Like anyone who’s obsessed with horror, my indulgence in the genre has led to high expectations and constant comparisons. That said, I thought 2016 was a pretty great year for horror, with lots of creative plotlines and stand-out performances.

I can’t say I watched every horror film that was released last year (some I avoided, and others I turned off after 10 minutes). But I covered good ground on the theatrical front, as well as the VOD and straight-to-DVD markets.

Agree or disagree, here are my picks for the best horror movies of 2016:

10 Cloverfield Lane

After a car accident, Michelle awakes in an underground bunker occupied by two men. Howard, the man who built the shelter, refuses to let her leave and claims he’s protecting the three of them from a nuclear attack.

As someone who didn’t care for 2008’s Cloverfield, I was surprised by how much I loved this “sequel.” Out of all the flicks I caught at my local theatre, 10 Cloverfield Lane was definitely my favorite. Though there’s not much mystery as to what’s happening outside of the bunker, the real thrills come from Howard and his unpredictable nature.

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The Blackcoat’s Daughter

During winter break, two students are stranded at an all-girl boarding school, waiting for their parents to pick them up. While there, one of the girls becomes entangled with a demonic presence. Separately, a troubled young woman, intent on getting to the school, hitches a ride with a middle-aged couple.

Oz Perkins’s directorial debut is a chilling slow-burner that, for some odd reason, had trouble landing a U.S. release date. I generally dislike possession flicks, but The Blackcoat’s Daughter foregoes all the clichéd demon theatrics in favor of a more understated approach. This is the kind of movie that creeps under your skin and lingers for days.

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Evolution

Young Nicolas lives on a strange island inhabited solely by women and boys. When he and his friends are hospitalized for mysterious reasons, he begins to uncover the disturbing truth about his existence.

Lucile Hadžihalilović’s art-house body horror won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; it’s a quiet film with minimal action, dialogue and score. Despite its slow pace, I was captivated by the eerie, dreamlike atmosphere and beautiful coastal setting. Some of the visuals were quite striking and unlike anything I’d seen before.

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The Invitation

Will and his girlfriend drive out to the Hollywood Hills for a dinner party at his ex-wife’s house. As the night unfolds, he becomes convinced that his ex and her new husband have sinister plans for their guests.

After her 2009 teen scream, Jennifer’s Body, it was nice to see Karyn Kusama return to horror with The Invitation. While watching, I kept wondering whether Will’s suspicions would be correct or the result of paranoia. The suspense builds perfectly in the taut thriller, culminating in a violent final act.

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The Eyes of My Mother

Francisca lives on a rural farm with her Portuguese immigrant parents. One day, a stranger invades their home and brutally murders the mother. As Francisca grows up, she learns to cope with her loneliness and trauma in highly disturbing ways.

I try not to toss this word around too often, but The Eyes of My Mother might be one of the scariest films to come out in recent years. Stylized in black and white, Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut is a haunting portrait of a lonely girl who grows up to be a serial killer. The film’s visuals are nightmare-inducing, to say the least.

horror