Okay, hear us out on this one. When the first trailer for The Shallows came out, we weren’t too impressed. Blake Lively stalked by sharks? Hardly a new concept, and not an actor you think of when you think horror. But we, and many critics, were surprised by just how good The Shallows was. The Shallows smartly executes its scares, while giving Lively’s character, Nancy, enough of a medical background to perform surgery on herself. It’s the perfect amount of gruesome that’ll satisfy any survival movie fan.
The Invitation fell slightly under the radar in 2016 due to its limited release. Thankfully, it was quickly released to video-on-demand where it traumatized viewers who weren’t able to get to the limited release venues. This truly twisty film follows Will and Kira, who, upon going to visit Will’s ex-wife and her new husband, find themselves wrapped up in an incredibly strange invitation to join a cult. This classic ‘dinner party from hell’ plot quickly becomes much, much more.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Only very technically a sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, this film follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she leaves her home after breaking up with her fiancé. After getting in a car accident, Michelle wakes up to find herself underground, with two men. One of them explains that they can’t leave the bunker because a horrible, unexplained attack has killed everyone else and left behind fallout that could kill them, too. This tense, quickly-moving film will leave you questioning everyone around you.
After a surgery went wrong, Maddie lost her voice and hearing at a young age. Now an author, the young woman lives alone in the woods. One of three fantastic horror films directed by Mike Flanagan that premiered in 2016, Hush blew audiences away with its nearly silent action and its carefully plotted suspense.
Another film centering around a main character’s disability, Don’t Breathe follows a trio of teen troublemakers after they decide to break into a nearby veteran’s home. They’ve heard the man is sitting on a bunch of cash, and he’s blind to boot. But they soon find out that blind absolutely does not mean helpless.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about horror in 2016 without talking about The Witch. Robert Eggers’s debut film certainly got people talking—and it utterly terrified a lot of us as well. When a family in Puritan England is banished from their town, they must do their best to survive. The central performance by Anya Taylor-Joy makes this film one to watch, even if there aren’t as many witches as one might think.
The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s follow up to 2013’s The Conjuring manages to avoid the sophomore slump. Ed and Lorraine Warren are back, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, investigating a case in London. This time, they’re taking on the Enfield Poltergeist as it possesses a child living in the London suburb.
This 2016 flick had an unusual premise and fantastic reviews, but was stunningly underseen by general audiences. When a punk band accidentally books a gig at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar, things quickly get out of hand. The bassist witnesses a murder and calls the police. The band is then trapped inside the bar and forced to fight their way out.
Lights Out was based on the YouTube short that caused a phenomenon in 2013. Adapted as a full-length feature in 2016, this stunning, simple premise resulted in an utterly terrifying film. People in a small town start seeing the silhouette of a violent woman whenever they turn the lights off, but she disappears when the lights are turned back on.
Under the Shadow
This Iranian horror film has managed to cross over into American audiences thanks to a story that, despite cultural differences, resonates with all. Sometimes likened to The Babadook, Under the Shadow follows a stay-at-home mother who is taking care of a young daughter, Dorsa, when their building is hit by an undetonated missile. Dorsa believes that the missile unleashed djinn, a type of mystical creature, all around them. Set almost entirely in their apartment, this claustrophobic film will have you on edge.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Mike Flanagan’s prequel to 2014’s Ouija travels back to the 1960s, as a widow contacts a spirit that she believes is her husband. Of course, the spirit is not her husband. The rare case of a sequel (or prequel, to be more precise) outshining its original, Ouija: Origin of Evil is not to be missed.
A policeman must investigate a number of unexplainable illnesses and murders in South Korea in this foreign horror. When his daughter comes down with the illness, the stakes go way, way up. This film is horrifying in the most visceral way and has pleased audiences around the world.
The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon is not quite as lofty or intelligent as it thinks it is, but its cast, beautiful visuals, and terrifying gore make it worth the watch anyway. Following a model (Elle Fanning) as she discovers the grotesque reality of modeling, Nicolas Winding Refn’s movie is gorgeous and gore-filled.
Feature still from "The Neon Demon" via Space Rocket Nation