And for the movies I hated? Let's just say there were a few rage migraines to be had this year, but not as many as in the past. So thanks for small favors, 2016.
Best of 2016
Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is one of the films that snuck in under the wire, bumping The Purge: Election Year from my list (though both speak to the emotional highs and lows of 2016 in very different ways). When aliens arrive on earth giving us no clue as to why they've come, linguist Amy Adams is charged with opening a line of dialogue with the beings. Like the aliens, Arrival is far more than it seems, questioning not only our connection to language, but our very connection to the universe. What choices would you make if you saw your future laid out before you? Arrival continued the 2016 trend of films that made me cry like the big baby I am. And this one was a five-tissue standout.
9) Night of the Living Deb
I can count on one hand the number of zombie films that have made my top ten over the years, so that should tell you just how delightful Kyle Rankin's Night of the Living Deb is. Anchored by an absolutely adorable performance from Maria Thayer, this zom-com is tailor-made for any girl out there in her high-heel jelly shoes who has felt a little different. But also knew they'd kick ass during a zombie apocalypse.
8) I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In the House
Like everyone else, I stumbled on this film a few days before Halloween, as Netflix dropped it with absolutely no warning. And I was astounded. Written and directed by Oz Perkins, I Am the Pretty Thing is a vintage haunting film that relies entirely on setting, atmosphere, and a stunning performance from Ruth Wilson, as opposed to cheap scares. And it's all the better for it. From the utterly unsettling opening sequence to the final moments, I Am the Pretty Thing will stick with you indefinitely.
7) Doctor Strange
Generally speaking, I try to keep films based on comic books off my top ten, but this year, Scott Derrickson's sci-fi spectacle Doctor Strange will be an exception. Against all odds, Derrickson took a complicated and deeply complex mythology and turned it into a gorgeous meditation on connectivity. It helped that unlike most films, Doctor Strange looked beautiful in 3D. Coupled with exceptional leading performances, Doctor Strange was one of the best surprises of 2016.
6) The Handmaiden
It's almost impossible to talk about Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden coherently, because it's damn near close to a perfect film (all of the movies from #6 up could be interchanged in position... It's largely academic from here on out). Loosely based on Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, to talk too much about it is to do it a disservice (and you can read my full review in Belladonna). Just see it. You won't regret it.
5) The Ones Below
Many films aim to be Hitchcockian, but so few actually achieve that very specific aesthetic. Written and directed by David Farr, The Ones Below is just such a rare narrative treat. When two couples, both expecting a baby, are brought together and then torn apart by a tragic accident, pressures mount and true characters are revealed in almost achingly-paced tension. The conclusion feels inevitable, and yet it will rock you to your core, leaving you feeling both disgusted, and desperate to watch The Ones Below again.
4) In Order of Disappearance
This was a HELL of a year for Norwegian cinema, kids. It was actually difficult to pick a favorite, but in the end, I went with the one that stuck with me the longest, and that was In Order of Disappearance. So few films take the time to show the real-world aftermath of revenge, and the fact that Hans Petter Moland and Kim Fupz Aakeson did so in such a brutal, yet touching, manner, is remarkable. Stellan Skarsgård is amazing as a father out to avenge his son, and the collection of criminals he meets along the way are anything but one note. In Order of Disappearance is the best revenge film I saw this year, so get out there and see it for yourselves.
3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Normally, I leave the sci-fi films to our illustrious Sci-Fi Honey Katie, and the Star Wars films to our resident Star Wars ultra-fan, Head Honey Kat. But this year, both made my own list, especially when it came to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is the best pure science-fiction film to come out this year and unequivocally the best Star Wars film made in my lifetime. Gareth Edwards' standalone Star Wars companion film captured the human cost of war in a way no other movie in the canon had before, and the battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire has never felt more timely. Another five-hankie tearjerker anchored by a brilliant multi-cultural cast in a time when we've never needed it more, Rogue One is the Star Wars movie we didn't know we desperately wanted.
2) The Lobster
Almost as unlikely as a zombie film showing up on my top ten? A romance. But when it's a dystopian sci-fi romance from director Yorgos Lanthimos? It makes a little more sense. Lanthimos' The Lobster was one of the most unexpected and moving film experiences I had in 2016, made even more exceptional by the fact that it was wholly original. In a world where the uncoupled are given a time limit to find a partner or risk being turned into an animal of their choosing, a group of people rebel by living in the woods and remaining alone, together. Filled to the brim with outstanding and understated performances (specifically from Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell), The Lobster was only barely nudged out for the stop by a film I saw shortly thereafter.
1) The Lure
If you've only seen one Polish horror rock opera about mermaids this year... you probably saw The Lure, and if you didn't love it as much as I did, I don't believe I know you. The Lure (known as Córki Dancingu in its native Poland) tells the story of two mermaid sisters who are taken in by a family cabaret band. The Lure was billed as a love triangle between the sisters and the boyish bass player, but it was so much more than that. Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, The Lure is about the love between sisters, the pressures put on women by a society that doesn't understand them, and what happens to a girl's soul when she gives up her identity for a boy. For now, The Lure may be hard to find. But thanks to the wonderful music, and its breathtaking lead performances from Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska, it won't be long before it finds the cult status it deserves.
Honorable Non-Horror Mentions
1) Hello, My Name is Doris
It's a shame that Hello, My Name is Doris came out so early in the year, because as was evidenced by the Globes nominations, it seems people have forgotten about Sally Field's stunning and heartbreaking performance in this adorable movie. You may need a hankie or two to make it through, but if you haven't seen Doris yet, do it now. It will be a nice way to ease out of this awful year.
Not much for easing out of things? Then stay angry and watch Ava DuVernay's 13th, about the ways in which the US uses the justice system to further institutionalized racism against minorities. Featuring a plethora of eye-opening interviews and connecting (painfully) to current events, 13th proves that reality is always more horrific than fiction.
The Worst of 2016
5) The Darkness
If you're looking for a film that encapsulates everything wrong with factory-farmed, Blumhouse horror, look no further than Greg McLean's The Darkness. Rather than even bother dignifying this garbage movie with my time, here is a list of 100% unnecessary plot points it hoards like an old lady with a house full of forty-year old newspapers: a bulimic daughter, an autistic son, a cheating husband, an alcoholic wife, Native American stereotypes, white people touching things, the implication that autistic kids are magic, jump scares, fake jump scares... All this movie did was remind me that hey, The Darkness was a pretty good band. I wonder what they are doing...
4) Happy Birthday
This (rightfully) little-seen "horror" film from Aerosmith video director Casey Tebo is bro culture incarnate. It is a combination of everything people hate about frat boys, and everything people hate about Americans, rolled together in one obnoxious, horribly-shot Fear and Loathing rip-off by a Hunter S. Thompson fanboy with half the writing skill, but just as much misogyny. Add to the shit soup Steven Tyler as a Mexicali psychedelic shaman spouting the kind of nonsense you hear from a man mumbling to himself on the bus, and Happy Birthday is movie with an audience so limited, you could probably find them at your local Margaritaville right now.
3) ABCs of Death 2.5
ABCs of Death giveth, and ABCs of Death taketh away. After redeeming themselves with an 80% solid second installment, this shameless cash-grab of a third compilation film was a disaster from start to finish. Put together from 26 fan-submitted "M" segments, it quickly becomes clear why none of these films were chosen to begin with, and should have remained where they started: on the cutting room floor. Out of 26 films, one was good, and two were watchable: the rest were so bad, I've actually blocked out the entire viewing experience. At least the awful original ABCs of Death left an impression. 2 1/2 is better forgotten entirely.
Congratulations, Kevin Smith. You have the auspicious honor of occupying both top spots in my worst of 2016. While Holidays is one of the weakest anthologies I've ever seen, it's Smith's Halloween segment that sent this film into true dumpster fire territory. Come for the misogyny, stay for the grotesque knowledge that he cast his own daughter as a cam girl in one of the worst horror shorts ever made.
1) Yoga Hosers
This poster for Kevin Smith's Yoga Hosers gives you exactly the right impression: it is a candy-colored nightmare, seemingly made by a teenage girl with a Nazi fetish... The Night Porter for the Snapchat generation. Nothing about this goddamned movie makes any sense, other than it appears to have been created solely for the purpose of trying to get Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith record deals. Even the stunt-casted Johnny Depp looks exasperated by the idiocy occurring around him. Offensive, tedious, and downright stupid, the impending third film in Smith's "Canada Trilogy" feels more like a threat than an actual movie. Of all the offenses that 2016 hath wrought upon us, Kevin Smith and his boner for a stereotyped version of Canada might be one of the most obnoxious.
Non-Horror Worst of 2016
What were you favorite films of 2016?
Tell Linnie on Twitter: @linnieloowho
Tell Linnie on Twitter: @linnieloowho