Best Horror Blu-rays of 2016
Turn out the lights and crank up the sound
As Halloween approaches we thought we'd provide you with a list of our favourite horror Blu-rays reviewed this year.As always Cas has reviewed the majority of the Blu-ray titles in 2016 but Simon is rather fond of horror films so he actually covered the majority of the Blu-rays listed below. We've tried to create an eclectic mix of films so there's horror as western, horror as fashion and horror as a Christmas film, as well as torture porn, gothic horror, classic horror and even a Jane Austin-zombie mash-up. There are also some reference discs in this list with stunning images and state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. So turn out the lights, crank up the sound and prepare to be frightened, amused, shocked, entertained and just plain revolted. Of course we haven't reviewed everything, so if you have any titles you think we've missed then let us know in the discussion thread.
Our first choice is horror as a western in the form of Bone Tomahawk. This small independent film from a first time director had very little fanfare and barely any release but has since gone on to garner rave reviews, including here at AVForums. It's a fantastic film that defies expectations as it combines the western and horror genres. The plot revolves around a posse who set out to rescue a victim kidnapped by Indians, but by turns both comic and horrific it quickly evolves into something else. A great cast, headed by Kurt Russell, help sell both the period detail and the horror as the film skillfully blends genres. The Blu-ray release is excellent with a picture that is stunning in its detail, with natural colours and deep blacks. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack is equally as good, delivering an immersive surround environment and some thunderous bass. The extras are a little thin on the ground but interesting nonetheless, making for a great disc package that is worth hunting down.
You can buy Bone Tomahawk on Blu-ray here
Bride of Re-Animator
Bride of Re-animator is more of a comedy horror and is the sequel to the universally adored Re-animator. It was filmed some four years later, re-uniting cast members and taking inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s original story, as well as James Whales’ Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The film filled its running time with as many effects and as much gore as possible, swapping story, narrative and character motivation for huge quantities of splatter. Arrow's Blu-ray is terrific, not only are there two versions of the film (R-rated and Unrated) but both have been thoroughly remastered from the best surviving elements meaning the picture has never looked better in terms of detail, colouring and black levels. The sound is also clean, clear and vibrant thanks to an audio clean-up. The extras package not only includes previously released material but also has two new documentaries and a new director commentary, not to mention a booklet and a limited edition comic-book.
You can buy Bride of Re-Animator on Blu-ray here
The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 is a modern take on the classic ghost story, with plenty of jump scares and a plot that claims to be based on a true story. Although not quite delivering the same unusual and effective scares of The Conjuring, the sequel does maintain the same feel and provide the game returning cast with a new stage upon which to play out their unique chills. Director James Wan can't quite conjure up the same magic as before, falling into the all-too-common pitfall of assuming that more of the same, only done bigger and for longer, is a good thing. However in the quieter, more subtle moments, the The Conjuring 2 does manage to approach the level of scares of its predecessor. Warner's Blu-ray release is hard to fault, providing excellent video and an exquisite Dolby Atmos soundtrack, as well as an impressive selection of extra features. It's likely a must-have for fans of the original but even if you aren't it's worth owning for the frighteningly immersive nature of the soundtrack.
You can buy The Conjuring 2 on Blu-ray here
Crimson Peak is pure gothic horror and wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. The plot combines a love story with various ghost and horror elements, centering on a young girl who is literally haunted by her dead mother. She grows up and finds herself drawn to a mysterious foreigner who has an over-possessive sister and lives in a broken-down gothic structure founded upon a bed of blood red clay into which it is slowly sinking. Visually, there’s much to enjoy in Guillermo Del Toro’s film, which boasts many of the director’s flourishes, with some gruesome violence, and creepy figures with half their faces missing. The house itself is a complete character within the film and the Blu-ray reveals the exquisite production design in all its detail. However it's the incredible DTS:X soundtrack that makes this film worth owning, as the immersive nature of the audio brings the building to life, completely engulfing you. There's also a solid selection of extras, making Crimson Peak a great buy for fans of Del Toro or anyone who just wants to show off their new sound system.
You can buy Crimson Peak on Blu-ray here
The Green Inferno
The Green Inferno pays homage to all those 80s cannibal films and as such it's a stripped to the bone, no fuss, chop ‘em up horror movie. It doesn’t really pretend to be anything else, despite the often heavy-handed socio-political messages sewn in throughout its running time. In terms of its ambitions The Green Inferno is a triumph, happily throwing gore at the screen in the manner of a cheap exploitation flick. In terms of today's 'torture porn' films the plot is fairly predictable but the filmmakers manage to deliver the gross-out moments with style, so you'll need a strong stomach to make it through to the end. As a Blu-ray package the set is very good, with a picture that is clean, bright, well detailed and with good black levels. The sound is equally as impressive, creating an effective surround environment thanks to a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Sadly there's only one extra on the disc, an audio commentary, and whilst it's a lively affair it would have been since to see some behind-the-scenes footage. However it's a solid disc and The Green Inferno is sure to keep gore hounds happy.
You can buy The Green Inferno on Blu-ray here
Green Room is an example of a horror film that creeps up on you because it's real world setting catches you off guard. Initially dealing with a punk band who accept a last minute gig at a dodgy biker bar, things quickly spiral out of control when they accidentally witness a murder. The band barricade themselves in the titular green room and fight for their survival against a group of ruthless and determined Nazis. If you swap Nazis for zombies you've got Night of the Living Dead and Green Room is considerably more gory. The film benefits from its unusual setting and set-up, delivering bloody, high tension thrills with visceral impact. The Blu-ray release also delivers the goods, with a picture that suits the film's dark and dank setting. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is an equally intense, constantly thrumming animal at an aural level, coming alive during the performances, but also benefiting from a LFE rumble that helps heighten the tension almost throughout. A commentary track and a making-of featurette round out what is an excellent disc that is worth checking out.
You can buy Green Room on Blu-ray here
Krampus is a film shouldn't exist, it is a Christmas themed horror movie aimed squarely at the youth market, the kind of film that just doesn't get made any more (think of Gremlins and you get the idea). The plot centres on a kid who loses his Christmas spirit and in doing so summons a Christmas demon who preys not only on his own family, but the entire neighbourhood. It's a pretty dark story but in the hands of director Michael Dougherty it's a near-perfect movie. In the film everything happens for a purpose and characters behave naturally. The idea is terrific and is executed perfectly, the sound, creature and production design are all flawless and the whole thing is played perfectly straight and, crucially, does not wimp out at the end. The Blu-ray disc is excellent, with a picture that remains clean, bright and detailed, whilst retaining deep blacks. The sound design is reference all the way, with plenty of effects and a great score placing you in the centre of the action. The extras package is pretty good with making-of features and a commentary but it's the film itself that should make you want to buy the disc, believe us you won’t be disappointed.
You can buy Krampus on Blu-ray here
The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon presents fashion as horror and in fact Nicholas Winding Refn's film is most quantifiable as an otherworldly horror, equal parts sci-fi and supernatural; a sort-of confluence between Black Swan and Under the Skin. There are themes of pagan occult worship, witches, rituals, and an almost literal neon demon - and of course the core Greek myth of Narcissus himself. Refn masters both worlds - real and fantasy - with some of his most striking visuals, whilst collaborator Cliff Martinez's arguably finest score draws you further into this world. The Neon Demon was always going to be one hell of an audiovisual experience and the Blu-ray release does not disappoint, with reference video and sublime audio for you to demo, with the latter so good that it will probably tempt you into picking up Cliff Martinez's exquisite score to play independently. Indeed even the extras don't disappoint, although it would have been nice to have an isolated score track. Simply unmissable for Refn fans but even casual buyers will find a gorgeous film about some very unpleasant people.
You can buy The Neon Demon on Blu-ray here
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an example of horror as period drama and is exactly what you might expect from the title – Jane Austin’s book with added zombies. The film actually follows the plot of the book almost exactly with the occasional peppering of zombie attacks culminating in an apocalyptic climax – but naturally all ends well. It has comic overtones, dramatic overtones and a lovely period setting. It looks good, is well written and has a game cast who largely play it straight, aside from a hysterical comic turn from Matt Smith. The film is actually a very refreshing take on the zombie movie and easily one of the most enjoyable horror films of the year. The Blu-ray release is a great package with a reference picture that is stunning in terms of clarity, colour accuracy and black level. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is blistering in terms of the surround envelopment and bass level which rival the very best the format has to offer, although if you buy the Ultra HD Blu-ray there is an even better Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The Bennet Sisters might be well brought up young ladies but there is nothing demure about their behaviour when it comes tackling the 'unmentionables'.
You can buy Pride & Prejudice & Zombies on Blu-ray here
Vault of Horror
Finally we have the classic anthology horror film in the form of Vault of Horror from Amicus Productions. The story follows a well-trodden path, as five men, in a confined space, tell their horror stories only to find they are, themselves, in one. Starring a who’s who of British acting talent, the stories are told at breakneck pace, with little time to get into the characters before they are dispatched. Each story is, however, reasonably unique and there is an overall sense of unease throughout, with some lovely shocks in store. The Blu-ray release uses the BFI National Archive restored print which is fully uncut. As a result the image is much improved, although hampered by some drab colouring and the contrast setting robs the image of any vibrancy for the first two thirds of the film. However once that improves it is much better and the original print is in decent nick barring some water marks and other instances of damage. The sound is very basic but then you can’t expect much from LPCM 2.0 mono, but at least it is clean, clear and natural sounding. The lack of extras is unfortunate but Vault of Horror remains a classic example of 1970s British horror.
You can buy Vault of Horror on Blu-ray here
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