We're back with our annual list of favorites here on Daily Dead. For those that are new to Daily Dead, we handle our year-end lists differently here. Rather than just covering films, our lists can extend to TV, games, collectibles, events, and anything else genre-related. In short, we’re sharing with you a list of our favorite horror experiences from 2016.
Check back every day this week to find out what made the cut for the rest of the Daily Dead team.
Train to Busan: I predict that we’ll look back at 2016 as the year when zombie-mania started its decline from the insane levels we saw when The Walking Dead regularly smashed its own ratings records and World War Z was a surprise box office success. With that said, don’t let zombie fatigue keep you from boarding the Train to Busan.
Director Yeon Sang-ho channels a variety of popular zombie movies and tropes, but it never feels like a rehash of what we’ve seen before. Interesting characters we care about, intense struggles to survive aboard the train, a healthy dose of class commentary, and a strong emotional punch make this one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen in years. And I can’t talk about Train to Busan without giving a shout-out to young Kim Su-an’s show-stealing performance.
The Witch: 2016’s first great genre release has stuck with me this entire year. While The Witch proved to be quite divisive amongst mainstream audiences and horror fans alike (as well as my friends and family!), I absolutely loved this revisionist take on the Salem witch story. Part historical depiction, part dark fairy tale, Robert Eggers’ meticulous recreation of 17th-century New England requires you to fully immerse yourself in the world and its characters. For those that did, the journey was well worth it and I’m very eager to see what Eggers has in store for us next.
The Exorcist (TV Series): The biggest horror surprise of 2016 was The Exorcist TV series. Did anyone think they were going to pull this off when the series was first announced? When it started airing, I was hearing good things about it. Still, I resisted. Heather and Scott were talking about how great it was. Still, I resisted. Finally, I decided to binge it last month and I’m still shocked at how good it is.
If you haven’t seen it yet, hopefully social media hasn’t spoiled it for you, as the less you know, the better. That said, the creative team was able to expand The Exorcist franchise’s mythology in new and interesting ways. As expected, Geena Davis is a powerhouse and this show wouldn’t have worked without her, but I was really impressed with Ben Daniels as Father Marcus Keane. The series’ fate is still up in the air, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s to never doubt the show’s ability to surprise.
John Carpenter Tour: Very few events in my life felt as surreal as giving the Chang Sing hand gesture back to John Carpenter. I never thought that Carpenter would go on tour with his music and I’m so happy that it’s been a huge success, with him playing to sold-out crowds around the world.
Hearing live performances of the themes to Halloween, Escape From New York, and The Fog was incredible. But the best thing? Watching John Carpenter dancing around, interacting with the audience, and having so much fun on stage. If you didn’t get a chance to see him live, don’t miss the opportunity if there’s a second leg of his tour in 2017.
Shin Godzilla: Toho’s Godzilla reboot is far from flawless, but Hideaki Anno changed the mythology more than we’ve seen in years, and I enjoyed the West Wing-esque political deep dive into a kaiju attack. Godzilla’s metamorphosis and the scientific explanation behind it is fascinating, and the Tokyo attack shows Godzilla at his most terrifying in decades. I have absolutely no idea where the story is headed after the shocking reveal at the end and that has me VERY excited for what’s to come.
Hush: In other hands, Hush could have been a pretty mediocre movie. After all, there’s nothing revolutionary about a home invasion movie and it would have been easy to misuse the fact that the lead character was deaf. As many have said, writer/director Mike Flanagan channeled his inner John Carpenter and/or Alfred Hitchcock here, keeping me on the edge of my seat until the very end.
A lot of credit also has to go to Kate Siegel for her convincing performance that put her through the wringer physically. And John Gallagher Jr. has been the up-and-coming genre actor to watch this year, with two very different performances in Hush and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane: Speaking of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the ending really hurt the movie for me, so the film itself won’t make my favorites list, but I can’t put this list together without recognizing the outstanding performance from John Goodman. Similar to Hush, this was an easy movie to screw up, but Goodman was able to keep audiences engaged and guessing in what was a fairly standard “stuck in a room” movie. He’s continually delivering great performances, but hopefully it’s 10 Cloverfield Lane that convinces people that he’s up for any challenge and should be used more.
Phantasm: Remastered: I’ve always enjoyed Phantasm, but didn’t love it until I saw the remastered edition on the big screen. Thanks to JJ Abrams and Bad Robot, Don Coscarelli’s cult classic is better than it ever has been. Of course it looks better and that’s the first thing that will grab your attention, but the improved sound really takes it to another level, especially during the finale.
Angus Scrimm may no longer be with us, but he’ll never be forgotten and Phantasm: Remastered is a great way to introduce a whole new generation to The Tall man.
The Conjuring 2: After years of delivering supernatural tales, you’d think that James Wan would run out of steam. Instead, he delivered his most confident film yet with The Conjuring 2. He’s able to sustain the scares by not using the same trick throughout the entire film, and it’s the introduction of the demonic nun that takes this movie to another level. Combine that with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga's excellent onscreen chemistry and The Conjuring 2 is an instant horror classic.
The Wailing: There are always movies that I’m not able to catch during their release year, and The Wailing almost slipped into 2017. Thankfully, I was able to catch it before finalizing this list, because not enough people are talking about this movie and I can’t recommend it enough.
Don’t let the film’s description fool you. This police story is firmly rooted in the horror realm, and (as is often the case), the less you know, the better off you are. That said, I have to give credit to writer/director Na Hong-jin for taking familiar story elements and dealing with them in a way that feels grounded in reality. Even with a two-and-a-half-hour runtime, I didn’t feel like there was a wasted scene.
Jong-goo (played by Kwak Do-won) is also a great lead character, and the least traditional protagonist I’ve seen in some time. As would be the case in real life, we’re watching this police officer who is in way over his head, and he reacts to it much in the way that you or I would. This movie really took me by surprise, and I can’t wait for more Daily Dead readers to check this one out.
Honorable Mentions: There were so many great genre releases in 2016, from classic movies making their way to Blu-ray, to collectibles, TV shows, and more. Here’s non-exhaustive list of other genre releases I enjoyed last year:
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2
The Scarlet Gospels
Channel Zero: Candle Cove
Scream Factory’s The Return of the Living Dead (Collector’s Edition Blu-ray)
Sideshow Collectibles’ Jason Voorhees Premium Format Figure
The Walking Dead Comic Book Series
Cavity Colors’ Cult Shirt & Pin Releases (We Are Still Here, Ghoulies…)
Creepy Company’s Vincent Price & Beistle Collections
NECA’s Aliens Series 10 Figures (Kenner Remakes)
To read all of the 2016 favorites lists from the Daily Dead team, check back daily here.