The DreadWorld Top 8 Horror Films of 2016

Here's the deal, usually will I try to cram a bunch of stuff in during the first week of January so I can provide you, the ever diligent reader with my most informed opinion of what are the top horror films of the previous year. This year though, I didn't really have to do that, save two films that popped on VOD pretty late, I stayed fairly current throughout the year, catching things on VOD if I happened   to miss them in the theater. So I know what you are thinking..."You are just lazy this year then?" Well, yes and no. Tired more than lazy would be my excuse. On December the 22nd, three weeks before she was supposed to join us, Mrs. Joshua and I were greeted by our first born. The seemingly endless sleepless nights have place a cold stop on anything deeply analytical I was planning on doing. Then in a moment of clarity I realized...Year end  lists are pretty much the antitheses of analysis. So I pulled my head out of whatever foul smelling thing my child had deposited in her diaper and decided to cobble together the DreadWorld Top 8 of 2016. Why 8? Because it's my site and that's all I really want to do so get off my ass.

Caveat #1: The only film I regret not seeing yet is The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It's something that is totally on me - the film is readily available to stream on amazon. I just haven't had the time to get there and watch it.

Caveat #2: These are my personal selections. If you agree great! If not great! Use the comment section. Let's all be friends.

Honorable Mentions

As is tradition on the Top 8 List I like to throw in something out of left field, whether its something that slipped under the mainstream radar or was dumped to Netflix. I do that because there is a lot of quality out there, sometimes you just need to dig to find it. Case in point, Tabloid Vivant, a film I almost shut off 20 minutes in. On it's surface, the film is pretentious lesson in impossible math and high art. However, that's all window dressing for what at its core is a two person play about the erosion of someones mental state. its not viscerally frighting. it's not a film that you will be exalting because of the gore or violence. it's just a well made thriller that warns against the dangers of compulsion, obsession, and ego. 

I hated The Witch when I saw it in the theater. I just didn't get it. Neither Mancrush or Eric Mocker got it either. The stranger in front of us went out of his way to announce "Well that sucked" as the credits rolled, and to be honest I totally agreed. Yet, I kept hearing folks I respected within the horror community extol its virtues over and over again. So I did what I do sometimes and gave it a re-watch. This time by myself, lights out, with closed captioning on, late at night. While the film didn't rise to some of the hyperbole, it certainly played a lot better. The Witch is genuinely scary. Again it's an atmospheric scare. It's the unknown, the foreboding that really gets you. I still have issues with the films payoff and the fact that this guy built this whole homestead in a matter of what seems like a week. But there is certainly enough creepy stuff going on to warrant a place on this or any end of the year list. If, like me, you gave up on The Witch early, try and re-visit it. You might be surprised at the outcome. 

Yes, the film is flawed. Right away the second act meanders and makes the film about 10 minutes too long. Yes, there are some leaps in logic that might boggle the mind. But when those credits roll those small nitpicks are miles from your mind. Christopher Lloyd is the best he's been in decades as he's given an actual character to play instead of a caricature. Add to that Max Records as Lloyds foil and a third act that will make you feel all the feels and I Am Not A Serial Killer (which is based upon a series of YA books) becomes something very special. Check it out its streaming on the US version of Netflix right now. 

Fede, Fede, Fede....After his Evil Dead film was an all out assault on the senses, director Fede Alvarez made almost the complete opposite film. Instead of going back to the well with over the top gore and effects, Alvarez made what is in essence a modern Hitchcock film. Don't Breathe is a fast paced, scary as hell, true horror film that makes its bones not on what you see but what you are afraid you are going to see. The third act ramps up the violence enough that even those disenchanted with the lack of tongue slicing can find some value. Plus, you'll never look at a turkey baster in the same way again. 

I hate when studios re-appropriate other properties for unintended use. Such is the case with 10 Cloverfield Lane, an alien invasion script that had been bouncing around Hollywood for a while until J.J. Abrams Bad Robot picked it up and sort of retro fit the script into the Cloverfield universe. If you remember correctly Cloverfield was a found footage monster film that kind of came out of no where back in 2008. If you are dialing up 10 Cloverfield Lane looking for more of the same you will be sadly disappointed. However, what you will find is one of the most tension filled horror films of the year. Highlighted by an Oscar worthy performance by John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane takes everything about the original and turns it exactly 180 degrees. Its small, intimate, expertly acted and wonderfully directed by first time director Dan Trachtenberg. The last act switches tone rather harshly, which may cause some folks to check out. But between Trachtenberg, Goodman, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead there is a shit to to love about this film. 

2016 if nothing else is the year where Netflix became a major player in the general public's horror viewing habits. They premiered many, what they call "Netflix Originals" (more on that later). Netflix also continued to pick up smaller, critically acclaimed horror films like The Invitation. I have a natural fear of cults. Couple that with being from New York and having a natural disdain for almost everyone and a film like The Invitation is almost tailor made to creep me the fuck out. And that it did. Director Karyn Kusama keeps everything tense from the first frame of the dinner party through the truly terrifying final frame. "Game of Thrones" Michael Huisman (the good Daario Naharis) is probably the most recognizable actor here, but the faces don't matter because all the performances are wonderful. The lesson learned from The Invitation? Never have friends...and if you do never go over to their house for dinner. 

#2: Hush

I mentioned Netflix positioning themselves as a major player in original film production. Case in point #1: Hush. From Mike Flanagan, the director of the under rated Oculus and the very good Ouija prequel, Hush could not be anymore different than those films. A home invasion film with a very Don't Look Now like twist in the fact that the protagonist, Maddie (Kate Siegel) is deaf. Flanagan and Siegel hit some pretty common genre beats - they are not reinventing the wheel here, but they execute with such precision that every scare works. Don't write Hush off because of it's lack of studio pedigree, it's just as effective as any big budget horror film of the year. 

If there is one film that kind of came out of nowhere this year it was Green Room. A film where a punk band gets trapped in a Neo-Nazi compound by Captain Jean-Luc Picard doesn't really stand out as something that interesting. But fuck...this film isn't just the best horror film of the year, it's one of the best films of the year period. The tragedy surrounding star Anton Yelchin crystallizes how powerful his performance is here. Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier smoothed out some of the rough edges that plagued his first film Blue Ruin. Here he presents a film that is horrific as shit, super tight, and remarkably executed. For those looking for in your face, over the top blood and gore, you might feel a little left down. But much like The Invitation and 10 Cloverfield Lane, Green Room operates in our ever growing fear of trust. Who are we supposed to trust? To what lengths will we go to show trust? It's a terrifying concept in a remarkably executed film and the best horror film of the year. 

That's if for me this year. What were your favorites? Use the comments section below to create a nice dialogue. As always, thanks for reading and "Enjoy every sandwich." 

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