It’s been a pretty good year for fans of horror.
Among the many superhero blockbusters, animated hits, crude comedies and high-brow dramas were a number of solid horror movies, many of which got the attention they deserved and many that didn’t. Established genre filmmakers and newcomers alike delivered some terrifying, deeply unsettling pictures that had us biting our nails, covering our eyes, and losing hours of sleep.
In no particular order, here are ten great horror movies from 2016:
Master South Korean filmmaker Na Hong-jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea) delivered quite the multi-layered horror film with The Wailing, a film that becomes progressively more startling with every new development. It tells of a strange sickness that hits a small town, a sickness that may be connected to a mysterious Japanese man that lives in the mountains. There’s atmosphere to burn in this tense-as-hell outing, which manages to infuse a good bit of humour and drama for good measure. Get to it.
Based on a viral short film, Lights Out was just the right type of project for James Wan to jump on and produce. Not only was it a surprise financial hit, it was actually a fun, creepy and jump-filled little pic that had us aching for our childhood night lights. The feature film debut of short filmmaker David F. Sandberg was effectively made, nicely directed, well performed and offered up a few new scares thanks to the stay-in-the-light narrative.
The Night of the Virgin
Geez, what in the bloody hell. One of the most messed up horror films on this list has to be The Night of the Virgin, a Spanish film that tells of what goes down when a nerdy young guy heads to a mature woman’s cramped apartment in the hopes of losing his virginity. What follows is a bloody, fluid-drenched, utterly disgusting outing, and a film that is as imaginative and effectively claustrophobic as it is shocking. You won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry.
Content Warning with this trailer:
The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s sequel to his 2013 horror hit is a very solid follow-up. The Conjuring 2 finds Lorrain and Ed Warren heading to London to help out a single mother and her four children who are being plagued by a malicious spirit. It’s another slick, scary-as-hell feature from Wan, who certainly knows how to structure some downright unnerving sequences. That freakin’ nun still haunts me.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Who would have thought? 2014’s Ouija was a less than mediocre horror film; cliche-filled, dull and poorly executed. Eyes rolled when it was announced that Ouija: Origin of Evil was on the way, and understandably so. But what many of us didn’t take into account was that director Mike Flanagan was to be at the helm. Flanagan, known for Oculus, Before I Wake and another film on this list, gave us a surprisingly nerve-wracking, psychologically complex prequel that told of a family dealing with the possession of their youngest daughter.
A potent, atmospheric and oh-so unsettling exploration of how evil works its way into a New England family in the 1630s, The Witch is one that needs to be seen by horror fans and film fans overall. It’s expertly crafted, with meticulous attention to detail, fantastic performances, and a true sense of evil creeping its way towards the surface as the film goes along. The film gathered acclaim throughout the festival circuit in 2015, leading to impressive distribution throughout 2016.
Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to his well-received 2013 Evil Dead remake was Don’t Breathe, a nail-biter that flipped the usual home-invasion narrative on its head by making the intruders the victims. Stephen Lang gave us an awesome horror villain with The Blind Man, a blind Army vet who’s not too pleased that three young hoodlums are after his cash. Suspense is the name of the game here, as we follow the film’s title with scene after scene of tension and plot twists. Great stuff.
Another home invasion horror-thriller with a bit of a twist. Where Don’t Breathe gave us a blind villain, Hush gave us a deaf victim. This is another film from director Mike Flanagan (he’s had a very good year), who racks up the anxiety by giving us slickly designed sequences amped up with point-of-view audio, meaning we often can’t hear where the bad guy is either. The villain may not be very memorable, but the confidence and high energy on offer makes up for a few exhausted tropes. Check this one out on Netflix.
Train to Busan
The second South Korean picture in the list is this ambitious zombie movie that juices its fun concept for all it’s worth. We follow a self-absorbed businessman and his daughter as they travel by train from Seoul to Busan. When zombies overrun their train, well, it’s on. Train to Busan is exhausting, thrilling and surprisingly emotional, ticking off the necessary zombie movie checklist while keeping a close eye on characterisation and scope. If you haven’t seen this one, be sure to search it out.
Under the Shadow
An under-seen gem, Under the Shadow is an internationally co-produced horror film set in war-torn 80s Tehran. The film follows a mother and daughter as they deal with the terrors of post-revolution Tehran of the 1980s. It’s all hard enough, but it’s about to get a lot worse. A mysterious evil begins to haunt their home. The feature-length debut of Iranian director Babak Anvari is impressive, juggling themes of femininity and suppression with a heavy dose of creep-out, psychological horror. This one deserves much more attention.