2016 was definitely a year for horror; whether it be independent films or major blockbuster movies, you can’t deny that horror was reigning supreme. To commemorate a great year for the genre, we asked the Nightmarish Conjurings crew what their favorite horror films of 2016 were.
SHANNON MCGREW’S PICK – THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE
Many people thought my favorite film of 2016 would be THE WITCH, and rightfully so as I adore that film. However, the film that really got under my skin, that really scared me and left me on the edge of my seat, was André Øvredal’s THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. This is one of those films that had left me shaken and disturbed long after the credits rolled. The acting is superb with a storyline that keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish along with quality scares that don’t rely on cheap gimmicks to send a chill up your spine. I can’t say enough good things about this movie as I truly believe it’s a gem among the horror genre. If you are looking for a film that will keep you guessing while giving you genuine scares, then this is the film for you.
CRAIG THAYER’S PICK – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
Listen, I’m not going to lie, picking my favorite feature this year was hard. We have been fortunate to have quite a few good horror movies (enough to make even a top five list difficult) that represented a lot of different styles and themes; so choosing just one seemed like a no win scenario. At the end of the day, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER wins out thanks to dynamite performances by the lead and the killer combined with a lot of interesting themes that are left for the audience to unpack. The fact that each of these varied ideas (whether it be trying to resist natural instinct to grappling with the inevitability of death) never feels forced, but arises naturally from the script further shows the strength of this picture. Having watched this a second time (it is on Neflix streaming now; check it out) I picked up a few different things than my first viewing, which only added to my appreciation of this clever little gem. This is an engrossing meditation on what it means to be human that should be seen by everyone (not just horror fans) so please give it a watch to that we can keep getting such quality entertainment.
TAYLOR TERRIBLE’S PICK – SHE WHO MUST BURN
Let’s talk about my favorite horror film of 2016. I’m honestly surprised to say that it’s an independent film (I made no effort to watch anything that came out this year because none of it really seemed appealing to me), and I’m going to go with SHE WHO MUST BURN. I’ve really felt jaded the last year about horror films and how generic they’ve become. Everything seems like the same villains and stories over and over, and I was glad that there was finally a religiously-charged horror film that FINALLY made me uncomfortable. My review says it all, but if you’re in the market for a great religious film, this is it. I was truly creeped out and uncomfortable for a few hours afterwards, which I’ve been looking for in a horror film for a long time. It’s one of those films where it’s so real, so close and so POSSIBLE…it just leaves you with an awful taste in your mouth. And to us horror fans, that feels GREAT.
DEVIN MARCH’S PICK – THE NEON DEMON
I have to honestly say that THE NEON DEMON has been my favorite film Of all the independent horror films from January to December that I’ve seen, I would have to say NINA FOREVER was the most impactful and a favorite of mine of 2016. Why is it my favorite you ask? Because it is amazing in the most unexpected ways. It’s a comedy, thriller, horror, drama, and satire. You can’t really ask for more. Oh and sex! Audiences love sex! Written and directed by the Blaine brothers, you get to peek into the life of Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a young single woman in her twenties discovering her life while also working at a generic grocery store. She meets a misfit co-worker, Rob (Cain Barry), who she hears tried to unsuccessfully hurt himself by getting in a motorcycle crash. She finds this half ass suicide attempt attractive and mysterious. Holly goes for it. The love story unfolds and we learn that Rob had a previous girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), who had passed away in a car accident. Rob and Holly eventually make it to his bedroom and have sex in his bed, but the new lovers discover Nina’s spirit is not dead. Nina is alive in-between the sheets and has come back from the linen grave. Old blood stains and feelings of Nina linger within Rob. This movie plays with addiction, obsession, and loss. It’s definitely my favorite independent horror movie of 2016 and all I can say is give it a watch. It is worth your horror fanatic’s time! of 2016. Throughout this year I had not spent too much time watching a lot of new releases as much as I was watching older cult films that I had not yet seen. The reason I chose this film is because I usually don’t go for the art house type of film, but THE NEON DEMON brought something totally unusual to the table for me which was an interesting slowburn story-line that picked me up, flipped me around and shook me. That and the ridiculous use of blood and gore after the climax of the film. THE NEON DEMON was beautiful yet utterly disgusting all at the same.
MARY C. RUSSELL’S PICK – NINA FOREVER
Of all the independent horror films from January to December that I’ve seen, I would have to say NINA FOREVER was the most impactful and a favorite of mine of 2016. Why is it my favorite you ask? Because it is amazing in the most unexpected ways. It’s a comedy, thriller, horror, drama, and satire. You can’t really ask for more. Oh and sex! Audiences love sex! Written and directed by the Blaine brothers, you get to peek into the life of Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a young single woman in her twenties discovering her life while also working at a generic grocery store. She meets a misfit co-worker, Rob (Cain Barry), who she hears tried to unsuccessfully hurt himself by getting in a motorcycle crash. She finds this half ass suicide attempt attractive and mysterious. Holly goes for it. The love story unfolds and we learn that Rob had a previous girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), who had passed away in a car accident. Rob and Holly eventually make it to his bedroom and have sex in his bed, but the new lovers discover Nina’s spirit is not dead. Nina is alive in-between the sheets and has come back from the linen grave. Old blood stains and feelings of Nina linger within Rob. This movie plays with addiction, obsession, and loss. It’s definitely my favorite independent horror movie of 2016 and all I can say is give it a watch. It is worth your horror fanatic’s time!
JAY KAY’S PICK – TRAIN TO BUSAN
TRAIN TO BUSAN – It rips your heart out in all the right ways. After seeing this film three times at a variety of film festivals across the United States, TRAIN TO BUSAN found a heartbeat within a rotting genre. The maestros of the Korean genre cinema have created another classic in this hard-hitting, fast paced, emotion and truly visceral ride. For me, this film found a balance between intense drama, defined characters, horror action and moments of release that will make you both weep and laugh. Since Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER, I have not witnessed a film that has connected or made us care so much about the cast of the characters. The best movie of 2016 for sure and perhaps of the 2000’s in the vast horror genre. TRAIN TO BUSAN has incredible infection transformations reflected in writer and director Sang-ho Yeon work as an animator that fills you with fear. The writing offers sharp and snappy dialogue as well as smart plotting of each of the events blended with all around brutality that makes TRAIN TO BUSANmy favorite this year and one of the few films I can say is memorable.
JAMES H. CARTER’S PICK – ANTIBIRTH
My favorite horror film of 2016 is ANTIBIRTH, a fun little romp about a trailer park living young lady who likes to party a little too much. Despite claims that she had not engaged in sexual intercourse in over a calendar year, she mysteriously becomes pregnant. Her quest to find out how this “immaculate conception” came to be and to find out what exactly is growing inside of her leads her down a rabbit hole of bizarre encounters and outlandish conspiracy theories. This film stars the incomparable Natasha Lyonne and adds to my (unproven) theory that every role she has ever played is the same character at different stages of her life. If you are concerned that this isn’t actually a horror film, don’t worry. “There is no birth without blood.”
NIKKI VON FRANKENSTITCH’S PICK – PHANTASM: RAVAGER
If you asked me about my favorite concert in 2016, I don’t think I could narrow it down as there were too many great shows this year, but, if you asked me about my favorite horror movie, that’s easy! 2016 totally belongs to Don Coscarelli and David Hartman’s PHANTASM: RAVAGER. To understand my love for the franchise, you have to go back to 1988, when I saw a commercial for PHANTASM II. The Tall Man, a terrifying Angus Scrimm, beckoning me to see this film, and I obeyed. Holy crap he was scary! And there were Evil Jawa’s! Horror and Star Wars merged perfectly in my mind. Cut to 2015, when I started hearing about PHANTASM: RAVAGER. The Facebook page gave little release info, but did whet my appetite. In Spring of 2016, I had the pleasure of meeting Reggie and Gigi Bannister at the horror convention “Days of the Dead.” Gigi told me Don Coscarelli had secured a distributor for the long awaited film. When the day came, and I got to see RAVAGER…as the movie moved back and forth between all too real hospital scenes of an aging Ice Cream Man, and a post apocalyptic world where The Tall Man was still being battled, the lines of which scenario was real blurred heavily, and I still don’t want to know which one is the reality. The story, by Don Coscarelli and David Hartman, and directed by Hartman, was done so well, this movie literally had me bawling. When a horror movie goes beyond, and becomes a dramatic piece, when the characters are real, that important, you know you’ve found something special. If you haven’t checked out the PHANTASM franchise, do yourself a favor and see it! RAVAGER is a perfect finale to the family.
RYAN WILKIN’S PICK – THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENT
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, where we sit with loved ones and think back on all the good times we’ve had throughout the year. In specific, all the great (and maybe not so great) flicks we were able to feast our eyes on! When it comes to picking a favorite I find the task a little difficult, as two immediately come to mind. Mike Flanagan’s HUSH is amazing in more than one way as it offers a wonderfully fresh take on the home invasion sub-genre, but THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENTS may take the cake for me. As I mentioned in my review, I can’t remember the last time a viewing experience shook me quite like this one did. The fact that it’s a documentary, and not a scripted film, gives what you’re watching a deep authenticity and showcases that horror has grown and evolved into a world that runs much deeper than film and literature. I loved it and I’ll say it again to Rich Fox, thanks for giving me something to be afraid of again.
NONSEQUITUR’S PICK – DON’T BREATHE
I feel under-qualified to contribute to a list of 2016’s best horror films simply because I haven’t seen as many as I’d like! However, DON’T BREATHE, while more of a thriller, sticks out this year amongst underwhelming competition (out of what I’ve seen). With Fede Alvarez’s stylish direction, a fun turn from Stephan Lang, and one nasty twist, this turned out to be a good time at the movies.
If you don’t see your favorite film on the list, don’t worry! There were so many to choose from and we would love to know what you think! From everyone here at Nightmarish Conjuring we wish you all a happy holiday!