We’re about halfway through the year now, so you know what that means? It’s time to take a look at the best horror films of 2018 so far! It’s been another great year for horror so far in terms of films that go against the grain of what we’re used to with fresh ideas, as well as a few that relish in the entertaining cheese of the types of films that made many of us fall in love with the genre…
…Before I get into this list, I want to clarify, since I’m sure there will be some complaints, I have not yet seen EVERY horror film of note this year. So, before I have fans of these movies blowing a gasket and writing me death threats over slashing some films from this list, I have yet to see the following this year: The Endless, Pyewacket, Mohawk, Wildling, and Ghost Stories. So, if you’re upset none of those are on the list, sorry not sorry.
With that, let’s dive in!
Directed by Paco Plaza (REC) and written by Plaza & Fernando Navarro, Veronica takes place during 1991 in Madrid and tells the story of Veronica (Sandra Escacena), a girl plagued by a spirit after she and two friends toy with a Ouija board. When will kids ever learn?
Hailing from the director of REC, this is one I was eagerly anticipating, and while it was nowhere near the sheer level of terror that REC was, it is still a relatively unnerving tale. There’s nothing all that original about Veronica. Instead, the film succeeds with Plaza’s superb direction and knack for eerie imagery/suspense. Fans of ghost stories will likely be delighted by this film, which feels so familiar yet has a unique sense of style entirely different from the average jump scare extravaganzas like Annabelle.
09. Mom and Dad
Six words: Nicolas Cage as a psycho killer. That should be enough to sell just about anyone, and Cage gives audiences exactly what they want. In Mom and Dad, Brian Taylor (Crank) gives us a film in which parents suddenly lose their damn minds and try to kill their kids, in this case focusing on Cage and Selma Blair as they hack and slash their way to their children, who must fight back against their once loving parents.
The frantic editing style that made Crank such a standout film for audiences (I hated it) is present here as well. It can be a bit disorienting for some, but I found that in Mom and Dad, it actually works quite well, helping to emphasize the chaos of the situation. Cage is of course great as a raging psycho, and Blair revels in being as devilish as can be. This film won’t blow you away, but if you can handle the at times nauseating editing, its loads of fun.
It’s been years since horror had a new slasher icon step into the bloody limelight, but there’s no doubt that writer/director Damien Leone (All Hallow’s Eve) and fans of the film alike are hoping Art the Clown (David Thornton) becomes that next icon. Based on a character from All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier follows Art the Clown as he terrorizes three young women on Halloween night.
Fans have been absolutely starving for a throwback to 80’s slashers, and Terrifier satisfies that craving immensely. Fun, scary, gory, and straight up grotesque at times (there is one kill in particular involving splitting someone down the middle that I will never unsee), the film is Leone’s love letter to slashers like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, only Art is arguably much more sadistic and gleeful. The second half of the film devolves into a pretty basic stalk and slash, and there are some who will most definitely be offended by Terrifier’s more distasteful moments, but this little indie has already become a hit within the hardcore horror crowd, and for good reason: Art the Clown is just so damn fun to watch. Better yet, he’s actually scary.
I’m legitimately surprised I haven’t seen more positive reception for Downrange from director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus). The sheer timing of the film alone makes it worth the discussion, focused on a group of teens who become stranded in the middle of nowhere, hunted by a sniper.
With shootings more prevalent than ever in America, Downrange is a topical film without being too on the nose with its message, which essentially revolves around the idea that America’s gun culture is fucking insane. While the first half is filled with tension and gut-churning images of terror and death, the second half becomes what is easily one of the more over the top horror films of the year. Insane barely begins to describe it, and by the time gallons and gallons of blood have been spilled across the lonely highway road where the film takes place, audiences will have to sit back and wonder what they just watched, in a good way. The major criticism I do have is that Downrange also has one of the worst endings I have seen in a horror film this year, and I’m not surprised when fans say it ruined the film for them, a scenario which I just barely escaped.
Sci-fi horror is back, baby! Written/directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), Upgrade is a brilliant take on a grim future that may be closer than we think. The film revolves around Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a man who becomes handicapped after a group of hi-tech hitmen attack him and his wife. It isn’t long before Grey is offered an experimental computer chip called STEM which takes control of the nerves in his body and allows him to walk. When he discovers that STEM’s abilities stretch far beyond allowing him to walk, Grey decides to hunt down the men that ruined his life, with violent consequences.
On the surface level, Upgrade is a comedic, gory action flick full of great practical effects and cool hi-tech weaponry. The entertaining banter between Grey and STEM is a great foil to the crippling sadness eating at Grey, with a painfully real portrayal by Logan Marshall-Green. For those wondering how this fits into horror aside from the gore, trust me when I say that Whannel takes a close look at the frightening direction our world is heading in which machines are beginning to do everything for us (just look at the latest scandals with Alexa), and by the time the final reel closes, I’d be shocked if you didn’t leave needing to talk about the ending the second you left the theater.
With films like writer/director Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, my hope is that it’s becoming more and more difficult for critics of the horror genre to say that it’s the sexist bastard step-child of Hollywood with a hatred for women and that films with strong female perspectives are continuing to rise. Revenge is a simple story about a woman named Jen (Matilda Lutz), who is raped and left for dead in the desert. Unfortunately for her attackers, she doesn’t die, and comes back for them with one hell of a vengeance. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Movies like The Babadook and last year’s hit French film, Raw, have begun a trend of highly empowering feminist horror that says women are not the fragile creatures they’ve so often been portrayed as. Revenge continues that trend with a badass performance by Lutz. I found myself cheering through the entire blood-soaked endeavor (the screen practically bleeds at times during the finale). What’s most fascinating about Revenge is that it is the first to my knowledge in the rape-revenge sub-genre to be directed by a woman, and it’s obvious through Fargeat’s direction. She manages to portray the actual rape tastefully, given the audience all the info they need without ever “reveling in it” the way others in the genre have done, and presents her heroine as a bloody queen rather than the monster the way films like I Spit on Your Grave have done.
Perhaps the most visually striking film of the year, Annihilation is a provocative brain twister that months later still has me thinking about what it all means. Written/directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina), Annihilation is about a team of female scientists who are sent into a zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.
It may not have performed well at the box office, and that’s a shame, because Annihilation is an incredibly unique, mind-blowing experience that we just don’t get often enough these days. I was hooked from minute one to the last fading seconds and utterly enthralled by imagery that still beats strongly in my mind. Not to mention, Annihilation has one of the most frightening creatures I’ve ever seen, a god damn mutated bear that screams. It…fucking…screams. And it will forever haunt my nightmares. Annihilation isn’t perfect, and probably could’ve used with a little more character development, but overall the film is a complex puzzle that I think will find a new appreciation in the coming years.
03. A Quiet Place
Horror films are more popular than ever, and A Quiet Place proved it as one of the highest grossing films of the year right behind juggernauts like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. John Krasinski is masterful in his first time out as a horror director, telling a story about a family struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world populated by monsters which hunt by tracking even the slightest of sounds.
Krasinski understands perfectly how to create suspense, and brilliantly uses sound to his advantage. Sometimes, the film is so quiet, you can practically hear your heart beating (or maybe that’s my high blood pressure). The performances by Krasinski and the rest of the cast are endearing and relatable, and the scares are mostly genuine, though there is of course the expected jump scare littered throughout. Most importantly in a creature feature, the monsters themselves are excellent and awe-inspiring, and surprisingly well done for being CGI, which is a proponent that I often despise seeing in horror films. The film isn’t perfect, and at times becomes a bit redundant, but as far as entertaining thrill rides go, A Quiet Place has been one of the best of the year.
Shot entirely on an IPhone, the first theatrical film to ever be shot that way, Unsane, directed by Steven Soderbergh (Contagion) is an extremely uncomfortable film that also happens to be one of the most important horror films of recent memory. Why? Because it’s about a woman who is (wrongfully?) committed to an insane asylum after suffering from chronic depression over the anxiety which a stalker has caused here, and he just happens to be working at the asylum where she’s just been committed. With the #MeToo movement, Unsane is like this year’s Get Out (though not to that level), in that it aims its focus on what is essentially the day to day female existence.
Claire Foy is captivating, full of the sort of ticks and paranoia caused by the fear that she could be attacked by her male stalker anywhere, any time. It’s a terror that plagues the lives of many women in the world, and Soderbergh forces the audience into Claire’s uneasy existence, using the advantage of shooting on an IPhone to get us up close and personal with Claire throughout the film, occasionally choosing to shoot her from a voyeuristic point of view, allowing us to live in not just her shoes, but the grimy shoes of her stalker as well. I went into Unsane not knowing what to expect and was completely blown away. I’ve never seen a film that so eloquently tackles the everyday trauma of women who deal with strangers that think they love them, and I won’t soon forget it.
I could on and on about the genius of Ari Aster’s Hereditary, but for time’s sake, I’ll keep this short and sweet. Hereditary is THE Best horror film of the year. It might be the best horror film of the past few years. And it might even be the best horror film of the decade, though that might be stretching it. Hereditary deals with “disturbing” occurrences that plague a family once the mother of Annie (Toni Collete) dies. One part family drama, one part ghost story, the film is a terrifying look into the destruction of a family incapable of holding each other up in the midst of tragedy.
We’ve all at one time dealt with loss or pain in our families. Hereditary is a deeply personal film that explores what happens when the family bond isn’t strong enough to keep that loss from tearing the whole damn thing apart. I’ve mentioned an ability to create tension with other films in this list, but Hereditary tops them all. I wasn’t just tense. I practically wanted to jump out of my seat and scream because of how uncomfortable I was, not just because of imagery but because the tension between the characters is so damn thick you’d need a jackhammer to get through it. A lot of times, it feels like Hereditary is taking said jackhammer to your mind. It also completely avoids the lame jump scares that so many other films like the IT remake use to tout itself as being “scary”. Hereditary has already become the most talked about horror film of the year, and I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t stay that way by the time December rolls around.
That’s it horror fiends! No two lists are the same, so let me know what you think and post your own lists below!
By Matt Konopka