2016 has been a stellar year for horror films. Every year people declare our beloved genre dead due to the tired tropes and cliches, but this year has proven that horror is very much alive and thriving. Below you’ll find my top 10 horror movies of 2016. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to catch Under the Shadow and The Handmaiden, so those titles have been regrettably omitted.
10. ‘Green Room’
I wasn’t as impressed with Green Room as a lot of people were. The acting was a little strange, the lighting was a dark and there were quite a few slow patches. I did love the dark, grungy atmosphere though and there were some fantastic moments of shocking violence and intensity. It follows a group of young punk rockers who get trapped in a venue run by neo-Nazi skinheads. It’s a fun premise and it does boast some memorable scenes, but it doesn’t deserve the rave reviews it received, which is why I’ve placed it at the lower end of the list.
9. ‘Lights Out’
Thanks to an effective short film, David F. Sandberg got the chance to debut a fun, feature-length chiller with an original premise. The premise features a family haunted by a crooked spirit called Diane who only appears when the lights go out. It boasts good performances and likable characters, which are all too rare in horror films of today. The scares aren’t entirely effective, but there are moments of genuine suspense, particularly in the thrilling third act, which adds an innovative #supernatural spin on the home invasion sub genre. Despite suffering from some clichés and a sudden ending, #LightsOut stands out as one of the most memorable horror films of the year.
8. ‘Ouija: Origin Of Evil’
This could possibly be the most surprising film of the year. A prequel to one of 2013’s worst horror films, #Ouija2 was surely guaranteed to be a disastrous abomination. However, talented writer-director Mike Flanagan (#Oculus, #Hush) raised everyone’s expectations and crafted a supernatural horror film that is better than it has any right to be. Yes, it has the usual jump-scares, possessed little girls and #Insidious-inspired demons. It also disappoints in its last act with odd pacing and an all too familiar finale, but Ouija also does so many things right. It focuses on a family that you genuinely end up caring about and has a fantastic eye for detail in its period setting. It also cleverly deconstructs the genre and plays with our extensive horror knowledge while also delivering some scenes of surrealism, which makes for unsettling viewing. Most of all though, it’s just a fun time from start to finish and you can really see that it’s been crafted by an intelligent team who have genuine affection for horror films.
7. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’
Dan Trachenberg’s film had a strange release. No one had heard about the film until a trailer surfaced just months before the film was set to hit the big screens. People were also confused as to whether the film was a sequel to 2008’s #Cloverfield, even though the trailer looked as though it had nothing at all in common with Matt Reeves’ found footage monster movie. Lots of people (including me) are still confused by the mysterious title, but nevertheless, #10CloverfieldLane is an impressive exercise in suspense and mystery. It features a menacing performance from John Goodman as the enigmatic conspiracist, locking up two innocents with him in his bomb shelter. It’s a film that always manages to engage thanks to the constant, intense atmosphere and intrigue. It also doesn’t opt for a predictable finale, rather, going for something delightfully crazy and different altogether. It never takes itself too seriously and I look forward to seeing where exactly the Cloverfield universe is heading
6. ‘The Conjuring 2’
Here’s another sequel that managed to surpass expectations. #JamesWan managed to outdo himself with this beautifully crafted supernatural horror film. It follows the (supposedly) true story of a family in England experiencing some spooky activity of the paranormal kind. #Conjuring2 places most of its focus on the family instead of scares, so that we’re totally invested in their story. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have scares though. James Wan’s directing is as effective as ever at building up an atmosphere of almost unbearable suspense. He has also created one of the most iconic horror villains in recent memory with Valek, the terrifying demon nun. It’s a masterful film that manages to unsettle, entertain and emotionally involve its audience in equal measure.
5. ‘The Neon Demon’
Nicolas Winding Refn’s polarizing look into the fashion industry feels like a natural progression from the criminally underrated Only God Forgives. He’s swapped stunt driving and gun-slinging for gals and make-up. The story itself isn’t anything original — it’s the tale of a wide-eyed girl with big dreams who ends up getting consumed by them; however, the way it’s told is nothing short of masterful. Every shot in #NeonDemon is a work of art that oozes absolute style and beauty, which is exactly what the film is about. It’s full of hypnotic, Lynchian imagery, which makes you feel as if you’re watching a dream unfold. There are several stunning moments of pure visual cinema which is something of a rarity nowadays. The film also ends on a memorably whacky and disturbing note which will have you pondering over for weeks. It’s not a film which everyone will appreciate, but those who are attracted to strange and immersive films will find a lot to love.
4. ‘Don’t Breathe’
It hasn’t been a good year for the homes of the disabled. We already had a deaf woman getting her home invaded this year in Mike Flanagan’s #Hush, and now Fede Alvarez’s #DontBreathe shows us a blind man getting his house burgled by a gang of youths. Surely the most intense movie of the year, Alvarez makes every shot and sound count in his home invasion horror. Don’t Breathe is masterfully directed and dripping with suspense. It delivers non-stop thrills at every corner as well as featuring a memorable villain in Stephen Lang’s deadly Rambo-esque veteran and a badass heroine in Jane Levy’s Rocky. It’s a terrific experience on the big screen and is pretty much guaranteed to have you holding your breath on several occasions.
3. ‘Train To Busan’
This Korean undead tale is arguably more of an action thriller than a straight-up #horror movie, but it does have #zombies in it. It’s also great and easily the best zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead. It follows a neglectful father taking his young daughter on a train to a nearby city to see her mother. Unfortunately for them, hordes of the living dead begin to overtake most of Korea just as the train is about to depart, leaving the passengers in a desperate fight for survival. #TraintoBusan is pretty much a non-stop, two-hour thrill ride — no easy task considering that it’s almost entirely set in the confines of a train. It hurtles from set-piece to set-piece in waves of brilliant intensity that leave you gasping for air. The film also packs a surprising emotional wallop thanks to its terrifically drawn-out characters who you end up genuinely caring about. I found myself holding back the tears on more than one occasion.
2. ‘The Wailing’
The Koreans have been ruling horror this year with Train to Busan, The Handmaiden and now this, #TheWailing. It’s an enigmatic mix of crime, thriller, supernatural horror and dark comedy. It could’ve easily turned into a mess, but thanks to Na Hong-jin directing an unpredictable screenplay we’re left with an unforgettable near-masterpiece. It follows a bumbling yet lovable policeman as he investigates a series of mystifying murders plaguing his tiny village. Does it have something to do with the strange Japanese man who recently moved to the nearby forest? The Wailing keeps you guessing to the very end and always enthralls with its surprising twists and often hilarious comedy. Some may find the film silly, but it has such ambition and engaging characters you can’t help but appreciate what it’s trying to succeed. It’s a fantastic horror film that plays on your mind long after the credits roll.
1. ‘The Witch’
I can hear the cries of abuse now. For some reason, The Witch didn’t sit well with a lot of audiences after generating a lot of early critical acclaim. There’s no denying though that #TheWitch is the best horror film of the year so far and is destined to become a classic. Someone described it as “a Brothers Grimm fairytale directed by Stanley Kubrick” and that is the most accurate description I could think of. Robert Eggers’s debut film is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking and one if the scariest horror films to hit our screens in quite some time. Everything about The Witch is masterful, from the intense foreboding atmosphere to the bold unsettling score.
The film is set in 1630 and follows a God-obsessed family who suffer a series of tragic events after being banished to an isolated house next to a terrifying forest that is possibly home to a witch. It’s a film laced with horrifying imagery and suspense that explodes into an entirely satisfying finale that left my mouth agape. The Witch isn’t just the best horror movie of 2016 so far, but the best film period. Oh, and let’s not forget that it contains the best performance of the year in the shape of Black Phillip the goat.
So there we have it. Told you it’s been a knockout year for horror! What films have you enjoyed the most?