2015 was a notably barren year for horror movies. Many excellent entries were relegated to festival circuits and immediate VOD releases, never receiving the glory of proper big-screen tours. Much of this has to do with the real paradigm shift in distribution when it comes to lower-budget horror. Distributing movies isn’t a cheap thing and the horror genre, in particular, is more susceptible to the “Netflix and chill” attitude than many other options. Unless you’re Jason Blum, getting your gore in front of audiences has become more about streaming than projecting (or pressing play on that DCP).
2016 offers a lot of horrific potential and it is up to us, the audience, to vote with our wallet and demand to see these flicks in cinemas where they belong. Of course, not all releases will be classics so let’s look at the top 8 offerings 2016 holds in horror.
8) 31 January 23rd
This is the new Rob Zombie movie. I’ll let the IMDb synopsis say everything I need to say about it.
31 tells the story of five carnies in 1976 kidnapped on the morning of Halloween and held hostage in a remote industrial Hell. While trapped, they are forced to play a violent game called 31. The mission is to survive 12 hours against an endless gang of grease-painted maniacs.
7) Lights Out July 22nd
If we’re looking for the next Paranormal Activity, this could be it. Lights Out is based on the effective short of the same name by David Sandberg. Sandberg was hired to expand the idea of a creature that only shows up when, you guessed it, the lights are out and word is that he has proven himself capable of delivering more than just a good hook. Color me cautious when it comes to my expectations for this one, as I’m not a fan of the short which is nothing more than a well-executed jump scare. But I’m interested.
6) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies February 5th
Laugh all you want, but Seth Grahame-Smith’s source novel is a very clever take on Jane Austen’s seminal classic, serving up something greater than an eye-rolling cash-in on a popular horror trend. The film could be a total train wreck but does boast a stellar cast including Lily James, Matt Smith, Lena Headey and Charles Dance. It probably will lean more toward the action in this action-horror mash but the trailer looks promising nonetheless.
5) Rings April 1st
The long-gestating third entry in the Ring series greets us on April Fools Day, this time coming from director, F. Javier Gutierrez, with a script co-penned by Akiva Goldsman (I Am Legend). The 2002 American remake of Ringu, was a bonafide horror blockbuster, providing genuine scares and disturbing imagery that tilted the genre for the better part of the next decade. Its sequel, however… not so much. The series’ attempt at reinvigoration with a new, hot director at the helm is at the very least an intriguing release if not to see if it can recapture the spirit of the “original”.
4) A Man in the Dark August 26th
Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to his Evil Dead debut is an intriguing item simply to see if Alvarez can keep bringing the goods. His Evil Dead wasn’t amazing, but its heart was in the right place and took some ambition when it could have been a weak studio facade of a movie. A Man in the Dark follows a group of teens after they’ve broken into a blind man’s home, thinking they’ve gotten away with the perfect crime. So far, all we have is that general tagline and, at the very least, it promises something mischievous, surprising and potentially very brutal. Count me in.
3) The Purge 3 July 1st
The Purge series has become a strange summer mainstay after debuting two years ago to big success and following that up with an even better entry and even bigger success. We’ll see if the climb in quality continues with sequel two as they are bringing back star of The Purge: Anarchy, Frank Grillo. Grillo provided the sequel with an gray moral center and overall badassery that didn’t exist in the first go-around. It also helped that Anarchy actually cashed-in on the idea of a city as big as LA allowing all crime for 12 hours. I’m hopefully optimistic for The Purge 3 when it hits summer 2016.
2) The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist June 10th
The Conjuring is a stone cold classic of the genre. James Wan (Saw, Insidious) proved his chops at building scares as well as characters yet again in the “true” story of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sequel is set to detail what Lorraine Warren herself considers the most evil presence the husband and wife team ever faced. The Conjuring already spun out of itself when Annabelle hit theaters in 2014 to less than stellar acclaim. Mr. Wan is the real star of this show and audiences will be sure to arrive at what is arguably the biggest horror release of 2016.
1) The Witch February 26th
This 2015 festival darling was unfortunately pushed from the Halloween season where it rightfully belonged and moved to late February of ’16 by distributor A24. The movie details the plight of a family so Puritan, the New England Puritan village which housed them kicks them out for their radical Puritanism and into the wild where they soon discover an evil torment lurking at the edges of the surrounding woods. Written and directed by newcomer Robert Eggers, The Witch features stunning photography, bone-deep scares and era-accurate dialogue which deepens the feeling of dread. I was lucky enough to see the film in 2015 and I can’t wait to take everyone I know once it finally hits in the new year.