Features

Best horror movies of 2016 so far... and those to look out for

Writer: Casey Chong


This year is looking pretty good for horror movies!

How time flies as we're already halfway through 2016. Where this year is packed with a slew of superhero blockbusters, remakes, reboots and sequels, let's not forget that 2016 proves to be a banner year for the horror genre. It's true that many horror movies of today tend to get a bad rep, but this year is somewhat an exception.

With that being said, here are our picks for the best horror movies we have seen so far in 2016. Also, check out our picks for the best upcoming horror movies for the rest of the year and early next year too! After all, it's Halloween and what's better than watching some good horror movies to scare yourself silly?

Best of 2016 so far..

1. "10 Cloverfield Lane"

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in a scene from "10 Cloverfield Lane".

Less of a traditional sequel but more of a companion piece or as described by producer J.J. Abrams himself; a "spiritual successor" a.k.a. "blood relative" to the 2008 surprise hit of "Cloverfield", "10 Cloverfield Lane" eschews the original's found-footage element in favour of a more traditional filmmaking approach. It's a bold creative decision that might make it or break badly, but thankfully, first-time director Dan Trachtenberg knows well how to set up some claustrophobic tension within the movie's limited confines of an underground bunker.

The story, in the meantime, goes like this; Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) winds up in a late-night car accident and then finds herself waking up in an underground bunker. Soon, she discovers that a mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) has saved her life and claim that it's not safe to go outside due to a chemical attack.

The ambiguous setup itself is intriguing, while the story unfolds slowly layer upon layer to keep the viewers guessing throughout the course of the movie. For instance, is Howard really telling the truth about the so-called chemical attack? The movie also works because of how passionate John Goodman is invested into his shady character. No doubt he's the one that helps bind the movie together with his perfectly sneaky performance. Equally worth mentioning as well is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who delivers a robust performance as Michelle.

2. "The Conjuring 2"

Vera Farmiga faces the demonic nun, Valak in "The Conjuring 2".

Back in 2013, who could have thought a little horror movie was able to make a killing at the box office in the midst of the crowded months of the summer movie season? Well, genre maestro James Wan did it with "The Conjuring" and he came back for more with the highly-anticipated sequel three years later. "The Conjuring 2" continues with the husband-and-wife team of paranormal investigators, Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) investigating a series of supernatural occurrences within the Hodgsons house in North London.

Frankly, the sequel offers more of the same seen in the 2013 original. The jump scares are even repetitive and Wan tends to go overboard with the use of CGI involving a "Babadook"-like malevolent character. Minor shortcomings aside, this is far from an inferior sequel. Wan still knows how to scare the viewers with his nifty visual tricks of an old-school frightfest. Coupled with Joseph Bishara's spine-tingling score, Don Burgess' fluid cinematography and dread-inducing sound effects cranked up to eleven, "The Conjuring 2" remains scary enough. Not to mention Wan ensures that the cast is given ample room to shine with their roles. As proven in the 2013 original, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson continue to reign supreme with their respective roles.

3. "Lights Out"

Teresa Palmer in a scene from "Lights Out".

Based on David F. Sandberg's 2013 short film of the same name, "Lights Out" marks his feature-length directorial debut and it has already made a large chunk of money at the box office over its measly US$4.9 million budget.

The movie centres on Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who must overcome her family issues with her depressed mother, Sophie (Maria Bello) to save her brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) from a malevolent entity. The synopsis may sound like something that you've heard or seen before. But "Lights Out" works because the way Sandberg makes good use of darkness to ratchet up some solid "boo!" moments. Switching on and off the lights will never be the same again (well, at least for the time being) after watching this movie in the cinema.

4. "The Shallows"

Blake Lively tries to overcome the shark attack in "The Shallows".

Another year, another "Jaws"-like wannabe, except that Jaume Collet-Serra's shark-centric horror thriller in "The Shallows" is thankfully not a failure. The premise is simple enough; A young woman (Blake Lively) finds herself trapped on a tiny rock island after encountering a hungry great white shark. It's a knockout premise, and Collet-Serra knows well how to stage some genuinely suspenseful moments whenever Lively's character is struggling in the ocean for survival. Not to mention the shark action is top-notch, with the predator himself looking frighteningly lifelike via CG effects.

Apart from the shark, it's a huge surprise that Blake Lively was able to carry the film mostly by herself. She is basically a one-woman show here with her compelling yet sympathetic performance as Nancy.

5. "Train To Busan"

Gong Yoo in a scene from "Train To Busan".

It may have been South Korea's first homegrown zombie movie, but Yeon Sang-Ho proves himself like a true genre veteran when he made his live-action directorial debut via "Train To Busan". Previously known as an indie animation filmmaker whose credits include "The King Of Pigs" and "The Fake", Sang-Ho makes good use of the zombie-movie formula by providing genre fans all the essential horror and violence.

But "Train To Busan" is more than just your average zombie movie. Sang-Ho even manages to strengthen his otherwise typical zombie flick with a subtle touch of sociopolitical commentary that deals with class divides, corporate greed and human selfishness. The movie also helps with a solid cast all around, including a scene-stealing performance from Ma Dong-Seok as the tough but kind-hearted muscleman, Sang-hwa, and a perfectly loathsome performance from Kim Eui-Sung as the self-centred businessman Yong-guk.

6. "Blair Witch"

One of the creepy scenes in "Blair Witch".

Seventeen years after Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez scared viewers around the world with their terrifying found-footage horror "The Blair Witch Project", the franchise came back with an unlikely sequel. Filmed secretly under the disguise of a title called "The Woods", director Adam Wingard revisits Maryland forest in which James (James Allen McCune) and his friends search his long-lost sister (yes, Heather Donahue from the 1999 original).

No stranger to directing acclaimed horror features including "You're Next" and two of the "V/H/S" movies, Adam Wingard may not reach the greatness of the 1999 original but he sure knows how to keep the viewers on edge with plenty of worthy shocks. Best of all, it's a significant improvement over the much-maligned "Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" (2000).

7. "The Wailing"

Kwak Do-Won in a scene from "The Wailing".

If there is another South Korean horror movie of 2016 worth watching other than "Train To Busan", it has to be "The Wailing". Already a hit in its native South Korea as well as receiving near-universal acclaim atvarious film festivals, "The Wailing" centres on a local cop (Kwak Do-Won) investigating a series of mysterious occurrences within the small village of Goksung.

More than just a straightforward horror movie, director Na Hong-Jin ("The Chaser" and "The Yellow Sea") subverts the genre inside out by mixing different genre elements with murder mystery, supernatural horror, zombies and even comedy. Yes, it's weird blending so many genres into one movie, but "The Wailing" is a unique horror movie not to be missed when it finally hits our local cinemas this October.

Coming up next...

8. "Rings"

One of the terrifying scenes in "Rings".

Remember that long-haired creepy girl, Samara? Well, she returns for more scares and terror in the long-overdue sequel to the Hollywood version of "The Ring" (2002) and "The Ring Two" (2005). Simply titled as "Rings", this third instalment takes place thirteen years after the events of the original movie where Samara (Bonnie Morgan, replacing Daveigh Chase) is terrorising a couple (Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe).

While the J-horror craze is long gone, it remains interesting to see what's new that Spanish director F. Javier Gutiérrez ("Before The Fall") manages to bring in this third movie. After all, it has been so long since the last "Ring" movie and technology has advanced far beyond video tape and the big television set.

9. "Shut In"

Naomi Watts in a scene from "Shut In".

Naomi Watts is no stranger to playing a role in the horror genre, especially with the first two "Rings" movies to her credit. In "Shut In", she plays a widowed child psychologist who lives alone in rural New England. During a severe winter storm, she saves a young boy (Jacob Tremblay, best known for his breakout performance in "Room" and this year's supernatural horror "Before I Wake") from being killed.

Directed by TV veteran Farren Blackburn, whose extensive credit includes acclaimed shows like "Doctor Who" and "Daredevil", "Shut In" marks his feature-length directorial debut. He is blessed with a promising cast in the form of Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay, while the movie's close-quarters setting within the house is a perfect premise to evoke claustrophobic tension if done right.

10. "The Witch"

Anya Taylor-Joy in a creepy scene from "The Witch".

Otherwise stylised as "The VVitch", Robert Eggers' feature-length directorial debut was already a critical darling when it made its debut at various film festivals last year.

Set in the mid-17th-century New England, a family is banished from their village and is forced to live in exile in the middle of the forest. Soon, mysterious things start to happen and subsequently wrecks the family's sanity to a breaking point.

Unlike most horror movies these days which relies heavily on jump scares, Eggers favours the traditional filmmaking approach where the pace is deliberate and the scare factor leans more onto the power of suggestion. Yes, the movie might be too slow-paced especially for those with a short attention span, but what makes "The Witch" such a talked-about horror movie among many critics is Eggers' subtle use of moody cinematography and a foreboding setting to evoke a sense of escalating tension and suspense. Horror fans who prefer their genre full of bloodshed may find this a disappointment; however, those who are longing for a highly atmospheric horror movie filled with bleak ambiguity might want to check this out.

Cinema Online, 30 October 2016

Related Movies:
Shut In (17 Nov 2016)
Rings (09 Feb 2017)
The Wailing (Korean) (28 Jul 2016)
Blair Witch (15 Sep 2016)
Train To Busan (Korean) (04 Aug 2016)
The Shallows (11 Aug 2016)
Lights Out (18 Aug 2016)
The Conjuring 2 (09 Jun 2016)
10 Cloverfield Lane (07 Apr 2016)

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