Not every one of these movies was technically released on the absolute tail end of 2016. A few were released relatively early in the year, but didn’t gain much fan steam until the year’s closure was immediately visible. Every movie on this list has one important thing going for it: overall quality, and If it took a little longer to discover than may sometimes be the case… well, hell – at least we’re talking about it today! And, for as damaging as 2016 often felt, it turned out being one of the genre’s strongest years in recent memory, thanks in part, to this specific batch of films.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe: This flick didn’t receive its limited release until December 21st, which may have thwarted its “best of” appearances, but it’s an awesome flick that breaks plenty of rules, looks terrific and proves to be one of the year’s most chilling and inventive pictures. André Øvredal, who gave us a top 5 great of the found footage variety in the form of Trollhunter, returns, and he makes it count. The atmosphere is amazing, Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are pitch perfect (and more importantly, pitch perfect together), the simplicity in the twists is mind boggling, because the film feels rather bold while taking left turns where your typical studio piece would take the right, and the finale, if you can get on board, is brutally awesome.
The Wailing: The Wailing actually crept up on stateside viewers back in June, but it wasn’t until arriving on Netflix in December that the movie began to garner mention alongside other annual greats. And it is a pretty special film. There are some jarring visuals in this story of a community shaken by what seems to be some strange kind of plague sweeping through the area and inspiring typically normal folks to do some really atypical things. What stole my heart however, was the mean comedic streak that blazes a strangely mesmerizing trail through the narrative. This seems like the last place you’d run into some great laughs, but the movie is loaded with them. The crazy combination of brutal violence (most of which is suggested as opposed to shown), very human characters, big laughs and creepy naked people with staring problems makes for one hell of a view.
Ouija: Origin of Evil: I know a lot of us were prepared to dismiss this one before it arrived, based simply on the dearth of imagination and generally shallow vibe that the first film produces, but you can’t overlook this film. Mike Flanagan has already established himself as one of the greatest in the business today, and he elevates this young franchise early. There’s still a lot of promise to be tapped into, and if we’re lucky we’ll see another firmly established talent behind the camera when the third film eventually (and inevitably) arrives. As for the story itself, it’s relatively straight forward in idea, but creative in overall execution and sees a family of fraudulent communicators of the dead learn that there may be more legitimacy to their scam than ever realized. But with that legitimacy comes some haunting consequences, and all three women under the Zander roof will find themselves challenged by malicious supernatural forces. It sounds like you’ve seen it a thousand times over, but Flanagan’s flare changes the complexion of things quickly. It’s one of the year’s best films, so look into it sooner as opposed to later.
I Am Not a Murderer: From the man who delivered the criminally underrated creature feature Isolation comes a haunting small town story of funeral homes, sociopaths, serial killers and monsters. This one also happens to feature the most complex character introduced in 2016 and the breakout performance from the wildly talented youngster Max Records. I Am Not a Serial Killer isn’t what you may expect based on title alone, but it’s immensely gratifying and it’s great to see Christopher Lloyd once again shining in the genre. Billy O’Brien is an exceptional filmmaker and he gets a lot of assistance from a great editor in Nick Emerson. If you’ve let this one fly under your radar, make a change and add it to your must-watch list immediately.
The Good Neighbor: Here’s another sleeper of 2016. Although the film has only just begun to really turn heads, The Good Neighbor is certainly on par with some of the very best to arrive last year. We’ve got a great cast that features two of the genre’s most promising young guns Logan Miller (you’ve seen him in marquee titles like The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and The Walking Dead) and Keir Gilchrist (Kier’s already surfaced in highly regarded material like It Follows and Tales of Halloween) while tested and proven veteran ace James Caan tackles an intriguing role, to say the least. There’s a nice buildup at work here, something sinister within a major motive and a finale that’s going to catch a lot of people off guard. The film isn’t without its faults, but it is impressive enough to really suck viewers in. It remains a fairly unheralded piece, but it deserves a hell of a lot better and audiences are finally starting to catch on.