This time last year horror already had huge successes at the box office with Alien: Covenant, Split, and Get Out, only setting the pace for the second half of the year with massive hits like Happy Death Day, Annabelle: Creation, and It: Chapter One. That’s strictly box office releases, which doesn’t even begin to touch upon the huge indie hits like Raw and The Devil’s Candy and Netflix victories like Gerald’s Game. Clearly, 2017 was a great year for horror.
As we’re quickly approaching the halfway mark of 2018, how is this year’s horror faring compared to last year? We’re only at the beginning of the summer season, with major releases still on the way. We can predict horror is going to close out strong with The Nun, Suspiria, and a little movie called Halloween. But the first half of 2018 was no slouch at all, delivering critical winners to huge box office successes to even sleeper hits on Netflix. While we anticipate the horror that’s still on the way, we look back at the best horror of 2018 so far:
Released on June 1st, Leigh Whannell’s genre mashup stars Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace, a technophobe in a technology controlled near future. When a tragic event leaves him paralyzed and broken, an experimental chip called STEM gives him that which he craves most; revenge. Sharing similar DNA of retro ‘80s sci-fi action films like Robocop, but with plenty of gory horror moments and humor woven in, our own Meredith said it best when she called it “a lot of goofy fun.” In other words, Whannell has delivered a true crowd pleaser perfectly at home with the summer blockbuster.
Even though Netflix quietly released Paco Plaza’s ([Rec] series) latest at the end of February, it didn’t take long to make waves both in and outside of the horror community. For horror fans, it was a solid horror film worth watching. For everyone else, it was garnering attention as the “scariest film” that many couldn’t even finish. Inspired by true events, Veronica tells of a teen girl in Madrid that’s besieged by an evil presence after playing with an Ouija board with friends during school. Plaza once again proves his knack for atmosphere and scares, and the cast is wholly endearing (Ivan Chavero wins horror’s cutest kid award as the adorable Antonito). Ignoring the hype train, Veronica isn’t the scariest film ever made, but it is a solid entry in 2018’s roster of horror.
Released in limited theaters and VOD in April, writer/directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson adapted their acclaimed stage play for screen, offering a unique and spooky anthology. Nyman pulls triple duty by also playing the lead, Professor Goodman, a skeptic who makes a living debunking psychics for his TV show. But when he’s tasked with investigating three unsolved supernatural cases, his skepticism and bravery is tested with chilling confrontations from the other side. While how each case ultimately weaves together into the final narrative reveal may be divisive for most, the ride getting there is pure atmospheric British horror with effective chills and scares. Stylish as it is spooky, punctuated with moments of humor, it’ll make you wish each anthology segment could get its own spinoff.
Another Netflix release in February, David Bruckner’s latest (Southbound, The Signal) brought Adam Nevill’s novel to life, giving audiences a rarity these days; a haunting creature feature. Beginning with a horror plot that feels like we’ve been there countless times before, in which a group of long-time friends ventures into the woods for a hiking trip only for it to go horrifically awry, quickly proves to be anything but ordinary. A creepy setting that invokes the eeriness of The Blair Witch Project gives way to bleak monster movie rooted in Norse mythology. It also delivers one hell of a creature design.
Opening on March 23 to limited release, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s follow up to Spring brought another genre-bender that Brad rightly labeled as “strange, bizarre, twisted, manipulative and completely original” in his review. Benson and Moorhead also star as two brothers that return to the cult they fled years ago, only to discover the cultists may not be as crazy as they once seemed. A slow burn story that crafts atmosphere and mystery, delivering a compelling mythology that seamlessly ties it into the same universe of their previous work, won’t be for everyone. But for those who like their stories more Lovecraftian in nature with stunning visuals, this is a must see.
Paramount dropped this one into theaters on February 23rd without much fanfare. I can’t really blame them; Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name is a tough one to categorize. Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a biologist that joins an all-female team of scientists for an expedition into “the shimmer,” a mysterious zone where the laws of science don’t apply. Visually arresting and compelling in its otherworldly world-building, the story is heavy on the sci-fi and even heavier on the psychological. There’s a lot of horror to be found from unnerving body horror to terrifying hybrids (hello scariest bear ever), but the way it balances the varying genres defies the norm. Annihilation wasn’t a hit, but it should have been, delivering an original, stunning, sci-fi horror mashup.
A Quiet Place
Released in theaters on April 6, co-writer/director John Krasinski’s first foray into horror managed to do what most can’t; keep audiences quiet at the theater. This post-apocalyptic creature feature took the box office by storm, even more impressive considering how very little dialogue is in it. Following a family forced to live in silence while hiding from sound-sensitive killer monsters, A Quiet Place captivates with not only its sound design but its charismatic family dynamic. Tense and emotionally investing, it’s no wonder A Quiet Place smashed records and already earned a sequel.
Opening just this weekend, Ari Aster’s debut easily ranked among the horror’s most anticipated since its festival debut at Sundance earlier this year. A24’s widest release also marked its largest weekend opening by a large margin, but the hype train also means this will continue A24’s streak of being very divisive. Written and directed by Aster, his harrowing portrayal of grief focuses on the Graham family, beginning with the funeral of the family matriarch and compounded by even more tragedy, grief shifts into pure nightmare as terrifying family secrets ooze to the surface. Toni Collette delivers an Oscar-worthy, riveting performance, among a talented cast. Aster nails the dread, subtle horror imagery, and unpredictability building into an insane finale.
With a limited theatrical release on May 11, and eventual Shudder exclusive release later this year, Coralie Fargeat’s impressive debut makes for another worthy entry in French extreme horror. Fargeat subverts the rape-revenge sub-genre with a much different protagonist and authentic social commentary before unleashing a bloodbath like no other in a tense cat and mouse came set against a desert backdrop. Stylized and beautiful cinematography that crescendos into an insanely bloody finale, Fargeat’s bold declarations will polarize its audience with her blood-soaked metaphors. Intense, bold, and vicious, eschewing the normal rules of the sub-genre, Revenge is one hell of a debut.