2016 Was a Banner Year For Horror

best horror movies of 2016

If you grab an average person off the street and ask them how they feel about the recently departed 2016, they’d probably give you a detached thousand yard stare. Or burst into tears. It was, for the world as a whole, not a great time to be alive. However, it was a great year for horror movies. And that makes a twisted sort of sense. As we discover new ways to fear and despair, the movies will react accordingly. Whether by accident or design, horror cinema represented everything we dread in 2016. How it will react to the actual events of this past year has me fascinated…and terrified.

Looking back at the past twelve months, it’s astonishing just how good horror cinema has been. It was there when we needed it, offering an avenue of escape and, when necessary, a dark mirror to examine our inner demons.

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don't breathe 2

2016 has been a banner year for awful things happening to the world in general, so maybe it’s appropriate that it’s been a banner year for horror cinema. After all, this is a genre that takes great pleasure in chewing up our miseries and spitting them out, allowing us to cackle at our misfortunes or comprehend our personal dread. A wave of great horror movies was exactly what we needed this year.

And one of those great horror movies was Fede Alvarez‘s Don’t Breathe, a vicious, hard-hearted thriller about a the criminals who break into the home of a secluded blind man and learn the hard way that he’s not someone to be underestimated. It turns out that the film’s conclusion, which left the door for further horror wide open, was a promise as Don’t Breathe 2 is currently in the works.

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2016 summer movie recap

The summer movie season is over and you know what that means – it’s time to hand out pointless imaginary awards to the best, worst, and weirdest films of the past four months!

Welcome to the 2016 Summer Blockbuster Awards, which is like the Oscars if the Oscars only covered a specific release window, were decided by one person, and were also really dumb. Here’s how this works: I have created 24 categories, from “Best Performance” to “Movie Most in Need of a Hug” and have awarded one winner and one runner-up. At the name of these awards imply, the focus here is on wide releases that arrived between May and August of this year. So while you really should go out of your way to see indie gems like Swiss Army Man and Don’t Think Twice, they won’t be the focus here. Got it? Good. Let’s just dive right in.

Be warned there are spoilers ahead for some of this summer’s films.

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Don't Breathe

I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie like Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe.

Don’t Breathe is a film in which I was so tense, I felt sore afterwards from how on edge I was. Don’t Breathe is a movie where the audience was so engrossed for the duration that I barely heard them make a peep or shift in their seats. Don’t Breathe is one of those movies whose jump scares actually make you physically jump and make embarrassing exclamations out loud in a theater full of strangers (the only other movie experience that even comes close this year is Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room).

Check out my video review of Don’t Breathe below and feel free to share your thoughts on the film below.
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Fede Alvarez interview

Director Fede Alvarez is all about defying expectations. First, he did the impossible and made an Evil Dead remake that managed to live up to the nasty legacy of the original. Now, he’s back with Don’t Breathe, a terrifying thriller that never zigs when it can zag, pushing the boundaries of good taste at every opportunity.

The set-up is refreshingly simple: three young criminals break into the home of a blind man, hoping to make off with the fortune he supposedly has stashed away. But that blind man is tough military veteran played by Stephen Lang and those crooks are on his turf and he has a few surprises in store for them. It’s intense. It’s gnarly. It’s grotesque. It may even go a little too far, but hey, you’ve got to admire its gleefully deranged commitment. I enjoyed it as SXSW and enjoyed it just as much just a few weeks ago. Alvarez is the real deal.

I was able to sit down with Alvarez after my second viewing and like many of the directors responsible for the most gruesome of horror movies, he turned out to be thoughtful, funny, and full of great stories. We spoke about directing Stephen Lang, channeling (and rejecting) cinematic influences, and how the film’s best scene was the result of a last-minute on-set rewrite.

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Don't Breathe red-band Trailer

Last month brought the horror thriller Lights Out to theaters, and plenty were terrified by the dark all over again. Now darkness looks to be even more terrifying in the forthcoming horror thriller Don’t Breathe. The film from Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez horrified audiences at the South by Southwest film festival earlier this year, and now it’s coming to theaters in just over a couple weeks. If the first teaser trailer wasn’t enough to unnerve you, then this new red band trailer should really push your buttons. There’s no nudity, just some blood and salty language, so it’s only a little NSFW. Read More »

Don't Breathe Trailer

Between Matt Murdock and Arya Stark, you’d think people would have gotten the message by now: underestimate the blind at your own peril. And after Avatar, everyone should definitely know better than to dismiss Stephen Lang. But perhaps the characters of Fede Alvarez‘s Don’t Breathe don’t get the same pop culture we do, because they make the very, very terrible mistake of trying to rob a blind man played by Stephen Lang, with predictably upsetting results.

Don’t Breathe took SXSW by storm this spring, and now the first Don’t Breathe trailer has arrived to show us just why this film scared those festivalgoers silly. Jane Levy (Evil Dead), Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps), and Daniel Zovatto (It Follows) star as the young and not-blind people who unwisely get tangled up with Lang.  Read More »

best films of sxsw 2016

The 2016 SXSW Film Festival is over, so you know what that means: it’s time to sift through the wreckage and hand out imaginary awards created by a jury composed entirely of a single writer. Welcome /Film’s SXSW Awards, where the categories only exist as an excuse to talk about the best movies that I saw at this year’s fest.

This was a strong year for a typically strong festival – as usual, everyone involved outdid themselves. For a complete look at everything I saw, you can head over here. But now it’s time to take the stage and start handing out fake trophies to a bunch of movies that deserve actual accolades.

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Everything We Saw at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival

sxsw 2016 reviews

Few film festivals offer the breadth and variety of SXSW and this year was no exception. During my eight days there, I saw gentle comedies, brutal horror movies, fascinating dramas produced on shoestring budgets, inventive documentaries and even an R-rated animated film about talking food. It was one helluva week.

Here is everything that I watched, including the (often very good!) movies that didn’t get full reviews.

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don't breathe review

Don’t Breathe revives one of the horror genre’s most convenient tropes: what happens when a group of genuinely rotten characters find themselves up against someone so much worse? It’s like a get-out-jail-free card for any filmmaker with a nasty streak, as they can proceed to punish the lead characters in unfathomable ways without asking the audience to feel too guilty for relishing in their suffering.

And director Fede Alvarez lays that suffering on with a heavy brush. Once Don’t Breathe finds its rhythm, it becomes one of the most relentless horror movies in recent memory, a non-stop assault that finds that fine line between crowd-pleasing and shit-your-pants terrifying. Alvarez already showed horror fans that he wasn’t kidding around with his vicious 2013 Evil Dead remake, but Don’t Breathe is his and his alone, proof that his brand of intensity can operate when removed from a beloved franchise.

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