It goes without saying, but 2016 has been a banner year for horror. From The Witch to the return of “The X-Files,” the emergence of the indescribable “Stranger Things” to the shock and awe of Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe, we have been treated to some of the best genre offerings in quite some time.
Which begged the question — What character towered above all others during this banner year?
The iHorror writers had differing picks, so we put together a little list to try and settle things. Admittedly, Lando offered a few, but there were some characters which just had to be represented. That said, it’s a list so comprehensive, some animals even made the cut if you know what we mean. And we think that you do.
Let’s get started.
Eleven — “Stranger Things” (Landon Evanson)
The show took everyone by storm, and not just horror fans. It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t adore the Netflix original, and even harder to locate someone who isn’t absolutely enthralled with Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal of the mysterious and powerful Eleven. Her thoughts were complicated, her words were short and her trust was almost nonexistent, but her capabilities were staggering and her relationship with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) was heartwarming. There were elements of E.T., Carrie and even Firestarter to Eleven, but that was the point, the entire show was an homage to the ’80s. The waffles were endearing, but forced piss-pants from the gym and her reemergence at the quarry were scenes for all-time. “She’s our friend and she’s crazy!” And she may just be the most fantastic character of 2016.
Ruby Knowby — “Ash vs Evil Dead” (Jonathan Correia)
I love Evil Dead. It’s been an obsession of mine since I was 13 years old. But let’s be honest, the series hasn’t always been kind to women. The reboot / remake did a decent job, but really, it was “Ash vs Evil Dead” that brought women to the forefront. In a show that has so many awesome and bad-ass female characters, none compare to Ruby. Played by Xena herself, Lucy Lawless, Ruby is a force to be reckoned with. Whether she is fighting skeletons or using a dead hand as a GPS, Ruby steals every episode she appears in. I can’t wait to see what she does in Season 2!
The Blind Man — Don’t Breathe (Michael Carpenter)
To truly discuss what makes The Blind Man one of the greatest horror characters of 2016, it’s absolutely necessary to include spoilers for Don’t Breathe. In other words, if you haven’t seen the film, you’d be wise to skip to the next writer’s pick. Otherwise, here goes.
Most horror villains tend to be obviously evil and monstrous, and while it’s very possible to enjoy watching those characters do their thing, it’s hard to actually root for them to accomplish their murderous goals. This is the one thing that makes The Blind Man (expertly played by Stephen Lang) so interesting, as for over half the film, he’s arguably the sympathetic character. For one, it’s not his fault that these three young punks decided to break into his home, and it’s hard to blame him for using whatever methods necessary to protect himself from his assailants.
Of course, these feelings of sympathy begin to waver once it’s revealed that he’s been keeping a woman prisoner in his basement. Even then, once it becomes clear that she’s the drunk driver who we were previously told recklessly killed the man’s daughter and got off scot-free, one can kinda sorta get it, even if one wouldn’t ever take such an extreme course of action themselves.
However, any semblance of sympathy evaporates when it’s discovered just what she was put down there for; To give The Blind Man a new child against her will. Despite his attempts to rationalize his actions, nobody in their right mind could ever condone that, and it gets even more horrifying when he attempts to do the same to Rocky (Jane Levy). In one fell swoop, the script has been completely flipped on Don’t Breathe, and The Blind Man has transformed from sympathetic extremist to outright monster. And lest we forget, as of the end of the film, HE’S STILL OUT THERE.
The Crooked Man — The Conjuring 2 (Daniel Hegarty)
At first, I did not find the Crooked Man all that intriguing, and actually thought it was James Wan trying to be a bit controversial. Mixing his ability of practical effects and huge budget with a dated stop animation scene was a bit pointless. It wasn’t until my research uncovered that the Crooked Man’s jittery walk and flickery motion was not stop animation at all, it was in fact all the work of Javier Botet.
Botet has mastered the ability to move in the form of a stop animation model in front of the camera. There are not many movies where this would work well outside the use of other special effects, which would in turn ruin a movie trying to use purely practical effects. But The Conjuring 2 needed the monster portrayed by Botet to appear as it did in the children’s toy — flickery, sharep and without using CGI.
Watching the movie, as I have for the second, third and fourth time with my new found understanding of the Crooked Man’s development, made me appreciate how scary it would be to have a monster with that unnatural movement motion toward you, unpredictable and unforgiving.
Guy Mann — “The X-Files” (Jacob Davison)
Out of a controversial new season of ‘The X-Files,” I wouldn’t have expected one of the funniest horror characters of the year. I am, of course, talking about the Were-Monster, Guy Mann! A harmless lizard-man monster, Guy was just minding his business when he was bitten by a human serial killer. Now, every day he turns into…a human being! Regaling his horror, Mann felt the instinctual need to find a job. Wear clothes. Buy a pet. Save for retirement. And quickly becomes suicidal.
Played by the hilariously moving Rhys Darby, Guy is a lizard man you can feel nothing but sympathy for because was was cursed to turn into a human being. The character is a brilliant deconstruction of monster tropes, especially those on a series like “The X-Files.” Beauty, or in this case, comfort is in the eye of the beholder, and Guy proves that monsters are quite content being monsters rather than anxiety-riddled humans. All while dressed up like the classic paranormal investigator, Carl Kolchak!
Negan — “The Walking Dead” (Patti Pauley)
We’ve only caught about ten minutes of Negan so far in 2016, but holy flaming fuckballs, that was enough for me to fall in love with the guy.
Sure, my opinion may be slightly unpopular, but I love the bad boys of “The Walking Dead.” And Jeffrey Dean Morganis already hitting home runs and splattering brains in regards to portraying an extremely interesting addition to the zombie apocalypse universe. I had read about his character in the comics beforehand so I already loved the guy long before his TV appearance last April. I like a guy who has some conviction, even if his ways are a bit harsh. However, at least he draws the line when it comes to hurting women or children. I respect that in a villain. A guy who has no quandaries about beating the eyeballs out of a man with a baseball bat but gives the ladies and kids a pass. To an extent anyway. This indicates the character does indeed harness some sympathy underneath that bad-ass exterior. I kinda like that about the dude.
Black Phillip — The Witch (Landon Evanson)
‘What dost thou want?” I am not going to lie, I had to pick my jaw off the theatre floor when Satan spoke through the farm animal which made the goat from Drag Me to Hell look like Adam Sandler’s talker heading to the Ragu show. The Witch was a polarizing film, but few could deny the mysterious power of Black Phillip. The creepy, excited run after it had chased the twins (not to mention the unnerving ballad they sang about it over and over), the stare down of Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) in the shed and rearing up after goring William (Ralph Ineson) all led to a cult following for a character that is almost inexplicable. Black Phillip was just evil. And awesome.
Steve Seagull — The Shallows (James Jay Edwards)
Anyone who has seen The Shallows knows that the movie absolutely belongs to Blake Lively, but her performance would not be possible without the support of Steven Seagull. Seagull is the bird that is stranded on the rock with Lively while she is being stalked by the giant shark the entire movie. Seagull is an important character because he becomes her sounding board, allowing her to deliver exposition and narration without making it seem as if she is talking to herself. He basically becomes the Wilson to her Tom Hanks. Birds are naturally passive looking, but Seagull manages to nail every single reaction shot to Lively’s lines with his perfectly bird look. The added bonus is that he’s not CG — Steven Seagull was played by a real, trained seagull named Sully. Steven Seagull provides just the right amount of levity in an otherwise dark and gloomy movie.
Thomasin — The Witch (Landon Evanson)
Let’s face it, you either loved The Witch or loathed it, there was no in between. I happened to love it, but for all its unrelenting dread, the showcasing of Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest child Thomasin may have been the shining beacon from Robert Eggers’ masterpiece. Thomasin was growing into her womanhood, which frightened her devoutly Puritan parents enough without adding her intelligence, will and strength. Thomasin did her best to please her forebears, but in the end she was her own person with her own ideas and wanted more out life than the bleak, banished existence of the farm. And when it came time to nut up or shut up, Thomasin threw down and chose to live deliciously. As Eggers has pointed out, Thomasin was completely out of place and had no business in a Puritan family, but she most definitely belongs on this list.
Valak — The Conjuring 2 (Waylon Jordan)
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that he appears as an evil nun, or the fact that he is based on an actual demon, but there was something completely sinister about this major foe in The Conjuring 2. Valak’s movement through shadows nearly stopped my heart a couple of times. This was especially true in the scene where he moves as a shadow across the wall behind the painting that Ed Warren had done. When those fingers emerged to take hold of the painting moments before he rushed Lorraine, the entire theater reacted. It was an amazing moment. Hands down, he was one of the creepiest, most terrifying creatures I’ve seen on film this year and had to be included on the list.
Ed Warren — The Conjuring 2 (Paul Aloisio)
It’s very rare these days that you get a hero that outshines the villain. In the modern age of the horror genre, characters with relatable (and maybe more importantly, believable) qualities are few and far between. Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of Ed Warren in The Conjuring 2 was absolutely stellar. The power couple between Ed and his wife Lorraine was something that not only kicked ass, but was incredibly inspiring. One of the great things about horror is the struggle and the triumph against evil, and Warren’s character is the perfect embodiment of that.
Who is your favorite? Who did we misss? Weigh in with your thoughts below.