Looking back at 2016 can be a harsh thing to do, specially if we think about everything that has happened around the world, revolving politics, war and personal tragedies. There's hardly a person out there whose heart hasn't saddened in face of intolerance, loss or fear. Nonetheless, there are some people who firmly believe that art grows in times of necessity, and that the horror genre, above all others, thrives when real horror is just too much. In hindsight,it's no surprise that 2016 has produced so many incredible, landmark genre films such as #TheWitch or #TheWailing.
From financial success (#TheConjuring 2 figured among the 30 highest grossing movies of 2016) to financial disaster (Satanic profit was merely a couple hundred bucks), from international acclaim (The Wailing was a nominee for Cannes Palme D'Or), to public disgust, (The Witch holds a mere 56 % approval on Rotten Tomatoes), the horror genre has been pretty much everywhere, both literally and figurativelyspeaking.
15. Carnage Park
In this frantic and bloody violent, Mickey Keating summons some Wolf Creek vibes and a Tarantinesque narrative structure to trap us within a desert with Ashley Bell, as she attempts at surviving the sick-games of the mad war veteran Pat Healey. In the role of the bad guy, Healey gave what would have been the best villain monologue of the year, if not for Richard Brake as Doom Head in #RobZombie's 31.
14. The Eyes of My Mother
The following is a definition of perversion found in the merriam-webster dictionary:
"something that improperly changes something good".
The Eyes of My Mother is a film marked by perversion in many different levels - family, innocence, childhood, parenthood, love, friendship. All that good is simply turned upside down, in a black-and-white fashion. This is one of the most visceral and uncomfortable horror movies of 2016, which actually means a lot!
13. Ouija: Origin of Evil
Ouija 2 is a serious improvement over the painfully bland first film, but that's only because it has some Oculus vibe, especially towards the ending. The film is mostly predictable, since it's a prequel, but all the overused tropes, even that open-mouthed spirit one, were well justified. In some ways, it's like what #JamesWan used to do.
12. They Look Like People
This is an indie about a guy who believes the world is about to be invaded by creatures that pose like human beings and his only help is his friend, which is the most regular of dudes, just trying to succeed in life. It's great how they played those two different men side by side, balancing their psychological struggle. There are few horror moments scattered amidst the bromance, but they are effectively skin-crawling and jumpscare-free.
11. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier's second film in a supposedly color themed trilogy (following Blue Ruin), is the kind of film many people would rather deem a thriller than an actual horror film. The explosive path it takes, that often resembles a slasher film, is horror worthy in spite of anything else. One of #AntonYelchin's last works.
10. Don't Breathe
The Alvarez and Levy duo is back again. #DontBreathe is that kind of movie that doesn't have a mindblowing plot twist, an outstanding character drama, nor it changes the game in anyway. What it excels at is at creating tension, and it does so by introducing a truly menacing villain and constantly reminding us that the house is like a prison and that the characters are really doing their best to escape. The editing and direction are pretty good, even though not as good as #EvilDead. However, what really elevates this film to a higher level is the brilliant, BRILLIANT, sound design.
9. I Am Not a Serial Killer
I Am Not a Serial Killer was a humongous surprise! Pretty much like The Autopsy of Jane Doe (featured below), it also deals with morgue and corpses, but in a smaller degree. It still expresses a deep concern over the human body, its forms and its eventual destruction.
If I am not wrong, this film was shot on a super 16mm, which by itself contributes a lot in creating a 70s-like style atmosphere. The framing, the synth soundtrack and the #serialkiller motif also recall to said period, making it yet another throwback film. The plot itself and its final reveal was mindblowing!
8. The Invitation
Karyn Kusama completely nailed the perfect mood and tone for it right at the start and she never, NEVER, drops the ball. There is an unsettling realism constructed through believable performances and sharp dialogue, which are the quintessential part of its triumph. The director plays with the viewer's expectations in a fantastic manner, to a point it's hard to guess what will happen next, even when there is just a conversation going on, so there's never a dull moment.
Logan Marshall-Green, AKA Tom Hardy Junior, gives the performance of his career. His character is so layered he doesn't cease to amaze. He ranges from angry and paranoid to sad and cynical, and it's outstanding how he manages to do so.
7. The Neon Demon
#Refn's new film is one of a staggering beauty, matched only by its eeriness. One of 2016 highest cinematography achievements, it hides meaning and symbology on every corner, which makes it a demanding view, but a rewarding one for those willing to dive into that gruesomely beautiful world.
It's also important to note that The Neon Demon, in its own unique way, explores two recurring elements common to many of the movies on this list, which are an exploration/observation of the human body, especially the feminine one and witchcraft, according to some theories.
6. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
From the director of 2011 #TrollHunter comes one of the most straight-forward scarefest of the year, and it's all about an autopsy! It is a film that benefits from the mystery it creates and the resulting dread, therefore, I highly recommend going into this without watching any trailers.
There are many films on this list that require more investment to be fully appreciated, such as The Neon Demon. The Autopsy of Jane Doe isn't one of those movies, so go ahead and have fun with it.
Eli Roth once said that he missed watching horror movies so messed up that it would make us think that the people behind it were insane. Baskin is such a movie. A true journey into hell, that will leave even season horror fans disgusted and impressed. And which is even better, Baskin plays a lot of mind games, making it a true love letter towards filmmakers like #LucioFulci.
Be advised, the trailer is cut in a way that makes the film look like the most violent picture ever made, which it isn't. So you might want to avoid the trailer again.
4. Train to Busan
This South Korean #zombie blockbuster offers nothing particularly new to the genre. The plot is simple and straight-forward like Mad Max: Road of Fury - characters are simply going from point A to point B. Besides that, there is but a subtle environmental statement and a heartwarming silverlining about family. Notwithstanding, it's a thrilling film crafted almost to perfection. Everything it sets itself to do, it accomplishes with greatness.
When the zombified action kicks in, it never let go. You will fear being in the zombie apocalypse once again and, at the same time, cry your heart out due to the compelling character drama. What a glorious movie!
3. The Blackcoat's Daughter/February
I've once heard of an urban legend that proclaimed the horror genre to be dead. Thankfully, in the world I live in, such legend is far from being true. In fact, I'm glad to live in a world where February exists and it's only the third best horror movie of the year.
Also known as The Blackcoat’s Daughter, it explores the forces of #Satan in a most subtle and artsy way, that will creepy the hell out of you, if you are willing to be immerse in it. This is a true lesson on atmosphere and build up, and almost like a sequel of sorts of The Witch.
2. The Witch
#TheWitch is, simply put, the best representation I have ever seen in any medium of witchcraft around the Salem period, in the 17th century. It's filmmaking transcendence. There isn't a single element in this film that is not convincing. Then, mixing the perfect ambience to the outstanding and creepy cinematography to a soundtrack straight from hell, and you have one of the most immersive and involving horror movies ever made. The Witch has the power to drag you to a world that you don't wanna live in and this is what I want from my horror films. I want to see horrible things, scary things.
There is a lot to praise in The Witch, when it comes to objectivity. The movie is layered; it demands a certain investment of the viewer in order to grasp what exists inside. That doesn't mean this is a difficult movie to "get", it means you must be focused if you want to see everything the picture has to show. The historical elements, the sexual elements, the supernatural ones and the devil knows what else.
1. The Wailing
The Wailing is yet another gripping south Korean horror film, but one that defies its own counterparts, by adding several layers of a mystery that we are never even close to fully grasp until the very ending, and maybe not even then. Watching this is like experiencing The Exorcist for the first time. There's so much psychological, physical and spiritual terror that it becomes agonizing and painful to watch. The otherwordly horror entrailed into it is unmatched, which gave him the very first place on this list.
Once more I ask you not to watch any trailers. The experience will be heightened by your complete lack of knowledge.
Bonus Round: Short Film - Hades
Hades is a short film directed by Kevin Kopacka that features a woman traversing many levels of her personal hell. The brilliantly colorful lighting resembles Suspiria, however, Hades stands on its own enough to avoid comparisons. It has its own particular language that is more about feeling than comprehending. It is composed by a series of striking imagery and music with an editing that evokes a dream state, or better saying, a nightmare state.
Bonus Round 2: TV Series - Salem Season 03
2016 was arguably the year of witchcraft, which makes Salem the perfect choice for horror show of the year. Even though The Walking Dead had the most striking episode of recent television in the beginning of the current season and American Horror Story reinvented itself, the soon to be over story of Mary Sibley and John Alden was the most relevant horror show of the year. To be fair, if witches were not such a powerful thing in 2016, Ash Vs Evil Dead season two would have taken this prize. And a final shout-out to Scream and Van Helsing!
Bonus Round 3: Comic Book Series - House of Penance
Only time will tell this for sure, but for now it's safe to consider House of Penance one of the most relevant and fantastic horror comics ever made. The work of Peter Tomasi and artist Ian Bertram is a visceral and haunting tale of repentance and madness, capable of bringing forth the most wide variety of feelings. House of Penance is a Lovecraftian piece of work that could never become alive in any medium other than comic books. Not even the boards of the page seem enough to hold the insanity that it contains.