2018 was full of surprises, expectations, disappointments, and a pretty solid output of horror in general. We saw some good wide releases, some great indie films…as well as a whole bunch of stinkers. My Top 13 will include a few titles that are on the fringe of what most people would consider “horror”, but adjacent enough for me to feel justified in listing them.
13. Halloween (2018)
What can I say? It’s a reboot of a franchise that has an incredible amount of entries, spanning four decades….and it wasn’t horrible! Did I enjoy it as much as some other titles that didn’t make my list? Maybe not. But come on, it’s Halloween. It’s Michael Myers. I’d feel very blasphemous if I didn’t put it on my list at all.
12. A Quiet Place
Not often does a movie get a wide release so early in the year, and is good enough to stay in my top list, but this one does it. An original idea that had the entire movie theater deadly silent (a very rare and impressive feat), it grabbed me from the beginning and never let go. I know some people will write off the ending, which it’s easy to do, but I took no issue with it. Very solid and engaging from start to finish.
This is the type of movie tailor-suited to my liking. It’s extremely small on scale, and tightly made. You have a man and a woman. There’s a romantic interest. There is crime. There’s the knowledge of a killer in the town. You never quite know what’s going on, or who they truly are. The movie will leave you questioning what’s going to come next, and have you glued to the screen.
10. Summer of 84
What’s one way to win me over? Have a movie set in the 80s or 90s, and follow a bunch of kids around. Nostalgia works on me so hard. So yeah, a movie where a group of friends thinks their neighbor happens to be a serial killer? Sign me way up! Very fun movie that doesn’t really feel like horror until the final act, which I soaked every second up. One of the most fun and easy to watch movies on my list.
9. What Keeps You Alive
Like beast, this is one tight and lean film. A game of cat and mouse between a married couple set in the remote woods. Celebrating their one year anniversary, they come to find out the other may not be the person they thought they married. A mixture of Honeymoon with Get Out, this movie was nuts. Dark, gritty, and gorgeous, with some of the best performances of the year.
8. Mom and Dad
Okay, what can be said about this film? Most people will have Mandy in their end of year list…but let me set the record straight. Mom and Dad features Nic Cage going more insane and “Cage-y” than Mandy. You heard it here first. Two words: “Hokey Pokey”. Sure, Mandy might have more blood and some chainsaws…but…Hokey Pokey. Non-stop, high energy fun and ridiculousness, with a few late-in-the-game twists/surprises that had me crying from laughter.
7. The House that Jack Built (Unrated Director’s Cut)
Controversial and divisive, to say the least. As my first von Trier experience (I know, I know), I had a slight idea of what to expect from this Danish filmmaker. Self congratulating, egotistical, pretentious are all words I’ve heard used to describe him. And yeah, I get it. But check it out; at the heart of this film, you have a super awesome, dark, demented slasher-esque story of a serial killer. Then, on top of that, you also get a bunch of narration, discussion on art, life, good & evil, etc. Leave all the philosophy out of this film and give me the horror movie within, and it’s a perfect 10/10 film. All the abstract does nothing but weigh this down (and add to its length) for me. But the good parts of this film, are SO good, that it earns a pretty good spot on my list.
The lone Netflix Original film on my list, and boy it’s a doozy. Early 20th century, small isolated setting, gorgeous and inventive cinematography, an unnerving and unsettling score, cults, religion, and most importantly…Dan f***ing Stevens. A lot more subdued from Gareth Evans’ previous Raid films, but when the action and violence ramp up, it’s so well done. Hard to find anything to complain about with this one.
This is where my picks start to get a little on the fringe of what a horror/thriller movie is. Tyrel is a criminally underseen movie from this year, that deals with one man’s (Tyler) anxiety inducing night out with friends. Going to a semi-remote home in the Catskills, Tyler accompanies his friend for an acquaintances birthday party. The lone black man in a house filled with drunken, rambunctious, unknown white men. So while not exactly horror, this movie makes you feel everything our main character feels; claustrophobic, anxious, nervous, uncomfortable. Supporting cast including Christopher Abbot, Caleb Landry Jones, and Michael Cera.
Do you require an in depth story that hits lots of plot points and has wild twists and turns? Might be best to skip ahead from here on out. Because part of what I love about horror the most, is graphic violence. Not just any graphic violence, but non CG gore. The use of makeup, practical effects, and buckets upon buckets of fake blood. Enter: Terrifier. Throwback to an 80’s slasher, featuring the most terrifying clown in horror history (don’t @ me). Such brutal kills, a visual style that sets it apart, and such a entertaining villain that breaks a few horror tropes along the way. I’ve seen this 4 times, and have no plan on stopping any time soon.
Yet again, style over substance. Revenge is a rape-revenge film, where everything is super heightened. The violence is heightened to absurd levels (that ending scene, Oh. My. God.). The visual style is heightened full of bright, saturated colors. The location is heightened, in the fact they take the “remote/isolated home” trope to an entirely new extreme. Suspend your disbelief, press play, and enjoy the wild ride.
2. Let the Corpses Tan
Is this horror? No.
Is this movie super involved? No.
So…what is it, you ask? It’s a spaghetti western, crime, action film…told through the visual style of a Giallo. The way it’s filmed, the amount of gore and violence, the overall feel of the movie is horror-adjacent enough, that fans of genre film should really enjoy this one. Probably the most art-house film on my list, as well as the movie best described as a “journey”. Not for everyone, but something that just clicked with me.
1. The Endless
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead might be my favorite filmmakers working right now. I loved the originality and cleverness of their debut, Resolution. Though not a fan of creature-features in general, I loved Spring. The Endless is a pseudo-sequel to Resolution. It’s not the same story line, but set within the same world/universe. Let me tell you, having seen Resolution a few times before The Endless made the viewing experience so much more enjoyable (though not required). I audibly gasped and clapped a few times throughout this movie. While my last 3 choices have been all style, no substance…this film is a mind bending, psychological exercise that requires the audience to pay attention from the beginning. Indie filmmaking at its finest, from the best in the business.