Jeff Burk is the author of several bizarro books, the head-editor of Deadite Press, the host of the Jeff Attacks Podcast, and watcher of too many movies.
It’s that time again – my favorite movies of 2016!
Want to see what I liked in previous years? Check out these links:
I said last year was an amazing year for movies but this year was even better and narrowing down to a top ten was even harder! We really seem to be entering a wonderful period of original genre films. No matter your taste or style preference, there had to be something this year that really got you off.
It seemed that much of the genre discussion this year focused on big budget sequels, remakes, and adaptations. But while the latest Marvel and STAR WARS flicks dominated the box office there was a ton of great original work in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and just straight-up weirdo shit. There was so much great work that my list for this year’s top ten initially had around 30 movies on it (I keep track of every new movie I see and enjoy in some way).
Now I know there’s a lot of you wondering why I thought this year was so good. Mass release films were shit. If you only went to the multiplex I understand why you’d think this year was lackluster—but, holy shit, did VOD kill. For good or bad, the role that indie theaters use to fill is slowly being taken over by VOD. Personally, I think it’s a great thing as it seems to me that every year more and more adventurous releases come out and this year knocked it out of the park in ways I did not anticipate.
At this point in time, if you have an internet connection and complain that there’s no new good shit coming out—you’re straight-up not looking.
Every year there is some debate in the comments on how I come up with my list, in particular the question of how I determine release dates. Most movies it’s easy to pinpoint the year they were released it but sometimes there’s releases that have festival screenings up to a year before the genre audience can see it. If a movie had a limited release last year but the wide wasn’t until this year and that’s how I saw it – I count it. If it had a limited release that I saw but it’s not wide until next year and I saw it – I still count it. It’s not a perfect system but it’s what I got.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to my favorite movies of 2016! Like I said, there was a ton of movies that I liked this year and they couldn’t all be on my top ten. Here’s some that almost made the cut.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: THE WITCH, SWISS ARMY MAN, ALL THE WAY, SIREN, ASSINATION CLASSROOM: GRADUATION, HOLIDAYS, THE GREASY STRANGLER, YOGA HOSERS, SAUSAGE PARTY, and SHIN GODZILLA
Check out those movies. They were all seriously good. But they weren’t my favorites of 2016.
10: THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK (Joel Potrykus, United States)
A man goes into the woods to use science and metaphysics in an attempt to summon dark forces. While that may sound like something you’ve seen/read many times before this movie takes an original spin via the main character’s perspective. Instead of the normal middle/upper class white college student/scientist this story stars a young black man who is a self-taught intellectual from the inner city. How his background comes impacts him throughout the course of the story provides a fresh and unique perspective on a genre-theme stable.
This will have you guessing until the end at what’s really going on. When it gets to the climax and everything comes together, oh man, does it pay off good.
I also want to give a shout-out to the wonderfully atmospheric and desolate directing. Absolutely fantastic atmospheric horror.
9: HARDCORE HENRY (Ilya Naishuller, Russia/United States)
This is just pure non-stop over the top action from beginning to end. That it’s filmed in first person perspective via cameras in the main character’s eyeballs and basically happens in real time has earned it a comparison to being a video game on film. That’s kinda accurate but instead of computer generate characters it’s almost all practical effects and stunts done in camera.
The movie opens with Henry, a recently awakened cyborg and the audience’s eyes, dropping 50,000 from floating military compound and it only gets more insane with each passing scene. Wait until you see one of the most memorable and…unorthodox, shall I say without giving some fun away, strangulation scenes ever put to film.
8: THE INVITATION (Karyn Kusama, United States)
A man and his girlfriend are going to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband with some old and new friend in attendance. While they are there the man begins to suspect that something is very wrong.
This is basically a one-set thriller in the tradition of classic Hitchcock films. The brilliant writing and character dialogue will have you constantly on the edge of knowing what’s going on but never really sure.
It’s a slow burn but it’s a goddamn powder keg when it finally goes off.
7: WEINER (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, United States)
The best documentary about U.S. politics ever made.
You might remember Anthony Weiner as the politician who got in trouble for accidently posting pictures of his dick on twitter. What you may not remember was that at one point he was predicted to be one of the rising stars in U.S. politics. American is quick to forgive sexual transgressions of politicians and Weiner was ready to run for Mayor of NYC. A film crew was given full fly-on-the-wall access to his campaign and family for his redemption story. And then he got busted again for sending out pictures of his junk and everything in his professional and personal life beings to unravel.
Never before had we seen such an intimate view of campaign politics, how someone’s personal flaws can tear it all apart, and how it affects everyone around him.
6: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Dan Trachtenberg, United States)
After a car wreck a woman wakes to find herself in an underground bunker with two other men. They tell her that they rescued her but she can’t leave due to some sort of “attack” that has made the air outside dangerous. They don’t know what happened but they have ideas—and she’d definitely is not allowed to leave.
This movie is goddamn intense and you’ll have no idea who to trust at any time. All three of the main actors are fantastic with John Goodman having the stand-out role as the shelter builder and the unknown to her and the viewer savior or villain.
Despite the title this movie has nothing to do with the CLOVERFIELD giant monster movie. It seems they are now making some sort of TWILIGHT ZONEish anthology series and if future installments will be of this level of quality I am all in.
5: TRAIN TO BUSAN (Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)
I don’t give a fuck how sick of zombie movies you are—you need to see this!
A train is going from Seoul, South Korea to Busan, South Korea. Shortly after they leave the station the zombie apocalypse happens. The entire movie is about their journey. I know you think you’ve seen this before but you really haven’t. What this movie lacks in original concepts it makes up by doing every other aspect better than any zombie movie that has come before. The attack scenes are among the craziest and most intense zombie scenes ever put to film. The effects are amazing. The plot is brilliant. And, most amazingly, the characters are real, deep, and you will care about them.
In a subgenre that we all want to go away this movie does the unthinkable—it shows us everything we’ve seen before in a brand new way.
4: HIGH-RISE (Ben Wheatley, Britain)
I’m not really a fan of director Ben Wheatley or the novels of J.G. Ballard but this combination of the unique styles just really worked for me.
In the 1970’s a rich man moves into a high rise apartment building in which the floors are divided by class (poor on the bottom, rich on the top). The building is completely self-contained with everything a person could want. But one day, for no reason, nobody living there can bring themselves to leave and nobody who doesn’t live there can bring themselves to enter. With no food or maintenance coming in the building it all quickly falls into bizarre anarchy.
This film reminded me so much of classic 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s high-concept surrealism. Fuck, the plot is basically an update of Buñuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. You don’t see too many movies like that anymore so it’s so great to see this.
3: THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (André Øvredal, United States)
The sophomore film from the director of TROLLHUNTER couldn’t be more different than his first. Instead of a found footage creature feature we have a beautifully shot horror mystery. It starts with a bizarre crime scene and a mysterious body—the Jane Doe of the title. The entire movie revolves around the autopsy of the unidentified victim and the impossible things the medical examiners find.
With each strange thing they find you’ll become more and more sucked into the bizarre plot and then when the movie reveals what it’s all about I guarantee you’ll get a few shock and shivers.
It’s creepy but it’s not a slow burn. It’s graphic but it’s not exploitive—but this movie is about an autopsy after all. There’s jump scares but it’s never cheap. This has everything but never leans too heavily on one aspect of horror. It’s a brilliant mash-up of styles that will keep you constantly on the edge of your seat.
This is the scariest and most fun horror movie of the year.
After these two extremely different but amazing horror films, I can hardly wait to see what Øvredal does next.
2: BASKIN (Can Evrenol, Turkey)
Fuck yeah! This is the hardcore horror flick of the year!
The plot is about a bunch of cops who get sucked into Hell and…well, that’s really it. But this movie isn’t about an intricate and complex plot, this is about placing a group of characters in an insanely surreal and nightmarish scenario and watching how they do or do not deal with it.
And holy shit is this nightmarish!
Remember those scenes from Hell in EVENT HORIZON? That’s what the last hour of this movie is like. Just one weird and strange moment of torture, gore, and perversion after another—the bestiality scene is amazingly creative and horrific. I just wanted to warn you that this movie doesn’t hold back.
This may just sound like dumb torture porn but it’s anything but dumb. The acting, directing, set-design, dialogue, special effects—everything is incredibly well-done and made by people at the top of the horror filmmaking craft. This is the most beautiful and effective journey into Hell since HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2.
This movie isn’t for everyone but if you’re a sicko like me you’re gonna love it!
1: GREEN ROOM (Jeremy Saulnier, United States)
The best punks versus Nazis movie ever made!
A punk band on tour in the Pacific NW plays at a Nazi skinhead bar and witnesses something terrible. Trapped in the back of the club, the band must do everything they can to survive and get out while the Nazi skins do everything they can to kill them.
This is seriously one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen. This is not an adrenalin action flick—this is a dark and violent cat and mouse game with each side doing everything they can to outwit the other. But when it gets violent—holy shit! This isn’t like most movies were the blood splatters and you cheer. In this when people get hurt they suffer and you see in all in very graphic detail. I wouldn’t really call it gory but when it gets violent it doesn’t flinch from showing the ugliness of real world violence.
And I’ve got to give mention to the two stand-out acting roles of all the movies I saw this year. Patrick Stewart plays a rare villain role as the Nazi leader that is just wonderfully refined evil. Plus Anton Yelchin stars as the lead singer of the punk band in one of his last roles before his untimely death. His character bounces back a forth between tough-ass punk singer to scared as shit victim and his performance is fantastically vulnerable and even touching at points.
Fun Fact: Broken River Books head-editor and bizarro/crime author J. David Osbourne has a cameo in the crowd during the mosh-pit scene as a skin. Lazy Fascist Press head-editor and bizarro/fish fiction author Cameron Pierce filmed a scene as a skin in Stewart’s gang but the scene was apparently cut.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2017
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (Jordan Vogt-Roberts, United States)
I’m a devoted fan of giant monster movies and I’m a huge fan of the KING KONG franchise. This one looks absolutely amazing.
So that’s my list for 2016. Agree? Think I’m full of shit? Let me know in the comments.