Horror movies tend to be the most derided bunch of movies out there. In all honesty, a lot of the criticisms are justified. Horror flicks often can’t help being derivative, cliche, over-the-top, and often forgettable.
In a given year, there are countless horror movie turkeys released with a few scattered gems here and there. 2015 had movies like It Follows and Deathgasm, but it also had Sinister 2 and The Lazarus Effect.
So far, 2016 has been a surprisingly excellent year for the genre. Often, the majority of great horror movies are undiscovered indie gems. In 2016 however, there’s a solid mix of low-budget indie horror movies and wide release horror blockbusters.
Since there’s an unusual amount of high quality mainstream horror movies, you may be disappointed to learn that this list will consist of many films you’ve probably already heard of. So if you plan to use this list to find out about some of the smaller horror movies this year, you might be let down.
However, this list does include a number of movies that readers might be on the fence about. So if you need some verification regarding whether a questionable movie is good or not, look no further.
10. The Purge: Election Year
The first entry in The Purge series was a serious misstep. A contrived bore, 2013’s The Purge failed to impress even the most forgiving home invasion fans. Luckily for us, the movie managed to do well enough at the box office to earn a sequel.
The Purge: Anarchy was a completely different kind of movie than its predeccesor and that’s precisely why it was such an improvement. Scrapping the banal home invasion setup in favor of a more chaotic and open approach resulted in a more action-heavy film that consistently thrilled. Aside from the basic premise, Anarchy felt like it could stand on its own.
It’s clear that director James DeMonaco listened to the fans seeing as he approached the third entry in a similar manner to Anarchy. Taking place shortly after Anarchy, Election Year looks into what would happen if a government official tried to ban the annual “holiday.”
The connections between Election Year and Anarchy are much stronger than those between the original Purge and Anarchy. Characters return and the plot is more or less a direct continuation of the previous film. The connections don’t stop there. This entry in the series could best be described as an action-horror film with a strong focus on character interaction similar to DeMonaco’s last crack at the series.
Like its predecessor, Election Year isn’t exactly scary, but it is a lot of fun assuming you ignore the easy-to-spot flaws. Likeable characters, brutal action scenes, and surprisingly strong performances highlight one of the most pleasant surprises of 2016.
It’s a shame that most people will have trouble recommending the entire Purge series, but with Election Year turning out better than expected, at least we can recommend the latter two films.
9. Lights Out
Lights Out was definitely a pleasant surprise in a movie with too many disappointments to count. What looked like a paint-by-the-numbers supernatural horror flick turned out to be a sentimental look family and relationships in general with a likeable cast and some nightmare-inducing imagery.
Lights Out doesn’t have as much to say as it probably thinks it does, but it’s still more poignant than your average horror movie. It’s also more chilling than your average horror movie.
Lights Out knows how to make your skin crawl and it has no problem keeping you on the edge of your seat during every opportunity. Combine that with a better-than-average cast led by Teresa Palmer and Gabriel Bateman and you have a movie that goes above and beyond what’s expected.
It likely won’t find its place on the top spot of anyone’s list of 2016 horror flicks due to its reliance on genre tropes, but it’s nevertheless easy to enjoy.
Anthology horror movies have experiences a renaissance since the surprise success of V/H/S. There have been a few duds since this resurgence (The ABC’s of Death, All Hallow’s Eve, and P.O.E: Project of Evil stand out) but all-in-all there have definitely been more hits than misses. Of all the post-V/H/S anthology films, Southbound stands out as one of the best.
Following the structure of similar films, Southbound weaves together multiple tales by multiple horror directors. Like all anthology films, some of the shorts are better than others. Unlike a lot of anthology films, however, the shorts on display are at the very least consistently good. Sure it’s easy to classify The Accident and Jailbreak as the two standouts, but that doesn’t mean the other three segments are bad.
Also helping Southbound is its uncommon intelligence. Comparable anthology movies want you to have a good time, but they rarely force you to think the way Southbound does. The way the film ties together in particular forces viewers to think outside the box more than they may be used to. Movies like Holidays and Tales of Halloween are a lot of fun, but Southbound wants to be fun and engaging. Mission accomplished.
7. The Shallows
Who could’ve predicted that the silly looking Blake Lively shark movie would get this much praise? Some critics have gone as far as to say that it’s the best killer shark film since Jaws.
Honestly though, they may be right. It’s not as if there’s much competition. Other killer shark movies released since Jaws include Shark Night and about fifty SyFy original movies. Still, that doesn’t mean The Shallows doesn’t deserve attention.
The film is a completely different beast than something like Jaws. What it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in its ability to scare the pants off of viewers. Jaws made a whole generation afraid to go into the ocean. Now we have The Shallows to come around and have that same effect on this younger generation.
The Shallows is also excellently directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, whose previous efforts have been slightly above average at best. His work behind the camera is completely evident here.
It’s not particularly original or thought provoking, but it’s well-made and scary. Not every horror movie needs to be brilliant in order to be a good film. Sometimes they just need to successfully do what they’ve set out to do. The Shallows does so successfully.
Home invasion movies are surprisingly scarce within the horror genre, at least when compared to movies about the supernatural, demonic possession, or serial killers. This could be attributed to the fact that it might be tough to make a home invasion movie that can set itself apart from the competition.
Filmmakers can only tell the same story so many times before people get sick of it. That’s why certain horror subgenres eventually die out – because people quickly lose interest.
Luckily, Hush doesn’t try to copy off of The Strangers or Funny Games. This is a home invasion movie with its own ideas – and these ideas works exceptionally well. The basic premise is reminiscent of your basic home invasion movie, but there’s a catch. In Hush, the protagonist is deaf, which is something the killer decides to use to his advantage.
Not only does the killer use it to his advantage, but so does Mike Flanagan. Deafening the lead character results in a movie that’s undeniably tense. In addition, the movie’s general lack of dialog puts a spin on things. Hush is a movie that needs to be watched instead of half-heartedly listened to while you’re doing something else. It’s a movie that begs for your attention. If you look away for one second, you’re liable to miss some key information.
All in all, Hush is gripping from beginning to end. Though it can’t escape from home invasion cliches completely, it still manages to separate itself enough to stand out against the competition. Easily accessible through Netflix, Hush deserves every bit of your attention.