Hey folks, Harry here... What you'll find here are my thoughts upon the top ten horror films that I was blessed enough to see in 2016, this does not necessarily mean they were released theatrically or in streaming for the U.S. domestic audience. I saw these at a variety of festivals throughout 2016 and I love them all completely. This isn't to say that many of the mainstream horror films weren't a blast... Hell I loved CONJURING 2 and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, but for me - the best horrors I saw are these... Let's jump right in with number 10!
#10: Amat Escalante's THE UNTAMED (Mexico)
The film was released in Mexico back in the summer of last year, then played at Fantastic Fest where... How do I say this? The Horror Genre is a robust one. Wildly divergent - and you'll see all manners of activity and cultural realities that differ from our relatively safe lives we lead. THE UNTAMED's write up that you can see on say IMDB's page for it... well, in no way will it prepare you for the film you're about to see. Firstly, THE UNTAMED is one of the most refreshing and powerfully erotic films - that like the Wachowski's SENSE 8 - delves into a variety of sexual explorations. What is outstanding is that they're all presented with no judgement. And the sex is necessary to show the addiction of characters to various acts... but then there's something... outside of the norm of human sexuality. Something alien that --- you'll have to see for yourself. The conversations after this film are robust. Questioning what one is capable of doing for sexual gratification - and yeah... it's horrific as all fuck. BUT - it is all sought out. If you're uncomfortable with sexuality - you should probably skip this one. However, if you've managed to grow up enough to realize whatever someone consensually does that brings them what they need... is none of your fucking business and A-OK to you. Well, you'll love this one. Another level that this movie succeeds at wildly is showing an amazingly real feeling film. I had no problem believing every second of this film. Outstanding! Think of it as 50 SHADES OF FUCK NO!
#9: Gore Verbinski's THE CURE FOR WELLNESS (U.S.A.)
I'm very curious to see how general audiences embrace THE CURE FOR WELLNESS this coming February 17th. The film feels slightly miraculous for a Studio produced film by a mainstream filmmaker. The casual nudity, the twists and perversians, the body horror, the medical horror, the... well there's so much more. That the film isn't paced like a runaway freight train, but more nightmarish... there's a repetition that lulls one into feeling safe, but nothing is safe here. The little blue bottles... I love them. What they mean, what they do... Then there's the location in Germany that is just stunning. I've been up in the mountains at a few different events now and when you breath that air, see those sunsets it truly does seem... SAFE. Nobody is safe in this flick. And afterwards - you and those you see it with... will be having discussions about what you each thought happened in the film. This one is coming soon. Mia Goth, who I first saw in NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. II, is amazing in this film. Her beautiful oddity is so refreshing.
#8: Fede Alvarez's DON'T BREATHE (U.S.A.)
Breaking into Stephen Lang's house is just not ever a good idea. That it's a group of stupid teenagers that are attempting to steal from some blind man they don't know... well, that's awesome. Cuz every ounce of suffering, they've karmically wrought upon themselves. Home invasion is consistently nightmarish. And in the genre, I'm pretty often rooting for the deliquent bastards invading to wind up properly mutilated, but as the film twists and turns... we know what Jane Levy's character is fighting for, but I still root against her, cuz stealing from a blind man is not a good idea. Even if the blind mind is so disturbed in his own right, it doesn't make her actions better - and when the film hits true horror levels - it's deeply disturbed and worthy of applause. Fede Alvarez is one of those filmmakers that I've avidly watching. That he's making THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB next - continuing that Lisbeth Salander story... I'm fascinated. Following Fincher is an audacious thing, but so was following Raimi! Alvarez has the courage to not pull punches. In DON'T BREATHE - he lands so many!
#7: Liam Gavin's A DARK SONG (Ireland)
This was the first film of FANTASTIC FEST 2016 that I saw and it is still one of my absolute favorites of the year. It is essentially a two person film, focusing around a Dark Arts practioner and a woman in search of revenge (or so we think). You fear for the woman, that she's being taken advantage of by the occultist... you lose track of time, as they do. The ritualistic magic feels more real than anything in our fantasy movies. You get the idea that this sort of stuff went on behind the scenes within the world of ROSEMARY'S BABY... but the ritual and what it does to those that perform it is... intense. Aligning the mind and spirit for the incantation is through delirious dedication and repetition. This is the shit that I will never try. Cuz it feels like it could work. The end of the film is simply breathtaking, I felt. Didn't see that coming and upon multiple viewings, I still am amazed by the film. The occult is a scary realm to put one's head in. Never seen a film quite like it.
#6: Kôji Shiraishi's SADAKO VS KAYAKO (Japan)
This was so much happy - I love the original J-Horror classics THE RING and THE GRUDGE... Covering those films as they came out back in the day was some of the purest joy I've had covering international horror on AICN for the past 21 years - and when I heard that we had the Destroy All Monsters of J-Horror coming, I couldn't imagine liking it. The U.S. versions kind of missed the boat on so much of what made the J-Horror so great - and that was the JAPANESE part of it. Somehow - this played like the greatest midnight horror blast around. Definitely the most animated I've been in a horror film - and with a big honking smile on my face. Horror film friends that saw it that night were giving one another high fives and leaping for joy. Is it technically a GREAT HORROR FILM? Probably not, but man... it's so fucking fun. It is exactly what you would hope out of this absurd mash up of J-Horror - and the energy it has. Sadako and Kayako and the what the fuck wildness at the end. So great. Give yourself permission to cheer the insanity on - and you'll be amazed at how fun it all was.
#5: M. Night Shyamalan's SPLIT (U.S.A.)
I kinda wish this film came out officially in 2016, just so there could've been a James McAvoy Academy campaign for his character in this. McAvoy goes full insane, split personalities - and the film captures me from start to a finish that had me screaming euphorically like I did when I first saw the Death Star blow up. There's a euphoric moment in this film that is just... one for the film geeks out there and it's almost a shame it is here, because it's so great, so fucking awesome, so needing of shouting from the rooftops of civilization, but you'd be a fucking necrotic prick if you did. The abduction sequence at the beginning is horrifying. The incarceration and discovery of what exactly our incarcerated characters are in the midst of... well, it's great. M. Night's best work since SIGNS. And perhaps even better than that, I need to see it again, which I can't do until January 20th, when it is finally released. Get ready to really love McAvoy - he's amazing in this!
#4: André Øvredal's THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (U.K.)
André Øvredal first appeared on our cinematic sonar with the screening of TROLL HUNTER, which was outstanding... (as is Guillermo Del Toro's TROLLHUNTERS series on Netflix that I devoured all at once) I missed the initial screenings of this at Fantastic Fest, but caught a late fest screening, as the buzz from the film was electric at the fest. On December 21st it became a limited theatrical release - so you must run out to see it - or Rent it online via whatever your fave streaming service is that allows for rental purchases. I did so with my nephew on the night of Christmas - after he was tossing about raising the dead spells outside... so my brain instantly decided... I'm Going To Scare The Shit Out Of The Boy! This got him so good! Beyond it's ability to frighten a teenage boy that has devoured horror from birth... It also scared the shit out of this 45 year old boy that was also raised on horror from birth. There's creeps and impending FUCK NOs throughout the film. The autopsy will unveil shit that will make you shit. I love the father / son dynamic between Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch in this, it feels very natural. And every time you drive past a funeral parlour that says ______ & Son, this will be the movie you think of. Seriously. The Dead are creepy!
#3: Sang-Ho Yeon's TRAIN TO BUSAN (South Korea)
Speaking of creepy dead, this is a South Korean Zombie film that must be seen. It is outstanding. It is currently available for purchase via streaming services, and that is how I saw it. I managed to miss every opportunity to see it in a theater, but because I listen to the chatter of film goers everywhere, I knew I had to see it. This is a Zombies on Train movie - and while it does deserve a "Get these mutherfucking zombies off this motherfucking train!" announcement from Sam Jackson (who is not in the film) - just to make it absolutely perfect. Zombies on a speeding train is not necessarily a great scenario to ever live through - which makes it electrifying cinema. If you love it like me, definitely check out the writer/director's previous feature animated film, THE KING OF PIGS, it is outstanding as well! Also - why wouldn't you watch a South Korean ZOMBIE movie - i will share this film with a lot of friends this year.
#2: Nacho Vigalondo's COLOSSAL (Spain / Canada)
I struggled with including this on this list - but I feel absolutely solid in my inclusion of Vigalondo's COLOSSAL as a horror film. Sure, it's funny, it's action, it's sci-fi and sure they'll call it a thriller, but to me... there's HORROR beneath it all. I've always thought that Jason Sudeikis could be a monster and he is. Coming out of this film I was completely in the "FUCK SUDEIKIS RAW" kinda mood. He plays one of the most hideous men I've seen on film in a while... actually - at the time of seeing this movie, I had seen a worse man, but that's why this is #2. Jason is a massive douchebag, a fucking nightmare... all while seeming like a good guy - and that's the fucking Ted Bundy of it all. You know this guy is a serial killer waiting to happen. Sure he smiles and bares gifts, but plenty of those men are monsters. Only what he does is super monster, in my mind. And Anne Hathaway.... All the awesome. Seriously. This movie will give you faith in movies. It's spectacular and one of the best movies of last year. But you're in luck, it is going to be a 2017 release movie! The film is playing SUNDANCE this January - and hopefully we'll get more info about its release plan then. This is a towering film!
#1: Emiliano Rocha Minter's WE ARE THE FLESH (Mexico / France)
This film has the potential to get you incredibly furious with me. It delves into taboo subject matters, is graphic sexually including penetration. I saw the film as a metaphoric play upon HANSEL & GRETEL, but thoroughly modern and in Mexico. The film is about a brother and a sister that wander into terrifying madness. With a monumental level of what the fuck am I looking at. I can't shake it. When I sat here these past few days pondering this list - and all the horror I saw, this was the one that terrified me. It hit me like HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. A film that normalizes a level of horror that you really just don't want to think is next door... much less possible. The film goes full psychedelic at points and the results were spectacular - to me. This is a film you'll want a shower after. It's a sick world out there, we're all just hanging around hoping not to find ourselves in any situation that even comes close to the reality nightmare you'll find yourself trapped in. This was the most hotly divided film of Fantastic Fest and I embraced it completely. It made the world feel less safe and that's exactly what the best kind of horror does. Many can't handle that type of horror. The stuff that makes you less curious about going into abandoned buildings on walks. Yeah, fuck all that! This movie rules!
It was a damn fine year in horror - one that will spill over into this year for many of you. Now - what were your favorite Horror films of 2016?
Keep it cool,