Putting together a year end best of list is something that I equally enjoy and dread. On one hand, it’s an opportunity to take some time to reflect on the year that has passed and all of the great (and not so great) films that I have seen in the past twelves months and I really do take pleasure in that. On the other hand, I know that it’s impossible to see everything that comes out in a given year. Which means, without a doubt, movies that deserve a spot on this list will be left off simply because I haven’t seen them. Sure it’s possible for me to change my list for the year on my own but once this goes up, there is a sense of permanence to it. No doubt, someone reading this (maybe you) will finish the list and utter the words…”What about….” So, to all of those “What about…” movies that I didn’t get to this year, I apologize. Now on to the list of the Best Horror Movies Of 2018.
13. Summer of ’84
Directed By: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Written By: Matt Leslie, Stephen J Smith
Summer of ’84 is a really well made trip back to the ’80’s. It has the feel of the Spielberg films of the era featuring a group of kids running around town trying to prove that one of their neighbors is a serial killer. In addition to the wonderful direction that recalls the era, the acting is superb and the script is smart. It probably would have come in higher on this list if it hadn’t arrived amidst a wave of other ’80’s nostalgia pieces. This is among the best of them, I would put it on par with Stranger Things, but the saturation of the market didn’t do it any favors.I could easily see this moving up my list in the years to come but for right now, it’s at number 13.
12. All The Creatures Were Stirring
Directed By: Rebekah McKendry, David Ian McKendry
Written By: Rebekah McKendry, David Ian McKendry
All The Creatures Were Stirring is one of a handful of Christmas horror films that came out this year. This one is notable for being an anthology film and for being a showcase for the husband and wife duo of David Ian and Rebekah McKendry. As a whole the film is a fun ride through a number of inventive stories. While not set in the ’80’s, or shooting for any sort of nostalgia, the McKendrys manage to capture the feeling of the anthologies of the 1980’s. It has the same issues as all anthology films do but it overcomes them in the end.
Directed By: Tilman Singer
Written By: Tilman Singer
I was lucky enough to catch Writer-Director Tilman Singer’s LUZ at the Shock Around The Clock 24 Hour Horror Movie Marathon in Columbus, OH this year. I believe that this film is going to see a wider release in the US in 2019 and it deserves it. This is a highly stylized German film that doesn’t exactly connect all of the dots for you but is still easy to follow. It packs a punch with a short runtime coupled with an intense story centered on a cab driver trying to escape the clutches of a possessed woman. Hopefully it does get that wider release because it deserves to be seen.
10. You Might Be The Killer
Directed By: Brett A. Simmons
Written By: Brett A. Simmons
This movie came out of nowhere and landed on Shudder before I even knew what happened. When I finally had the chance to watch it, I was blown away. There maybe no tougher task in all of the horror genre than trying to come up with a new take on the slasher film. As much as I love slashers (it’s probably my favorite sub-genre), the truth is, it’s nearly impossible to come up with something that we haven’t seen already. So, how did Brett A. Simmons take on the challenge? He sent his characters to a secluded summer camp, of course. You Might Be The Killer is a horror-comedy that plays with the tropes of the slasher film in an overtly meta way. Before you groan, this is miles away from any of the ’90’s slasher films that tried to do the same thing. Simmons created something wonderful by examining the formula of these movies while also working in a bit of the supernatural and a lot of laughs. This may not be the popular opinion but I think this is the best exclusive that Shudder picked up this year.
9. Slay Belles
Directed By: Spooky Dan Walker
Written By: Jessica Luhrssen
Another Christmas horror movie. It’s hard for me to believe that two of these made this list, I’m not typically a fan of them. Slay Belles is an instant classic though. This is a movie that will be joining my holiday movie rotation for years to come. It’s extremely funny, well acted, smartly written, stylishly directed and packed with great effects and make-up work. The story centers on three young ladies who explore abandoned areas for their YouTube channel. They end up at an old Christmas themed amusement park and before they know what happened they are forced to team up with Santa Claus to defeat Krampus in order to save the word. And if that doesn’t sound crazy enough, just wait until you see Barry Bostwick as Santa. Slay Belles is a non-stop thrill ride of a movie and there is no excuse for you to miss it.
Directed By: Gareth Evans
Written By: Gareth Evans
I wasn’t sure what to think about Apostle when it was first announced. New Gareth Evans? That’s a positive. Set in 1905? That’s a negative. About a cult? That’s a positive. Netflix Original? That’s probably a negative. I’m not much on period pieces and I realize that Netflix has made some really great films but, given the amount of content they produce, their batting average isn’t very good. I do love a movie about a cult though and Gareth Evans is a filmmaker worth paying attention to. Ultimately I thought it was an exceptional movie. It starts off as a simple story about a brother going to attempt to rescue his sister from a cult. Evans slowly adds more and more layers to the story until it has turned into something quite large in scope. The performances are out of this world. It’s beautifully shot. There are more than a couple of moments that will make you squirm as we dig deep into what human beings are capable of doing to each other in a quest for power.
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Written By: David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride
Without a doubt, this was the most talked about and anticipated horror release of 2018. Michael Myers and Laurie Strode returning to the big screen. John Carpenter coming back into the fold. The intriguing writing team of director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Nick Castle putting on the mask again. There wasn’t a single angle that this film wasn’t covered from. It’s no surprise that when we finally got to see it, opinions were all over the place. It’s also no surprise that it made roughly a bajillion dollars at the box office. Nor is it shocking that there is already talk of a sequel with some people saying it could be out as soon as next year. The 2018 version of Halloween was inescapable and, in a rare instance, it mostly lived up to the hype. I really enjoyed this film. I had a couple of small complaints but this is head and shoulders better than any of the sequels with the exception of Halloween II (and possibly III, it’s so hard to know what to do with Season Of The Witch when you rank this franchise). It comes closest to capturing the feel that made John Carpenter’s 1978 movie an instant masterpiece. It is aided largely in that pursuit by the score that Carpenter put together with his son Cody and Daniel Davies, which is the score of the year, in my opinion. In 2018 I got to sit in a theater and watch Jamie Lee Curtis face off against The Shape (and Busta Rhymes was nowhere to be seen). That’s an easy win in my book.
Directed By: Aneesh Chaganty
Written By: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Okay, go ahead…yell at me through your screen. Searching isn’t a horror movie in your eyes, I get that. I will just say that as a parent there is nothing more frightening than the events that unfold in this film. John Cho does an amazing job playing a father who’s sixteen year old daughter goes missing. After the police investigation doesn’t yield immediate results, he dives into her life to try and figure out what might have happened to her. He goes into her real life though, her digital life, combing through her laptop and social media accounts. The further he digs, the more he realizes how little he actually knew what her life was like. He doesn’t have the luxury of turning away from it and pretending that he doesn’t know now, he has to keep digging further because it’s his only hope of possibly seeing her again. If that doesn’t sound like a horror movie to you, we have very different ideas of what is truly horrific in life. There is a growing trend of movies that take place entirely focused on someone’s computer screen. We have seen this most notably in the two Unfriended films. Searching uses this technique more effectively than any other film to date. The director has an understanding of how social media works and, more importantly, how we use social media and other computer programs. Even the mouse movements look authentic.
Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Just like Searching, there are people who have told me that they don’t believe that Annihilation is a horror movie. Fewer people but people have said it nonetheless. I’m less likely to listen to these people because I think this is akin to saying that Alien isn’t a horror movie or Sphere isn’t a horror movie. Sure, they are sci-fi horror but that’s still horror. Annihilation came out way back in February and I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters. That says a lot about how visually stunning this film is because there are images from this movie that I can still see as clearly as when I left the theater that night. It’s a gorgeous movie that uses color masterfully. It’s not just the incredible color palette that stands out though. Director Alex Garland creates plants and creatures that are equal parts horrific and beautiful. That’s not something that most filmmakers can pull off properly one time. He does it multiple times in this film. You go on a journey with the women in this movie and arrive at an incredibly cerebral ending that still has me thinking about it today. This is not your traditional horror film but I can’t recommend highly enough.
Directed By: Panos Cosmatos
Written By: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn
While we’re talking about gorgeous movies that stick with you long after you see them…we’ve arrived at Mandy. This movie is everything. I have struggled to try to describe it to people since I saw it. Is it a trashy film masquerading as art or an art film masquerading as trash? In reality it’s probably both. This movie has the premise of a 70’s drive-in specialty. It’s Nicolas Cage turned up to eleven on the crazy meter, taking out bloody revenge on drug addled bikers and a religious cult. Director Panos Cosmatos shoots it like it’s a high art film. Insane, over the top violence has never looked so beautiful. It’s not just the colors (although they are breathtaking at times) it’s also in the way that he masterfully allows the film to breathe when it needs it. There are a few brief but incredible animated scenes that just make it that much more impressive. No matter what kind of films you like, there is something about Mandy that will sound like an immediate turn off. I guarantee that it’s not as big of a put off as you think it is and that you will find so much more that you love. It truly is a lowbrow piece of art. It also features one of the final film scores from Jóhann Jóhannsson, who sadly passed away way too early this year at the age of 48. The score is everything that the film is and deserves to be heard.
3. A Quiet Place
Directed By: John Krasinski
Written By: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
This film impresses me more every time I see it. It’s a wholly original concept that John Krasinski turned into a unique film. I have watched A Quiet Place three or four times this year and I’m always thrown off by the silence in the beginning. I will forever give Krasinski credit for taking a risk on making this movie. There is so much about it that shouldn’t work and that could have been bad for his career. He took the chance and swung for the fences however and it turned into not only an amazing piece of filmmaking and a great movie, but also one of the most unforgettable theater going experiences that I have had. If you saw A Quiet Place in the theater, you will always remember how eerie it felt to sit in a room with strangers in near total silence or how self conscience you became about coughing or chewing popcorn. It was as if the audience was transported into the world that the film created. The effect isn’t quite the same at home but it is still unnerving. Krasinski deserves a ton of the credit but not all of it. He has a terrific cast to work with. Emily Blunt is a proven actress and I was not surprised that she was up to this role. The two children however, I was less confident of their abilities but they both turned in wonderful performances. They were half the cast of this film and they deserve a huge chunk of the credit for making A Quiet Place work, hats off to both Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. The score is not to be slept on either. Marco Beltrami did a wonderful job of creating music for a movie that is all about being quiet. A lot of people picked this film apart for a number of what I considered to be small flaws, I just can’t imagine being so focused on the tiny details that I couldn’t see what a huge achievement this film is.
Directed By: Ari Aster
Written By: Ari Aster
Writer-Director Ari Aster’s film may be the most divisive of 2018. I admit that it took me a while to see exactly how smart and well crafted Hereditary is. I liked it the first time I saw it, my appreciation started to grow the more I thought about what I had seen and after watching it a few more times, I realized that it is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that is elevated by four terrific performances. I’m not sure that this film should expect much love come Oscar time but if Toni Collette doesn’t at least get nominated for Best Actress we have to take it upon ourselves to remove every single member of the Academy and start over. This is a deceptive movie on first watch because it seems like nothing is happening while in reality the story is unfolding all around you. It’s anything but boring though, there are images in this movie that will stay with me until the day I die.
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino
Written By:David Kajganich
Endeavoring to remake Dario Argento’s 1977 classic seemed like a path to disaster the moment that I heard someone was foolish enough to think they could do it. Not because I hate remakes (I actually don’t) but because Argento’s film is unlike most others. It’s a masterpiece due to the expertise of the director. It doesn’t have a classic horror villain to rely on or even a story that is overly compelling. What it has is Dario Argentio’s use of color and Goblin’s astonishing soundtrack. Those two elements, more than anything else, combine to make it what it is. There is no way anyone would be able to match that.
Luckily, director Luca Guadagnino wasn’t interested in matching it. In fact, he did the opposite. This film is mostly dull colors and the soundtrack was composed by Thom Yorke. The story is dense and fascinating, the kind that reveals itself to you slowly over the next few days. The performances are incredible all the way through. It lacks a horror icon but it doesn’t lack anything else. Suspiria is not only the best horror film of 2018, it’s the best film period.