I certainly can’t speak for anyone but myself when I lament that 2018 was a year of fairly middle-of-the-road films when speaking to my own personal taste. Though there were a handful I was unexpectedly passionate about, as someone who loves a good creature feature, found footage, or haunting, I found myself wanting. That said, this was a great year for horror in general, and I unfortunately had to exclude some equally deserving pieces of media from my final list.
When a grieving teen accidentally summons an ancient spirit to kill her mother, she immediately regrets her decision, and must act hastily in an attempt to reverse the curse. Pyewacket is a slow burn that pays off in a big way. Stick with it to the end for some truly disturbing visual effects and a finale that’s worth the wait.
A mother who loses one of her twins in childbirth comes to believe a supernatural entity may be after her surviving son. This film is a fresh take on the paranormal subgenre. It plays with emotion and vulnerability in a way that leads to some very effective scares. Still/Born delivers unwavering tension until the credits roll, and you’re left wanting more.
Four siblings struggle to keep the death of their mother a secret in order to avoid being separated and forced out of their family home. This cerebral thriller combines supernatural themes with family drama and suspense. Just when the film seems predictable, a handful of Shyamalan-esque twists keeps the viewer on their toes.
10. The Dark
An undead teenage girl rescues and befriends a blind boy who has been brutally abused and attempts to return him to the home he was taken from. This film legitimately broke my heart. Our two lead child actors deliver incredible performances well beyond their years. The Dark is deeply atmospheric, remarkably acted, and beautifully shot, which have all earned it a spot on my end of the year list.
9. Mom and Dad
When an unknown trigger suddenly causes all parents to savagely hunt down and kill their own children, a teenage girl and her little brother must survive a game of cat and mouse with their own mom and dad. I can honestly say I did not expect to like this one as much as I did, but the magnetism of Nic Cage at prime Nic Cage is hard to deny. This movie took a wild concept and just rolled with it. It’s fun, campy, dark, self aware, and surprisingly heartfelt. A great group watch for normies and horror junkies alike.
8. The Ritual
When a group of men take a camping/hiking trip in the woods to honor the memory of a friend who passed, a series of unlucky events spiral into a nightmare scenario. Hopefully without getting too deep into spoiler territory, I’ve always been a sucker for monster movies, and in an otherwise dry year for my favorite horror subgenre, The Ritual delivered phenomenal and highly original creature design that certainly met my grim needs. The Ritual is another slow-burn that wildly amps up towards the finale. A surprisingly worthwhile Netflix original creation.
7. Demon House
This documentary is “Ghost Adventures” frontman Zak Bagans’ investigation into one of the most infamous cases of possession in American History. I debated not including this one in my list, as I’m clearly biased in the Bagans department, but Demon House deserves the hype. Bagans presents a series of thorough interviews with people involved directly and peripherally with the haunting of this Indiana home, and combines them with his own personal experiences. The film is not without some Bagans eccentricities, but avoids the sensationalism, hijinks, and irreverence often associated with the Travel Channel TV show. Some genuinely frightening moments combined with a legitimately fascinating history made this story an excellent subject for an exposé.
6. Summer of ’84
When a group of kids suspect their neighbor of being a serial killer, they spend their summer spying on him in an attempt to catch him in the act. This film has been described as Stranger Things meets IT, which is extremely apropos. The dynamic between our protagonists is charming and largely lighthearted, which is why the ending of this film hits so hard. After spending the first hour or so wondering why this film is categorized as horror, the finale drastically removes all doubt.
After a tragic accident leaves our protagonist paralyzed, he undergoes an experimental procedure to have a computer chip implanted in his brain, allowing him the use of his limbs once again. This process, however, has some unforeseen consequences. Logan Marshall-Green is a horror treasure and I’m so so thrilled to see him back in the genre after his incredible performance in The Invitation. The fast-paced action in Upgrade is a welcome change to all the aforementioned slow-burn films, and packs some well-choreographed fight scenes and compelling moral quandaries into this high-energy, sci-fi thriller.
When a troubled man attempts to rescue his kidnapped sister from the cult that is keeping her for ransom, he is swept into a highly religious society full of unknown dangers. Let’s be honest, I watched this movie for Dan Stevens, not expecting much else. But Apostle is a shocking little Netflix treasure that’s well worth a watch. The film starts normal enough, a seemingly tidy little mystery that quickly devolves into Silent Hill-style mayhem. It’s bloody, it’s twisted, it’s…squishy. I found myself yelling at my television and watching through parted fingers on many occasions. This is definitely one I will be revisiting in the near future.
A highly dysfunctional family is haunted by a series of tragedies so great, they are forced to come to terms with the fact that something more sinister may be at work. This is not a film I would recommend to the casual horror-goer. I was legitimately not okay after leaving the theater. While Hereditary is a bit scattered and can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a dark family drama or a supernatural thriller, it can certainly be lauded for its execution. This film is DEEPLY uncomfortable and upsetting due to its grim script, gruesome practical effects, and ghoulish subject matter.
2. A Quiet Place
A family is forced to live in complete silence after monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing take over this post-apocalyptic society. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are a dynamic duo on screen and off. This is one of those secretly emotional movies disguised as horror, but we’ll let it slide. Any film that can completely silence a crowd of rowdy theatergoers deserves to be praised for its execution alone. The unrelenting tension makes one forget to breathe, let alone dare to speak, even after the film is over. This is a beautiful script elevated by brilliant performances and impressive creature design.
1. Cold Skin
A young man responsible for observing and charting weather patterns on a remote island soon finds himself fighting nightly onslaughts of shark-like creatures that inhabit the land. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: give me a melancholic, British film about the sea, and you have my heart. Add shark creatures, and I am forever your devoted servant. Cold Skin is a gorgeous film, in both setting and subject matter. It presents epic battles against man and beast while simultaneously exploring themes of prejudice and human nature. I cannot say enough about how deeply I adored this film, which is why it tops off my year-end list.
A few films that narrowly avoided making the cut were What Still Remains, What Keeps You Alive, and You Might Be the Killer. I also need to give a huge shout-out to some incredible 2018 horror television releases, The Terror, and Haunting of Hill House, which each merited two viewings (and so many tears) from me, this year alone. I certainly can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.