A funny thing happens when you are in the vortex known as “the last year of grad school”: time makes no actual sense. One minute, you’re celebrating the New Year with friends and family, mentally putting together your list of the year’s best horror and thinking “I have plenty of time to compose and post this!” and then you wake up one morning and it’s January 22nd and there is no favorites list to speak of.
Let’s all pretend I am not writing this embarrassingly late in the game, shall we?
Guys, 2016 was a pretty amazing year for horror. The craft of filmmaking displayed in the gems of 2016 was taken to another level; incredible cinematography, completely out-of-this-world acting, plots that were original and engaging, lots and lots of nostalgia, and most importantly films that were made for a larger audience beyond the cishet, white men who compromise a large swath of horror fandom.
These are my personal favorites. I want to say right now that they are not all the perfectly intersectional feminist dreams that I always pine for but most if not all of them are as free of problematic elements as possible; none of them have overt misogyny and they all pass the Bechdel test. HOWEVER there is a serious lack of representation in all other areas; most of these movies have all white or damn near all white casts, there is one queer character, one disabled character, and one immigrant character in 10 films (and the queer/immigrant character overlap in the same movie so not exactly a triumph in inclusive filmmaking.) I am not calling out these films to say they’re bad or shouldn’t be watched but it’s so important to highlight the lack of intersectional inclusion in every aspect of pop culture. Now that I’ve gotten that disclosure out of the way, onward!
10. Lights Out
I am not going to lie, I had some really high hopes for this movie, mostly because the short it’s based on rivals some of the greatest horror films of all time and it’s like 45 seconds. It did not live up to the short film, but it wasn’t a bad movie. I could have done without the ableism but it had it’s moments (the first kill was actually amazing). This is a movie I can see watching when I want to veg out and not think too much.
9. The Conjuring 2
This is another movie that wasn’t super over the top amazing but it was fun. Sometimes fun is the goal. I need a repertoire of films that are nothing more than mindless fun and that’s where this film will go.
8. The Boy
This movie will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first movie Michael and I saw together. Like my last two picks, The Boy isn’t anything to write home about overall but there is some real suspense that I liked and it’s a fun movie to break out when you don’t want to think too much. There is one exceptional thing about this movie and that is the twist ending. This twist is so completely out of left field that even Michael, who can guess the plot and twist in every movie we watch by the first few minutes, didn’t see it coming. It was amazing.
I really enjoyed Hush. The home invasion sub-genre has quite a few entries so this movie easily could have been more of the same. Also the protagonist being deaf could have become an ableist shit show yet it didn’t; though Maddie’s deafness is indeed a liability for her in the situation she’s in, it doesn’t define her. If anything she is hyper aware of how her deafness limits her ability to fight back and she acts accordingly. The film strikes a balance between acknowledging the challenges Maddie faces because of her disability (not just in fighting for her life, but in other realistic aspects, like dating or communicating with hearing people) but also makes sure we know Maddie is a capable, talented writer with close friends and family who isn’t a great cook. She’s a person, first and foremost not a diagnosis. Characterization aside, Hush is a really well made movie.
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
There aren’t many films that can put three people in a bunker for 90 minutes and not loose your attention but 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of them. I think 90% of this was John Goodman’s spectacular acting (seriously, he KILLED it; is he a slightly unhinged kidnapper or a savior in the apocalypse? The answer isn’t obvious until the very end.) It wasn’t a true sequel to Cloverfield, it was something better; a peak at another story in the same universe. I loved it. Fun fact: the young actor in the bunker in this film was the killer in Hush. This dude can act.
Was this technically a horror movie? Don’t care. It was magical.
I really like horror anthologies; some of the best horror is presented in short story format (see above re: Lights Out) and Holidays was a hidden gem on Netflix that I really enjoyed. The film presents each Holiday in order (Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years) and the stories were deliciously twisted. My personal favorites were Valentines Day and Halloween.
3. Blair Witch
Super tense, diverse (ish) cast, really great kills, and nostalgia to boot? Yes, please.
2. The Witch
I went back and forth for a long time with my top two because it’s really hard to choose; let’s consider them a tie? The Witch was honestly the only movie this year that was FLAWLESS and I don’t say that lightly. It’s a period piece about early American settlers who isolate themselves from society because of religious squabbles and some really bad shit happens. The isolation and paranoia become so strong you start to feel it yourself. The costumes? FLAWLESS. Acting? ZERO FLAWS. That ending? NO FLAWS TO SPEAK OF.
1. The Eyes of my Mother.
Would I even see this movie again? Probably not. Is it one of the greatest films of 2016, possibly one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen? Without a doubt.