I think most of us would agree that 2016 was a rough year, full of highs and lows. The horror movie scene was the same, full of some mediocre titles, but peppered throughout with both good and bad films. I, for one, loved a number of films that were very good and some others that were enjoyably bad (The Shallows is my new favorite guilty pleasure).
So, as a way to close the book on 2016, I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite horror movies of 2016. I’m not saying these are the best horror movies of 2016, because I haven’t seen every single horror movie released in 2016. I just really loved these five movies. I tried to represent a bunch of different types of horror films from the year. Some appealed to my own particular horror tastes and preferences. Others challenged my preconceived notions about the limitations of some horror-subgenres. They were all great movies that disturbed me in one way or another, sticking with me for days, even weeks.
I know I’m a little late in posting, but I figured it was better late than never. Thus, without further ado, here’s my favorite 2016 horror movies.
The Surprise Indie Slasher – Hush
A solid and inventive cat-and-mouse game, Hush is about a deaf writer named Maddie and the merciless killer trying to break into Maddie’s isolated cabin. Despite Maddie’s deafness, her intelligence and resourcefulness prove to be her best weapons against the killer.
I loved this movie! It might have been my favorite horror movie of 2016, since it was smart, taut, and actually scared me pretty good. It was so tense that, halfway through, I had to pause the movie to make myself a stiff drink and make sure all my windows were locked. The conflict between Maddie and the killer was balanced and nuanced. She is not weak, but she has weaknesses. And while the killer suffers a little bit from the invincible-villain cliché, he’s scary because of how smart and brutal he is. The audience is keenly, uncomfortably aware of his advantages and her disadvantages at every turn, which creates a whole new slasher experience.
The Art-House Supernatural Horror Flick – The Witch
Set in 17th century New England colonies, The Witch is a unique supernatural horror/period piece movie following a family of colonizers who, after being banished from their colony, settle in the wilderness. As unexplainable events, winter, and hunger plague them, the family turns on each other, culminating in chilling tragedy.
I loved this movie. It messed me up for days after. It was an expertly executed film about how stressful situations can tear relationships apart, how fear can be a destructive force. The one qualm many had with The Witch was that it wasn’t a very scary movie, which is a fair point. But The Witch had a lot more to offer in terms of its story, acting, and deeply disturbing message.
The Vicious Survival-Horror Film – Green Room
Green Room is a savage, gripping film about a punk rock band that must escape from a Neo-Nazi bar after witnessing a drug deal go wrong.
I didn’t think I would like this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved it! I was most worried about the gore, but the violence, while gruesome, was never gratuitous. The writing was smart as hell, the acting top-notch, and the direction steady. I don’t usually go for ultra-violent movies because I feel lie such films focus only on violence, but Green Room proved that such films can actually be excellent. If more torture porn movies were this well made, I would love them.
The Main-Stream Summer Blockbuster – The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren on their latest case—a terrifying haunting plaguing a family in London. This time, the malicious forces at work seem to be targeting Ed and Lorraine personally.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way—this wasn’t as good as The Conjuring. But The Conjuring 2 was fun and scary. The same awesome, atmospheric creepiness from the original? Check. The chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga? One of the movie’s strengths. And that nun-demon? HOLY CRAP. Director James Wan is super-talented and knows how to deliver a great movie, and while The Conjuring 2 isn’t better than The Conjuring, it sure was miles better than tons of other horror-movie sequels.
The Exquisite Foreign Horror Film – Under the Shadow
Set in Tehran during the War of the Cities of the Iran-Iraq War, Under the Shadow featured a supernatural entity not usually seen in western horror—the Djinn. After being denied her medical studies and after her husband is sent to the worst part of the fighting, Shideh is left to care for her young daughter amid the violence in Tehran. Strange, creepy things start happening, and Shideh begins to suspect that an evil force is haunting her daughter.
I’ve written before about how I think horror is uniquely equipped to tackle difficult social issues, and Under the Shadow is a great example. This film had so many layers—history, religion, feminism, oppressive governments, the stresses of motherhood, and war. I thought the whole movie was amazing: it cast one woman’s story through a lens of historical, social, and supernatural turmoil. It was well-acted, well-written, with great art direction and atmosphere. I wish American cinema had more movies like this one. Under the Shadow represents the potential of horror as a serious film genre.
What were your favorite 2016 horror movies? Leave them in the comments! Happy New Year!