For a variety of reasons, 2016 will go down as one of the most horrifying years in the record books, in both fiction and reality. Movie fans often turned to horror movies to escape real-life horrors in hopes of distraction, and this year had plenty of films for horror hounds to sink their teeth into.
From big budget sequels in established franchises to micro-budget period pieces, this year saw a lot of fantastic horror films coming in all shapes and sizes. The rise in access to films on VOD gave audiences all-new ways of checking out films potentially too extreme for multiplexes, or perhaps films that couldn't afford to be shown in 3,000 theaters.
2016 proved that horrors could come in the form of the supernatural, psychopaths, and prehistoric beasts. What were your favorite horror films this year? Let us know in the comments!
A family forced to live on the edge of the woods in 17th century New England because of their religious beliefs begin to question their own reality after the disappearance of their baby. This incredibly atmospheric tale explored paranoia, religion, and sacrifice in an incredibly compelling way thanks to its passionate performers. Released in February, this film set the bar high for horror films the rest of the year, and ten months later, we're all still praising Black Phillip.
10 Cloverfield Lane
This loose continuation of the monstrous scenario of Cloverfield led to 10 Cloverfield Lane, a completely different kind of film featuring a completely different kind of monster. John Goodman gave one of the year's best performances as a man trying to "protect" two people in the aftermath of some sort of catastrophic event. The longer the three are confined, the more the captives start to doubt their captor's story, leading to a surprising ending. Admittedly, 10 Cloverfield Lane was more thriller than true horror, but there's no denying Goodman gave us a psychopath for the ages.
The Conjuring 2
Continuing the terrifying true tales of Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring 2 brought the couple across the pond to investigate a series of awful occurrences in a home in London. James Wan brought his signature style to this haunted house adventure to give audiences an exciting thrill ride. The film also featured demonic presences like The Crooked Man and a demonic nun to give audiences some of the most unique horror visages since Mr. Babadook.
With a release date landing smack dab in the middle of the summer, The Shallows gave us an incredibly entertaining, albeit PG-13-rated, story of survival. Blake Lively played a surfer who gets stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the "hard place" being a great white shark and the "rock" being a literal rock. Lively's character proved to be resourceful and quick-witted whose choices you often understood and rarely doubted. The film's third act dipped into ridiculous territory, but the whole adventure made for a fun summer flick.
Easily the most emotionally exhausting horror film of the year, South Korea's The Wailing gave us one of the best exorcism films since The Exorcist. A series of strange illnesses and occurrences begin to take place in a small town and a detective teams up with a shaman to get to the bottom of what's causing everything. Throughout the film's entire two and a half hour running time, you never know which way the story will go, leaving some audiences with more questions than answers in this supernatural story with superb performances.
In a completely different type of story from The Witch, Blair Witch featured the brother of one of the original film's cast members heading into the woods of Burkittsville, MD to find his sister's whereabouts. The Blair Witch Project found its success thanks to the subtlety of its scares, but Blair Witch cranked things to the other end of the spectrum, giving audiences some of the biggest shocks in theaters all year. The film's finale is a descend into a nightmarish Hellscape from which there is no escape, the likes of which we haven't seen since 2013's Evil Dead.
[H/T YouTube/Lionsgate Movies]
When a couple throws a dinner party in the Hollywood hills with a group of friends they've barely spoken to in years, no one can really explain what's happened to them. The couple claims to have fond religion to help them embrace their former tragedies, but it's tough to tell whether they're found harmless spiritualism or stumbled into something far more nefarious. Full of twists and turns, ending with one of the most surprising final shots of 2016, The Invitation guarantees you'll second guess accepting any dinner party invites in the near future.
Horror anthologies have become the hot commodity lately, as it allows an opportunity for filmmakers to show a much more concise concept under a common theme, and the audience gets an incredibly diverse experience. Sadly, this series of shorts exploring different horrors related to annual holidays gave us one of the worst horror shorts in recent years (sorry, Kevin Smith), it also gave us one of the most bizarre, surreal, and terrifying shorts of the year with Anthony Scott Burns' "Father's Day." Add to that the incredibly strange "Easter" and devious "Mother's Day" and you get some of the most ambitious horror filmmaking of the year.
They Look Like People
Possibly more than any other film on the list, They Look Like People proves you don't need a huge budget if you have a fascinating concept. Two childhood friends reconnect when one falls on hard times and needs to move in with the other, but as the audience gets clues that maybe those hard times come from paranoid delusions, the film's entire reality comes into question. With the duo heading closer and closer to the time of a potential war breaking out between humanity and unseen forces, the audience themselves question the meaning of reality and mental delusions, something that isn't answered until the final moments.
[H/T YouTube/Midnight Demon]
Writer/director Mickey Keating continues to prove he's the next horror filmmaker to watch with Carnage Park, further enhancing his craft after the extraterrestrial paranoia-filled Pod and psychological gauntlet Darling. What starts as a '70s crime caper quickly escalates into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse when a female captive escapes ex-convicts, only to stumble onto the property of a former military sniper who knows exactly what he's allowed to do within his legal rights. Paying homage to Peckinpah films of the '70s, Carnage Park constantly surprises and reinvents itself throughout the course of the film and gives us a fantastically damaged psychopath in Pat Healy.
[H/T YouTube/IFC Films]