Top 25 Best Horror Movies Of 20161.01.16 # Horror Movies # 16 Comments
Let’s take a look at the biggest and best horror movies of 2016. The scary list features the usual mix of sequels (‘The Conjuring 2’), semi-reboots (‘Blair Witch’), original fare (‘The Neon Demon’) and the feature debuts of YouTubers (‘Lights Out’). Based on what I’ve seen, and on anticipation, these are the top 25 best horror movies 2016 has offered up. Get excited. Let me know your picks, or anything I’ve missed, below (leave a comment for your chance to win one of the movies listed!)
25th – They’re Watching
Starring: Brigid Brannagh, David Alpay, Dimitri Diatchenko, Kris Lemche
Directors: Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Released: March 25, 2016 (U.S. Dates)
-Seen It- The TV crew of a property makeover show return to Moldova, Eastern Europe to catch up with an American pottery artist who bought a remote rustic house outside a simple village. The superstitious, pitchfork-wielding locals treat the crew with increasing hostility. Soon they will be trying to kill them, but why? To say more would go into spoiler territory… It takes a full 40 minutes before there’s any effective tension and 50 minutes before I warmed to the film crew. But then it finds its footing and with the premise in focus has a certain originality to it. After a good stretch, things collapse in the last 10 minutes with the unleashing of a special fx spectacular that would make even the SyFy Channel ashamed. Some have said these fx are deliberate spoof but the rest of the film really isn’t and either way it’s misjudged. Still, there’s enough quality in the second half to make ‘They’re Watching’ worth a look. And it might have the best horror poster of the year.
24th – Howl
Starring: Ed Speleers, Sean Pertwee, Holly Weston, Shauna Macdonald
Director: Paul Hyett
Released: TBC 2016
-Seen It- A long-suffering train guard (Speleers, ‘Downton Abbey’) oversees a late night journey through the British countryside, which breaks down when they hit a deer. Before long the moaning passengers have more than delays to worry about, as they are attacked by werewolves from the forest… This is as close as you’ll get to a sequel to 2002’s ‘Dog Soldiers’, given it’s another “Brits sieged by werewolves” story made by several of the same team (the director did fx on ‘Dog Soldiers’, Sean Pertwee has a brief role here, etc). As siege horror goes the characters are by the numbers (eg the selfish one locking people out), the supposedly humorous types (football fan, Indian nerd) fall flat, but otherwise the performances are decent. It has strong atmosphere, solid production values and a nice old school vibe. The all-practical creature designs are a mixed bag: close ups of snarling faces and three-jointed legs are very effective but the torsos look kinda rubbery and the performers move a bit like a Comic-Con cosplay. I preferred ‘Late Phases’ from a couple of years ago but this comes from a similar place and is worth watching if you’re a werewolf fan.
23rd – The Forest
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Director: Jason Zada
Released: January 8, 2016
-Seen It- When an American’s twin sister (both Natalie Dormer, ‘Game of Thrones’) goes missing in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, she flies in to search for her. With the help of an Australian travel journalist (Taylor Kinney, TV’s ‘Chicago Fire’) and a local guide they explore the notorious woodland, known as a suicide hotspot and home of malevolent spirits… ‘The Forest’ is creepy and has a powerful setting – the thought that they could come across someone who has commuted suicide at any moment, and that this is based on a real place, is particularly unnerving. Japan looks good on film, always feeling well suited to the genre, though it’s not used as effectively as, say, ‘The Grudge’ remake. The acting is decent and it definitely has scares. However it’s hard to buy an emotional connection between one actress playing both twins since there’s a particular artificiality about it. The big frustration comes from a protagonist whose actions we are so against: She is warned that the woods will create illusions to trick her into despair but she falls for it every time. It all leads to a downer of a finale, and a kiss-off jump scare that leaves you shaking your head.
22nd – Southbound
Starring: Kate Beahan, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Chad Villella, Kristina Pesic
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Released: February 5, 2016
-Seen It- On and off a stretch of desert highway, five sets of sinning characters encounter a reckoning at the hands of demonic-locals and floating soul-reapers. They include three stranded rock chicks who accept a night with an unsettling ’50s-style family, two buddies covered in blood splatter driving for their lives, and a holidaying family hiding from masked intruders… From the creators of the ‘V/H/S’ series, directors include David Bruckner (next year’s ‘Friday the 13th’) and Radio Silence (‘Devil’s Due’). The desert setting is used to strong atmospheric effect, with its rundown motels and empty gas stations. The John Carpenter-inspired 80s synth soundtrack (seemingly now required if you’re an indie horror) is very effective. The first two segments are creepy and intriguing. But the long-winded hospital-torture sequence that follows turns out to be pointless and the idea of characters being killed for their past sins gets repetitive (being unoriginal to begin with – see also this year’s ‘The Windmill’ and countless others). For an anthology there’s a remarkably consistent look and tone going from one director’s segment to the next – anthologies typically feel like short films thrown together, often with wildly different levels of quality and the sense that the directors are competing with each other (see last year’s ‘Tales of Halloween’) – ‘Southbound’ was made collaboratively from the off with all the directors together in the writers’ room as if it were a TV series. The result is that it all exists within the same universe. The ending ties in quite nicely with an earlier event but still too much is left unexplained, from what the father did to the girl, why innocents are harmed, to the cafe shaking at the start etc, and there could have been much stronger overlap in the connections between the characters, instead of being randoms dropping in and out. A decent time but expected more.
21st – 13 Cameras (aka ‘Landlord’) (Formally ‘Slumlord’)
Starring: Neville Archambault, PJ McCabe, Brianne Moncrief, Sarah Baldwin
Director: Victor Zarcoff
Released: April 15, 2016
-Seen It- Soon after an expectant newlywed couple move into their new rental they run into serious marital problems. But far more concerning is their revolting, monosyllabic landlord, who has been spying and perving on them using tiny cameras hidden around the property. And just what is he doing in the locked basement?… The premise is great, a really creepy idea preying on a modern fear (that’s even more unsettling for a female audience), and based on the poster and trailer glimpses, you’d think have a very eerie guy cast as the “Slumlord”. However seeing him shuffle around and grunting on film isn’t as effective as it could have been – in the final analysis he’s not frightening enough. Instead the movie is overtaken by the subplot of the husband (physically reminiscent of Mark Zuckerberg) cheating on his pregnant wife. That subplot is well acted, nuanced and shot, but it’s not what we came to see and its resolution is abrupt. Combine this with the violence being tame or off-screen and you feel they should have had the balls to go the full horror route. They could have nudged the Slumlord character into being one of the horror greats.
20th – The Boy
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle
Director: William Brent Bell
Released: January 22, 2016
-Seen It- A young American woman (Lauren Cohan, ‘Walking Dead’) takes a job as a nanny at a remote English mansion, only to discover that the family’s 8-year-old is a life-sized porcelain doll that the elderly parents treat like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their actual son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing events lead her to believe the doll might be alive. She’ll need the help of the local grocery delivery man (Rupert Evans, ‘The Canal’), to uncover the twisted family history and the truth… Doll horror is making a comeback with last year’s ‘Annabelle’, this, and next year’s ‘Five Nights At Freddys’. ‘The Boy’s all-important doll design is effectively creepy, while the cinematography, set design and performances are all above average for the genre. It’s an old fashioned film with a particularly slow build up, though off-kilter scenes like the elderly parents adoring the doll, and the nanny growing emotionally closer to it, make it rather watchable. Still, there’s little more than hints and suggestions right until the last 20 minutes. By then curiosity over whether it will be a moving doll (Chucky) or a stationary doll (Annabelle) is as peaked as it can be, for which the film deserves credit. But when things go in the direction they do for the last 20 minutes, via a twist that isn’t especially original, it’s hard not to feel disappointed, and left puzzling over the resulting plot holes. It also obliterates the tension in what had been, until then, an enjoyable and atmospheric piece.