The Best Horror Movies of 2016

Korean zombies, evil nuns, and primitive cannibals all made our list of 2016's best horror

best horror movies 2016

Warner Bros.

2016 was a great year for horror movies. After the long, belabored era of ‘torture porn’ horror (popularized by franchises like Hostel and Saw), horror filmmakers have returned to clever low-budget techniques, tasteful use of sight and sound, and smart storytelling. Here are eight of the best horror movies of 2016.

8. The Witch

best horror movies 2016 witch

Early in The Witch, a glimpse into an unholy lair promises the viewer a movie of terrifying witchcraft horror. The film’s flaws prevent it from fully delivering on that promise, but its slow-burn Satanism and attention to period detail still scored it a spot on our list of the best horror movies of 2016. Perhaps even better than The Witch itself is the movie review that Gwar’s Beefcake the Mighty wrote for Culture Creature.

7. Don’t Breathe

best horror movies 2016

Like Lights Out and Hush (two films that also appear on this list), Don’t Breathe wisely exploits the five senses. The protagonists of Don’t Breathe fear for their life if they make a sound. That’s because the blind villain of this home invasion thriller might hear them – and that could mean a grisly encounter with the business end of a Rottweiler or a shotgun. Don’t Breathe‘s shocking, vulgar twist and its corresponding set piece makes it one of the best horror movies of 2016.

6. The Conjuring 2

best horror movies conjuring 2

2013’s The Conjuring combined classic haunted house tropes and Exorcist-style demon possession for one of that year’s best horror films. The Conjuring 2 utilizes many of those same strengths once again, including the tasteful, reliable performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as ghost-hunting couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. A sensitive performance by young actor Madison Wolfe – and the high creep-factor of the nun demon who haunts her – made this one of 2016’s most memorable horror outings.

5. Hush

best horror movies 2016 hush

Many of 2016’s best horror movies make clever use of basic filmmaking techniques like light and shadow, the five senses and more. In Hush, a home-invasion thriller about a deaf author engaged in a brutal fight for survival, the director’s tasteful choices inform the audience about the unique role of sound in the story. The protagonist’s disability is a disadvantage in her struggle, but it’s the intense one-on-one battle – complete with crossbow and brutal violence – that make Hush one of the best horror movies of 2016.

4. Train to Busan

best horror movies train busan

This Korean zombie film bursts with frenetic violence. In our full Train to Busan review, we wrote: “Truly great zombie movies only come around once in a while. In 2016, we’ve got one in the form of South Korean horror-actioner Train to Busan…. It’s fast-paced, clever, and packed to the caboose with flailing, squealing infected passengers.”

3. Lights Out

best horror movies 2016 lights out

Lights Out embraces the basic, elemental fact that nothing is scarier than pitch-black darkness. Anything can lurk there: the monster under the bed (watch your ankles), creepy long-fingernailed silhouettes reminiscent of The Babadook, or even your mom’s insanity. This film’s clever use of shadow and silhouette harken back to the simple visual design of silent film-era vampire movies. A few scenes of porno-quality acting detract from the proceedings, but the scares come so fast and relentless that you won’t mind. Lights Out is the only film of 2016 that made my girlfriend scream. What more do you need to know?

2. 10 Cloverfield Lane

best horror movies 2016 cloverfield lane

This claustrophobic thriller reenergizes the Cloverfield franchise with a taut, claustrophobic new entry. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a thoughtful, sophisticated horror film that’s equal parts who-can-you-trust drama and big-budget monster movie. The film’s greatest strength is its expert plotting and direction: 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tense powder keg that wholly satisfies when the fuse finally burns down to the explosives.

1. Bone Tomahawk

best horror movies 2016 bone tomahawk

Is Bone Tomahawk a horror film, a Western, or some perverse blend of both? This movie is all of that and more. Bone Tomahawk combines the tribal monster hunt of Predator with the search party character building of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. The film does experiment with genre – but take one look at the sadistic, cannibalistic ‘troglodyte’ monsters of Bone Tomahawk and you’ll see why this film deserves the number one spot on any list of the best horror movies of 2106. The creature design (with an unusual mandible placement) is truly unforgettable.

Bone Tomahawk’s cast is impeccable. Patrick Wilson (appearing on this list for the second time) makes for a relatable, hobbled hero who helps push the film’s good-versus-evil spectrum over the top. Kurt Russell’s performance bears the full weight of an American screen icon (and his majestic mane of facial hair is almost a movie unto itself). Matthew Fox’s incorrigible cad drops searing quips (“Smart men don’t get married”), Lili Simmons radiates integrity as the doctor in distress, and even David Arquette is a welcome presence as a greasy, sneaky worm (making Arquette palatable is a major feat for any film).

This film is brutally serious and seriously fucked up. Bone Tomahawk is one of the best films of 2016 – in any genre.

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