The HorrorBuzz Top 10 Horror Films of 2016 The HorrorBuzz Top 10 Horror Films of 2016
With the year winding down, the good folks behind this esteemed publication have once again reached out and asked me if I’d be willing... The HorrorBuzz Top 10 Horror Films of 2016

With the year winding down, the good folks behind this esteemed publication have once again reached out and asked me if I’d be willing to pop by and do a guest column offering my opinion on the best horror films 2016 had to offer. I’m not entirely sure why they thought I was the most qualified person to speak on this subject, but I can only assume it’s because Eli Roth wasn’t available.

I kid, I kid.

Obviously, I’m beyond thrilled to be here. 2016 was surely an eclectic time for fright fans. The year saw Godzilla and Black Mirror make triumphant returns, gave us our first found footage film in 3D (aptly titled Found Footage 3D), and proved that people’s fear of clowns was as prevalent as ever. There were a lot of varying styles of horror released this year, too. Kaiju, zombies, aliens, and more had their moment in the sun…and we even got to see a killer plastic horse run amok (more on this momentarily). Basically, there was something for everybody, and if your cinematic bloodlust wasn’t satiated this year…well, I just don’t know what to tell you.

Now, I personally tend to have widely varying taste and have always had a soft spot for flicks that march to their own beat. As such, some of the selections I made for the year’s best may not be the ones you’ll find on other people’s top ten lists, but no one has ever accused me of being conventional. That being said, just because I don’t list a “stand out” movie of the year here doesn’t mean I don’t like it. For example, I thought Black Phillip in The Witch was mega-cool…and I’m pretty sure James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 is my new favorite Christmas movie.

However, in considering what the year had to offer, these ten films were the ones that resonated with me the most. Each and every one of these movies had a ferocity and uniqueness that keep me thinking about them long after the credits rolled. For that reason, these are the flicks that, for me, define this year in fright. Perhaps you’ll agree with me on some…and maybe with others I’ll point you in the direction of something that will help you live deliciously.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Horror Films of 2016:

 

10. CarousHELL (Dir. Steve Rudzinski)

Here’s the thing: On paper, Steve Rudzinski’s CarousHELL seems patently preposterous in every way. And in truth, that’s why I love it so damn much. This movie exemplifies to me the best of what the independent horror scene can be. Taking an idea that otherwise shouldn’t work and making it a reality is the essence of the underground. It’s how we got Killer Tomatoes and The Stuff. It’s acknowledging there’s artistic merit in the absurd and giving life to that sensibility. It’s what people think when they consider the notion of “cult cinema.” CarousHell is one of those movies. Telling the story of a carousel horse that comes to life and goes on a killing spree, Rudzinski knows that the idea is wacky, but asks the audience to go along for the ride anyway. What follows is an exercise in gory fun. Though admittedly a bizarre concept, I had a smile on my face through the entirety of the film’s run time and found myself uproariously laughing more often than not. CarousHELL is the kind of movie that I would hope to stumble across on late night cable in my youth; a tongue-in-cheek terror that I could obsess over and share with my friends. Though it may not be the kind of horror flick that will make you double check under your bed at night, CarousHELL will at least ensure you’ll head to sleep with a smile.

Original HorrorBuzz review HERE

CarousHELL
RATING: UR /td>
Runtime: 1hr. 10Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 BUY THE MOVIE 
HERE FROM THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE
 

 

9. Holidays (Dir. Various)

For those familiar with my body of work, it will come as no surprise that I’m a fan of both screen anthologies and holiday-themed cinema. As such, when Holidays hit the scene, I was beyond curious to see how a film with various genre directors tackling different festive occasions would fare. While general reaction to the film has admittedly been a mixed bag, I personally felt the movie delivered on its promise of seasonal scares. With each segment tackling a different holiday (as implied by the title), the film offers bite-sized snippets of some of the calendar’s most beloved dates with a spirit that echoes some of EC Comics finer moments. I particularly loved the viciousness of Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s (Starry Eyes) Valentine’s Day tale, as well as Scott Stewart’s (Dark Skies) chilling take on Christmas. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve really been digging Kevin Smith’s recent forays into horror (Red State is fierce…and say what you will about Yoga Hosers, but I loved that meat monster) and it was fun to see Silent Bob dish some Halloween treats. As with most anthologies, what shines in Holidays is going to be dependent on the viewer. There’s a variety of stories offered, and what appeals to some may not appeal to others and vice versa. What I appreciated most about this project though, is that it evoked a sense of fun, which is something I could certainly use more of when going to the movies. Holidays isn’t a deep film, but it is at times a delicious one…and that’s one festive feast in which I will gladly partake.

Original HorrorBuzz review HERE

Holidays
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 45 Mins
Directed By:
VARIOUS
 Written By:
VARIOUS
 

 

8. The Love Witch (Dir. Anna Biller)

Years ago, I attended a screening of Anna Biller’s film Viva at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. It was a revelatory film going experience. The work was both evocative of cinema gone by, but also startlingly unique. Biller’s was a fresh and ferocious voice. This was an artist announcing themselves. I couldn’t wait for more. This year, when I finally got to see her latest work at the Etheria Film Festival, my patience was rewarded. The Love Witch is master class in visual storytelling. From frame one, Biller establishes a lush, colorful, and elegant world that both plays as homage to previous eras of cinema, but also assures the audience that no one does it quite like her. Telling the story of an enchantress (played masterfully by Samantha Robinson) who uses magic to make men fall in love with her, The Love Witch takes the sexual politics of 1960s pulp novels and turns them on their head. It’s a movie with a lot to say, and manages to delicately balance the difficult line of both style and substance. For fans of engaged storytelling and brilliantly executed filmmaking, The Love Witch will be one of those movies you’ll want to dissect and discuss for hours after the credits roll. I loved this movie, and can’t wait to see what other spells Anna Biller will cast in the future.

Original HorrorBuzz review HERE

The Love Witch
RATING: R
Runtime: 2hrs.
Directed By:
 Written By:
   

 

7. Antibirth (Dir. Danny Perez)

To say that Danny Perez’s Antibirth was “a psychedelic punk rock fever dream” would be both 100% true and an understatement all at once. The very essence of surrealistic midnight cinema, Antibirth is one of those movies from which you just can’t turn away. Deliciously pairing indie icons Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny, Antibirth is an aesthetically gritty film that comes at the audience in a decidedly aggressive manner. When Lyonne’s character wakes up after a wild night with strange symptoms that may indicate pregnancy, what follows is a sequence of events steeped in Cronenbergian body horror and trippy giallo like visuals. Furthermore, as the duo unite against the sinister machinations of the men in town, the film reveals itself to be a blood-soaked feminist opus that leaves the viewer begging for more. Although the bizarre construction of Antibirth may not appeal to all viewers, the film knows exactly what it is and delivers a truly satisfying ending that must be seen to be believed. It’s a bizarre and gross slice of cinema, but for those very reasons, Antibirth truly succeeds. In short? I fucking loved it.

Antibirth
RATING: UR
Runtime: 1hr. 34Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

6. Carnage Park (Dir. Mickey Keating)

Holy shit, Carnage Park. I mean, if that was all the more I said about this movie, it would still encapsulate the sheer adrenaline I felt during my initial viewing of the film. Directed by Mickey Keating (who was also responsible for last year’s Darling, with which I am beyond obsessed), Carnage Park is a 1970s set crime thriller of a bank heist gone awry. However, errant robbery barely scratches the surface of this genre shifting slice of savage cinema. As the robbers and their hostage make their escape to the desert, they find themselves ensnared in a deadly game of survival. It’s a movie that transitions from Dog Day Afternoon right into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it’s absolutely wild. A gratuitous exercise in excess, Carnage Park is the kind of movie that throws everything it can at the audience, and has us begging for more. Keating continues to reveal himself as a filmmaker with a distinct sense of vision, and his various forays into the world of genre showcase an auteur that is uncompromising in scope. Breathe deeply before you start this one, because you may not catch your breath again until long after the credits roll.

Carnage Park
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 30Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

 

5. Train to Busan (Dir. Sang-ho Yeon)

It’s hard to make an engaging zombie flick these days. To say that the subgenre is oversaturated would be the understatement of the century. With a constant flood of TV and film content, we’ve seen mostly every iteration of the living dead possible…and, for the most part, horror fans are over it. Well, we thought so, anyway. Little did we realize that all we needed to do to recapture our interest was catch a train. An export of South Korean cinema, Train to Busan gathered considerable attention this year when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Sang-ho Yeon, the film takes the standard zombie apocalypse narrative and places the survivors on a bullet train. The passengers are forced to watch the undead devastation of the world as they rocket by, knowing that if they stop, they too will meet a grisly fate. Though the film has garnered some understandable comparisons to Snowpiercer, what really makes Train to Busan stand on its own is a story that has a strongly rooted emotional core. These were people on their way to work, to meet family members, etc. and now their lives have been inextricably changed forever. As such, Train to Busan is less about zombies and more about people dealing with loss and adapting to a changing world. It’s a masterful bit of storytelling that will make you believe in public transportation in ways you never thought possible.

Train to Busan
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 30Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

4. Hush (Dir. Mike Flanagan)

I’ve been a horror film nerd for so long, it’s a rare occasion that I get truly freaked out by a movie’s content anymore. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and one of the few things that still gets under my skin are stories about home invasion. I suppose, unlike vampires or Godzilla, this is because the idea of an unseen stalker violating your safe space is something that is tangible and an actual possibility in our chaotic world. As such, movies like Funny Games and The Strangers have left me with feelings of trepidation unlike few others. Now, I can add Mike Flanagan’s Hush to that list. The tale of a stalker who preys upon a deaf woman while she works at her remote home, Hush is one of those rare bits of cinema where you can literally feel the dread crawling across your skin with every frame. The movie got a lot of attention this year, and justly so. Hush is one of those truly special pieces of cinema that not only evokes a real sense of fear, but also serves as an artist’s statement. With this film, Flanagan announced himself as a serious contender in the realm of modern masters of horror, and it’s a title I would argue that he has deservedly earned. As the film’s title suggests, some of the best moments of Hush are quiet and contemplative…but ultimately prove that sometimes the most terrifying screams are silent.

*Honorable Mention: Since we’re discussing Mike Flanagan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that he also directed this year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, which was a deliciously spooky romp that is definitely worth your time.

 

Hush
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 21Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
   

3. The Invitation (Dir. Karyn Kusama)

Immediately following my initial viewing of The Invitation, I turned to my film going partner and said, “…this is why I don’t go to parties in the Hills.” Now, maybe that’s a dramatic assertion, but considering the content of Karyn Kusama’s slow burn chiller, I like to think of it as merely hedging my bets. A taut ensemble piece, The Invitation is the story of a dinner party with more at stake than an overcooked entrée. Though the film may take a bit to get to where it’s going, the layered pacing of the festivities only adds to an increasing sense of unease for both the diners and the audience. A non-traditional horror film to be sure, The Invitation succeeds by doing the one thing so many other fright films neglect: It shows us that often the most terrifying thing of all is our own frail humanity. Major credit must be given to Kusama, who executes a master class in how to tonally build discomfort and suspense. The movie works because it’s so relatable. When all the guests arrive at the dinner party, it’s familiar. We’ve likely all been there before. So, by the time things take a turn, we don’t question why everyone is still present and accounted for at the table…because who hasn’t suffered through a little awkwardness over crudité? The less revealed about The Invitation the better, as this is a film that truly benefits from little foreknowledge of its plot. But, that being said, know that this is one dining experience that you’ll be chewing over for days. Elegant and chilling, The Invitation definitely serves up one of 2016’s best.

 

The Invitation
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 30Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

 

2. Green Room (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

Savage. Intense. Unrelenting. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when considering Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. The film, which plays out as something of a punk rock Hitchcock, is nothing short of an exercise in encroaching dread, leaving the audience riveted with unease.


Telling the story of a punk rock band that accidentally runs afoul of neo-Nazis (which feels extra prescient considering the current news cycle) while at the venue of their latest gig, Green Room’s strength lies in a great script that is emboldened by a stellar cast. With a line-up that boasts the likes of the late Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat (who deserves way more credit for her work), Imogen Poots, and a chilling turn by Sir Patrick Stewart, Green Room is never at a lack for compelling portrayals. Ultimately, this is the film’s greatest attribute. For a story that primarily takes place in a single room, it falls upon the shoulders of the ensemble to sell us the idea of their mounting fear. And boy, do they ever. I found myself anxiously holding my breath on more than one occasion during my initial viewing of the movie, and I know I’m not alone when I say I was compelled by its utterly violent tension. Contemplative and chilling in equal measure, Green Room isn’t just a good horror flick, it’s a great exercise in cinema in general.

 

Green Room
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 35Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

1. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dir. Dan Trachtenberg)

When it comes to horror subgenres, I’ve never been as compelled by the “giant monsters trouncing cities” thing as some of my peers. It’s not that I don’t appreciate such films, it’s just that I’ve always preferred my scares to be a bit more…well…intimate. So, when I saw 2008’s Cloverfield, I enjoyed the experience for what it was, and moved on. I liked the movie, but if you had told me at the onset of 2016 that its sequel would end up being my favorite horror film of the year, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. However, nearly nine months after its release, 10 Cloverfield Lane remains the one fright flick of 2016 I’m still thinking about.

I’m familiar with the movie’s backstory and how it began its life as a separate, independent project…and while I think the core of that story contributes to 10 Cloverfield Lane’s overall success, it is the final package from top to bottom that makes it an impeccable slice of horror cinema. A Rod Serling-caliber tale of closed room terror (I was really into those this year, apparently), 10 Cloverfield Lane is steeped in anxiety and tension.

Furthermore, the movie is driven by masterful performances from genre veteran Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, Death Proof) and national treasure John Goodman. Together, the duo achieves an elegant cat and mouse synergy of captor and captive, leaving the audience riveted in their wake. By virtue of “Cloverfield” being in the title, we know there’s something sinister lurking in the world beyond Goodman’s underground lair, but the screen icon creates such a palpable sense of immediate menace, the audience never has time to worry about anything but the clear and present danger in the room. 10 Cloverfield Lane is sublime tale of paranoia and anxiety, framed by something much grander in the world at large. It’s a film that begs the question, “How can we begin to fear the monsters outside when we already have to contend with the fact that we may be monsters ourselves?” This is genre cinema firing on all cylinders and exactly what I want a character driven horror movie to be.

Original HorrorBuzz review HERE

10 Cloverfield Lane
RATING: R
Runtime: 1hr. 44Mins.
Directed By:
 Written By:
 

 


The HorrorBuzz Top 10 of 2016 is a guest post from writer/actor Michael Varrati. A longtime member of the horror community, Varrati has served as a screenwriter behind such projects as Tales of Poe, The Sins of Dracula, Flesh for the Inferno, and more. Outside of the horror genre, he’s also penned several successful TV movies, including A Christmas Reunion and the recent Chevy Chase vehicle, A Christmas in Vermont. He’s currently collaborating with longtime friend and cult icon Peaches Christ on a new horror film project to be released within the next year.
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