Dread Central’s Best and Worst Horror Films of 2016
Scott “Foywonder” Foy
2016 Was actually a pretty good year for horror. It was also a year I barely went to the theater to see a horror movie. I still haven’t seen most of the year’s widely released horror movies. Maybe I’ve just grown bored with the Blumhouse and I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Blumhouse horror movies. There’s so much I haven’t seen; yet, I still had no problem filling out my best. I skipped so many bad horror movies this year filling out my worst list was actually harder. That’s a good thing.
Hell House LLC – Scary clowns turned up in a lot of movies (and news reports) this year. Hell House LLC is the only one I saw with a genuinely creepy harlequin. This hybrid found footage-faux documentary is about the paranormal tragedy that befalls the opening night of a Halloween haunted house with the grave misfortune of actually being set within the confines of a hotel with its own supernatural history of horror. I first saw it at a film festival in 2015. That I’m still thinking about it at the end of 2016 says a lot. Read my review for more reasons why.
Train to Busan – This is the movie World War Z should have been: inventive, scary, exciting, funny, and, particularly the ending, emotionally devastating. I’m hard-pressed to think of the last time the conclusion of a horror movie, especially one from the oversaturated zombie genre, made me a little misty-eyed. Not just my favorite horror movie of 2016, Train to Busan might be my favorite movie of the entire year.
The Witch – I totally get why a lot of people don’t like this movie because this is typically the moody, low-key, art house horror movie I would be first to decry as overrated. Yet, there I was, absolutely riveted by every eerie, unsettling moment of it. I’m sure this is popping up on a plethora of best lists so I’ll let everyone else explain why. Anchored by star-making performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and the greatest goat in satanic panic cinema history, The Witch was never destined for the mainstream success it so richly deserved. To the detractors of this film, just remember the next time you’re decrying the next reboot, remake, sequel, prequel, or latest Blumhouse-style nothing’s-there-jump-scare-a-thon that you chose not to live deliciously.
The Horde – Remember the scene in The Hills Have Eyes when the mutants set the dad on fire in front of his terrified family? The Horde flips the script by having a mutant get torched in front of his fellow fiends by the badass ex-Special Forces soldier fighting to save his schoolteacher girlfriend and her class after they get stalked and taken captive by inbred mutants working for escaped cons running a meth lab in the deep dark woods. Preposterous, occasionally clunky, but watching Jason-meets-Taken brutally slaughter the murderous mutants and hammy criminals in ways that would make even a hardened movie slasher wince was loads of fun. I’d call this my guilty pleasure movie of the year, but I don’t really feel all that guilty about it.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” – Hey, remember when horror could also be fun? Remember when horror could also make you laugh while still being horrific? Ash remembers. It may have taken them a full season to find their footing, but this year “Ash vs. Evil Dead” came out running full steam ahead. Hopefully, the creative differences that caused the season finale to fall a bit flat won’t ruin things for Season 3 because this is probably the most enjoyable half hour of horror television to splatter the airwaves since “Tales from the Darkside.”
Honorable Mentions: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Green Room, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Clown
Meet The Blacks – You might be wondering why this is on here. You may not be aware that Meet the Blacks is actually one long riff of the Purge movies. Some form of the words “purge” or “purging” is used throughout the film more often than in every actual Purge movie combined. And if anything ever needed to be purged, it’s this vile, racist, incompetently made, brutally unfunny spoof that – not exaggerating – easily ranks amongst the worst movies I have ever had the displeasure of suffering through in a movie theater. Been a long time since I busted out this phrase, but here goes: FUCK THIS MOVIE!!!
31 – Nothing exemplifies everything wrong with 31 greater than the character of “Doom-Head.” He looks cool. When he talks, he sounds kind of cool. But if you actually pay attention, you realize he really doesn’t do all that much; and as much as he’s prone to run on at that mouth, little of what he says actually adds up to anything of substance. That’s 31 as a whole. Rob Zombie’s latest foray into pointless self-flagellating nihilism that once again proves that as much as the man has an eye for filming a shot, he really needs to start letting someone, anyone, else write the scripts.
Yoga Hosers – I make no bones about having put the oddity that was Tusk on my Best list a few years back. I loved it despite absolutely despising Johnny Depp’s Inspector Clouseau routine and that very long sequence when said character encountered Michael Parks for a painfully unfunny clash of silly accents. Either Kevin Smith mistakenly believed everyone actually loved that scene or he decided, as he is tiresomely prone to doing, to push back against his critics by making that tone and style of humor the focal point of this horror-comedy that fails miserably at being either. A shame, too, since the lead girls have a fun chemistry that could have elevated a movie that wasn’t just Smith’s celebrity friends doing unfunny cameos, a plot about mini Nazi sausage monsters that wouldn’t even pass muster as a Gingerdead Man sequel, and Smith’s latest movie that hinges on a character with a vendetta against critics. Sigh. There’s always Moose Jaws.
Bat Out of Hell – This Aussie indie monster bat movie compels me to take a moment to go over a few quick rules of basic filmmaking:
1) Your first act should not be an hour long.
2) You second act should not be less than ten minutes.
3) You should actually have a third act.
4) You can’t just slap text on the screen because you seemingly ran out of funding to finish your movie.
5) Did I mention your movie actually has to have a resolution and not just climactic text amounting to “And then they headed off to rescue the girl from the monster”?
“Aftermath” – In the first episode of Syfy’s everything-but-the-kitchen sink post-apocalyptic mash-up, with the world seemingly coming to an end around them, the Washington State family at the heart of the series watches in abject horror as their eldest daughter is carried off into the air by a flying demon. Mom’s response is to send her daughter the following rather blasé text message given the dire circumstances:
Welcome to “Aftermath,” aka the biggest clusterfuck on television. This is what happens when the people making a TV show seemingly have no game plan and no even semi-lucid idea how to tie their, admittedly, sometimes intriguing mythology together. Each episode the cast either overacts or undersells their reactions to that week’s cataclysmic events (natural disasters, shape-shifting demons, super volcanic eruptions, fever-induced madness, mythological monsters, Wayne Brady miscast as a military survivalist!, etc.) that feel like they were seemingly pulled from a hat in the writers’ room. There appears to be a bigger picture to what happens, but that picture was scribbled on a wall in crayon by a toddler. Everything that happens to these people feels random, and nobody on this show ever behaves like a rational person would. “Aftermath” is like watching the apocalyptic fever dream of a manic-depressive autistic schizoid play out before your eyes on a weekly basis. I spent 13 episodes alternating between giddy The Happening level amusement and hate-watching just to see if the makers of the show were going to ever come up with any sort of viable explanation. They didn’t.
Oh, and don’t forget to find some Tetra. Tetracycline makes everything better.
Dishonorable Mentions: The Devil Complex, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre, Ozark Sharks