After a less-than-stellar 2014, the past few years have been sensational for horror. While years prior found me struggling to create a top ten, the past few have forced me to omit some truly deserving films that ended up on the back end of a massive list. Our genre is so potent right now that it’s been carving up big numbers whether it’s in theaters, on VOD, or streaming on Netflix. And whether you know it or not, we are currently in the midst of a true horror renaissance. These past few years are nothing short of special and a time that we’ll look back on fondly. Seriously, take a moment to soak it all in and appreciate the gifts we have been given.
Interestingly, there’s been so much horror content that it’s actually causing a divide. It feels like there’s a micro-war between fans who prefer a trip into nostalgia, those who want popcorn entertainment, and the ones that prefer arthouse. It’s disheartening to this horror fan to see such negative energy and hatred spewed across various social platforms as if there’s a correct answer as to what kind of horror is horror. Why do we have to choose sides? Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too? What the hell is wrong with enjoying a film like Halloween and also basking in the artistic nuances of Hereditary? We’re getting it all right now and I personally can’t consume enough of it.
So without further adieu, here are my picks for the best horror films of 2018.
- One Cut of the Dead (d. Shin’ichirô Ueda)
- Ghostland (d. Pascal Laugier; Vertical Entertainment)
- Thoroughbreds (d. Cory Finley; Focus Features)
- Before I Wake (d. Mike Flanagan; Netflix)
- The Night Comes for Us (d. Timo Tjahjanto; Netflix)
- Blue My Mind (d.Lisa Brühlmann; Uncork’d Entertainment)
Bonus. Annihilation (d. Alex Garland; Paramount Pictures)
A few years ago I included Gravity in my top 10 and have regretted it ever since. While the horror genre bends into so many different subcategories, it’s hard to really justify including some of these sci-fi thrillers/dramas when there are so many other straight-up horror movies deserving of celebration. Still, these kinds of films deserve a mention; especially Annihilation, which carries very strong accents of horror. Mesmerizing, thought-provoking, and intensely thrilling, Alex Garland‘s film is not only emotional, but also apocalyptic. Featuring gorgeous cinematography and even more stunning visual effects, Annihilation is this generation’s Contact by way of the late H.R. Giger.
10. The Ritual (d. David Bruckner; Netflix)
David Bruckner’s feature-length debut is a solid old school slow burn that ramps up to a ridiculously satisfying conclusion. The creature and accompanying effects work are astounding. The film rides on the back of gorgeous exotic locations that help in creating the brooding atmosphere. Interestingly, The Ritual carries a slight An American Werewolf in London vibe, but more so Blair Witch the anything else. Hailing out of the Toronto International Film Festival, The Ritual was quietly released on Netflix to very little attention, which makes this one of the best hidden gems of the year.
9. The Predator (d. Shane Black; 20th Century Fox)
I had an absolute blast with Shane Black’s The Predator, which was smashed by critics. As much as I love highbrow horror, sometimes I just want to have a good time, and this film delivers in full. Black is specialist when it comes to character development and somehow turned the ultra-vanilla Boyd Holbrook into an extremely likable badass. And even though we already know how great of an actor Sterling K. Brown is, his performance in The Predator is on another level. Save for some rushed shoddily rushed CGI, this film is also extraordinarily bloody and violent, and offers up some wild set pieces. It’s one of the better Predator movies (maybe even second best?) and would be a welcomed conclusion to the franchise if Disney were to bury it for good.
8. Overlord (d. Julius Avery; Paramount Pictures)
While the mythology and potential are never fully realized, Overlord is a ridiculously fun, over-the-top splatterfest that pulls from classics such as Predator, Re-Animator, and even the “Wolfenstein” games. The characters are the film’s anchor, led a by a scene-stealing John Magaro, and followed by charismatic performances by Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adepo. The filmmakers do a sublime job in making the villains extra hateable/unlikable (one spits on a kid’s baseball and tosses it to him), which gives all of the interactions and fight sequences additional punch. The film never quite hits ten, but it’s such an action-packed blast that you never really stop to ask any questions. If anything, let’s hope for a sequel where they can up the ante and build onto the mythology.
7. Mandy (d. Panos Cosmatos; RLJE)
It’s hard not being instantly seduced by the works of Panos Cosmatos, who first enchanted me with his Beyond the Black Rainbow. With his follow up, Mandy, I found myself melting in my chair as I allowed the film’s visuals to wash over me. Mandy is pure nightmare fuel, a surreal hallucination that feels as if Salvador Dali directed Hellraiser. Cosmatos takes his extreme visuals and injects it into this fever dream that allows Nicolas Cage to embrace his crazy side that we’ve all grown to love (Cage fans are going to lose their shit when he hulks out). While the film lives and breathes on Cosmatos’ visual feast that’s akin to stargazing, Mandy is all heart, and much like Hereditary, it really takes the time developing the characters. Cosmatos soaks the film with pain and suffering, and it’s excruciating. While Mandy never quite delivers the high it promises, it still leaves its mark on the indie scene with a unique and impactful experience that’s about as anti-Hollywood as you can get. This is Panos’ nightmarish playground where anything can happen, including a cheddar goblin.
6. Cam (d. Daniel Goldhaber; Netflix)
A metaphor for identity theft, Daniel Goldhaber‘s chilling and haunting Cam is basically a feature-length “Black Mirror” episode that will make the viewer feel as violated and helpless as the victim. Madeline Brewer stars and delivers an exceptional performance that shouldn’t be overlooked. Thoroughly engaging and suspenseful as hell, Cam is one of the year’s biggest surprises that is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Up Next: My Top 5 Horror Films of the Year
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