Grab your blankie—things are about to get chilly. From South Korean thrill rides to demonic possession in north London, 2016 was a banner year for horror fiends. Here are the 13 best horror movies of 2016.
Mike Flanagan’s latest boundary-pushing horror comes in the form of a deconstructed home-invasion thriller, starring a strong-willed deaf-mute protag whose day job as an author ultimately saves her from being just another victim of senseless violence. She literally rewrites her own ending. You’ll have to watch it to see what we mean.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Andre Ovredal caught our attention in 2011 with his fantasy horror Troll Hunter. But it’s the filmmaker’s 2016 release that solidifies his rep as a serious horror maestro. Set in the morgue—a perfect, yet weirdly underused, location for any horror film—this ghoulish thriller winds through its twisted narrative as father-son coroners examine a dead girl with no ID, no fingerprints, and no cause of death.
You don’t have to look far to fish for compliments about this one. A sleeper hit that bled into summer blockbuster territory, this super-soaker horror certainly had its doubters. Who’d have thought the seemingly clichéd survival tale of a tanned surfer in skintight neoprene going toe-to-tooth with a great white shark still had some life left in it? This nightmare thriller will keep you out of the water next summer.
Tale of Tales
Writer/director Matteo Garrone crafts a nightmare vision of Neapolitan folklore that would haunt the Brothers Grimm in this freaky flick. Released in America this year, Tale of Tales is an ambitious fairy tale horror bathed in as much beauty as blood. Need proof? Salma Hayek gnaws on a beast’s beating heart, and Toby Jones shares his blood with a massive flea.
When a trio of not-so-amateur thieves find themselves in the clutches of the wealthy blind man they had hoped to clean out, we—the audience—are left doing exactly what the film’s title instructs. A hit of cult-classic proportions at this year’s SXSW, Fede Alvarez’s reimagined home invasion thriller is 88 minutes of breathless terror that culminates in one seriously twisted ending.
The Eyes of My Mother
In this stunning film festival gem, young Francisca suffers a traumatic event that echoes through the rest of her life—and stimulates her darkest desires. To call her evil would be incorrect; she has no intent, no motive, and no malice. She’s just curious. Nicolas Pesce’s debut is serene suspense you’ll want to wriggle through.
The Conjuring 2
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return to the silver screen as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time, they head to north London to investigate a sinister case of demonic possession—one that’s based on the real-life Enfield Poltergeist of the 1970s. As the twisted mind behind horror classics Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, filmmaker James Wan knows how to terrify. The Conjuring 2 is yet another entry to his list of must-see nightmares.
They Look like People
Yes, technically Perry Blackshear’s psychological horror gem is a 2015 release. However, it took Netflix acquiring its streaming rights in 2016 for the flick to find an audience. They Look like People follows a man who is either plagued by evil creatures in the world around him, or tortured by monsters from within. Paranoia lingers long after the credits roll.
Under the Shadow
This Iranian horror film wowed audiences this year, earning comparisons to Australia’s monster horror, The Babadook. Set in the 1980s, a mother and her young daughter are struggling to survive in war-torn Tehran. Then a missile hits their home. While the explosive doesn’t detonate, it does usher in an ancient evil dead-set on destruction.
The Love Witch
An ultra-feminist love story-cum-hate story, Anna Biller’s revenge flick is also an ode to the Technicolor horror of the 1960s and 70s—and were it not for a few scenes and its release date, we never would have been the wiser. The story centers on Elaine, a frank and promiscuous Wiccan who uses “sex magic” to attract men. But Elaine’s otherworldly grip on her subjects begins to slip when her spells work too well.
If you’re on the hunt for an atmospheric flick that crawls under your skin, look no further than this French body-horror mystery. Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Evolution hit American theaters this year. It’s like the most bizarre science class you’ve ever sat through. About a boy whose recent dead-body discovery makes him question his existence and the hospitalized boys around him, Evolution is as thought provoking as it is haunting. And it is very haunting.
Director Robert Eggers is certified fresh thanks to his coming-of-witch tale about a devout teenager circa 1630 who ultimately gives in to the dark forces she’s been accused of harboring. A creepy classic that manipulates the audience’s instincts and affirms evil is as real as one allows it to be, The Witch just might be this year’s most rattling horror picture.
Train to Busan
Zombies. On a train. There’s just something about horror movies that pit humanity against evil within a confined space. In the case of director Yeon Sang-ho’s fully realized horror survival tale, the results are a high-speed zombie nightmare that gives 28 Days Later a bloody run for its money.
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Still from "The Eyes of My Mother" via Borderline Presents; Still from "The Conjuring 2" via New Line Cinema; Still from "Hush" via Intrepid Pictures