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2016.

Just saying it is enough to make some of you cringe.

There’s an ongoing narrative about how awful this year has been, and not just in American politics. I’ve heard more than a few people say that 2016 has been underwhelming for movies, too, and I can certainly see where they are coming from. Personally, I’ve found a great many movies this year to be disappointing. In a lot of cases I was either let down by something I was anticipating, or I didn’t share my peers’ enthusiastic response to films I enjoyed. I found Deadpool, Jackie, Zootopia, and The Magnificent Seven to be uninspiring at best. Two of my favorite up-and-coming directors (Jeff Nichols and Denis Villeneuve) released three films between them and none was particularly strong. And even though I liked Arrival, Rogue One, Sing Street, Hell or High Water, The Wailing and others, I wouldn’t say any of them were better than pretty good. So in some sense my experience fits the concept of a weak year.

However, we live in a time when the media harvest is nothing if not plentiful. There are so many movies being made by so many people that you’re bound to find the good ones if you look long enough. While I merely scratched the surface of all the films released this year, that was enough to reveal gold amidst the dross. This year saw new films by Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, the Coen Brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Paul Verhoeven, Shane Black, Clint Eastwood, John Carney, Richard Linklater, Whit Stillman, and Pixar. We had exciting debuts from Robert Eggers, Kelly Fremon Craig, Dan Tractenberg, and the Daniels; and auspicious new features from such talents as Jeremy Saulnier, Damien Chazelle, and Fede Alvarez.

It’s not every year you witness a masterpiece, but my number 1 film of 2016 is just that. So let’s get there, shall we? Here are my 15 favorites from 2016:

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The Brood | They Look Like People | Vampyr | Monsters | Peeping Tom | Bram Stoker’s Dracula | Housebound | The Omen (1976) | The Fog (1980) | Blood Feast | Cat People (1942) | The Changeling | Altered States | The Guest | The Funhouse | Would You Rather | Christine | The Verdict


“Do you like scary movies?”

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The People Under the Stairs | Phantasm | Night of the Creeps | The Picture of Dorian Gray | Wrong Turn | Crimson Peak | Bug | The Old Dark House | Cannibal Holocaust | Elvira, Mistress of the Dark | Nosferatu The Vampyre | Let’s Scare Jessica to Death | The Collector | Bio Zombie | The House of the Devil | Don’t Go in the House | Hell Comes to Frogtown | The Verdict


“Do not read the Latin!”

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The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Director: Various
Starring: Various
Running Time: 2 hrs, 5 mins
Rated: R


Review by Daniel Stidham

To say that The ABCs of Death 2 is a better movie than its predecessor is a lot like a chef telling you the meal you are about to eat is better than a Twinkie that was left on the counter for a year. It’s technically true but tells you almost nothing about the dish itself. After all a Twinkie is barely food and The ABCs of Death was barely a movie. For that project, 26 different directors from around the world were each given a letter of the alphabet and asked to choose a word starting with that letter. Using their word as inspiration they were to create a short film having to do with death. The resulting 26 shorts were compiled as The ABCs of Death. Now, that sounds like a premise rife with potential to unleash the creative instincts of cutting edge artists, who, when given complete control over the contents of their shorts, would in no way fill 2 hours with juvenile, lazy, disgusting crap.

But that’s not what happened.

Thankfully, The ABCs of Death 2 is a much better film than the stale, spongy log of preservatives that came before it. Dramatically better. While it follows the same format – 26 letters, words, and short films about death – the overall quality of the work is way up. It’s not exactly high art but there’s nothing in this swath of shorts as dismal as the first film’s “G for Gravity,” “M for Miscarriage” or “F for Fart.” Maybe the budget was raised, or the producers were pickier, or the directors were given more instruction. It’s hard to say. In any case, they’ve assembled a compulsively watchable anthology in which the misses are balanced out by interesting and imaginative vignettes.

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Eyes Without A Face | Magic | The Beyond | The Blob (1988) | The ABCs of Death | The ABCs of Death 2 | Eraserhead | Scanners | Black Sunday (1960) | Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer | Funny Games (1997) | Shutter (2004) | High Tension | Slither | Frailty | Pontypool | Sleepaway Camp | Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon | The Verdict


“I want your horror, I want your design”

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Creature from the Black Lagoon | The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari | Freaks | Suspiria | The Serpent and the Rainbow | When A Stranger Calls | The Burning | Don’t Look Now | Creepshow | Trick ‘r Treat | From Beyond | The Verdict


“You see that crap? All that horror crap?”

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
Running Time: 1 hrs, 45 min
Rated: PG-13


Review by Brother Reed

Can there be any doubt that James Wan has the box office cornered on horror right now? The dust has barely settled from his financially and critically successful The Conjuring, and on its heels comes this sequel to 2010’s Insidious. Between these films and others like Mama and You’re Next, I feel like I’ve spent a large portion of my time at the movies this year watching frightened women walk slowly around their homes to foreboding music while creaks, knocks, and other bumps in the night emanate from just out of frame. It’s to Wan’s credit that he still manages to make me watch through my fingers as he fills the empty spaces in his shots with the dread of the unknown. READ FULL REVIEW