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The 10 Best Horror Movies of 2016 (So Far)

21 August 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Justin Gunterman

the Witch

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 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

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.

 

8. Southbound

Southbound

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

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.

 

6. Hush

hush 2016

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.

 

 

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  • Jen Iris

    WHAAAATTTTTT!!!! #1 is 10 Cloverfield Lane?!?!?! I completly disagree. This film was such a waste of time and money. Wow. That’s about all I can say. Wow. :-/

  • David

    10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room are not horror, c’mon.

    Saying that generic jump scare bullshit like The Conjuring 2 is in any way better than The Witch, Green Room or Hush is just incredibly dumb.

  • BK207

    Hush, The Invitation, Green Room, The Conjuring 2 and 10 Cloverfield Lane are better Horror* films then The VVitch? ok man if you say so. I just think that The VVitch is a classic.

    • Lio Mustoni

      He actually has the witch as #2 in the ranking…

  • Alden MacReady Dickey

    “10 Cloverfield Lane” is not better than either “The Witch” or “Green Room.

  • Unkle Amon

    Before I wake was pretty good, too.

    • AlbinoRhino

      I thought that didn’t come out for another week or 2.

      • Unkle Amon

        It was released in Europe back in April.

  • jann1k

    Green Room and 10 Cloverfield Lane are both officialy listed as Horror on imdb, so I think it’s fair to include them on the list. Both for sure are bending the borders between Thriller and Horror, but I’m fine with them being on a list like this. I’d have placed The Conjuring 2 and The Witch as the two best horror films of this year nonetheless.
    What’s missing for me is Winding-Refn’s The Neon Demon, which wasn’t as good as his last efforts, but still is a pretty good (and creepy) film.
    Also I really liked you text on Purge: Election Year, couldn’t agree more! Both Anarchy and Election Year are way more action heavy than Part 1, but the action-thriller setting with some underlining horror elements works so much better for those movies than the home-invasion-snoozefest did.

  • SupernaturalCat

    The Witch takes the best of the yr, hands down so far as I’m concerned. I still need to listen to the director’s commentary on the blu ray.

    The hype surrounding The Invitation is just that …apparently many genre buffs saw a different film than I did, ha. “Slow burn?” Nonsense. By definition, that would entail that the audience never saw it coming, or were carefully strung along for a final shocking reveal. Guess what? There is no big reveal. You know what’s happening throughout, and when the reveal does occur, it’s anticlimactic and not remotely horrifying or traumatic. The first two acts aren’t necessarily bad, but again, to no avail.

    The Purge series? …no thanks, I’ll take a pass.

    The Cloverfield sequel is really imbalanced. Not sure why they chose to have the bulk of the movie deviate away from the original 100% …although I really liked Mary Elizabeth Winstead in The Thing prequel, and I liked her in this as well.

    Conjuring 2 was enjoyed, and still awaiting Lights Out at the second-run theater.

    • Meisha’s Taint

      The Witch is #1 easily. This list is a joke

  • Jerzy Andrzej Haftka

    “The Purge: Election Year” ? jesus fucking christ

  • Yesss!!! I love you man, 10 Cloverfield Lane is the best horror movie of the year.

  • Rudi

    Good list, with the exception of Lights Out. That was just a paint by the numbers horror flick like you get every three months. Insert a lot of noice on moments where the audience is supposed to be scared and you don’t need any buildup and atmosphere.

    • Enword Snowman

      And Conjuring 2 wasn’t? The demons were scary looking but the rest of it was so corny and dumb I wasnt even scared in the theater, I was just laughing at it by the end. Its a demon but its dentures fall out? They SAW a literal demon try to kill a girl but because they saw her bang pots and pans once they thought she was faking? But then she realizes if she fuckin says the things name it kills it? Just so much stupidity. And it was more than a paint by numbers movie, every scene was the same “is the ghost behind my shoulder or not” by numbers scene over and over again. Don’t know how anyone could consider it good.

      • Rudi

        No, The Conjuring 2 was a drama in the first place and a horror in the second. That’s also the big difference with the first movie and the reason why I didn’t get it the first time. The fact that it happened to a family to poor to move or do anything about it brought it to a deeper level.

  • Meisha’s Taint

    Cloverfield Lane was terrible you are a moron.

  • Meisha’s Taint

    Why isn’t Creep on this list?

    • Wordsandjunk

      Creep is most definitely a 2015 movie

  • Meisha’s Taint

    Where is Clown?

    • ScrewBot

      Clown was superb.

    • Michael

      Excellent flick. Maybe the child deaths in it were too hardcore for US audiences.

  • Joao Ribeiro

    What about Neon Demon ? If you’re talking about the best, then from a technical point of view it should be on the list, maybe even in first place.

  • Yudha Wirawanda

    what the hell, 10 cloverfield lans is overrated!

  • Goodwin Lu

    where’s Don’t Breathe?

  • Swmalegh

    10 Cloverfield Lane was great, so was The Witch. The Conjuring 2 is definitely not 2nd best though

  • Rolls Roy

    This is a great list, maybe the order is not something that everyone will agree with, but every movie (I’ve seen) in this list is definitely worth watching. I’m only missing Green Room and The Shallows, maybe I’ll watch ’em this weekend 😀

  • ttt

    all movies combined are not even close to be as good as The Witch

  • David

    10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room aren’t horror…

  • Pablo Palacios

    Train to busan? The Wailling?

  • Enword Snowman

    Surprised the hate 10 Cloverfield Lane’s getting. Other than ONE scene at the end(think sphincter) I thought it was great, but it wasnt really horror. Conjuring 2, however, was terrible horror. Took the generic haunted house plotline with an insane amount of added stupidity.

  • goldushapple

    The description of The Witch is strange. “While it slowly ratchets up the tension, it also manages to make statements about feminism and traditional family structures.” Huh? Let me guess, burgeoning female lead escapes stifling confines and expectations of traditional family structure (because what other family structure would be dominant back in the movie’s setting?) in order to “live deliciously.”

  • Scidshoff Nihilism

    I want to add “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” to the list ! I enjoyed it more than the Conjuring 2 !

    • Michael

      Loved Jane Doe!

  • Michael

    Hated “The Witch”. Give me “Autobiography of Jane Doe” or “The Wailing” out of South Korea instead.