective because they are so brilliantly crafted and directed. I’ve seen the movie 3 times now and it still has the power to make me jump at the right moments. It’s also my new favorite ghost film, and is another film that features great cinematography to provide the right mood it its scenes. Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, and Gabriel Bateman all provide strong performances as the targeted family by showing their fears and even the emotions at hand involving their troubled relationship.
4) Don’t Breathe
Three young burglars decide to break in a blind veteran (whom is said to be of great wealth) in order to escape their shitty lives and start over somewhere new. But once the three have entered, they find that the target they thought would be easy may be a very big threat.
This film is another one that uses more psychological tactics that really hit the right notes. It’s pure intensity all the way through that will have you holding your breath. The characters (save one) aren’t really the most likable characters, but the actors themselves do one hell of a job. Especially Stephen Lang as the Blind Man, and Jane Levy as the lead female Rocky. Dylan Minnette provides the most relatable and sympathetic performance in the film as Alex, the boy who pines for Rocky. The scenes where the trio find themselves hunted within the house are so intense and brilliantly directed that it’s no wonder it garnered the great reviews and box office intake. Do I believe it needs a sequel? Not really, but Fede Alvarez hasn’t disappointed so far, so it could very well impress.
5) Neon Demon
Young teenager Jessie moves to L.A. in order to pursue her dream of becoming a model. But what she doesn’t realize is how deadly the life of fame can be. She finds herself being consumed by the life of fame and glamour and by those who seek the same fame as her.
Neon Demon is hands down the most odd and bizarre horror film I’ve seen this year. A majority of the film feels close to a drama, but as the story progresses, it begins to grow darker until the film’s climax when the horror finally goes balls-to-the-wall insane. It does a fine job of building all of this up with the story and the characters, especially with Jesse. We see her transform before our very eyes as this shy girl who thinks her beauty is all there is to her, and see her growing to the dark side and become the opposite of who she started out with. Elle Fanning is amazing in this roles and captures both sides of Jessie perfectly. Also worth noting is Jena Malone as the plain-jane who develops a friendship with Jessie, but we are unsure of whether she is to be trusted. Malone easily provides the best performance of the film, keeping us guessing as to the the motives of her character, much like John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane. But what stands out the most about this film is the hypnotic and often haunting score of the film, and the equally hypnotic and dazzling cinematography. It wouldn’t be a Nicholas Winding Refn film without these last two brilliant aspects.
6) Fear Inc.
A group of friends take part in a subscription called Fear Inc in which you hire people to help bring your fears to life. But soon the group realizes that this company may be taking their job too far.
Fear Inc is an extremely fun slasher film that works in vein of Scream. It’s self-aware in all of the horror tropes it uses and even pokes fun and refers to other horror films. The group at hand is fun and likable, and the lead horror-obsessed character is written in a way where right when you feel like he’s about to start getting annoying is when the character changes and gets serious. It also features a lot of twists and turns, and does have some thrills to it. Unfortunately the opening scene featuring Abigail Breslin in an almost homage to Drew Barrymore’s scene in Scream is shorter than I wished, because the scene itself is pretty intense well-crafted. If you’re looking for a new film to watch every Halloween, this a fun one to play, or even to watch at any other point of the year.
7) The Invitation
A man and his girlfriend are invited to a get-together hosted by his wife who hasn’t heard from since she walked out on him. The get-together also consists of some of the ex-couple’s friends, and a few new friends of her and her new husband’s. The party starts out innocent enough, but the man begins to become suspicious of her new husband, new friends, and the ultimate motive of the invitation.
Yet another slow-burn horror film makes the list. This one I’ve found to be hit or miss amongst horror fans, but I loved the hell out of it. The group of old friends are fun and well-developed enough that you feel an attachment to them. When the intensity begins and the lead begins to question everything, we find ourselves becoming just as paranoid as he is, or even unsure of his reliability. For most of the film you become hooked on what’s going to happen and when, and when it finally does happen it’s an extremely intense sequence involving a great amount of insanity.
8) The Boy
An American woman trying escape her abusive ex moves overseas to become the nanny for a young couple and their son. She finds out their son is actually a doll. Despite the oddity of the situation she still agrees to care for him. When the couple leaves for a trip, she’s left with a set of rules, that she of course breaks. Due to this, she finds herself being tortured by this doll who is more than just a doll.
This movie is way different than what you’d expect from a film about a doll. There is quite a bit of intensity here, and the large mansion the young woman stays in helps provide an extra creepy atmosphere. Plain and simply, The Boy takes everything you’ve seen and expect from a scary doll film takes and turns it on its head. The final act is so insane that it takes a while before you can finally wrap your head around everything that is going on.
9) 47 Meters Down/In the Deep
Two sisters decide to go on a vacation after one of them goes through a tough break up. On the trip they decide to go cage diving in a sea of sharks. The fun is cut short when the rope to their cage breaks and they drop down all the way to the ocean floor. With their oxygen running out inside the cage, and the deadly sharks outside of it, the sisters must find a way to get out alive.
NOTE: The film has yet to be released, but I managed to get a screening of it. At this point I’m not sure which of the two titles they plan on using. It’s supposed to be released theatrically in 2017 after being pulled from this year’s schedules so it wouldn’t be compared or faced competition with The Shallows.
This is hands-down my favorite shark film since Deep Blue Sea. In a time when all we get for shark films are the crappy SyFy films, this one provides the scares/thrills we so desire. It’s super intense and keeps you on edge wondering what will befall these likable siblings. The cage setting feels really claustrophobic and any scene involving them checking their oxygen is very effecting. The sharks look fantastic and they are very well-used. Any stupid decision you feel the characters make you rethink because they are the only choices they have in front of them, which adds to the thrills. It also features one crazy final act I didn’t see coming. Mandy Moore and Clare Holt really carry the movie with their solid performance as the two sisters, and they do well with really selling their bond and relationship and having to rely on each other.
A deaf writer finds herself being stalked by a psychotic killer outside her secluded home. With no help, she must uses any sense she has to survive the night.
Mike Flanagan is sure as hell making his name for himself in the horror genre. I’ve loved every film he has done. This Netflix exclusive film is easily the best horror film on there right now. The killer is very creepy, the script is smartly written, and it has a great amount of intensity. Kate Siegel does a stellar job playing our deaf lead establishing both the character’s fear and ultimate bravery. What I liked the most about it is how it cleverly uses the character’s personality as writer (her thought process and creativity) to try help her get through the situation. I really feel like this film will hold up much better than The Strangers in the future for the mere fact that it gives us character worth rooting for and how it’s so well-crafted and thought out.