It’s difficult to anticipate great horror movies. Many of the best scary movies ever made came seemingly out of nowhere, from filmmakers with something to prove, and with no expectations of them whatsoever. What’s more, the incredibly fast development and production of many horror movies means that the best horror movie of 2016 might not have been announced yet. Heck, it might not even have been written yet.
But we can take a look at the many, many, many horror films which have already been slated for release in 2016, and consider their concepts, their trailers, their filmmakers and their franchises and decide for ourselves which ones might be worth looking forward to. We approach every horror movie with high hopes, but we never know for sure if we’re watching a new classic or not until we actually see the danged thing for ourselves.
There’s one upcoming film that we’ve already seen and can vouch for. The rest of these, our most anticipated horror movies of 2016, would more accurately be described as educated guesses. They sound promising, and we hope that as the year progresses we can share our reactions and – hopefully – our enthusiasm with the rest of you.
So get your calendars out – or at least bring them up on your phones – and mark the dates (with the caveat that all these release dates are subject to change). We’ll see you at the theater!
THE BOY (January 22)
William Brent Bell isn’t exactly a sure thing in the horror department (his previous films include the disappointing THE DEVIL INSIDE and the comical STAY ALIVE), but the set-up for his thriller THE BOY gives us some serious shivers. Lauren Cohan (THE WALKING DEAD) stars as a nanny hired to take care of a doll, but only if she agrees to treat it like a child. When she starts breaking the rules, the doll starts getting creepy. There aren’t enough great creepy doll movies in the world; we hope THE BOY is one of them.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (February 5)
In the six years since Seth Grahame-Smith’s novelty novel was published, the film adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (which takes Jane Austen’s classic novel and adds zombies to it) has changed hands multiple times. David O. Russell (THE FIGHTER) was once attached to direct, as was Craig Gillespie (FRIGHT NIGHT). The task eventually fell to filmmaker Burr Steers, whose history of relationship dramas (CHARLIE ST. CLOUD) might just make him the ideal candidate to take this strange story seriously, and – in so doing – also make it funny as hell.
NINA FOREVER (February 12)
Debuting to rave reviews at SXSW 2015 (it’s currently “100% Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes), the horrifying romance NINA FOREVER might just be the perfect Valentine’s Day movie for horror lovers. It’s the story of a man whose dead girlfriend Hellraisers back into existence every time he tries to move on by having sex with his new, living girlfriend. The corpse doesn’t attack, she just lies there, judging them, making it impossible to move on. We’ve already seen NINA FOREVER, and we can confirm that it’s smart, haunting and powerful.
THE WITCH (February 26)
Another festival favorite, THE WITCH premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Best Director award for writer/director Robert Eggers. The film promises to be an atmospheric period piece, set in New England in the 1630s, in which a family is torn apart by what appears to be witchcraft. With intriguingly period-specific dialogue and a spooky trailer that avoids nearly every conventional horror cliché, we are now very excited about finally seeing THE WITCH this year.
GREEN ROOM (April 1)
The third feature-film from acclaimed director Jeremy Saulnier (BLUE RUIN, MURDER PARTY) is a claustrophobic thriller about a rock band who get trapped in their green room, after witnessing a crime committed by the white supremacists in the audience. Saulnier is no slouch, and is steadily developing a strong following for his assured direction and clever filmmaking choices. And the prospect of watching Sir Patrick Stewart play a villainous Neo-Nazi is just too delightfully wicked to pass up.
AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (April 15)
Delayed since 2015, which may or may not mean anything in the horror genre, AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING stars damn good actors Jennifer Jason Leigh (THE HATEFUL EIGHT) and Cameron Monaghan (GOTHAM) in a new film from writer/director Franck Khalfoun, who also helmed the better-than-anybody-ever-thought-it-could-be remake of MANIAC. The trailer looks like standard supernatural stuff, but trailers are designed for the masses; there’s a chance, however small, that this could be the first good AMITYVILLE HORROR movie since 1982’s AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION. Call us cautiously optimistic.
THE CONJURING 2: THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST (June 10)
James Wan took a break from horror to direct the blockbuster action sequel FURIOUS 7, but he couldn’t stay away for long. This summer he’s back directed THE CONJURING 2: THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST, the sequel to his incredible 2013 supernatural thriller, in which paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) face off against the infamous spectre and – allegedly – the Amityville haunting as well. It’s a great set up for more chilling chills, and there’s no way it could be worse than the spin-off ANNABELLE. (Right?)
LIGHTS OUT (July 22)
Based on the viral video sensation, about a creature that only appears when the lights go out, LIGHTS OUT is apparently good enough to warrant a summer release. We can believe it. The original short is a creepy treat and writer/director David F. Sandberg might very well be a filmmaker to keep a very close eye on. James Wan produced this adaptation, and which might very make this the Summer of Wan… if they’re both as good as they sound, anyway.
DOCTOR STRANGE (November 4)
When the time came for Marvel Studios to produce a supernatural movie, they went with horror director Scott Derrickson, who soon brought his SINISTER co-writer C. Robert Cargill with him. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a surgeon who loses his ability to heal, but gains the ability to work a different kind of magic. The promise of a whole new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, filled with monsters and spells, could be too good to be true. Then again, Marvel is on an epic roll, and if they can make a movie about a raccoon into a hit, there’s no reason to think they can’t pull off a kickass supernatural action movie too.
31 (Release Date TBD)
Rob Zombie is at it again, which may or may not be a cause to rejoice depending on how you feel about his previous films. We think he’s getting progressively more interesting with each film, so we’re very curious to see how his new horror thriller turns out. The man who remade HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN 2 now returns to the holiday with a film about five carnies, kidnapped on October 31st and forced to fight for their survival for twelve whole hours. It could be visceral and great, or it could be oppressive and loud. Either way, some of us are probably going to love it and some of us are probably going to hate it. That’s how Zombie rolls. 31 premieres at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, with a theatrical release expected later in the year.
LEATHERFACE (Release Date TBD)
Announced but not officially slated, the latest attempt to update, reboot and/or reimagine the iconic TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE series is en route from filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (INSIDE). Strangely enough, Stephen Dorff (THE GATE) has been cast as the title villain, a role typically played behind a mask and with little dialogue by a giant of a man. LEATHERFACE (not directly related to the 1990 movie, pictured) is reportedly about a nurse who gets abducted by the cannibal killer, who himself is being chased by vengeful lawman (who sounds, on paper at least, a bit like Dennis Hopper’s character from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2). Can this once mighty, now flailing horror franchise be revived? We sure hope so.