To call 2016 a good year for horror would be an understatement. It was a fantastic year with a little something for every genre taste. You didn’t have to venture very far to find something that was absolutely fantastic. With great television shows like Channel Zero: Candle Cove or The Exorcist, wonderful films like The Witch and Green Room, and music from labels like Waxwork Records and Death Waltz Recording, the horror genre was finely taken care of. Here are few of the standouts for me in 2016.
Twin Peaks Vinyl Soundtrack (Death Waltz Recording / Mondo): Every single year, Death Waltz comes out with a release that makes me absolutely overjoyed. David Lynch’s films are stunning genre works. The lurid imagery, the bold characters, and the music composition within his films give Lynch’s work a unique quality. The Twin Peaks soundtrack, lovingly released by Death Waltz, comes in a beautiful package with a vinyl disc that has a damn fine coffee-colored design.
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie Vinyl Soundtrack (Waxwork Records): Waxwork Records had a fantastic year. There are quite a few vinyl releases from their label that could have been in this spot, with Taxi Driver and Salem’s Lot almost making the cut. But the ’90s anthology film Tales From the Darkside: The Movie has always been a favorite of mine, and spinning this vinyl loudly was an absolute pleasure. It came in one of three different designs, and the “Mummy Spice” and “Gargoyle Green Swirl” variants were especially gorgeous.
Jeremee’s Tees: Director Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) designed some fantastic minimalistic film-inspired T-shirts in 2016. The standout for me was the beautiful Under the Skin design—an immediate buy.
Shock Waves: When Killer POV, which consisted of Rob Galluzzo, Elric Kane, and Dr. Rebekah McKendry, announced that the show was coming to an end, it felt like the cool kids who let you sit at their table at lunchtime were graduating. However, the retirement was temporary, as the podcast crew changed the name to Shock Waves and added Mr. Ryan Turek as a new host. New structure, same passionate horror fans bringing great recommendations and insightful interviews from some the best in the genre. Give “the deep end of horror” a try in 2017.
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Complete Collection (Arrow Video): One look at Arrow Video’s magnificent release of the Female Prisoner Scorpion collection and it’s easy to see just how much these films have influenced the horror genre. It’s an absolutely gorgeous rendering of the films, sharp and bold with vivid colors. The extras are loaded with video essays from historians, critics, and fans of the films. The packaging is especially beautiful, a fantastic addition to the film enthusiast's collection that also looks like a work of art on the shelf.
Raising Cain Collector's Edition Blu-ray (Scream Factory): De Palma. The auteur’s film Raising Cain was given the attention that it always deserved from the team at Scream Factory. This Blu-ray comes with two versions of the film, the original theatrical cut and a Director’s Cut that features reordered scenes the way that De Palma envisioned. It’s up to the viewer to decide which version they like better, although that aspect doesn’t really matter. What does is the fact that Scream Factory took the time to give fans the complete De Palma package.
John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane: It’s amazing and disappointing that John Goodman did not get recognized more for his stunning performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane. The unnerving aspects in the film are directly attributed to the prolific actor, who is menacing, intimidating, cracked, and any other word one would use to describe the quality of fear evoked by his character. Whether with an offhanded smirk, the emphasis of how he expresses certain sentences, or with purposeful and subtle mannerisms and gestures, Mr. Goodman nails every scene.
The Greasy Strangler: Bonkers, absolutely hilarious, and not for the faint of heart. The Greasy Strangler is unlike any film you’ve seen in a long time, and it was the most memorable theatrical experience that I had this year. Watching audience members gasp in disgust and laugh until they cried showed just how much fun a genre film can be.
Demon: Demon doesn’t indulge in its horror conventions like most films would. Instead, it deals with the effects of horrific events on people and how they change and influence culture over time. The photography is beautifully bleak; the Polish countryside ominous with a sense of darkness clouded by fog in the distance. The narrative combines both dark humor and not-so-subtle metaphors to evoke a portrait of Polish history and a correlation to real-life horror. Demon is the kind of film that displays how a creative artist (it's the tragic final film of director Marcin Wrona) can transform genre into something that evokes different emotions while also having something powerful to proclaim.
The Eyes of My Mother: The horror in Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother is as grotesque as it beautiful. Shot in stark black and white photography, the film displays the gradual and deranged development of a young girl named Francisca, played delicately by Kika Magalhaes in one of the best performances in a horror film this year. The Eyes of My Mother has all the skillful qualities one would expect from an art house film. The design and photography are particularly amazing, while also existing firmly in the realms of a house of horror. This is a disturbing and compelling piece of genre filmmaking.
The Wailing: Meticulous in its methods and steady in its execution, The Wailing manipulates expectations by pulling the viewer deeper into the abyss of both its mystery and the characters placed in the film's terrifying settings. This combination of horror and character gives the film an unexpected emotional undertone that makes the scary moments all the more affecting.
Green Room: People have different definitions of horror. Some may call Green Room a thriller, though I like to think of it as survival horror. Just like zombies in Dawn of the Dead or vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn, Jeremy Saulnier’s film creates monsters out of a community of white supremacists. It’s a movie that understands the rules but decides to play by its own tune—a fast, aggressive, and stripped-down horror tune that is a masterclass of tension.
The Witch: It’s been a long time since a horror film has affected me the way Robert Eggers’ The Witch did. A movie that lives and breathes on manipulating the atmosphere it operates in, it builds dread and creates an environment that saturates any glimmer of light with darkness. It’s hard to call it just frightening or menacing—it’s something more, something darker and more authentic than those terms can embody. It’s a nightmare that you can’t wake up from, one that lures you into its dark world and then forces you to keep going when you want to turn back. The Witch is the best horror film of 2016.
Click here to read all of the 2016 favorites lists from the Daily Dead team.