Top Ten Horrors of 2016

Written by Joel Harley

That 2016, eh. What a year. The year when Everything Went to Shit didn’t do a great deal to redeem itself in the movie stakes either, plopping out a series of promising ideas and concepts which sounded great, but underwhelmed in reality. So don’t hold your breath for seeing Don’t Breathe on this list (watch The People Under the Stairs instead), nor Baskin (which basks in its own nuttiness too much to hold up), 31 (repetitive Rob Zombie cliché) or Blair Witch… because I haven’t seen that one yet.

The glorious Bone Tomahawk was released on DVD this year, but I already blew my load in including it on last year’s Best Of list. Sadly, Kurt Russell’s beard and the film’s incredible gore couldn’t justify my including The Hateful Eight on this list of horrors (otherwise it’d be Top Three, easily) and Batman v Superman (yes, it is awful, but yes, I liked it) is excluded for the same reasons. TV series are also included, but don’t expect to see the now-atrocious Walking Dead or unbelievable shark-jumping bollocks that was this year’s American Horror Story. Series Two of Ash vs The Evil Dead almost made the list, but it whiffed the finale in a big way, and The Exorcist isn’t finished yet.

So what does make the cut? 

the shallowsBuy from Amazon UK 10. The Shallows – Blake Lively on a rock versus a killer shark. Both of these elements (I’m not counting the rock) are enough to grab my attention, but The Shallows holds it with killer action, inspired direction (Jaume Collet-Serra, pushing the boat out) and performances from Lively, the CGI shark and a seagull named Steven. In what was not a fun year in any department, The Shallows is a much-needed blast.


conjuring 2
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9. The Conjuring 2 – The scariest thing I have seen in a cinema since The Babadook. My hair literally stood to attention for this big bucks horror sequel; no mean feat, given the amount of cinematic scares I subject myself to on a weekly basis. The best thing about the film is its heart, though, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s version of the Warrens emerging as horror heroes for our time. Worth it for Wilson’s Elvis impression alone.


wolf creek
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8. Wolf Creek (TV series) – The biggest shocker of 2016, the Wolf Creek television series turning the franchise around from something I had always been lukewarm on (at best) to my favourite genre show of the year (until The Exorcist wraps up, anyway). Crucially, this miniseries looks past the annoying and overrated Mick Taylor to concentrate on the young college student tracking him down for revenge. Gorgeous looking, brutal and mercifully well-paced, it’s the best the franchise has ever been. Even mad Mick Taylor is almost tolerable in it.


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7. Frankenstein – Not just any Frankenstein – Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein. The Candyman director’s personality and fingerprints are all over this loose, updated adaptation, from the modern Gothic aesthetic to the genius casting of Tony Todd as Monster’s blind pal. Beautiful, gentle and emotionally terrifying, Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein will break your heart.


goodnight mommy
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6. Goodnight Mommy – A chilling Austrian arthouse piece from 2015 – granted a very limited UK release this year – Goodnight Mommy is all atmosphere and one fairly obvious twist. Its junior funny games pit a pair of creepy young boys against their equally creepy but no-longer deformed mother in a battle of wits that no-one can win. Reminiscent of the traumatic novel Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, it’s the year’s most quietly unsettling movie and one that remains curiously underappreciated.


train to busan
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5. Train to Busan – What has been a disappointing year for straight-up horror has been very good for the action hybrid. This Korean zombie action movie is a fast-paced, relentless white-knuckle ride that deserves all of the praise it gets and more. 28 Days Later on a train, it heaps hordes of the infected upon a handful of terrified passengers and challenges them to survive. The action is intense and amazing, and the story left me weeping.


greasy strangler
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4. The Greasy Strangler – The weirdest film on this list, and this list (spoilers) has a goat called Black Phillip on it. Making no concessions to audience sense or sensibility, it’s a surreal, disgusting cheese-and-grease fever dream. It’s not really a horror film, but in this case, I don’t know what it is. The Greasy Strangler defies convention. It’s simply The Greasy Strangler.


the witchBuy from Amazon UK

3. The VVitch – A divisive one, to be sure, but The VVitch is definitely a horror film. Together with It Follows, it launched a thousand ‘too arty/not scary enough to be a horror film’ arguments, but not only is it a horror film, it’s also the best ‘pure’ horror film of 2016. Pious English pilgrims in an unforgiving wilderness fall foul of the film’s titular witch, who steals their baby and turns the family against each other. The goat steals the show. And what a show it is…


green room
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2. Green Room – Given how the rest of the year turned out, it’s apt that my favourite genre film of the year should be the violent, terrifying and utterly superb Nazi ‘em up Green Room. Trapped in the green room of a grubby skinhead bar, an out-of-their-depth punk band tries desperately to survive and escape. Patrick Stewart (!) plays the charming but awful skinhead boss (no prosthetics required for that bald bonce), and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat rounds out the supporting cast along with Imogen Poots. The best action/thriller/horror hybrid of the year, sadly left with a bittersweet aftertaste following the tragic passing of young Anton Yelchin. And the months following its release weren’t too kind either…


queen trump

1. Brexit/Donald Tr*mp – TIME’s man of the year wins again! Sure, he’s not a horror film, but he’s not a President either, so he takes (joint) top spot on this list of mine. The two events that scared me more than any horror movie, television show or work of fiction this year (or any year), the rise and success of Brexit and one Donald Tr*mp left me terrified, depressed and deeply ashamed. ‘It’s like the plot of Idiocracy’, I would normally say (quite smugly) as our democracy votes for or does something stupid. Except no, not in this case. If you watch Idiocracy, you’ll notice that those idiots were actually quite nice people. Come back Camacho, all is forgiven. See you after the apocalypse, guys.



About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Writer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for HorrorTalk and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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