Horror editor Chris Alexander’s top 8 horror movies of 2016
I love all cinema, not only horror. But, of course, my main area of passion and expertise rests within the genre and I am happy to report that I did indeed see a handful of deft horror movies this year that hit me hard. In fact, many of them might just be some of the finest and most effective dark fantasies and psychodramas I’ve ever seen.
And you wanna know something?
They were all female-centric. Not that it matters. But they were.
Now this is not a huge surprise. I worship women. Not just for the obvious ways men do. I am addicted to their energy and I involuntarily am drawn to stories about their plights, their minds and their bodies and their struggles. I make movies about women too. None of this is by design. It’s just how I’m wired. Women are almost always infinitely more interesting to observe than male characters. Maybe it’s because I’m male and I’m bored of myself and I don’t care much about watching other organisms like me do things on screen. Who knows. Who cares. All I know is these eight horror movies of 2016 listed below blew my freaking mind and they all deal with women and their relationships, with each other, with themselves and with the world they live in and the psychosis they experience and are forced to deal with when pushed to extremes.
Horror Movies of 2016: The Eyes of my Mother
Nicolas Pesce’s dark, slow and atmospheric monochrome character study follows a young woman who, because of a perverse and shattering childhood trauma, grows up irrevocably insane. Her mother was an ex-surgeon who taught her a few things about eyeballs and now, as an adult, she puts these techniques into lethal practice. Like all good “psychotic women” movies. The Eyes of My Mother is grounded by its lead actress’ performance and Kika Magalhaes’ Francisca is a revelation. A terribly divisive film that as many people despise as adore. And really, those are the only movies that matter, aren’t they?
Horror Movies of 2016: Darling
Mickey Keating’s ultra-stylized psychodrama is probably my favorite horror film of the year. It shocked my senses. Not because the subject matter is revelatory. It’s yet another girl-goes-insane-in-the-city psychodrama. But it’s all about Keating’s style. His atonal editing choices and bombastic use of sound and music. His refusal to spell out every detail and his radical avoidance of cheap exposition. Sure, it has its roots in Polanksi’s breakthrough film Repulsion but doesn’t every movie like this owe its mania to that movie? Here, Lauren Ashley Carter gives us a sympathetic psycho and Keating – a real deal master of cinema – shows an uncanny ability to make the mundane feel supernatural. I adored every second of this nasty number and it energized my faith in contemporary indie filmmaking.
Horror Movies of 2016: The Monster
Bryan Bertino‘s devastating domestic drama uses the monster of the title to draw together a trapped mother and daughter, whose volatile relationship has reached its apex. Sure the monster is scary, draped in roadside shadows as it stalks the pair in their broken down car, but it’s this central relationship that anchors the movie. And outside of its deft, mature script, the movie gives actress Zoe Kazan her greatest role to date. She’s a stunning presence. This is a sophisticated horror movie made for adults and God bless it for being that. Loved this film so much.
Horror Movies of 2016: Ouija: Origin of Evil
Simply put, director Mike Flanagan is one of horror’s most important auteurs. So singular of vision is he that he can take what looks on surface to be another paltry domestic franchise fright flick and make, well, a pure Mike Flanagan film. A fellow critic saw this early and tipped me off to its glories. I knew it would be good. Because it’s Flanagan. But I didn’t think it would be THIS good. A studied, stylish, subdued and emotional horror drama that refuses to pander or go for the cheap trick scare. A real treat and a gold standard for modern multiplex horror.
Horror Movies of 2016: The Witch
Yes. Everything you have heard about The Witch is true. In fact, I didn’t even realize just how affected by this film I was until I walked to my car after the screening and almost buckled. For the briefest of minute, I was a paranoid mess. This never happens anymore, but The Witch did it to me. I will love it forever because of this.
Horror Movies of 2016: The Boy
Don’t laugh. William Brent Bell’s elegant pulp horror masterwork is strange, flawed, ingenious and eerie and it finds novel ways to be totally perverse without ever straying past its PG-13 rating. The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan gives an alarmingly good performance as a slightly broken girl who accepts a job as nanny to a doll in an impossibly looming British manor. “The boy”‘s “parents” lost their real son in a freak accident and now they have lost themselves deep enough in their grief to believe the porcelain replica is real and, because Cohan is paid to do so, she treats it like it’s real. And then…she starts to believe that it is real. This atmospheric, meandering and moody horror gem reminds me so much of a ’70s TV movie, the kind of female-fronted thriller that Dan Curtis and his ilk knew how to make. Serious, sincere and straight faced with a fantastic score and an otherworldly vibe. Totally recommended.
Horror Movies of 2016: The Neon Demon
Danish visionary Nicolas Winding Refn remakes Suspiria by way of The Valley of the Dolls in this malevolent, muscular, stylized headtrip from hell. Accusations of this arch horror film being all style and no substance may or may not be accurate, but who cares. This is pure cinema. An audio/visual meltdown of color and blood and cruelty. A jacked-up Jess Franco fever dream that melts Hollywood glamour into vulgar wet puddle. This movie hates you. And you, masochist that you are, love it for hating you…
Horror Movies of 2016: The Love Witch
Anna Biller is obsessed with vintage pulp paperbacks and lurid ’70s exploitation films, but there is s much more on her mind. The Love Witch is a kind of horror movie, but it’s far more than just that. It’s as much a vibrant, daring art installation as it is a kind of highly-sexualized vintage movie of the week; it’s unabashedly lurid and soap opera-steeped and the stunning Samantha Robinson is ever-lovely to look at, taking up as she does, virtually every frame of the film. The Love Witch is about the hypocrisy of feminism, about finding true freedom, about the male gaze, about the very definition of love. This is a fiercely intelligent, visionary work. I adored it.
What were some of YOUR favorite horror movies of 2016?