2018 saw the return of horror’s most influential movies and an entirely new breed of scares signaling the future of the genre. The legendary Laurie Strode returned as a grandma in Halloween, and Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino reworked Dario Argento’s cult classic Suspiria for the current generation. Studio A24 barreled in with the deeply disturbing Hereditary, and newcomer John Krasinski offered up the popular A Quiet Place. Whether you were on board with the reboots or not, it’s undeniable that 2018 was a banner year for horror. 2018’s best horror movies are bound to stick around long after the year comes to an end.
The only thing more iconic than Jamie Lee Curtis’s original turn as Laurie Strode in 1978’s classic horror film Halloween is her return to the franchise as a shotgun-wielding grandmother. Fans of the original and those new to the series both loved this re-imagined final showing between Laurie and Michael Myers. But of course, it’s never the end for Michael and Laurie, as this sequel became the highest grossing slasher flick (knocking Scream out of place) and more sequels are already in development.
Director Luca Guadagnino is well known for gorgeous, sensual movies like I Am Love and Call Me By Your Name. But it’s always been his dream to remake Dario Argento’s giallo masterpiece, Suspiria. This year he made that dream come true. Guadagnino, unlike so many other directors, took his reboot as an opportunity to truly reimagine Argento’s seminal work. It may not have endeared itself to devoted fans of the 1977 original, but 2018’s Suspiria is an inspired and original film. Running a full hour longer than the original, Guadagnino’s focus is the violence of female rage, a topic that resonates with a new generation of horror buffs.
A Quiet Place
Sharing some DNA with M. Night Shyamalan’s best films, John Krasinski’s directorial debut, A Quiet Place, has all the markings of a traditional monster movie with a modern, sci-fi twist. Earth is under attack from alien-like creatures that discover their victims through sound. One family manages to evade destruction with the help of their hearing-impaired daughter. Audiences loved the jump scares and inventive storytelling, which at heart is about two parents struggling to protect their children.
Studio A24’s hotly anticipated Hereditary did not disappoint audiences with its spooky vibe, gory details, and harrowing family drama. Opening with the death of the family matriarch, Toni Colette’s whole world comes crashing down as she realizes it’s not just bad luck that assails her and her two children. With plenty of disturbing imagery and jump scares to boot, Hereditary will certainly go down as a modern classic that will have us in fear of tongue clicking forever.
This Indonesian horror movie was released in the United States in 2018, and boy, does it terrify. When the family’s matriarch dies after a long, agonizing illness, they finally believe their suffering is over. Unfortunately, it’s just begun. Loosely inspired by an earlier Indonesian film from the 1980s, Satan’s Slaves is a punishing domestic horror movie in the vein of Hereditary, with all its moodiness and chilling jump scares.
As with most of Alex Garland’s films (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, The Beach), Annihilation is not necessarily the scariest movie you’ve ever seen. Rather, the creeping realization that the dark details of Garland’s imagination are entirely plausible in the real world is what makes this sci-fi thriller one of 2018’s most horrifying. Annihilation stars Natalie Portman as a biologist investigating a strange ecosystem known as “the shimmer” that suddenly appears without explanation. The final cut of Annihilation struggled to come to fruition, with Garland fighting against producers who felt the movie was too cerebral. Perhaps the producers were right; the film was a box office bomb. But it found a home with audiences willing to go deeper to look into the movie’s unanswered questions.
Shot entirely on an iPhone, Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane also fits into the category of totally and devastatingly plausible. Claire Foy, Queen Elizabeth of Netflix’s The Crown, stars as a young woman who unwittingly commits herself to a stay in a mental institution when she seeks help after being traumatized by a stalker. While there, she discovers her stalker is an employee of the institution. This claustrophobic cat and mouse game offers a disturbing commentary on what’s “sane” and “unsane”.
The House That Jack Built
One of the most controversial directors of all time, Lars von Trier does not shy away from controversy. His latest film, The House that Jack Built, follows a friendly but stoic serial killer played by 90s heartthrob Matt Dillon as he slaughters his way through the 70s and 80s in Washington state. Par for the course with Von Trier, critics were divided: some calling the movie a masterpiece and others dismissing it as trash. Von Trier himself said the movie is a celebration of “the idea that life is evil and soulless”. So there you are.
What Keeps You Alive
This Canadian horror movie opened quietly and didn’t make much of a splash at the box office, but proves that horror can still be fascinating and artful. Jules and Jackie are celebrating their wedding anniversary in a romantic cabin in the woods (ha!) when Jackie decides to share the story of exactly what happened to her first wife. Uh oh. Though the allegory here is the breakdown of trust in a relationship, the result is an extremely violent, thrilling movie that competes with some of the best in the genre.
Though Mandy is at its core a revenge horror, the film is anything but traditional. Taking place in the 1980s and starring Nicolas Cage as the boyfriend who goes on a bloodthirsty mission for vengeance against the acid cult that burned his girlfriend alive in front of him, Mandy is a cathartic, cleansing tonic: exactly what the doctor ordered after a long year of the 24/7 news-cycle.
Featured still from 'Mandy' via SpectreVision