Dread Central’s Best and Worst Horror Films of 2016
When asked by our overlord Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton to write a Best/Worst list, I was tempted to just list “2016” under worst and be done with it. But what we lose in the fire we shall find in the ashes, and the greatest blaze still keeps us warm. So in the spirit of silver linings, I did my best to concoct a list of “musts” and “must nots” of 2016.
There are are two things to remember when going into my list. First, I did my best not to include too many indie films on the “worst” side. There’s always a deluge of shitty micro-budget attempts to cash in on the horror market, and including them would be like wading through the sewer to find the most noxious nuggets of shit. If you’re the kind of person that follows a lot of indie horror, you should already know where to set your expectations. This list is more for horror fans who haven’t seen everything this year and are looking for which titles to watch. The indie films I included are ones that generated enough buzz that it’s reasonable you might have heard of them. The second thing to remember is that this is not an “ironic” list. The “worst” movies are not ones I’m trashing out of spite, and the “best” are not “so bad they’re good.” I know that a lot of people go through “worst” lists to try to find the next The Room, but don’t. These are films I genuinely didn’t enjoy and don’t think you will either. If you ruin your night with one of them, that shit is on you.
5) The Monster – It’s rare that a film really gets to me. Through my years as a horror addict, I’ve seen countless dismemberments, decapitations, cranial explosions, spectral impalements, viral mutations, and general nastinesses. It’s all good fun. What actually bothers me is the real world ugliness that people live through daily. For The Monster, the actual monster itself plays second fiddle to the fractured and abusive relationship between mother and daughter. I’ve heard some solid criticism that the actual monster segments are lame, but that’s almost beside the point. The abuse in The Monster never felt like a plot device, but a legitimate struggle. You hate the mother but ultimately understand her. Like the monster that tears people apart by nature, she can’t help but tear her own life apart. If not for a weak final 15 minutes, this would take the top spot.
4) Southbound – Horror anthology films are always a mixed bag. Watching V/H/S again, it’s easy to see why the first short was the one to get a feature film. Southbound is one of the few where every single segment stands up. It manages to have something for everyone without pandering to specifics or dipping in quality to schlock. Consistently solid and, most importantly, always interesting, it comes together as a package in a way most anthology films don’t.
3) Green Room – All wildly different, I can’t think of a Jeremy Saulnier film I wouldn’t recommend (though there are only three). One of the few directors whom I’d watch for name alone, he has a talent for making the most ridiculous stories feel grounded and real. If you were to write on paper “punk band fights for survival against neo-Nazis led by Captain Picard in a rock club,” it would sound silly. With Saulnier’s direction, we have one of the grittiest and most entertaining films of the year. Switching flawlessly from black comedy to brutal violence at the drop of a hat, this should not be missed.
2) They’re Watching – A found footage movie on a top list? In 2016!?!? MADNESS! Don’t worry… I haven’t lost my mind. I’m kind of a glutton for bad found footage films, but even I can admit that the genre has 98% worn out its welcome. And yet, every once in a while, something comes along that gives me a spark of hope. They’re Watching was the one truly good thing to come out of found footage this year, and Christ, was it fun! The cast is genuinely likable, premise entertaining, and jokes legitimately funny. It’s all topped off with a final 15 minutes that ride the schlock train to crazy town on an explosion of lasers and frog transmutations. Put your prejudice aside for 90 minutes, and enjoy.
1) Lights Out – Lights Out is a movie I really hoped would be good. A first-time director turning his popular internet short into a feature length film, this was going to be either a cynical Hollywood cash grab or a Cinderella story. Luckily for David Sandberg and horror audiences, it turned out to be the latter. While similar adaptations stretch the premise with a bare bones plot, Lights Out created a new heart for the movie and built the scares around it. It touched on issues like mental health in a surprisingly grounded fashion, never feeling exploitative. The characters were all well rounded and important, with the typically disposable “boyfriend guy” adding an actual dynamic to the story. Most importantly, it was scary as hell, with some of the most creative and rewarding ghostly assaults this year. This well deserves the top spot.
5) Hell House LLC – Might as well start shit off with a bang. I put this on here knowing full well that some of you loved this film. Similar to how I can understand that people didn’t like The Monster for the bad monster bits, I can see how people liked Hell House LLC for the creative premise and constant scares. If this movie were as good as the first 20 minutes, it might be on the other side of this list. Holy fuck, does this devolve into cliché and missed opportunities. There is so much wrong with this film that I seriously can’t remember why I considered forgiving it. If you need more of what I think, we had a whole podcast on it you can find here. Enjoy.
4) Never Open the Door – In the first 10 minutes of this film, a dude tries to whip his dick out at a dinner table to convince his friend that she should bang him. It legitimately goes downhill from there.
3) I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House – More like “I Am the Boring Movie That Lives on the Netflix.”
2) The Disappointments Room – If you liked this movie, please seek help. I had to stop it multiple times throughout because I had more interesting shit to do, like clip my toenails. The premise is like a bad version of The Skeleton Key, but with no payoff and a less interesting backstory. I considered doing another snarky comment like “The Disappointments Room? That’s what the theater felt like!” But then people would have actually had to be in the theater to be disappointed.
1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – On a positive note, it is just as boring as a Jane Austen novel. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a testament to the fact that just adding zombies to shit doesn’t make it interesting. I’m all for trying new things, but I can’t figure out whom this movie appeals to. I can imagine the boardroom that greenlit this film, congratulating each other over their new film that would bring girls to the zombie genre by appealing to their feminine senses and love of fancy dresses. Funny thing, though… girls already like horror. And they hate boring, drawn-out drivel as much as dudes do. Fancy that.
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