Samuel Brace with the five best horror films of 2016 so far…
2015 gave us its own set of fantastic horror films. Knock Knock and It Follows being two that spring instantly to mind. Horror is having somewhat of a renaissance of late. The embrace of the art house aspect of the genre is a move that has served it well and has ended up raising the bar for everything else that falls under the horror umbrella. 2016 has too seen some terrific additions, in a year of familiar mediocrity, it’s the horror genre that is providing some of cinema’s most interesting experiences. So with that being said, and with the night of all hallows eve quickly approaching, these are 2016’s 5 best horror movies to date.
Goodnight Mommy is, in terms of concept, probably the most interesting film to make the list. The story of a mother returning home after major face surgery to find her children no longer recognising her — a side effect of Capgras Delusion gripping the children — is an unsettling one to say the least. However, there is more at play here than the identity of the boys’ supposed mother, and it all comes together to create an insidiously heartbreaking tale of loss and anger.
The atmosphere is dense and replete with an unshakeable morose, the cast is on point, with one of the most creepy child performances seen in recent times. The film ends with wildly unsettling fashion, taking the flick from gentle psychological horror to something far more conventionally violent. The film has problems but the horror is real and perhaps the hardest entry on the list to consume.
The Witch is not only one of the best movies about witches since… well… ever — there aren’t that many good movies about witches — it’s also the outright scariest film on this list. Horror is a broad category, a lot gets stuffed into it, some with more tangible connections to the genre than others, but The Witch is an out and out horror film mixed with that very in fashion artistic mellowness that has become oh so popular with films like It Follows. The Witch is a story set during 17th century America about a puritan family who is sent to Coventry by its village for having a different interpretation of the bible. They thusly become cursed and haunted by a witch hanging out in the woods around their secluded new home.
The Witch is beautiful, methodical and laced with a sense of dread that latches onto the viewer, not releasing its grip until long after the film’s depressingly creepy ending. People are scared by many things, and if biblical/demonic scares are what gets your skin crawling, then The Witch is no doubt for you. It’s a simple film that gets where it needs to go without much distraction. The film’s ultimate success being that it keeps you wondering how genuine any of the supernatural happenings actually are, only until you realise that this is all very real, that awful things are happening here, making the end credits a welcome escape hatch.
The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon is the least scary film here but arguably the most disturbing. Booed (and applauded) at its Cannes debut, Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest is everything you think a Refn film will be. It’s visually stunning, artistic, poetic, and replete with a style that camouflages its inner substance — the subject matter for The Neon Demon couldn’t be a better fit for Refn’s sensibilities. Proceedings follow a young model starting her career in LA, only to become prey to beauty obsessed colleagues that want everything she has.
This is a film about empty beauty. The film itself, rather aptly, is beautifully empty. There is no heart in this film, because no one in this film has one. The only thing that matters in this world is aesthetic. The one thing you will remember The Neon Demon for is its aesthetic. This has been the complaint levelled at Refn, that his latest looks great but is ugly and empty underneath. Those who hold such grievances are of course missing the point completely. Refn decided the best way to make a movie where beauty is the only thing that matters is to make a film that’s beauty is the only thing that matters. It’s successful in that respect, but by nature leaves you feeling rather indifferent. Refn always reaches outside the box with his art, so for that reason alone, lending him your eyes here is a worthwhile endeavour, particularly for those who appreciate the beauty and power of cinematic colour — Refn’s trademark.
Green Room is without doubt the most fun film on this list. Not because it’s the least scary or violent — it’s actually the nastiest film here — but because it hits all the points well, not merely succeeding at one or two. Green Room takes its name from the back room at a rock gig, where a young band have taken a job performing at a white supremacist hang out bar, the green room becoming their last defence when the Neo-Nazis turn on them for witnessing a murder.
Green Room is frightening, action packed, grisly, energetic and as mentioned, just a darn good time — that is if you don’t mind watching through your fingers after things get out of hand. This flick does everything well, perhaps nothing greatly, but everything well, surpassing the previous entries on this list in the process. Melding that indie lens with the traditional slasher blood fest of yester year, rewarding the audience with an ending that they truly deserve after the grisly events just forced upon them. Not only is this one of horrors best offerings in 2016, it’s one of this year’s best films period.
A films worth, its value, is not just measured by its impact on you while watching, but by its impact long after the credits roll. No film on this list, or any film this year, achieves this the way The Invitation does. The story revolves around a LA dinner party, old friends getting together after a long period apart, the effects of past trauma still haunting the groups thoughts and actions. Some at the party cope better than others, the evening eventually spiralling vastly out of control in increasingly surprising ways. The audience can only laugh nervously at how awful everything becomes, culminating in a final image that is one of films most disturbing in recent years.
What elevates this film above the rest however, and why it still permeates minds months after its release, is the message contained within the horrific events itself. The Invitation doesn’t play by conventional rules with its relationship to the audience. You see, The Invitation doesn’t care about your feelings, it doesn’t ask you to dislike the characters, or to like the characters, it doesn’t want anything from you because the central theme to this film is that emotions don’t matter. Whatever you have inside of you, whatever your baggage or trauma, that’s not important here, feeling something won’t solve the problems presented. Beautifully shot and sublimely paced, The Invitation achieves its goals better than any other film on this list.
It might not be as scary as The Witch, as violent as Green Room or as dazzling as The Neon Demon, but in terms of raw effectiveness and the impact it leaves with its audience, The Invitation rules the day. Awful things happened at that house in the hills, and you will be unlikely to find a better Horror film between now and Christmas.