As the year draws to a close, and we march toward the year 2019, ready to burst from the chest of 2018, it’s time to ask ourselves that age-old question: what horror movies were really, really, good this past year? 2018 proved to be a great time for the genre with plenty of new movies both mainstream, indie, and everything in-between. So, here’s my list of the ten best of the year, in no true order, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit I had a particular favorite…
10. THE RANGER
In an era of ‘throw-back horror’ where everything old is new again, Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger is a slasher/punk ode that truly fits the bill. The simple premise of punks on the run hiding out in the woods and crossing a psychopathic park ranger feels like something from the early 80’s slasher boom. Thanks in no small part to the stellar performances of the cast and hitting every slasher trope from gory deaths to one-liners with love.
9. A QUIET PLACE
A rather surprising debut directed/co-written/starring The Office/Jack Ryan’s John Krasinski and a mainstream horror hit with A Quiet Place. Genre films with such a specific quirk should by all means be difficult to pull off. A movie where the cast cannot utter a word! But instead of becoming a hinderance, it only amps up the tension as even the slightest noise could alert a deadly threat…
The horrors of war meet the horrors of mad science in this mash-up. Overlord follows a small contingent of American soldiers parachuting into a German occupied village just before D-Day. Beyond the atrocities committed by Axis soldiers, they discover there’s even worse acts of inhumanity being committed at the Nazi base. A well done combination of period World War II action and mad science gone awry, Overlord is a surprise genre piece that’s worth your attention.
7. IN FABRIC
The latest from British horror maestro Peter Strickland, I was fortunate enough to catch it on the festival circuit before it gains a wider release next year. The story follows a popular department/clothing store where something sinister is occurring behind the scenes. Strickland’s use of surrealist horror combined with an ensemble cast including the likes of Gwendoline Christie make for a film that’s like being in someone else’s nightmare at the mall.
6. LEPRECHAUN RETURNS
Another successful franchise revival in a year with plenty. A direct sequel to the original, Leprechaun Returns revolves around a sorority setting up shop on the farmstead where the Leprechaun was slain, leading to his accidental revival of the murderous imp. Despite series star Warwick Davis not returning, Linden Porco does a marvelous job of filling his shoes. Director/FX artist Steven Kostanski made a marvelous effort in bringing scares, gags, and lots of great practical blood and guts!
5. HALLOWEEN (2018)
The Shape returns! This horror franchise resurrection from the unlikely duo of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride made for one of the best Halloween sequels in years and a shot of adrenaline back into Michael Meyers. A direct sequel to the original, disregarding the multitude of other continuation, follows Michael breaking out once again to stalk Haddonfield as a survivalist Laurie Strode attempts to protect herself and her family from the boogeyman. This one hits all the right beats and brings Jamie Lee-Curtis back and more badass than ever.
4. SUSPIRIA (2018)
A recurring theme on this list, but another impressive remake/reboot/otherwise continuation of a horror classic. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the story follows the original as young Susie Bannon arrives in Cold War era Germany to attend the Markos Dance Academy, only to be wrapped up in the sinister strings of a diabolical coven. Featuring outstanding performances by Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton in multiple mesmerizing roles, beautiful cinematography, and a haunting score by Thom Yorke, fans of the original and newcomers will be pleased by this update.
The feature debut of Ari Aster, and a devastatingly powerful horror drama that earned praise and comparisons to the likes of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby with good cause. The Graham family deals with the fallout of matriarch Annie’s mother dying, only for surreal and supernatural terrors to haunt the family thereafter. A masterclass in tension building and striking scenes of malice, this movie made tongue clicks terrifying. Toni Collete’s performance as Annie is a memorable one form beginning to end.
A science fiction horror epic that has stuck with me since I first saw it. The sophomore film by Alex Garland of Ex Machina, and based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the plot revolves around ‘The Shimmer’ a strange area of the Pacific North-West where an extraterrestrial element landed and has slowly been mutating all life and expanding through the area. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a cellular-biology professor who ventures into the quarantine with a team of scientists and soldiers only to encounter otherworldly abominations. A thrilling and tense sci-fi/horror hybrid that deals with themes of loss, disease, and the most terrifying bear ever put to film.
While I love all the films listed and appreciate them in a variety of ways, MANDY is by and far my personal favorite this year. I saw it three times in theaters! The long awaited sophomore film by Beyond The Black Rainbow‘s Panos Cosmatos, and the opposite of his sci-fi opus in every way. Set in the early 80’s, Mandy follows Red and his girlfriend, the titular Mandy as they eke out a peaceful existence out in the wilderness only for a psychotic group of cultists led by a failed rock star attack, leading Red on a long and trippy road to revenge. A genre-buster like no other. With elements of action, horror, surrealism, and more featuring Nicolas Cage in one of his most memorable roles ever as the vengeance seeking Red. Featuring the final score of Johan Johansson that’s just as impactful as the amazing cinematography and scenery of the movie. Plus, chainsaw fights!