In terms of box office successes, the returns of major horror staples, and surprise indie hits, 2018 has been another strong year for horror. It brought the return of horror icons Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, beloved horror magazine Fangoria, and horror host Joe Bob Briggs for not one but three horror movie marathons on genre streaming service Shudder. The debate of what is or isn’t a horror movie reared its ugly head yet again when A Quiet Place dominated the box office early this year, and again when A24’s highly anticipated Hereditary earned critical acclaim. The Conjuring universe also proved unstoppable with ticket sales of The Nun, and Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade was a true summer crowd pleaser. None of which even touches upon the endless string of independent horror hits that were released under the radar, often straight to digital.
But the biggest unsung hero of horror this year is Netflix. The popular streaming service has really revved up their horror game in 2018, delivering many of the year’s favorite offerings.
Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game and Hush were well-received on Netflix last year, and the releases marked the beginning of a fantastic relationship between the director and the streaming service. On January 5, Netflix released Flanagan’s long-awaited Before I Wake, which had been hung up in release purgatory for years due to the bankruptcy of its previous distributor. In it, Jacob Tremblay stars as Cody, a young orphan whose dreams and nightmares manifest as reality. Originally shot in 2013, it’s a tragic fantasy horror story that gives glimpses of the horror visionary in the making.
February brought the release of David Bruckner’s creature feature The Ritual and Paco Plaza’s demonic possession spookfest Veronica. The Ritual, adapted from Adam Nevill’s novel of the same name, sees a group of friends honoring their fallen friend’s memory by taking a trip into the woods, where they encounter a deadly presence. It’s atmospheric horror that brought something we don’t get much of anymore; fantastic creature design. As for Veronica, Plaza (one half of the duo behind the REC series) returns to demonic possession in a based-on-true-events case where a girl mysteriously died after playing with an Ouija board. For unsuspecting Netflix subscribers that aren’t used to horror, this one proved too scary for many, making headlines in the process.
Santa Clarita Diet returned in March for a bigger, funnier season 2, further expanding the mythology behind Sheila Hammond’s flesh-craving zombie status. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant further flex their comedic muscle in one of TV’s goriest comedies ever. In keeping with the zombie theme, Netflix also released Ravenous, a French-language Canadian horror film with a unique spin on zombie lore. May 18 saw the release of Cargo, a zombie tearjerker that followed Andy (Martin Freeman), a father desperate to find protection for his baby daughter in a post-apocalyptic Australia before he succumbs to a zombie bite. You’ll need tissues for this one.
The summer belonged to new original series, with the releases of Lost in Space, Ghoul, and The Rain. Netflix made up for the lighter genre fare in a big way just in time for the Halloween season, as October was jam-packed full of horror selections. Gareth Evans unleashed brutal folk horror with Apostle, and Timo Tjahjanto’s violent actioner proved that horror doesn’t corner the market on excessive bloodshed with The Night Comes for Us. The two films alone would’ve made for a great October, but Netflix also dropped fantasy horror movie Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil, anthology series Creeped Out, gothic cooking series The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, Castlevania season 2, fun Satanic teen series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mike Flanagan’s magnum opus The Haunting of Hill House. The latter of which not only solidified Flanagan as a modern horror auteur, but it might also be the only Netflix series to date with endless rewatch appeal thanks to the layers and hidden ghosts.
If you thought the genre content ended with the epic October slate, well, Netflix was hardly finished with 2018. November marked the release of another Timo Tjahjanto feature, this time the Sam Raimi inspired midnighter May the Devil Take You. Horror/Thriller Cam, written by Isa Mazzei, also made waves upon release thanks to its engaging perspective on sex workers and a star-turning performance by lead Madeline Brewer.
Netflix closed out a strong year of original genre content with holiday-themed special Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale on December 14; dystopian thriller Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock on December 21; German murder-mystery series Perfume and Mexican horror series Diablero, both of which also dropped on December 21. All of which doesn’t even cover the horror content that exists beyond Netflix Originals or genre-bending selections that veer farther into thriller territory, like Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark or dark comedy series The End of the F**king World.
The streaming service has been the leader of the pack in terms of creating original content, and 2018 marked the year that Netflix really took horror head on in an exciting way. Lucky for us, Netflix isn’t showing any signs of slowing down their genre content going forward.
What was your favorite Netflix release this year?