It has been a banner year for horror films. In some ways, we can say it has been a bloody renaissance for the genre, which has come back from the dead and found new life at the box office.
The trendy thing in horror filmmaking right now is making scary movies on a smaller budget then flipping it to theater and raking in the dough. It’s essentially the Jason Blum model of making movies: keep production on the cheap while still cashing in thanks to a solid, creepy story. That’s not a bad thing because it forces filmmakers to be creative and to work with what they have.
There were so many great horror films this year that it makes picking my six of faves a difficult task. Honestly, even a top ten would be challenging. Alas, we must decide who lives and who dies.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at my personal top six horror films of 2016. We’ll go from six to one with my explanation of why I think it deserves to be on the list. We will follow that up with what to look forward to in 2017 and early predictions of what could make our top six next year.
6. The Witch
The Witch isn’t scary in a jumpy sort of way, but it’s definitely one of the creepier films of the year. This is one of those slow burns of a story and, if you can get past the almost Shakespearian language, you’ll appreciate this New England folk tale and the payoff at the end.
5. The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist
I love horror films that are based on true stories. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as Lorraine and Ed Warren, the real-life paranormal investigators who travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits. This film is thoroughly enjoyable and chilling. Director James Wan returns to the genre where he started and takes his time telling a story with the use of some hair-raising visuals.
4. Green Room
Want to see Patrick Stewart like you’ve never seen him before? Green Room is a violent and gory film that turns the intensity to 11, but the script does a nice job of mixing in dark humor. Director Jeremy Saulnier shows how to make a horrifying film on a shoestring budget. What we get is a well-crafted story that is one of the most memorable films of 2016 in any genre. RIP Anton Yelchin.
3. The Invitation
People were introduced to this out-of-nowhere film via Netflix. It’s a psychological thriller about a dinner party that goes awry. This film is crazy and you’re never really sure what is going on. As the movie flows along, more of the mystery and the back story is revealed and what you end up getting is a final act that goes completely off the rails. Not only is this one of my favorite horror films of 2016 but could easily be the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane was another pleasant surprise, not only because of how good it was, but also because hardly anyone knew it was even in production. Producer J.J. Abrams and director Dan Trachtenberg filmed this movie in secret and blew us all the way when a mysterious trailer went viral, indicating we were about to get another Cloverfield film.
What we got wasn’t a sequel or prequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, but it’s still a blood relative to its predecessor. This film is intense, mysterious, funny and has one of the finest acting performances of the year from John Goodman. It’s well worth your time if you haven’t checked it out already. It’s currently playing on Netflix.
1. Don’t Breathe
Director Fede Alvarez is quickly becoming the master of horror, and Don’t Breathe was one of the best films of 2016. This was so much fun to watch and had me in the fetal position from start to finish. The cinematography alone is enough to make it a must-see and Jane Levy is turning into an iconic scream queen. This film will remind you of some of John Carpenter’s best offerings. Throw this on and enjoy the nerve-racking thrill ride.
The top grossing horror films of 2016 (worldwide)
Here in North America, horror films raked in a cool $479,430,636 at the box office in 2016. That’s not too shabby, especially since so many of those films actually made a profit. It appears that the genre is entering another golden age and not just here domestically, but globally, too. People all over the world want to feel scared as their preferred way of escapism. Below are the top grossing horror films of the year.
- Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist: $311,270,008
- Don’t Breathe: $152,614,811
- Lights Out: $141,868,835
- The Shallows: $118,888,025
- The Purge: Election Year: $117,742,440
- 10 Cloverfield Lane: $108,286,422
- Ouija: Origin of Evil: $81,149,005
- The Boy: $68,220,952
- The Witch: $40,454,520
Horror box-office predictions for 2017 (worldwide)
There is a lot of great horror coming in 2017 and if you thought the genre made huge gains at the box office in 2016, just wait until next year. With a new Alien film coming and adaptations of two very popular Stephen King books (The Dark Tower and IT), there is a lot of money to be made.
Outside of those big titles, there are also a few horror sequels with a proven track record, like Annabelle 2 (an offshoot of the popular Conjuring series) and Insidious 4 (the latest from the consistent Insidious series). Below are my estimates of the top grossing horror films for 2017.
- The Dark Tower (February 17, 2017) – $650,000,000
- Alien: Covenant (August 4, 2017) – $600,000,000
- Kong: Skull Island (March 10, 2017) – $550,000,000
- World War Z 2 (June 9, 2017) – $400,000,000
- Dark Universe: The Mummy (June 9, 2017) – $350,000,000
- Annabelle 2 (May 19, 2017) – $300,000,000
- IT (September 8, 2017) – $250,000,000
- Insidious 4 (October 27, 2017) – $200,000,000
- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (January 27, 2017) – $200,000,000
- Underworld: Blood Wars (January 6, 2017) – $150,000,000
- Friday the 13th (October 13, 2017) – $90,000,000
- Saw Legacy (TBA 2017) – $90,000,000
Odds to make my top six in 2017
Just because a film makes a ton of cash doesn’t mean it will drop into my top six. The Invitation was on most critics’ best-of-horror lists but it made next to no money at the box-office and only became popular after Netflix picked it up.
There are always horror gems in the rough that come out of nowhere and surprise you. The Chair, which is based on a popular graphic novel, and The Belko Experiment, which was written by James Gunn, are a couple horror flicks that could be pleasant surprises in 2017. Below are the odds of what will be critical darlings by year’s end.
- The Dark Tower (February 17, 2017): 2/1
- Alien: Covenant (August 4, 2017): 3/1
- Insidious 4 (October 27, 2017): 3/1
- Annabelle 2 (May 19, 2017): 4/1
- Suspiria (TBA 2017): 4/1
- The Belko Experiment (March 17, 2017): 5/1
- The Chair ( TBA 2017): 5/1
- A Cure for Wellness (2017): 6/1
- Get Out (February 24, 2017): 6/1
- IT (September 8, 2017): 6/1
- Amityville: Awakening (January 6, 2017): 7/1
- Flatliners (TBA 2017): 7/1
- Kong: Skull Island (March 10, 2017): 8/1
- Dark Universe: The Mummy (June 9, 2017): 8/1
- The Dark Tapes ( TBA 2017): 9/1
- Rings (February 3, 2017): 9/1
- Friday the 13th (October 13, 2017): 10/1
- World War Z 2 (June 9, 2017): 10/1
- Children of the Corn: Runaway (TBA 2017): 10/1
- The Bye Bye Man (January 13, 2017): 15/1
- Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral (2017): 15/1
- Mom and Dad (TBA 2017): 20/1
- Halloween: The Night Evil Died (June 23, 2017): 25/1
- Death House (TBA 2017): 50/1
Feature Photo Credit: 10 Cloverfield Lane – Bad Robot Productions