Our Top Scary Films of 2016 So Far
Whereas high profile horror made its mark in 2015 with Guillermo del Toro’s masterful Crimson Peak and the not-so-masterful remake of Poltergeist, this year looks to dive deep into indie based scares. “The” is the unifying trait of 2016’s scary agenda, whether it’s The Boy, The Forest, or The Witch. The latter film in particular, a February release, looks to set the tone for movie season screams with psychological terror over graphic horror – taking things back to basics.
Also following in this vein is The Conjuring 2, the follow to 2014’s surprise success that spawned a spin-off (Annabelle) and a healthy fear of the clapping game. Though none of these films will get anywhere near the year’s biggest box office hits, there will always be that dedicated group of horror followers and filmmakers who’ll surprise viewers while simultaneously shaking them to their core. Everyone needs a little scare in their life. Below are just some of the top scariest films of 2016 so far.
Sara (Natalie Dormer), a young American woman, is in Japan searching for her recently disappeared twin sister. The sibling’s trail eventually leads her to the Aokigahara Forest, an infamous landmark where people go to commit suicide. And despite the urgings of those around her, Sara tempts fate and enters the forest alone, desperately in need of answers. What she finds, however, may not have been what she was looking for. Comparisons to Gus Van Sant’s recent indie flop Sea of Trees are inevitable, given the shared setting, but rookie filmmaker Jason Zada will be taking things in a notably supernatural direction given the horrific buildup.
The Boy – Release Date: January 22nd 2016
American born Greta (Lauren Cohan) gets a gig as a nanny in a remote U.K. village. But things take a severe turn for the discomforting when she discovers the child she is hired to care for is in fact a life-size porcelain doll. The doll’s “parents,” (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) treat the toy as their own, attempting to cope with the premature death of their real son. But as the tenure extends, Greta slowly catches glimpses of the doll, who may in fact be alive. In blurring realities with a creepy children’s toy, The Boy is right in the wheelhouse for fans of Annabelle (2014), and is sure to rank as one of the year’s bigger scary movie releases.
Friend Request – Release Date: February 17th 2016
The internet age has seeped so assuredly into every medium of art that there is now a new subgenre of horror: “The Social Media Slasher.” It popped up in 2014’s Unfriended, and it reappears here in director Simon Verhoeven’s Friend Request, a clever splash of typical horror/mystery based around the precocious and popular Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey). She receives a Facebook request one day from an unnamed account, and before she knows it, this mystery person has begun brutally murdering everyone in Laura’s life. Faced with a ticking clock of suspicion, she must determine the identity of the true killer before it’s too late. A familiar trope filtered through the digital stew of social media, and complete with an edgy sheen that may appear dated give or take a few years. But nevertheless, the potential of Friend Request remains high, mostly because it’s exciting to see the tools of the modern age used so regularly in a genre that’s been around for decades.
The Witch – Release Date: February 19th 2016
Set in the 17th century, The Witch follows a Puritan family who lives alone on the outskirts of the New England forest. Though a complacent life, their paradise is quickly shattered when daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is convicted of witchcraft by the nearest village, setting in motion a shattering series of events. The disappearance of the family’s infant son, the eldest boy’s sudden bloody illness, and the infection of every single animal on the farm pushes things to a haunting realization: perhaps the witchcraft is real. Written by first time director Robert Eggers, the Sundance selection looks to be one 2016 best horror movies yet.
From the pen of British director Johannes Roberts comes The Other Side Of The Door, a tantalizing mash-up of The Bad Seed (1956) and The Exorcist (1973). Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) is horrifically traumatized by the death of her young son Oliver (Logan Creran), so much so that she becomes closed off to her surviving daughter (Sofia Rosinsky) and husband (Jeremy Sisto). This trauma turns obsessive when Maria seeks out a ritual to properly say goodbye, but her attempts wind up opening a portal between this life and the next; unleashing a demon in the form of her fallen boy. Goodbyes have never been less sweet.
Before I Wake – Release Date: April 8th 2016
Cody (Jacob Tremblay) is an orphan boy with an imaginative way of viewing the world. Perhaps, a little too imaginative. Once adopted by new parents Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane), he begins having dreams that alter reality, and the resulting effect it has on their lives change things forever. It’s a simple enough concept, prime territory for a Twilight Zone episode, but Before I Wake also benefits from the nuanced directorial approach of Mike Flannagan. Most known for horrific outings like Absentia (2011) and Oculus (2013), the Massachusetts native knows scary, and a patented eye for uncomfortable detail pushes each story into a realm previously adhered to within conventional structures. As to whether Before I Wake will hit big with horror audiences remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that it will snag a small cult audience before all is said and done.
Green Room – Release Date: April 15th 2016
Green Room looks absolutely insane. It’s directed by a guy who crafted a Kickstarter neo-noir in 2013, Blue Ruin, that has since become a bit of a hit among indie audiences. Particularly eye catching was the emphasis on grisly violence that drove the narrative, a trait that Jeremy Saulnier looks to pursue even further in this color-themed horror thriller. This time around, a punk band witnesses a murder by white supremacy members, only to find themselves fighting for survival when the members become hell-bent on covering up their crime. Acting wise, the film relegates Ruin star Macon Blair to a supporting part while Anton Yelchin and a surprising Patrick Stewart show up to deal in the lion’s share of intense interactions. The violence is practically gut-wrenching, but soaked in such an adorned sense of style that it’ll be tough to avert your eyes. Welcome to the Green Room.
Amityville: The Awakening – Release Date: April 16th 2016
As the staggering fourteenth installment in the Amityville horror saga, this new addition from director Franck Khalfoun serves as an eerie epilogue to the notable house of horror. Belle (Bella Thorne), her little sister Juliet (Mckenna Grace), and her comatose twin brother James (Cameron Monaghan) move into a new house with their single mother – a result of James’ medical bills. But when the young boy quickly regains his health and grotesque nightmares being haunting Belle, she quickly realizes they have moved into the infamous Amityville house. Though the series that hasn’t made much commercial noise in a while, Amityville is an iconic name in horror that can never be ruled out.
Patient Zero – Release Date: September 2nd 2016
After a pandemic of rabies mutates much of the human population into infected savages, survivor Morgan (Matt Smith) awakens with the ability to communicate with the infected, dubbing him “Patient Zero.” As a result, Morgan sets out on an investigation for the antidote with the aid of Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer) and Colonel Knox (Clive Standen). Landing somewhere in between I Am Legend (2007) and World War Z (2011), this film’s core audience of zombie lovers will be immediately satisfied with a narrative that fulfills every check mark in the undead book of tricks. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky, whose style can best be seen in the 2012 thriller Deadfall, likes to infuse plenty of drama into whatever genre he happens to work in, and this is sure to arise once more in Patient Zero. A cast of former Doctor Who Matt Smith and everyone’s favorite bald supporting actor Stanley Tucci provides apt ability, so while the talent behind the picture isn’t awe-inspiring, it’s more than enough to deliver a solid final product.
Rings – Release Date: October 28th 2016
The Ring franchise, originally taken from the Japanese film of the same name, pulled in some big numbers in the early 2000’s. As a result, the addition of this much belated third entry represents something of an oddity in the modern age – too old for young kids to remember but too recent to evoke the nostalgia of their parents. Regardless, this story kicks off with Julia (Matilda Anna Lutz) and her doomed boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), as the former finds out he watched Samara’s infamous videotape nearly six days ago. With time running out by the end of the night, the two star-crossed lovers attempt a way to break the curse before Holt is history with the rest of the video’s tortured victims. Rings also marks the feature length debut of filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez, who takes great pains to revel in the glitchy jumps behind the series’ trademark style.
The Neon Demon – Release Date: TBA 2016
With a a title that screams seedy nightlife, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is a dirty detour down the back alley of compromise. It’s a film that, like Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) before it, flawlessly showcases the visual panache of a filmmaker like Refn, who has become the premiere successor to Michael Mann’s school of neon thought. The film, documenting the descent of aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) into an L.A. world of beauty-obsessed women, has been told many a time before; from noir to drama and horror to comedy, but the dividing line will ultimately lie with Refn’s storytelling restraint. As stylistically stable as he can be, God Forgives slipped into an incoherently hollow plotline, something that needs to be avoided here. If achieved, The Neon Demon will sneak up on viewers as one of the more psychologically sinister thrillers to rise to the top in 2016.
Leatherface – Release Date: TBA 2016
Everyone in the world knows who Leatherface is. As the inbred marquee name behind the infamous Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, his story is one of horrifyingly fact based origins. So it only seems natural that he get a movie all to himself, quickly made and gratuitous as can be for fans of stuff like Saw and other sharp household appliances. The film chronicles the teen years of the troubled Jackson Sawyer (Sam Strike), who, in the midst of a horrifyingly brutal childhood, escapes from a mental institution with hostages and a Texas Ranger (Stephen Dorff) on his tail. It’ll fall in line with recent retellings of classic horror characters in Halloween (2007) and Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), failing to live up to their originals but still solid enough to quench the thirst of slasher fans everywhere.