Witches, Neon Demons and Patrick Stewart: 8 horror movies worth being excited for in 2016
As a horror movie fan, I quite liked what 2015 had to offer. "Goodnight Mommy" wasn't as extreme as the hype promised, but it was probably the better for it; writer/directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala delivered a film of rare thematic depth and slow-burning visceral power. David Robert Mitchell's "It Follows," meanwhile, was an out-of-nowhere sleeper that actually merited the attention. And Craig Macneill's "The Boy" (not to be confused with this year's Lauren Cohan-starring "scary doll" flick) was a solid slice of psychological horror that was unfortunately all but ignored on release.
Like last year, 2016's crop of horror movies is far less interesting for its big-studio releases than for its smaller, independent ones. I'll be completely honest: I could care less about most of the major releases, which include a slew of destined-to-be-formulaic sequels ("The Purge 3," "The Strangers 2," "Amityville: The Awakening"), slot-filling supernatural horror efforts ("The Forest," "The Other Side of the Door," "The Boy") and a long-in-the-works book adaptation that could go either way ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies").
That said, there are a few bright spots already on the horizon. Here are eight horror films slated for release (or expected to be released) in 2016 that are worthy of our attention. I've ordered them by my own personal level of excitement, from least to most anticipated.
RegressionPhoto Credit: TWC-Dimension
Release Date: Feb. 5
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis
Alejandro Amenabar's last foray into the genre, 2001's The Others, was a near-classic of subtle, psychological horror, and while the Satanic cult-themed Regression didn't get great reviews on the festival circuit -- they were, in fact, almost uniformly bad -- the trailer and cast are solid enough that I'm willing to give it a try. Also, it bears mentioning that I am a sucker for Satanic-themed horror movies. Bring on the black cloaks and ominous chanting.
Yoga HosersPhoto Credit: Smodcast Pictures/Invincible Pictures
Release Date: Jan. 24 (Sundance)
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Johnny Depp, Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith
The media loves to dump on Kevin Smith, but I actually sorta dug the '90s wunderkind's last foray into horror, 2014's bizarre, disturbing and darkly humorous Tusk. This year, Smith is returning to the strange world he created with Yoga Hosers, the second part of his so-called "True North" trilogy that will see an unrecognizable Johnny Depp return as beret-wearing former police inspector Guy LaPointe. I like that Smith tries to do original things with the genre, and this time around the action will focus on two of "Tusk's" best characters: teenage convenience store workers Colleen and Colleen (Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith). The "Buffy" meets "Night of the Comet" premise is fun -- I'm a sucker for unsuspecting teens doing battle with evil forces -- and I look forward to seeing if Smith can continue to enjoy a latter-day resurgence as a risk-taking horror film auteur.
The Bad BatchPhoto Credit: AP Photo
Release Date: N/A
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Diego Luna
Ana Lily Amirpour's "Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western" A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was a stunning, quirky debut, and she's following it up with this star-studded effort described simply as "A love-story among a community of cannibals based in a Texas wasteland." It'll be interesting to see if she can translate her unique vision to a relatively bigger canvas, and the casting of faded '90s and early '00s superstars Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey is itself an intriguing prospect.
Green RoomPhoto Credit: A24
Release Date: Apr. 1
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier made minor waves with the 2013 revenge thriller Blue Ruin, and his followup Green Room has thus far received excellent notices following its Cannes and SXSW premieres. The filmmaker's riff on the "backwoods horror" genre puts a young punk band at the mercy of a gang of neo-Nazis (led by Patrick Stewart!), a premise that promises to be elevated -- or at least spun out in unexpected directions -- by Saulnier's unique, twisted perspective.
A Man in the DarkPhoto Credit: AP Photo
Release Date: Aug. 26
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Dylan Minnette, Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Daniel Zovatto, Sergej Onopko
Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodrigo Sayagues absolutely nailed their 2013 remake of Evil Dead, bringing a darker, more human dimension to the iconic horror tale while not forgetting the sick, blackly humorous kick that gave the original its juice. Their followup, the domestic invasion thriller with a twist entitled A Man in the Dark, also stars Jane Levy, who plays one of a gang of teenage bank robbers who get more than they bargain for when breaking into the home of a reclusive blind man (Stephen Lang) who is not what he seems. It's a rather generic premise, but based on the fresh take they brought to their last collaboration, I expect Alvarez and Sayagues have far more up their sleeves than the setup suggests.
A Cure for WellnessPhoto Credit: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Sept. 23
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs
Before he ventured into blockbuster territory with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Gore Verbinski directed The Ring, one of the best horror films of the new century. It's hard not to think that two mega-budget flops in a row (Rango and The Lone Ranger) sent the director back in the direction of smaller-scale horror fare, but whatever the reason, his return to the genre that made him a star is a welcome one. We don't know much about the plot of A Cure for Wellness yet -- young man goes to rescue his boss from a sinister European spa, chaos presumably ensues -- but if Verbinski can work up the kind of sustained, dreadful tension he brought to The Ring, horror fans are in for a treat.
The Neon DemonPhoto Credit: Amazon Studios
Release Date: N/A
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Bella Heathcote, Karl Glusman, Desmond Harrington, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks
Nicholas Winding Refn scored a sleeper hit with the grisly, dreamlike actioner Drive but killed off some of that goodwill with the subsequent release of Only God Forgives, which threw nearly all narrative drive and coherence out the window with its story of a Bangkok drug smuggler who wreaks bloody revenge following the murder of his brother. Love it or hate it (and almost everyone hated it), Only God Forgives had its fascinating points, including a dread-drenched nightclub sequence in which a group of women sit in utter stillness as a man is brutally tortured only feet away from them. The Neon Demon looks to take Refn's twisted vision to its logical end point with an outright horror film, which focuses on an aspiring model (Elle Fanning) who has her "vitality and youth...devoured" by a group of "beauty-obsessed women." In some ways this feels like a make-or-break film for the director, but even if it fails, I suspect it will fail spectacularly.
Release Date: Feb. 19
Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Of any horror film slated for release this year, writer/director Robert Eggers' Sundance breakout The Witch is my most anticipated by far. The reviews point to a potential new horror classic (our own Drew McWeeny called it a "singular, upsetting vision") and the trailer is genuinely spine-tingling.The Witch's 17th century milieu also feels like a breath of fresh air in a sea of samey "set-in-the-present-day" horror flicks.