What a fantastic year for the horror genre and fans alike. There are so many movies to choose from, and while this list is nowhere near comprehensive, I wanted to highlight a number of large movies and ones that may have slipped under the cracks. This list is in no particular order, but these are all films that have stuck with me in one way or another. I have avoided spoilers, so if the review is short, it’s because I can’t discuss more without oversharing. If you choose to watch any horror from this last year, here is a great place to start. Let’s dive in.
Julius Avery’s Overlord is an amalgamation of Wolfenstein and Saving Private Ryan. A pretty standard premise evolves into something wholly original and awesome through the simple act of caring about your characters, and some hyper violent WW2 action. From tunnel chase scenes that feel like something out of Doom, to loud, pulsing action, to some insane practical effects, mixed with CGI, Avery crafts one hell of a war horror flick. This movie is fun as hell and I cannot wait to see it again.
- The Night Eats The World
This may be one of the better zombie movies in the last 5 years. It reminds me a lot of Rammbock and 28 Days Later, following Sam as he struggles to survive alone in a horrible new world. Alone in an apartment for a good portion of the movie, there are some introspective and truly touching moments, attempting to find some sense of normalcy. The zombie design is haunting and brutal. The director makes so much out of so little, in terms of set design, dialogue and plot. None of these are meant to sound like a slap in the face, as I truly love the minimalist approach to the genre. This is one of the best and most surprising of 2018.
- Summer of 84
I have been waiting for this since it was announced. I raced home from work to watch it and boy, I was not disappointed. Set in a fictional Oregon town, the story centers around 4 boys enjoying their summer break. Davey, the main character, is enthralled by a series of disappearances around the small suburb. His walls are pasted with front covers of a National Enquirer style magazine, in the good old days when it was all supernatural and cryptozoological. His three friends, Tommy, Farraday and Woody round out the squad, and upon further watching, their friendship plays out almost identically to the group of boys from Stand By Me. Basically a bunch of young boys who are raunchy, foul mouthed, and always looking to impress one another.
I won’t get too far into the plot but Davey suspects the disappearances are the work of a serial killer, and that the serial killer is his next-door neighbor, Officer Mackey.
The characters, which I’ve already noted, are brilliantly crafted. Campy tropes that just fit so well in this story. A mysterious neighbor, who seems to be hiding something. Parents that are non existent, characterized only by the glaring issues the kids notice themselves, drinking problems, divorces, domestic violence. There is a girl next door, both unattainable and just right there, flirting with a semblance of a romance plot. The story weaves in and out as they investigate and dick around all summer long. And if that was the movie, I would have loved it. It is part Disturbia, part Stand By Me, and part Monster Squad. Its campy and its fun while still being very grounded and heavy.
And then it happens. The movie takes a turn where it is no longer fun and campy. Its dark. Its gritty. Its real. and it is downright horrifying. My pulse was racing and my jaw was wide open. And then it eases up again. But like any great rollercoaster, it drops once more unexpectedly and it keeps going. The ending of this had me so in awe that as the title card rolled on the credits, I just sat there, unable to move.
The cinematography is really good. especially a few long panning shots and the way they subtly direct the viewer towards a point. The sound design, much like Turbo Kid, is superb. Lots of great synth scoring that adds so much character to the movie.
This may well be tied for favorite horror this year, sitting right next to Hereditary, both vastly different horror experiences. If you love suburbia style horror, this is for you. If you love crime drama, this is for you. If you like Stranger Things and retro horror, this is for you. It feels like an amalgamation of every great kid involved horror flick, while remaining something completely its own. It is The Burbs but way fucking crazier.
Holy fuck. Let me try and gather my thoughts here. It’s been over six months and I am still as impressed with this film as I was on opening night.
1st. Go in blind. Don’t read anything. Don’t watch anything. Just go see it.
Now: This is hands down one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. What you are in for is two hours of pure, gut wrenching dread. The attitude, the execution, the style, the content, the acting, all of it. This movie is designed to break you. It is designed to fuck with you in every sense imaginable. There are some unforgettable moments in this movie. I mean that in the sense that there is shit that I cannot get out of my head. It is burned there for life. There is a noise so sickening that I am sure I will hear that til the day I die. And I mean all of this as a compliment. A24 continues to produce and distribute high quality, high level horror.
I could say this is like The Witch, but only in the sense that it leaves you with such an evil feeling as the credits roll. I could say this is like Drag Me to Hell, but that still pigeonholes it. This movie is an amalgamation of so many amazing horror films, yet wholly its own. There is Exorcist here. There is Insidious here. There is Wicker Man. There is Creepshow. This is a film that has learned so many tricks from so many places and executes them in stellar fashion.
Toni Collette deserves an Oscar for this role. Ann Doyd is phenomenal. Alex Wolff is excellent. This is gut wrenching horror. There are jump scares, but they don’t hold a candle to the atmosphere that this film subjects you to and holds you captive for hours. Hereditary is a bar raiser and it is a fucking powerhouse.
- The Night Comes For Us
I was shown The Raid by a friend a few years back and my love for hyper violent Asian siege movies was born. This is a mixture of Old Boy, The Raid, and other Tjahjanto films like Headshot. It is brutal, driven, and never lets up. There are parts of this film that feel like straight splatter horror and it is fucking awesome. If you dig hyper violent action, this makes Upgrade look tame.
Damn. I have been looking forward to this since I learned David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were penning the script. Halloween (2018) takes up 40 years after the Babysitter Slayings in Halloween(1978). We meet the new additions to the Strode family, as well as checking in on Laurie, who has lived in constant preparation for a day when Michael Meyers finally gets out.
The script is really well done in my opinion. It builds great tension, accented by moments of brevity and humor, only to ratchet back up in tension. The kills are brutally executed, some of the more violent ones shown only in aftermath, much like the first film.
They crafted Laurie to become the heroine, no longer a helpless girl being stalked. There are some fun little callbacks to the series. There’s a few misteps, namely you can visibly tell who is playing Meyers at any given time. The podcaster sub story felt weird as well, but offered a good chance to reintroduce Michael and the events of the first film. Overall, this was a fantastic effort and a fun watch. It played a lot better than the Zombie reboots, and it wrapped up very nicely.
Gareth Evans’s Apostle is The Wicker Man for 2018. A slow burn mystery in its first half, and a goretastic ride in its second half. Dan Stevens kills it in this role, as a man searching for his kidnapped sister, taken by a strange cult. Its stylish. Its creepy. Its violent as hell. There is some Wicker Man here, some Silent Hill, theres even a few scenes that he managed to sneak his style from The Raid into. This movie was well worth the wait.
- A Quiet Place
Okay. Where to begin with this one.
John Krasinski directed his first horror movie. That is a feat in itself. He is an accomplished director and he did not enjoy horror before this movie. That should say something.
The cast is phenomenal. These are characters that you truly care about. You feel their joy and their sadness. You breathe their fear. The creature design is intense. It is very well done and the terror is palpable. That is all I will say about this.
The cinematography has some serious WOW moments. The landscape of their farm is such a cool location for this movie to exist. It is quaint, safe, and that makes it so much more dangerous.
And finally, last but certainly not least, is the sound design. A Quiet Place isn’t simply the title, but the way this movie is felt. There are scenes of intense panic and action. There are scenes of dead, glaring silence that are even more intense and terrifying. The quietest moments are somehow the loudest and it makes your heart race. This is a truly intense and terrifying film. This is Alien but on Earth. This is Jaws on dry land. I cannot praise this movie highly enough.
- The House That Jack Built
This film may be genius. Following a serial killer over 12 years through 5 separate “incidents”, we see Jack’s highlight reel of a number of murders, presumably of his larger final total. Lars Von Trier uses this movie to postulate on the consequences of his own art, his own feelings on misogyny in his work, artistic violence, and his ego.
I can’t say more without ruining the movie, but this is definitely up there with Hereditary for my favorite film of the year. The violence wasn’t over the top, though I did see the r rated version, but have heard the extra 4 minutes was not super brutal. Seriously, by the ending, you will either hate this movie with everything in you, or think Lars Von Trier is a genius.
Nothing I can say will describe this movie accurately so I won’t even attempt it.
This is a master class in cinematography, audio design and lighting. So much of this movie hinges on these wild and enthralling set pieces, and it keeps you absolutely hooked. It’s a breathtaking visual and audio feast.
The story is great and weird and so far out there. Nic Cage acts his ass off and they let him off the chain to be wild and insane. The casting for this movie was brilliant. One of my favorites this year and I am so glad I got to see it on a big screen. If you liked Beyond The Black Rainbow, you will love this.
Alex Garland proved he can do sci-fi with Ex Machina. With Annihilation, he combines all the best elements of science fiction and cosmic horror into one visual masterpiece. Reminiscent of The Thing and Alien, this one is a real trip. There are shades of Kubrick and Cronenberg as well. This is one of the most visually exceptional sci fi/ horror movies I have ever seen.
Also, there is a scene in this that will leave you breathless.
Also also, the soundtrack is phenomenal
The Crow meets Robocop. Logan Marshall Green is perfect in this revenge driven thriller. Some sci fi, some horror, all action. The action sequences are some of the coolest and more inventive pieces I have seen in a long time. Predicated on the rise of technology and the finer lines between man and machine, Leigh Wannell crafts something straight out of Black Mirror, and it is equally entertaining, emotionally vested and excellent.
- They Remain
They Remain is tense. From the jump, the film disorients the viewer with jarring cuts, out of focus shots, and isolation that really starts to play with the mind. This slow burn cosmic horror revolves around occult activity and a mysterious cult, both of which are left solely to the imagination. It fills you with dread, constantly scanning the edges of the frame and every out of focus background for something there to release the tension, but it rarely ever does. This is gripping and strange, but truly enjoyable and one I will be thinking about for quite some time.
Jesus. A new breed of the final girl evolution. While the rape revenge story is a tired and rehased trend in the horror genre, this takes that and turns it on its head. It crafts something so powerful and gritty from a horrific place. From a technical standpoint, this movie is amazing. The color palettes, the cinematography is both awe inspiring and bleak, the tones are rich and vibrant, the sound design is fantastic and near perfect. The practical effects are insanely well crafted and such a lynch pin for this kind of movie. This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I cannot wait to watch this again.
- The Endless
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead have done it again. It is no secret that Spring is one of my most favorite films. The Endless is no different. Between Benson’s skilled writing and Moorehead’s damn near perfect cinematography, this film excels on so many level. It reminds me of HP Lovecraft. It reminds me of Richard Linklater. It is so many different things at once and they all work. Terrifying at times, gorgeous in others. The atmosphere is so strange and mysterious, that no matter how beautiful it looks, you sense that something is wrong. I won’t even get into the plot because it needs to be experienced, but if you like smart, slow burn horror, this is a must see.
There are literally hundreds of great horror movies that came out in 2018 and as we look to the next year, my list is already long. I cannot overstate how excited I am that the genre is building upon itself in new ways, bringing in droves of new fans, and remaining just as horrifying as ever.
Jump into the comments below and let me know what I missed or need to see this year.
And as always, keep up with me on LETTERBOXD.
Happy New Year ghosts and ghouls.