It's been a fun and successful year in the realm of horror, despite quite a few lackluster efforts across the spectrum. I'm not entirely sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I found it was pretty easy to put this list together, even the order. There is a decent number of honorable mentions, but I was pretty sure most of them were going to end up there anyways...
The most vague factor in end-of-the-year lists is whether or not the film actually came out in 2016 or not...Some films on the list had a limited release last year, while others we were able to catch in a limited release at Telluride Horror Show and won't have a wide release till 2017...so, we're ignoring that garbled mess of exactly when a film came out, to how many screens, and where, and simply going with the films that "generally" came out in 2016.
10. The Shallows
You won’t find this film on many top-10 lists for the year, but I’m a sucker for creature features and I loved the treatment of the film. There was a heavy focus on survival strategy and technique, while giving us plenty of thrills and visceral tension along the way. To many, this film was portrayed as a cash grab with eye candy, and I think that’s a severe disservice to a film that was much more enjoyable on its own legitimate merits.
9. A Dark Song
The arthouse selection of my list, this film delves more into the psychological and subtle elements of horror atmosphere than direct scares. I believe it handily out-performs its rival, The Witch, in terms of character development and storytelling. It lulls in moments when it is neither explaining the situation nor pushing the plot, but its exploration of the complexities of amorality makes it thought-provoking long after the credits roll.
A fun slasher film with a creative premise. It doesn’t particularly stand out with its kills or baddie, but there aren’t many flaws in the design and production. It’s an easy film to recommend to others for a fun, scary night, and every top-10 list needs a film like that, with a film that readers can just plug in and watch on a whim.
The best international horror film of the year. Packed with warnings preceding every screening for its subject matter, the film was tamer than I expected. But, the performances, special effects, and storytelling were top-notch.
I hate clowns, but it takes a special film to actually make a clown scary on screen. While we caught this movie last year, it snuck onto this list because of its wide release in 2016. Its production value for its low budget is unrivaled in 2016.
5. The Windmill
The best good-ol’ fashioned horror flick of the year, this film featured plenty of slasher violence and dark humor gags to appease any horror fan. It wasn’t particularly original in its execution, but the entertaining plot and effective visuals set it apart from the traditional herd.
4. The Monster
This film is way too high for most, but I loved the character studies and parallels to alcoholism, however blunt they may have been. Its equal parts drama and horror opened it up to a wider audience, but delivered on the creature feature goods at all the right times; unexpectedly and without restraint.
3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
The best performance in this year’s horror films goes to John Goodman, easily and without question. Goodman is one of my favorite actors, and it was a pleasure to see him in this psychological horror/thriller that keeps you jumping back and forth on the fence right to the end. The finale is regularly criticized…I guess I was the only one that was happy to see some truth in Goodman’s madness.
2. The Conjuring 2
Based on some weird sense of principal, I couldn’t put a sequel at the number one spot. Having said that, this film rivals some of the best horror since the turn of the century. The perfect blend of atmosphere and scares is unmatched. I loved the story. The acting was great. The unique horror set pieces were some of the best I’ve ever seen. There’s little to critique on this film.
1. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
This film one-ups our number two spot on originality. The execution is slightly less effective, but this film makes up for it with a great premise and superb delivery from its two leads. It was easily the best film of the Telluride Horror Show.
Movies that just missed my cut: The Wailing (It’s a better quality film than a few of the films on my list, but its limited entertainment value and lack of creativity, to me, pushed it just below The Shallows), Baskin (Falling victim to the hype machine, it didn’t live up to its expectations of a modern-day Hellraiser), The Witch (The “arthouse-intellectual’s horror film” was too sophisticated for me), Here Alone (It was a good film, but it was more of a drama with a horror vehicle than a pure horror film), Under the Shadow (I was unable to catch this highly acclaimed film, so I couldn’t put it on the list, despite its likelihood of making it).