Philip Perron’s From Dark Discussions Top 30 Horror Films Of 2016

2016 has come and now is about to be over (based off the moment I write this). Through

the conversations with the many genre and horror fans I’ve spoken with, opinions vary

everywhere on how horror films stacked up during the year. Depending on your taste, it

was either a fantastic year or one that failed to live up to the pre-year hype. Some critical

darlings seemed to jump out such as The Witch, The Wailing, and Under the Shadows,

but regular viewers and fans weren’t necessarily overwhelmed by any of these. It’s the

forgotten fans, the ones that have been in the trenches loving slashers and midnight

movies, that didn’t get a voice in validating whether a film like The Witch was speaking

to them. For a podcaster like myself, I’ve seen a ridiculous number of films over the year

like The Witch or Hollywood cinema hits like The Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe.

Digging deep, many films that won’t even make critical lists will appear here on my list.

What that means is that some little seen or little hyped films powered their way to the top

of my top 30+ horror films. So this year, people may have completely different lists than

others, leaving little consensus.

What that means to you, the reader? Some of those arthouse critical darlings like The

Witch may have dropped completely off my list and instead were replaced with other

arthouse films. Had they been given a more showy marketing campaign or made it to the

right festivals, they instead may have been this year’s critical darling in the place of more

well known films as The Witch. Also, I hear the cry and anger of those horror fans who

feel ignored; those that live in the trenches who admire the slashers, the midnight films,

the trash films. Arguably the best horror films ever were just that, midnight movies that

were originally ignored or laughed at by critics. Examples of this would be The Texas

Chain Saw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, or Suspiria.

Lastly, what makes a 2016 horror film? That’s the most important I suppose. Many films

are released and play at festival circuits for years but don’t finally get a general release

until a year or two later. Others are foreign films that simply never made it to the shores

of the USA, where I happen to live. Here, people are still waiting for Livide, the French

follow up film to the guys that did Inside. What is consider 2016 to me is if the film's

first appearance in the USA was released to theaters, VOD, or disc in 2016.

With that stated, let’s get into this eclectic list of mine.

(Bonus) #31 Knucklebones – Young college coeds and a monster in an abandoned factory.

Sounds pretty good? Oddly, the lead characters are all fantastic and fairly likable people;

a breath of fresh air for sure. If you like slashers and/or monster movies, this one is

pretty great for a low budget flick.

#30 Pet – What appears to be a mix of women-in- prison and deranged captor films

actually is something quite different. With an interesting twist that is given to the

audience pretty early also is the catalyst of how the two lead characters deal with their

own personal demons.

#29 Emilie – The babysitter alone at home has been a pretty successful plot device for

many years in horror films. Usually a pretty coed suddenly hears a noise or gets a strange

phone call, soon the children disappear, the pet dog is killed, and our babysitter fights for

her life from an intruder. The film Emilie however does an about face. What happens if

the threat isn’t an unknown assailant but instead the babysitter herself? Well acted and a

nice twist on an old trope.

#28 Windmill – This is the follow up film from the guys that did the found-footage horror

film Frankenstein’s Army. A slasher with a supernatural twist, some have compared it to

Nightmare on Elm Street because of that. However, this film isn’t about a monster that

stalks your dreams or out for revenge. The plot is simple: a group of people happen to

take a tour bus through the Netherlands countryside, but what waits for them isn’t just a

monster, it actually is their fates.

#27 The Conjuring 2 – a Hollywood blockbuster and a sequel to the highly successful

original with the same name, this one doesn’t go deeply into the overused exorcism tropes

that the original went through in its finale. With its strong cast and throwback feel to

films like Poltergeist, this one was a pretty good follow up to what appears to be a new

horror franchise.

#26 Deathscort Service – 100% a midnight movie that would have fit nicely in the

grindhouse theaters of yesteryear. With over the top gore like a Hershall Gordon Lewis

film, and the nudity of a Michael Findley horror flick, this one is a total throwback for

shock value. Technically well made and filled with love by the amateur and independent

filmmakers and actors involved.

#25 Baskin – This very bizarre Turkish horror film made a splash this year while getting

notice from major media outlets. Is it a strangely disjointed film? Depends. If you are a

huge fan of Italian and European horror cinema of the 1970’s, then no it isn’t. Surreal

with an interesting color palette, the film lives up to many movies from that era. The

climax alone is what many horror fans would be looking for.

#24 Clown – After Eli Roth saw the fake trailer for this film, he contacted the filmmakers

and produced the feature length version. Oddly never released in the states for two years,

if finally hit VOD and many folks were immediately struck by what a well made and

interesting film it really was. Using folklore, it seems that clowns are no different than

trolls, elves, and sprites. And when this demon comes to life once more, it is bloody …

and heartbreaking for one family.

#23 Plankface – backwoods crazies meet slasher madness. From the makers of Found

and Harvest Lake, this one is also heavily frontloaded as a character study. As a result, a

backwood slasher as an arthouse film … and it works.

#22 They Look Like People – picked up by Netflix and released on VOD, this very low

budget film at times seems more a character study of two (and maybe three) people than a

horror film. With one individual obviously disturbed, the other main lead too may

actually be as well. Scary, suspenseful, and sad at times, the film’s greatest ability is to

make the audience turn away and feel uncomfortable more because of awkwardness of

the two lead characters more so than violence itself.

#21 Don’t Breathe – what a surprise. Flawed for sure because it is quite obvious who will

or will not survive, there are not many likable characters, and there are some plot

contrivances, but this reverse home invasion film is as intense as any horror film can

become. A great twist, and having many points that make you want to cheer on a

character only to rethink your position when you look at the illogical premise of their

motives.

#20 Recovery – sometimes compared to Don’t Breathe, and also a reverse home invasion

film, it too has flaws including plot contrivances. However, unlike the leads in Don’t

Breathe, this film allowed me to get behind our protagonists. The movie uses technology

in an original and thoughtful way, not just mobile phones but also social media. My main

approval is, unlike Don’t Breathe, it doesn’t necessarily cheat with a positive ending.

#19 Green Room – Some would call this more a thriller than a straight out horror film,

but either way, this film, by the same folks that brought us the remarkable Blue Ruin,

gives us another violent film but this time about people simply in the wrong place at the

wrong time.

#18 The Secrets of Emily Blair – another Netflix pickup for VOD, this film not only

takes the best of some of the more successful exorcism films, but it also pays homage to

them as well. The lead actress alone is a reason to watch this movie. She was

remarkable and had one of the best performances in horror this year.

#17 What We Become – a Danish zombie film makes the top 20. Oddly for a fairly short

film, the movie packs a lot of things into it. From the pre-apocalypse, to the fall, and then

to the survivors and paranoia, all well done and presented in an hour and a half. If you

are zombied out, maybe this won’t work for you, but it is a strong horror film no matter.

#16 Last Girl Standing – a survivor of a “movie-like” slasher massacre returns to her

prior life only to have to deal with both her inner demons as well as what might be a

copycat killer after her.

#15 10 Cloverfield Lane – another big Hollywood release with fantastic performances by

the three leads, specifically John Goodman in a role that some have even argued is an

award worthy performance. Is it about a crazy man who locks himself and two others in

a bunker or an apocalypse film … or both? I myself would have been more happy if it

was simply the latter, but either way, the film is suspenseful as heck and the controversial

second half was almost as strong as the first half.

#14 The Girl on a Train – the first film on this list that could possibly be thrown in as a

thriller rather than horror. For a big budget Hollywood film, some critics thumbed their

nose at it, and others were upset that the movie moved the location of the film to New

York from the source material’s London, but if you are into mysteries and thrillers with

some very horrific turns and twists, this film has it all.

#13 Almost Shine – What a strange turn this film takes. First off, the first hour of the

film is pretty damn great. Two women and their place in life and what it does to their

relationship is pretty hard to watch. Some will say it even speaks of gender and its place

in a male dominated world. No matter, since this relationship can be non-gender specific

and it still hits home. Then the last twenty minutes the film turns surreal and more a

curiosity. I’m not sure it was the right way to go, but all in all, a solid little film.

#12 Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla – My co-hosts have argued whether this is really a

horror film, but I’m going with Dread Central, and saying yes … yes it is. A very

personal piece about a person with some social skill issues and how he goes about his day

as an ice cream truck salesman. But his life soon turns upside down as things happen that

cause him to break apart emotionally. Very heartbreaking and sad film, but one of the

best of the year.

#11 The Invitation – Many years this one could be even higher. A solid film with a few

plot contrivances but what a ride it is. When a man returns to his ex-wife’s home for a

party, things turn out bad as one would think. But this "bad" is worse than just

arguments. Without getting into details, the film keeps us guessing whether the people at

the party are actually a threat or just simply lost in their own identity.

#10 Siren – Based on a short segment from the film V/H/S, this one is a midnight movie

all the way. But the thing that puts it above most is that it is fun. As an entertainment

piece, from the beginning all the way to the end, it is fun and engaging. Other highpoints

are all the leads are likable, the actor that plays the villain absolutely shines, and the

monster is one of the coolest of the year.

#9 Lights Out – Another theatrical release, this one was also based on a short film

released on the web for all to see. As an extended feature length movie, the main thing

for a horror film is to be scared, and this film has some pretty dang good horror scares.

Though some have said the back story of the monster didn’t work for them, the positives

include a strongly developed creature, a likable lead actress, and actual moments of

fright.

#8 Nina Forever – Honestly I wanted to put this one in the top 5. With its midnight

movie elements, and arthouse feel, the movie has an interesting structure. Basically a

three person character piece, it digs deep into the melancholy of each while eventually

revealing that the lead actress’s character’s intentions isn’t really what we thought it was.

Leaving one character behind while giving new life to another, each protagonist has their

own full character arc.

#7 Train to Buson – This Korean zombie film is probably the best zombie film since

Warm Bodies and with its kinetic action alone could make it a great watch on a triple bill

with World War Z and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. One highpoint is that almost

every survivor is a person you root for. There are barely any of the annoying characters

you want to hate. A few sappy spots but many think they work.

#6 The Autopsy of Jane Doe – Arguably the best of all horror films this year that does not

have an arthouse feel to it. The two leads are phenomenal; when hell breaks loose, they

also have the refreshing period of feeling defeated. And to top all that, when supernatural

things do occur, they have their moments of trying to actually come to grips with it rather

than just jump right in. Phenomenal film and an end of the year surprise.

#5 Neon Demon – This one is another film that depends on whether you like 1970’s

Italian and European horror films. Just as Baskin, it has a very unique color palette and a

midnight movie feel to it. Oddly the film presents itself as if we are supposed to dislike

our protagonists and yet we still want to follow them along on their journey. And with a

surprising twist with 20 minutes left, we then begin to follow the other characters in the

movie other than the one we thought the film was really all about.

#4 The Corpse of Anna Fritz – This Spaniard horror film takes an extreme taboo and uses

the plot device of a famous person as the catalyst. Three twenty-somethings see an

opportunity that moves their perverse motives, and two of them decide to take action.

With a surprising twist, the film suddenly turns into a cover up that may result in murder.

A highly intense thriller-horror film masked as a midnight film.

#3 Sun Choke – I almost chose this as my favorite horror film of the year. This is another

film that has brought back Barbara Crampton to prominence but what really makes this

film great is numerous things. The three lead actresses do a great minimalist job, it has a

great soundtrack, the cinematography is incredible, and the set designs and its stark white

backdrop give an interesting and unsettling feel to this very strange story. One curiosity

is that the surreal moments of the film may not be all that surreal at all and can be viewed

literally.

#2 Goddess of Love – At the last minute I moved this to #2 rather than #1. This one is

directed by the co-director of last year’s well received slasher film, Girlhouse, Goddess of

Love actually was co-written by the director and the lead actress who happened to have a

small role in Girlhouse. This is another character piece. A beautiful talented dancer,

having lost her legit gig in Paris, heads back home and lands up as a stripper. When she

falls in love with a man she meets while working, her already fragile psyche leads her

further down the road to rock bottom. Very heartbreaking and also very intense, a great

film all around.

#1 Masks – Originally released in Germany two years ago, this German language film

directed by Andreas Marschall is one hell of a find and was finally picked up in the USA

for release. A young coed is fired from her job as a dancer but is offered a spot in a

highly competitive dance school that sees something in her that her prior employers

didn’t. With its fantastic color palette, incredible soundtrack, and creepy mystery, this

film is one that should not be missed. A very 1970’s European horror film feel.