Every year, there are horror movies that nobody talks about.
What I’ve always found interesting about movies and the way we react to them is that we only really pay attention to the GREAT ones and the TERRIBLE ones. At the end of every year, for example, many of us take a look at the best and worst the genre had to offer, and in doing so, we tend to ignore a large swath of films that really don’t fall into either category. Which is kind of a shame, because many of those not great and not terrible movies are pretty damn good.
So let’s talk about some of them, shall we? Here are 5 horror movies I saw in 2016 that fall into the “pretty good” category… 5 horror movies that I really haven’t seen anyone talking about.
Man’s best friend becomes a family’s worst nightmare in Aussie horror flick The Pack, the directorial debut of Nick Robertson. In the film, a family of four facing eviction from their isolated farmhouse comes face-to-face with true terror when a pack of feral dogs show up on the property. On paper, wild dogs may not seem like terrifying horror movie villains, but Robertson brings those vicious predators to the screen with such effectiveness and straight-faced seriousness that The Pack may make you think twice about adopting a four-legged friend. Rather than using CGI or even animatronics, Robertson had real German Shepherds dyed black to create his villainous beasties, and it’s so damn effective. It doesn’t hurt that you genuinely care about the characters. There’s admittedly not much to the movie, and it certainly doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but it’s a solid home invasion film and one of the better animals-run-amok movies in recent memory.
Brothers Ben and Chris Blaine got wonderfully weird and surprisingly deep with their debut feature, Nina Forever. Appropriately billed as “a fucked up love story,” the film centers on Rob, who has recently attempted suicide in the wake of his girlfriend dying in a car accident. Rob finds new hope when he meets Holly, but their relationship is tested when Nina returns from the dead. Boldly and unconventionally exploring that gaping wound left behind when we lose someone we love, Nina Forever is a wholly original look at love, loss, and crippling grief. It’s equal parts disturbing, twisted, and oddly beautiful, driven by fearless performances from Abigail Hardingham and Fiona O’Shaughnessy. Once you see it, you will likely never forget the title character.
Taking place in the direct aftermath of an exorcism, Ava’s Possessions is a film that approaches the subject of demonic possession from an entirely different angle, reminding that with a little ingenuity, old ideas can be made new again. Written and directed by Jordan Galland, the horror-comedy tells the story of Ava, who is recovering from a recent possession that seems to have left a little blood on her hands. Bursting with a vibrantly colorful style and escorted by an original score courtesy of Sean Lennon, Galland’s third feature blazes across the screen like a breath of fresh air, and his observations about post-possession life are often quite hilarious – at the center of the story is the Spirit Possessions Anonymous support group, and Galland has a whole lot of fun establishing a world wherein demonic possession has become a normal part of society. Ava’s Possessions is a fresh take on a very tired sub-genre, and it’s a unique experience all its own.
One of the creepiest horror movies released this year was undoubtedly Adam Mason’s Hangman, which yes, is another found footage film – but it’s a slice of POV horror that reminds how effective the filmmaking style can still be when properly utilized. In the film, the Miller family returns from vacation to find their house ransacked, and what they don’t know is that a masked stranger placed cameras all around their home while they were gone. To make matters worse, the killer, like Billy from Black Christmas, is still inside the house. Watching Hangman, you get the sense that you’re watching something you should not be, as you’re literally put inside the sick headspace of the villain. We watch the family sleep, take showers, and go about their daily lives, and it’s pretty unsettling to play that fly on the wall of their home. This is the sort of movie that will continue to creep you out while you lay in bed, questioning if someone, somewhere, is watching you.
It’s a common cliche that babysitters in horror movies will never reach the end of the movie unscathed, but with Emelie, director Michael Thelin goes in the complete opposite direction. The titular babysitter in this one, played by an incredibly devilish Sarah Bolger, is the villain rather than the victim. Emelie shows up at a couple’s home and poses as Anna, the last-minute replacement babysitter they’ve never so much as seen a picture of. Though she initially seems to be the perfect babysitter, letting the kids run wild and have fun, the night soon takes a turn for the sinister when Emelie makes them participate in a series of increasingly disturbing games. Emelie is one of the most memorable horror villains in recent years, inflicting psychological torment on the children in a way that is altogether more terrifying than anything a hulking brute like Jason Voorhees is capable of. Thelin isn’t afraid to smash taboos and show the true depths of Emelie’s depravity, making the babysitter-gone-wrong film a tense and unsettling experience that is often hard to watch. The final act isn’t great, but Emelie is boundary-pushing horror that’s quite unforgettable.
Can you think of any pretty good horror movies released in 2016 that deserve more recognition?