In any given year, there are dozens upon dozens of horror films released directly to DVD, with only a small handful of gems between the rot. The genre’s gimmicks have grown old and audiences have grown smarter.
That said, in recent years films like The Conjuring and It Follows have managed to breathe new life into scary flicks, proving that there are still a few clever horror films out there to be made.
Here we look at the best horror movies that 2016 has had to offer so far…
10. The Invitation
The Invitation is a slow-burn horror revolving around a dinner party hosted by a mysterious couple. Things aren’t quite right, but you can’t exactly put your finger on it. Of course, the film keeps you guessing about everyone’s real intentions, until the end. The payoff is brilliant. While it isn’t necessarily the scariest film, it is incredibly creepy and smart.
09. The Neon Demon
There aren’t many films as weird as Nicolas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon, a psychological horror film on acid. It blends surreal nightmares and the world of modelling. It’s a beautifully shot yet polarizing film. If you enjoy the simpler side of horrors then this one isn’t for you. Everyone else will be treated to a bold haunting hypnotic work of suspense.
08. The Purge: Election Year
The Purge series continues to impress by delivering fun and chaotic action-horror films that improve with each release. Election Year takes place shortly after Anarchy and looks into what would happen if a government official tried to ban the annual Purge holiday. It’ brutal B-grade fun.
07. The Shallows
When anybody says “sharks” and “horror” our minds immediately shift towards Jaws. It’s incredible how The Shallows manages to wiggle its way out of being just another Jaws clone. It’s not particularly original or deep, but it’s well-made and scary. Plus, you just have to love Sully The Seagal (watch it and you’ll understand).
06. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane has almost nothing to do with the original Cloverfield film. One thing the two do have in common though is that they are both quite scary. It’s a simple film that focuses on three leads who find themselves locked in a bunker after a war breaks out above ground. Twists and turns lurk around every corner and John Goodman gives us one of the most haunting performances of his career.
05. Green Room
Green Room probably has the simplest plot of any of the films on this list. It revolves around a group of teenagers in the wrong place at the wrong time. The film doesn’t give you a moment to breathe between its non-stop tense violent scenes. Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin give strong performances and make Green Room a memorable experience.
04. Lights Out
The true test of any horror film is whether or not it’s actually scary. Inspired by the Swedish horror short that became an internet sensation, Lights Out is an atmospheric things-that-bump-in-the-night horror flick that is tautly-constructed and delivers more than just the usual jump-scares. It delivers all the chills but, most importantly, it’s down-right scary.
Home invasion movies are rarely as good as Hush, a film about a deaf girl living in a cabin in the woods. The temptation to copy The Strangers, a film with a similar premise, must have been there. However, Mike Flanagan steers the film in new direction with original ideas. Hush does well to embrace its quiet moments and build tension in its silence. You’ll be on the edge of your seat!
02. The Conjuring 2
Horror-meister James Wan works extremely hard to avoid the usual sequel pitfalls in the follow-up to his well-received intimate paranormal investigation horror, The Conjuring. If the original was a quiet, cold and eerie whisper, The Conjuring 2 is a louder, furniture-tossing, and hair-raising Munch scream.
01. The Witch
The Witch is an exceptionally well-made horror that’s most likely going to appeal to the arthouse crowd rather than the average viewer. However, those brave enough to sit through the film will be remarkably surprised by how clever it is. The film builds on tension throughout and delivers a haunting ending that will stay with you long after the credits roll. This is masterful filmmaking and easily the best (and most thought-provoking) horror film of 2016 (so far).
Sadly, I haven’t seen Don’t Breathe yet. The film was moved out for October release in South Africa.