As we approach the midway point of the year, we tend to look ahead—toward summer’s blockbusters and autumn’s Oscar fare—but some of 2016’s finest movies are already behind us. This year’s most provocative, entertaining and deliciously weird movies have transported us back in time to New England in the 1630s and Dublin in the 1980s. They have challenged our assumptions about relationships and immersed us in three-dimensional, computer-generated worlds of verdant vegetation and brilliant blue rivers. As we look forward to big friendly giants and ghostbusting comediennes, here’s a look back at the gems you might have missed.
Director Robert Eggers’ directorial debut about a family of pilgrims banished to the outskirts of an eerie New England forest is scary not for the spells of its alleged sorceress, but for the moody aesthetic and pervasive paranoia Eggers uses to paint a portrait of homesick immigrants adjusting to the New World. Its terror lies in the ways in which families turn on one another when the world itself has turned on them.