Best Horror of 2016: Jamie's Picks

I think most of us can agree that 2016 was a bit of a rough year -- it started out with the death of Alan Rickman & ended with Carrie Fisher's (so brutal)! But along with the generous portions of crap it threw at us, it did manage to give us a generous selection of quality horror. Do I expect you to agree that all of these were the best? No. Do I care if you think some of my choices are stupid and don't belong on any "best of" list? Also no. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

The Invitation

Director: Karyn Kusama | Release Date: April 2016

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Karyn Kusama's dark, cult-thriller was easily one of the best horror offerings of 2016. Her direction is wonderfully on point as she uses the interior of the L.A. house, the general stuffiness of a rich-person party, and the complexities of human grief to create an almost oppressively tense thriller. Seriously, this is one of those movies that made me feel almost sick with anxiety until its shocking ending.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Director: Dan Trachtenberg | Release Date: March 2016

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As a lifelong fan of Roseanne, I was beyond excited to see John Goodman kill it in his role as a lonely and seriously unstable doomsday-prepper. 10 Cloverfield Lane was everything (and more) that I wanted from Cloverfield - black comedy, aliens, bunkers, and John Goodman dancing to jukebox tunes. You don't need to have seen Cloverfield to understand/enjoy this movie so, if you haven't seen it, get on it.

Green Room

Director: Jeremy Saulnier | Release Date: May 2016

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So Green Room seems to be one of those movies that some folks like to claim is "not real horror." Personally, I think the shit that goes down in Green Room is most certainly horror. Patrick Stewart is the perfect badguy, playing the leader of a group of Nazi punk-rockers. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the solid performance from the late Anton Yelchin. This movie was a fun ride right from the get-go and it did not hold back when it came to blood and gore - if nothing else, that's gotta make it "horror."

Stranger Things

Director: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy | Release Date: July 2015

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Stranger Things was one of the two best shows to come out in 2016 (the second being Westworld - seriously...it was so gd good). I always get worried when there's a movie or show I'm really looking forward to. I hate being disappointed. That was 100% not the case with Stranger Things. It's nostalgic, Stand By Me feel and throwbacks to 80's horror (not to mention the Dungeons & Dragons references) were everything a girl could want in a Netflix show.

Don't Breathe

Director: Fede Alvarez | Release Date: August 2016

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This is the only one on my list that I even slightly considered leaving off. On the whole, I really liked Don't Breathe. This is the second year in a row we got a solid horror film set in Detroit, which is pretty great - even if directors are just taking advantage of the plethora of abandoned houses. The biggest success in Don't Breathe was the serious tension it created as the would-be-thieves snuck around the house, trying not to be detected by the blind homeowner. My biggest issue with the movie was the total story curveball it threw in its third act (particularly the bit involving a turkey baster). That issue aside, Don't Breathe was a tension-filled home invasion success.

Black Mirror - Season 3 (episodes 2 & 3) 

Director: Dan Trachtenberg (ep 2), James Watkins (ep 3) | Release Date: October 2016

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Black Mirror was another Netflix show whose release I was anxiously waiting for. I am a HUGE fan of the first two seasons so naturally I had really high hopes, and while I wasn't wild about every episode, numbers two & three had everything I expect from Black Mirror. Episode 2, "Playtest," is about a young guy, who tests out a new virtual reality horror game that involves exploring a haunted house, so of course horror fans should like it. Episode 3, "Shut Up and Dance," was by far my favorite episode of the season. To me, it was up there with my all-time favorites - definitely one of those episodes that sticks with you for a couple of days. Black Mirror has always been great at using relatable, real-life scenarios (typically with a futuristic feel & cool technological twist) to tell a story that sits with you for days.

Southbound

Director: Radio silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath | Release Date: February 2016

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Southbound already had a leg-up on the competition for me since it's an anthology - I'm just a sucker for them. But this movie had more than just that going for it. It had some seriously great segments that I thought were better than some of the full-length movies this year. There were awesome, floating death-monsters, weird time-slips, and a pretty brutal leg break. I hope 2017 has fewer V/H/S or ABC's of Death sequels and more anthologies like Southbound.

The Eyes of My Mother

Director: Nicolas Pesce | Release Date: December 2016

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I didn't know anything about this movie before I watched it, which was probably for the best. I think if I had looked into it at all, I would've assumed I wasn't going to like it - it's not really the type of movie I'm drawn to. All of that being said, I absolutely loved this movie. It was beautifully shot, had solid performances, and managed to make a murderer's story a somewhat sympathetic one. Honestly, even if you don't enjoy black & white movies, I highly recommend giving this a watch.

Demon

Director: Marcin Wrona | Release Date: September 2016

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This Polish film is a retelling of the Yiddish tale of the dybbuk, which is a malicious possessing spirit. I had no idea Yiddish lore could be so creepy. The story centers around a man, Peter, who travels to Poland to get married and settle down in his new wife's parents' house. Strange things start happening right away and during his wedding, he starts to feel and act, well...strange. That's all I'll say. I was pretty transfixed throughout the whole movie, to be honest. It's definitely one I'll watch again.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Director: Billy O'Brien | Release Date: August 2016

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I was definitely excited to check this one out - if not only to see Mr. Christopher Lloyd be amazing once again. Based on a popular Young Adult novel, I Am Not a Serial Killer tells the story of a young teen's unhealthy obsession with serial killers (and fear that he may even be becoming one). Maybe it's the fact that his mother is the town mortician and has him assist with embalming. Maybe it's the multiple allusions to his not-so-healthy mental health. Whatever it is, the teen soon finds himself in the midst of a murder mystery when people in his town keep winding up as victims of brutal murders. I feel like folks will either love or hate the ending, which is understandable - it's a bit on the supernatural side. I liked it so I think it's definitely worth a watch!

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Director: André  Øvredal | Release Date: December 2016

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André Øvredal (Trollhunter) finishes the year with this seriously fantastic thriller about a father/son team of coroners, conducting an autopsy on the recently discovered corpse of a girl. I don't want to give too much info away about this one (our next podcast episode will be on it) - I'd rather just tell you to check it out. I loved it. I'm also happy that this was the last horror movie I saw in 2016 - made it end on a pretty high note.

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra | Release Date: June 2016

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It's been far too long since a decent shark-related thriller has been released in theaters. So when The Shallows was announced, I was pretty much already a fan. I'm a long-time sucker for shark movies and when they're actually good, that's even better. The Shallows could easily have been a cheesy, one-note crapfest. Instead, it was a solid thriller that was beautifully shot and well acted (Blake Lively carried it entirely on her own). If you're at all a fan of shark flicks, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check this one out.

The VVitch

Director: Robert Eggers | Release Date: February 2016

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One name: Black Phillip. The true star of 2016. In all seriousness, though, I. Love. This. Movie. My theatrical viewing of it was slightly marred when Peter Cetera's voice drifted in from the next theater (showing Deadpool - also great). However, after a second viewing at home, I was onboard with everything Robert Eggers was doing. The family's isolation, along with their religious paranoia, work to create a seriously unnerving movie. The Witch is the only movie I can confidently assign a rating to - #1 obvs.

There they are. My favorites. If you have some faves that didn't make my list, leave them in the comments.

I will give honorable mention to: ABC's of Death 2.5, Under the Shadow, and Blair Witch.