Top 10 of 2016

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Lists
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2016 was legit such a great for movies, especially in the horror genre. With it becoming mainstream in recent years, we’ve seen different types of actors and filmmakers embrace it. This allows various styles to take the reign and make their mark in both traditional and absurd stories that play with conventions. My favorites from this year play off of the unconventional as some might not easily fall into horror, but as a horror fan, these are the movies I ended up loving.



The first OUIJA was a huge box office success, but it was hard to find a horror site that praised it. While I thought it was a great sleepover rental, I could definitely understand why it wouldn’t be somebody’s taste. There was great potential in it that ultimately fell to the side in favor of cheap scares and a quick buck. OCULUS director Mike Flanagan takes over the second time around with a film (although a prequel) that doesn’t at all feel like it’s in the same universe. It’s a rare thing to see a sequel to a financial success be allowed to change everything that made it a success and take a creative risk. Flanagan does go for the jump scares, but they don’t feel cheap and actually takes the time to create a real family and real tension to build up to those scares. While those who have seen the first film already know the story, ORIGIN OF EVIL fills in those gaps we didn’t realize we wanted to know and reminds us why we love a good haunted house story. It really helps too that the first film was so loathed so expectations were low, allowing ORIGIN OF EVIL to be the most unexpected scariest movie of the year.



This was my first dip into the world of Nicolas Winding Refn and left the theater wondering why I hadn’t started watching his stuff before. A young girl enters the modeling industry, only to be welcomed with fiercely hungry competition and sleazy photographers. THE NEON DEMON is a genre bending tunnel into the obscene with a performance from Jena Malone that is so outrageous it demands to be seen, not discussed. The reaction during a certain love making scene was one of the best theater going experiences I’ve had and the movie certainly holds up on repeated viewings.



This is one of those the less you know the better type movies. With Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as father/son coroners who receive a female body with an unknown identity, JANE DOE finds terror in the shadows as strange occurrences surround them while trying to figure out what killed her. The chemistry between the two characters shines and carries the movie all the way through as they are our primary focus. Their performances help watching an autopsy for the majority of the film fascinating and make the horror sequences that much scarier as their relationship dynamics are explored more than one would expect from a straight forward horror movie.



Ti West has made a name for himself the horror genre with instant favorites like HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and THE INNKEEPERS, but has decided to take a dip into the Western genre that feels pretty absent lately. A revenge tale centered on a stranger played by Ethan Hawke, the thing I loved so much about this one was how West brings out the best in each of his actors. John Travolta lets loose and has a lot of fun, while Taissa Farmiga and James Ransone get chances to really shine and show off in roles not typical of them. Even if you’re not one to venture into the genre, West fans should definitely check this out.



Beautiful black and white cinematography highlights the story of a young girl forced to cope with her darkest desires after experiencing her own personal loss. The methods she chooses are questionable and, for lack of better words, graphic. Watching the female lead deal with her emotions the only way she knows how wouldn’t normally feel authentic, but first time writer/director Nicolas Pesce has the patience and vision that engrosses the viewer and prevents them from turning away from their screens.



One of the most anticipated (and surprising when it was announced) films of the year proved that a mainstream Hollywood production could provide a suspenseful and tense theater going experience. Most of the credit to this film’s success goes to John Goodman and his performance as Howard, a man who believes he is protecting two others by keeping them captive in an underground bunker to fend off something poisonous that lurks outside. The mystery lies in whether or not he’s telling the truth as clues hint at either direction. If you love the movie or not lies in how you react to the third act which I absolutely loved.



The perception is divisive out there in the world of the internet about Tim Burton’s career. I definitely have my favorites in his filmography, but, to my surprise, those are some of the most hated I come to find out when listening to/reading retrospectives. I do agree that it’s been awhile since Burton has tapped into that gothic fairy tale landscape many fell in love with in the beginning. When author Ransom Riggs released his trilogy of novels surrounding Miss Peregrine and the world she helped create to protect children with special powers from a Nazi attack in World War II, it was the most obvious property for Burton to tap into. Between the vernacular photography and orphaned protagonists, Burton has successfully utilized the first novel and turned it into in a big budget dark fantasy that crosses the line between a children’s movie and adult fairy tale.



With this one, all I had read and knew before going in was that THE INVITATION is a twist done right and to go in blind. They were right. A couple is invited to a dinner party where not all may be what it seems. This one really builds on tension and high levels of paranoia as we are not sure if the lead is being too suspicious of what is going on. That’s really all one can say without giving much away, but this one was a hidden gem I found in the VOD aisle and, fortunately, can now be seen via Netflix.



With horror becoming a hot commodity in the last few years, the zombie subgenre has gotten less scary and menacing as we are finding the undead being cast as our protagonists in hit TV shows. I have no complaints with the genre being given a twist, but the sense of danger is getting lost. In TRAIN TO BUSAN, a zombie virus breaks out and we follow a group of passengers as they fight to survive on a train. These zombies are no joke as they run towards the smallest sound and don’t discriminate towards their victims no matter the age or gender. What was most unexpected here was the emotional connection I’d feel towards the characters and, like 28 DAYS LATER, places its focus on what a zombie apocalypse will drive people to do to ensure their own survival.



Not a conventional horror movie by any sense, but it deals with themes of isolation, self loathing, and involves a talking corpse that many genre fans will find connection to. Starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, SWISS ARMY MAN delivers a new kind of on screen chemistry as a failed suicide attempt leads Dano to a washed up dead body on the island he’s stranded on. It turns out the body might not be so dead and might just be what keeps Dano alive. The movie walks on the line between comedy and psychological drama as clues from the past hint at what might actually be going on and their relationship is pushed to the test during their stay on the island. Unexpected and completely original, this was probably the most effective movie I saw all year.

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