Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Best Scary Movies of 2018

The horror renaissance continues in 2018 with some fantastic films, thanks largely to streaming channels and video on demand (VOD). As theaters are steadily becoming relics of the past (only a handful of films on my list are wide releases), VOD is the way to go. Casualties like Overlord and Suspiria both inexplicably opened after Halloween and died quick deaths. I should also note that some of these movies premiered in 2017 (at film festivals or internationally) but didn't become widely available in the U.S. until 2018.


The BEST of 2018

1. Hereditary - Ari Aster's debut film is a family drama with a sickening, dreadful atmosphere that slowly suffocates viewers in it's crazed third act. This is a horror masterpiece.

2. Suspiria - This reinvents every aspect of the original and adds a hypnotic, unsettling menace and epic grandeur. Tilda Swinton is spectacular, and this art film, though quite long, is beautifully conceived.

3. A Quiet Place is a monster movie with a truly unique concept - make a sound and die. The exquisite production values and stellar cast shows how to make the most of a modest budget.

4. Anna and the Apocalypse pushes genres first gleefully then absurdly like a modern Rocky Horror. The pop songs are catchy, carnage is crunchy, and then there's a breakneck tonal shift. It’s zombie horror after all! An utterly unique pastiche and an instant yuletide classic.

5. Mandy succeeds not as simple revenge story but rather the artful manner in how it was made: dark, stylized, and strangely hypnotic and I hate to admit how much I loved Nicholas Cage's performance.

6. Aterrados (Terrified) is an Argentinian fever dream escalates scene by scenes as a paranormal infestation takes a neighborhood. It's an exhausting, unsettling nightmare that is not soon forgotten.

7. Halloween  is a smart, reliable sequel that surprises and delights fans of Michael Myers, John Carpenter, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

8. Annihilation is a unique vision of nature gone wild with extraordinary and often terrifying visuals. The superb cast led by Natalie Portman adds needed urgency to this ultimate meditation on extinction.

9. The House that Jack Built invites us back into Lars Von Trier demented brain as we get to experience the stuff that serial killers think. It's artful, excessively nauseating, riveting like a car accident, exhaustively plodding, heady, hateful, and features a fantastic epilogue. Like most of his films, it's an exceptional work of art – that I never want to see again.

10. Revenge is ferocious gut punch where a sexy young girl faces off against three lewd middle-aged, men in a remote desert. Leave it to the French to bring such superb, bloody action to the screen.

11. The Endless is a cosmic head trip whose ingenious plot and story aren't mitigated by the stoic performances of it's director/writer/actors. Hopefully bigger budgets will allow these two very creative people to push their unique vision further.

12. Lizzie is an understated and quiet contemplation on female empowerment – and a retelling of the infamous ax murders of the Borden family. Chloe Sevigny's furious rage coupled with Kristen Stewart's weary angst are revelations in this definitive film.

13. The Ritual is a rare good Netflix film that pits the struggle of men's stoic friendships against a really scary monster. It's a male-centric spiritual sequel to The Descent.


Honorable Mentions

These were all considered for my best of list but it was another really good year for horror movies.
Overlord, American Satan, The Clovehitch Killer, Pyewacket, Summer of ’84, Upgrade, Verónica, My Friend Dalmer, Possum, Ghost Stories, The Dark, Winchester (a nostalgic favorite but not a great film), The Cleanse, Little Stranger, Apostle, The Lodgers, and Our House.


In the Queue

So many movies and so little time. In my 2018 queue are WildingWhat Keeps You AliveLes Affames (Ravenous)SliceMary ShelleyMon Mon Monsters, and Thoroughbreds.


Horror Adjacent

Bad Times at the El Royale is a noir crime cult period pulp thriller comedy shot like a horror movie. It's full of tension, surprises, great performances and satisfying ending from the director of Cabin In The Woods.

Sorry to Bother You is an insanely good comedy/social commentary with a freaky twist. It definitely crosses the line into legitimate satire horror and shows you things you can't unsee. 


The Most Disappointing Movies of 2018

I define the "worst movies" as those with good credentials on paper whose production entirely and inexcusably miss the mark. These should have been so much better given the talented people behind them, but something went terribly wrong. Sure, there are much worse movies like the trash that fill the horror categories on Netflix but those were trash to begin with and completed avoided.

The Nun couldn't decide on a tone (adventure-romance-horror?) and is a sinful hot mess.
Insidious: The Last Key puts the amazing Lin Shaye at the center and gives her a bland story.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a tedious sequel no one wants and doesn't even properly feature kaiju.
The Cloverfield Paradox has some trippy scenes but goes no where slowly - and then there's a monster in the clouds. Ugh, lame.
Down a Dark Hall is a dreadfully boring movie with a dreadfully miscast Uma Thurman.
Marrowbone features great performers with a slow burn setup and senseless final act.
Winchester is a decent movie about a glorious house that should have been so much, much better.
Terrifier has great potential and an evil villain but the amateurish actors and thin story sink it.
Mom and Dad starts out good, even with Nicolas Cage, but then has no third act. What's the point?
Bird Box delivers tense performances and set up but its repetitive and doesn't deliver ANY goods.
Unsane is a super annoying experiment and looks absolutely awful – because it was shot on a phone.
House With a Clock in Its Walls is Eli Roth's stumble into kid fare that's neither scary nor fun.

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