A few days ago I published a review of the year in horror. This is a rundown of my favourite horror films of 2016.
10. The Windmill Massacre
The film starting this round up of the top 10 horror films of 2016 is one I like very much, obviously... otherwise it wouldn’t be in this list. It’s about a group of tourists and one runaway who take a bus trip to look at the windmills of Holland, exciting stuff naturally. However, each member of this trip holds a dark secret and this secret they are hiding may determine their fate. Director Nick Jongerius very kindly tweeted the brief, but positive review, I wrote back in August where I applaud the inventive kills as well as the performances from Charlotte Beaumont and Fiona Hampton. There are probably more technically proficient and more celebrated films that didn’t make the list, but I enjoyed the hell out this flick.
9. The Master Cleanse
Sitting in ninth spot is this rather bizzare body horror film staring Johnny Galecki (of The Big Bang Theory). The Master Cleanse is one of those films that the less you know about it the better the experience will be when you first watch it. It's a rather strange but watchable film that features likeable performances from Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel in the two lead roles both of whom share a great and effective chemistry (Anjelica Huston is also terrific in her extended cameo role). The Master Cleanse is a film influenced by David Cromenbergesque body horror but amongst all the odd happenings is a witty comedy satirising self help therapy. The story itself is a little lacking in punch and the film ends rather suddenly, but its an amusing, sometimes creepy and often just plain weird film.
What looks like a standard creepy guy fancies girl, doesn't get the girl and decides to lock her up in a cage story takes a sudden turn when everything changes. This sudden change made the film quite a memorable one and thus making it quite a hit at Frightfest. I can’t reveal too much more but the film is a great one and the performances of Ksenia Solo and Dominic Monaghan are exceptional.
7. The Wailing
This long but effective Korean possession horror film is another film on a long list of great horror films to come from the friendly Korea. At 156 minutes it does seem like a film that could overstay its welcome, especially if you consider the fact that horror films with similar content are over within two hours. However, despite the film’s slow opening pace it doesn’t overstay its welcome and explodes into life in a stunning finale where the central character is faced with an impossible dilemma.
Creepy turns out to be an appropriate name for this sublime horror film from Japan which is reminiscent of the Joel Edgerton film, The Gift, from the previous year. It’s about a husband and wife who move into a new house and new neighbourhood only to discover that there’s something off about their seemingly fragile next door neighbour. Teruyuki Kagawa is superb as the creepy Nishino, giving his character a timid, awkward almost pitiful vibe but, at the same time, giving off signals that he has a dark underbelly.
5. Lights Out
A slightly more mainstream pick here in the shape David Sandberg’s Lights Out. Expanding upon his superb short film, Sandberg’s film is about an evil entity that can only be seen when the lights are out (hence the title). The film smartly uses many different sources of light to terrify the audience as the characters fight against the spirit. The ending did attract some controversy, but it wasn’t the director’s intention for the film to end that way and thus should not detract too much from the overall quality.
4. Beyond the Gates
If Jumanji was a horror film it may look something like Beyond the Gates. The film pays homage to the Italian horror films of the 70s and 80s with its style and score (which is superb) but whilst the film is often funny, the homages the film makes to the classic era of Italian horror cinema is of respect rather than a disrespectful mocking of the era. There's some superb performances by Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson but it is Barbara Crampton (as the video game presenter) and Jesse Merlin (whose eccentric performance is based on the classic Hammer Horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee) who steal the show. That's not to take anything away from Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson whose performances help the brotherly relationship become one the film's most engaging aspects. It’s destined to be a future cult classic.
3. Under the Shadow
Set during the Iran-Iraq war, this mother and daughter have to fight horrors on two fronts. Firstly bombs pummel the city of Terhan and secondly, to make matters worse, an evil spirit of the wind has invaded the apartment. It’s possible that the pressures of war added too much stress on a fragile mind so that the supernatural events were imagined, but the film does seem to treat the supernatural as a real threat. Under the Shadow makes use of its superb setting, crafting a compelling and unnerving horror film.
2. The Witch
Robert Eggers’ supremely effective and scary horror film is one of the most chilling horror films of recent years. Perfectly capturing the climate of fear that the belief in Witchcraft created, Eggers’ film not only works as a horror film but also works as a superb character study of a Puritan family driven apart by their fear of witchcraft. The contemporary dialogue gives the film an authentic feel as it makes the most of foreboding surroundings.
1. Train to Busan
Train to Busan gives you pretty much everything you could want from a zombie movie, political and social themes, masses of deadly zombies literally tripping over themselves, tense set pieces, well defined characters, and blood and guts. Set aboard a train this non-stop thrill ride hits all the right notes with its ingenious set pieces and heartfelt father-daughter relationship. You really do get everything you want from this zombie film, which is probably one the best ever made.