2016’s Unheralded Horror Heroes
It’s the end of the year, which means sites are all putting out their “best of” lists. By now, you’ve probably read quite a few and have begun to see a repetitive pattern in the films discussed. Granted, this has been a stellar year in horror, so that list of films worth revisiting and talking about is much larger than usual. But what about the films and people in horror that were just edged out of a spot? Or people working behind the scenes that never get recognized, despite how integral they are to our genre? For those that don’t quite fit under those “best of” list criteria, but are absolutely deserving of credit, this list is for this year’s unheralded heroes in horror.
This year saw the release of two Flanagan directed flicks; three if you count Before I Wake, a film that’s technically in release purgatory, but that was bypassed by Flanagan’s encouragement to buy the Canadian home release. All three films happen to be pretty great entries in 2016’s horror releases. In Hush we got a fantastic taut thriller, released exclusively on Netflix. Before I Wake is a bittersweet story of coping with grief wrapped in a neat dreamscape bow. Most impressive of all, though, was Flanagan’s ability to craft a worthwhile sequel to one of the most tediously dull horror films about the Ouija board to have ever been made. That’s right, Ouija: Origin of Evil is actually pretty decent. Characters worth rooting for, a detailed vintage aesthetic (love the cigarette burns added for effect), and genuine suspense made for a pleasant surprise. Bonus: look for the Oculus glass in the basement scene.
We owe a huge round of thanks to this leading distributor of genre entertainment. Of course we celebrate fantastic films when we see them, but it’s not often that we really stop and think about how it wouldn’t be so easy to see them without distributors like IFC Midnight. Fantastic films like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Beyond the Gates, Evolution, I Am Not a Serial Killer, Carnage Park, Road Games, and Baskin, all released by IFC Midnight this year. So thank you, IFC Midnight, for loving horror as much as we do.
This Halloween season was sadly bereft of its usual wealth of horror selections in theaters, but perhaps that’s because they decided to play in the big leagues known as summer blockbuster season. This summer saw a huge spike in quality theatrical releases, and with great success! The Shallows, Lights Out, The Conjuring 2, and The Purge: Election Year all proved that horror can be lucrative summer business. Especially if you have the word ‘Conjuring’ in your title. This summer released sequel caused this series to shoot up to the third highest grossing horror franchise worldwide, bringing in $320.3 million at the box office. So, if anyone is still debating whether horror is dead, please direct them to these numbers.
We talk often about how amazing the Shudder streaming service is, as well as highlight the latest additions to their ridiculously extensive catalog. So perhaps this could be a bit of a cheat. However, curators Colin Geddes and Sam Zimmerman really deserve more attention for the work they’re doing behind the scenes. That they ensure that all spectrum of horror fandom is covered would alone be commendable, but they’ve gone a giant step farther by moving into distribution. This fall brought their very first original series, Beyond the Walls, and next month will bring Sadako vs Sayako and Dearest Sister, two films snatched up from the festival circuit. Geddes and Zimmerman’s extensive background and passion in horror gives horror fans a lot to celebrate.
Directors and actors often hog most of the spotlight in film, but in reality it takes a village to bring a film together. Hard working talent behind the scenes that don’t get enough credit. One such individual is Josh Ethier, a fantastic editor whose credits this year alone include Holidays, The Mind’s Eye, and Beyond the Gates. The latter two of which he also served as producer. Did you like the sound design in Beyond the Gates? Also Ethier. Ethier is a clear horror hero with a direct hand in a lot of our favorites; we just didn’t know it.
This small but mighty indie feature is tough to categorize; it’s blend of arthouse and horror likely causes this fantastic gem to slip through the margins. It’s fantastic nonetheless, which has so much to do with the very, very small cast. We’re talking two actors and a cat. Ty Hickson as anarchist alchemist Sean and Amari Cheatom’s scene stealing Cortez pull you into the story and never let go. These two actors deliver such captivating performances that feel authentic and deeply human, that it’s a shame this film hasn’t reached the audience that it deserves. I dare you to find me a more comedic supporting character this year than Cortez.