2019 is nearly upon us, which means it's time to put a bow on 2018 with my list of the best horror films of the year...
...And what a great year it was for the genre. 2018 has truly been one of the best years ever for the horror genre. We've seen the genre step into bold new directions. We've witnessed new classics which may stand the test of time as some of the scariest horror films ever made. Favorite horror icons made an epic return in Halloween and The Predator, and more were born in Art the Clown from Terrifier. Foreign films Terrified us. Practical gore effects rained down from the heavens and splattered the silver screen. And remakes were made that not only didn't suck, but are arguably better than the original. Joe Bob Briggs returned to the Drive-In on Shudder and "broke the internet", twice, during the most engaging horror marathons I've ever experienced with an online community participating in one giant "sleepover" that delighted fans everywhere, and will continue to do so in 2019.
Most importantly, however, women didn't just star in most horror films, these films were ABOUT women and the very real issues they face. Nothing you see listed below is your standard "stalk and slash" horror flick. Even Jamie Lee Curtis took the timid character of Laurie Strode and made her into a tough, emotionally complex heroine, so much different from her original incarnation in Carpenter's Halloween. Women weren't the victims in genre films in 2018. Look at the films listed below, and you'll see an array of films where the woman stands up and fights, where she doesn't rely on or need the support of men, where she in fact proves stronger than the men, over and over and over again. These films made statements on women's issues, messages that are long overdue and nonetheless vastly important, and it's wonderful to see it happening in a genre which is so commonly maligned for its portrayal of women.
During the year, I keep a running list of new horror films and what I thought, and this year, I had over thirty that I liked to loved. That's a lot. This was not an easy list to make, and I imagine most top 10 lists you see this year are going to vary because of the quality of the genre this year. Keep in mind, some films I never managed to get around to this year, despite seeing nearly everything: Possum...The Dark...Cold Skin...The Ranger...and Incident in a Ghostland. So, without further ado, here is my list of the 10 best horror films in 2018.
10. Anna and the Apocalypse
Directed by: John McPhail
Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven - at Christmas - forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.
I know, I know. In a year of horror films where so many were unique or unlike anything we've seen before, how could Anna and the Apocalypse fit into the top 10, seeing as how it is neither? Here's the thing: This movie had me smiling from ear to ear the whole way through, and when it was finished, I immediately wanted to watch it again. This film is full of bloody Christmas cheer, exceptional gore, and some unexpected twists and turns that will leave viewers stunned. Anna and the Apocalypse is a highly entertaining flick which you can bet I will be revisiting every Christmas season, with some "spiced" egg nog in one hand and a tissue for all of the tears in the other.
09. A Quiet Place
Directed by: John Krasinski
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.
If you had told me last year that "that guy from The Office" was going to come out and not only make his first genre film ever, but deliver something that would crack virtually everyone's end of year "best in horror list", I wouldn't have believed you. But here we are. A Quiet Place has its flaws, becomes repetitive and illogical at times, but nonetheless, is one of the most frightening, pulse-pounding horror films of the year, with a unique focus on sound that film nerds like myself drool over.
Directed by: Daniel Goldhaber
Synopsis: Alice, an ambitious camgirl, wakes up one day to discover she's been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself.
Highly original. Visually engaging. And pulled from the real-life experiences of writer/ex-cam girl, Isa Mazzei, Cam came out of nowhere and blew audiences away with its unique perspective on a world that so many of us know nothing about. Star Madeline Brewer is utterly captivating as a hard-working cam-girl who loses herself so much in the online persona which she has created, that it begins to take her over. It's a chilling warning that the internet can be both a beautiful and deceptively cruel world, and is the perfect reflection of modern fears and ambitions.
Directed by: Alex Garland
Synopsis: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply.
It's been almost a year, and I'm still stunned that Annihilation was received so poorly at the box office. Original, inspired, and breathtaking in its scope and beauty, Annihilation hit the mark on almost everything modern fans wanted, with an all female cast of well-rounded, intelligent women, high-concept originality, and a satisfying blend of action, drama, and heart-pounding horror, yet no one saw it. Hopefully that changes, as more fans have begun to come around to recognizing this film as one of the most visually beautiful, mind-bending horror films to hit the genre this year, one which audiences are still trying to figure out, and that's a good thing in my book.
06. The House that Jack Built
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Synopsis: The story follows Jack, a highly intelligent serial killer, over the course of twelve years, and depicts the murders that really develop his inner madman.
When it comes to The House that Jack Built, you either love it or you hate it. I even feel a little queasy listing it so high up in a year which I've deemed "the year of the woman" in horror, considering the film's brutal nature against women. But I would be lying if I said The House that Jack Built didn't blow me away. Films, especially horror films, are supposed to challenge us. We don't always like the challenge, and von Trier is absolutely testing how much his audience can take, yet I don't find him cruel in the process, because he also fills the film with enough black humor and clever philosophy that I found myself laughing or contemplating an interesting idea more often than I was utterly repulsed. And while The House that Jack Built is perhaps unecessarily violent towards women, it does so in a way which is questioning the nature of that violence and why Jack (Matt Dillon) does these things, which I found to lighten the blow from a philosophical standpoint. The House that Jack Built is the ultimate reflection of "macabre beauty", with so much of it's imagery based around unsettling though artistic imagery, and is worth viewing at least once, even for the most skeptical of fans.
Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Synopsis: Never take your mistress on an annual guys' getaway, especially one devoted to hunting - a violent lesson for three wealthy married men.
Finally. It only took decades, but we finally have a "rape-revenge" film in which the filmmaker properly treats the story from a female perspective. That's probably because Fargeat is actually the first female writer/director to tackle the sub-genre, at least as far as I could tell, and it's obvious, from the tasteful treatment of the rape itself, to the satisfactory deaths of the male villains that make you want to stand on top of a mountain and scream, this is a film which almost feels as if it is made in defiance of the films that came in the sub-genre before it, and I love it for that. Aside from the impressive visuals and perhaps one of the most cringe-worthy gore moments of the year, what Fargeat and star Matilda Lutz do so well, so differently, from the average rape-revenge film, is once the rape happens, Lutz never once uses sexuality as a woman to enact her vengeance. She never feigns weakness. The Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, they all have a woman using sexuality as revenge, but what I love about Revenge is that Lutz doesn't need to. Why? Because she's a damn human being, with strength and intelligence, who proves women are plenty capable of beating men at their own game. Fargeat is a force to be reckoned with, and I personally can't wait to see what she does next.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Synopsis: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?
At one point, I thought Unsane might end up being my favorite horror film of the year. The first film entirely shot on an iPhone, Soderbergh's film has a look unlike anything else you've seen, placing the viewer squarely in the shoes of our paranoid heroine, Claire Foy. By often placing the camera in an uncomfortable closeup, or as a distant purveyor, we are treated to two different viewpoints, victim and stalker, the hunted and the hunter, and it creates a relentless tension that never once falters. Released around a time where the #MeToo movement was just beginning to take shape, Unsane unexpectedly captures the moment of the times, with a character in Foy who no one believes regarding her stalker, and who must change literally every single element of her life, all because one guy thinks he loves her. Unsane's script intelligently tackles the issue of male obsession, and puts a magnifying glass on the every day life of a woman held prisoner by the male gaze, a subject which is too often ignored, and which is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.
If you're a horror fan, you hate remakes. Over and over again, the genre has been the prime target of remakes, sequels, reboots, requels, etc,. You name it, we're sick of it. That's why it's so tremendously impressive that Guadagnino's Suspiria remake has been the talk of the horror community since its release in November. It isn't every day that a remake of a highly regarded classic becomes itself, highly regarded, but what's most surprising is how Suspiria manages to become its own classic completely separate from the original. Outside of the basic plot and title, Guadagnino's version is something else entirely. The talented director instills a dark beauty different from Argento's colorful pallette in the original, while also adding a great deal of sub text and high-art that, arguably, isn't as present in Argento's film. Dakota Johnson is incredible as our determined lead, as is the rest of the cast. Like an odd dance, Suspiria captivates, stuns, makes us cringe, makes us scream, and even makes us cry, making this one of the best remakes we'll ever see. Period.
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Synopsis: The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.
Count Mandy as one of the few times the film was just as magnificent as the trailer lead us to believe. Between this and Beyond the Black Rainbow, Cosmatos has proven himself as one of the next great visionaries of the horror genre. I feel like I get to say this a lot this year, which is great, but Mandy is truly unlike anything else out there. The whole thing has a dream quality to it, often teetering between gorgeous and nightmarish. Nicolas Cage is a rampaging force in a role that is easily the actor's best in a long time, and maybe ever. Nearly every still in Mandy feels like a magnificent water-color painting. This film is haunting, eerie, bloody, powerful, and straight up excellent. And besides, who doesn't want to see Cage engage in a chainsaw fight?
Directed by: Ari Aster
Synopsis: After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
In a year where there are so many horror films deserving of the number one spot, there is still no question in my mind that that spot belongs to Hereditary. Aster's debut feature is the most pure "horror" film out of the bunch. From it's unsettling opening, to its jaw dropping finale, Hereditary is a relentlessly frightening vehicle that encapsulates every damn ounce of tension which the common day family feels and multiplies them by a hundred. There were times where I nearly went mad with the tension percolating throughout Hereditary. And it isn't just that the film is masterful in its suspense. Hereditary also manages to take common genre tropes such as possession, flip them on their heads, and make them into something completely new, without ever spoon feeding the audience. This is a genre film which appeals to the masses with scares and some unbeleivable performances (Toni Collette deserves the Oscar, damnit), but also challenges those who enjoy thought provoking horror. Hereditary is the sort of film which begs for rewatch after rewatch, and rewards the viewer each time. Aster has planted himself already as one of the next great horror masters to watch, with a classic that may one day be regarded as highly as something like The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby, if it isn't already.
Which horror films were your favorites of the year? Let us know in the comments below!
By Matt Konopka