Contrary to a certain controversial article, it was another good year for horror movies. From high-concept studio offerings, franchise reboots, to daring indie projects, 2018 had a little something for everyone. So as we prepare to ring in 2019, it’s time to survey my Top 10 Horror Movies unleashed this past year.
Before I dive into my Top 10 picks for 2018, I’ll just offer a few cautionary notes. There are a few noteworthy omissions from my list. Unfortunately, Suspiria and The Clovehitch Killer weren’t released to theatres nearby to me, so I haven’t had the opportunity to see either movie. Lots of great movies also aren’t on the list. Pyewacket, The Ritual, Apostle, Overlord, Upgrade – each of these movies deserves recognition. Like any list, my picks are subject to debate. But without further ado, here are my Top 10 Horror Movies of 2018.
Distributed by horror-streaming platform, Shudder, Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge was a brutal re-invention of a tired horror sub-genre. To her credit, Fargeat flips the ‘male gaze’ and transforms her protagonist from victim to a vengeance-seeking machine. In addition to subverting the rape-revenge formula, Revenge pokes a little fun at the male-action hero fantasies common to the 1980’s. There’s plenty of blood and violence, all of which Fargeat films with distinct visual flair. Revenge also delivers a clever and tense final cat-and-mouse chase in its climax.
9 – Terrifier
Brutal, lean, simple – those three words best describe Damien Leone’s Terrifier. With its threadbare story and grimy aesthetics, Terrifier could have just as well been released in the 1980’s. The practical gore effects get a workout over the movie’s short runtime. Just when you think Terrifier can’t gross you out any more, Leone dives deeper with even more transgressive violence. One scene with Art the Clown and a hacksaw ranks high among this year’s most shocking horror moments. Art the Clown may also be the best addition to horror’s rogue gallery in years.
8 – Mandy
Mandy may be the most distinct visual movie experience of 2018. Director Panos Cosmatos saturates his revenge thriller in dreamy red and blue tints creating a memorably bizarre psychedelic trip. Like the best surrealist movies, Mandy is more nightmare than coherent story. Moreover, audiences were treated to Nicholas Cage going ‘full Cage’. Over the years, filmgoers have forgotten how good Cage can be as an actor. In Mandy, Cage delivers a fantastic wild-eyed performance that stands as one of his best in years.
7 – Cam
While Netflix had a bit of an up and down year with its original movies, 2018 ended on a positive note. Though it’s not in my Top 10, Bird Box can certainly be classified as a winner for the streaming giant. Released a month earlier, Cam is an outstanding thriller and a refreshing twist on the ‘technology in horror‘ narrative. This indie movie about a ‘cam girl’ and stolen identity works on multiple levels. As a strict thriller, Cam intrigues and unsettles. But it also works as a cerebral exercise. Cam raises several questions that you’ll be left to ponder long after the credits have finished rolling. It’s both techno-thriller and meditative piece on identity.
6 – The Endless
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead blew my mind several years ago with a little film called Resolution. Now with their third feature length effort, The Endless, they’ve done it again. The Endless is a methodical, quiet, and reflective movie that mixes horror, mystery, and science fiction. There are no jump scares or graphic death scenes. Instead, Benson and Moorhead have crafted an atmospheric gem that is both unnerving and absolutely immersive. It’s a complex, fascinating concept executed to perfection. I was still thinking about The Endless the morning after watching it. With so many ideas to mull over, it’s a movie that requires multiple viewings.
5 – Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories is one of the more genuinely scary movies of 2018. A methodically paced film, Ghost Stories actually benefits from its anthology format. Its well-executed slow-burn approach builds and relents with each story rather than dragging across a single 90-minute narrative. The overall result is a fun film that repeatedly pushes you to the edge of your seat before making you jump. Typically, anthology horror films suffer from inconsistent quality across segments. But Ghost Stories has no weak link of which to single out. If you’re a fan of the old Amicus British anthology movies from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, you’ll love Ghost Stories.
4 – Halloween 2018
It was the most anticipated horror movie of 2018. And when all was said and done, Halloween exceeded expectations. Director David Gordon Green treated audiences to a genuinely scary movie that felt like a continuation of the original rather than a rehash. Similar to John Carpenter’s classic, Green keeps the first half of his sequel immersed in atmosphere.
Where Halloween diverges from the 1978 movie is its violence. This sequel has a much higher body count and more graphic violence than Carpenter’s movie. But this isn’t the cartoonish violence characteristic of the Friday the 13th series. Halloween’s violence is raw and shocking. If Halloween falls short of Carpenter’s masterpiece, it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s easily the best sequel in the series, justifying the decision to ignore everything else that followed the 1978 Halloween. This sequel balances homage with its own direction and vision.
Nothing has changed in the Top 3 since June. Annihilation isn’t a straight-up horror film; it is probably best described as science-fiction with horror elements. Sadly, Annihilation significantly underperformed at the box. It’s too bad because it’s one of the most pleasantly surprising movie experiences I’ve had in a long time. With an immersive story and incredible performances, Annihilation boasts a unique and well-executed premise. Both its alligator and mutant bear attack scenes offer audiences remarkably suspenseful horror moments. But it’s the atmosphere and mystery hanging over the proceedings like a fog that makes Annihilation stand out.
2 – A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place could have been been a one-note gimmick. Fortunately, John Krasinski deftly balances horror with a strong emotional core. Both Krasinski and Emily Blunt turn in stellar performances as parents faced with the terrifying knowledge that they may be unable to protect their children. But have no doubt – it’s Blunt’s film. And those last 30 minutes are a relentless roller coaster ride aided by wickedly creative creature effects. With an intriguing mythology that’s never weighed down with lazy expository dialogue, A Quiet Place is one of the best big-screen horror experiences in years.
With its stellar Rotten Tomatoes rating and dismal CinemaScore, Hereditary follows in the footsteps of The Witch and It Comes at Night. Call it folk horror, or call it art-house horror. Regardless of how you label it, Hereditary is an unnerving horror experience that structures its winding mystery brilliantly. Toni Collette’s performance should get Oscar consideration. Is the last ten minutes odd? Certainly. But director Ari Aster leaves enough cookie crumbs to piece it together. The ending’s haunting tone was reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby. While I can understand why some viewers might be put off, in my opinion, Hereditary is destined to be a classic.