Friday , 19 April 2019

Bloody Best Horror Films of 2018!

As 2019 begins to gain steam, it’s time we put on the brakes and stop to look all the way back to 2018 and come up with a list of the best horror films of the year. 2018 was another banner year for horror, with a number of critically acclaimed films and box office successes, and those are not mutually exclusive. Of course, 2018 gave horror its best showing at the Academy Awards in over a quarter of a century with the major nominations and wins for The Shape of Water and Get Out. While Oscar may have turned a blind eye to horror for the most part with this year’s nominations, there were plenty of outstanding fright films and performances that stood out.

In compiling the Gore 4’s list, we went with films that saw their primary release to U.S. and Canadian audiences during the calendar year, whether theatrical, home video or streaming. That leaves out movies that may have only been seen by attendees at various film festivals, or released in other parts of the world, but have yet to be offered up to the masses here in the states and our neighbors to the north. That said, the Gore 4 saw several films at this past New York City Horror Film Festival that should be getting released at some point in 2019 and stand a good chance of showing up on next year’s list. Mick Garris’ Nightmare Cinema, Don’t Look, Alive, Book of Monsters and Abnormal Attraction were all stand-out features that you should keep a bloody eye out for this year. Now, some may question whether certain films can be considered horror or not, but if they’re on the Gore 4’s list, they qualify as horror. And if there are films that may have shown up on other top horror lists but are absent from ours, either we didn’t get to see them (though we/I did try to see as much as inhumanly possibly), or they just didn’t make the cut. So, without further adieu, because any more adieu would be too much, here’s the Gore 4’s Bloody Best Horror Films of 2018, in alphabetical order:

Anna and the Apocalypse
Let us begin with the last movie on our list to be released in 2018, the zombie Christmas musical, which gets points alone for being a zombie Christmas musical, the joyfully original, Anna and the Apocalypse. Taking place in Scotland, which only adds to its charm, Anna stars the wonderfully talented Ella Hunt as the title character, who joins her friends in song and in killing hordes of the undead that have descended upon their town. It’s Shaun of the Dead meets Glee, filled with catchy tunes and severed limbs. It’s also a heartfelt story about dealing with loss and the hopes and dreams for the future. That future, though, for many in this story, is rather bleak as the body count is quite high. Amidst all the song and dance, there’s plenty of guts and gore, implemented by a variety of weaponry, from bowling balls to giant candy canes. Hey, whatever’s handy. Ella is a sheer delight as Anna, equally adept at kicking zombie a** as she is at carrying a tune. No doubt a bright future lies ahead for her.

Annihilation
In the category of intelligent, thought-provoking, sci-fi/horror comes Annihilation. When a meteor hits the southern U.S., it begins transforming the flora and fauna around it, enveloping the area in what is called “the Shimmer.” When various military expeditions sent into this mysterious zone disappear, leaving only one survivor, another team of scientists, led by the survivor’s wife (Natalie Portman), enter this new environment where the laws of nature don’t apply. Here, they encounter strange creatures and stranger phenomena as they attempt to unravel this ever-growing force that has the potential to threaten all of mankind. What sets Annihilation apart from other films, besides its unique take on the laws of physics and evolution, is the entire squad sent in to uncover the truth is female. Along with Oscar-winner, Portman, is Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez. It’s an exceptional cast in an exceptional film by Alex Garland, whose previous work, Ex Machina, was also science fiction at its best. While the sci-fi slant takes center stage here, there are plenty of horrific moments as well, and this film will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Blood Fest
There were two films that saw release last year which took place at horror amusement parks, one being Hell Fest. The Gore 4, however, is going with the one that saw less theaters, but gave us more thrills and chills, the fun-filled ride, Blood Fest. It’s Scream meets Cabin in the Woods, which will give you some idea what to expect. That still won’t detract from the enjoyment you’ll derive from this homage-laden romp that follows a group of horror film-savvy friends who must use their knowledge to survive a night at a frightfest where the scares become all too real. With themed attractions like Hodderton and Living Dead Land, and references to George Romero, H.G. Lewis and Val Lewton, there is a clear reverence to the genre. And the countless cool kills and buckets of blood spilled are sure to delight gorehounds. It stars Robbie Kay (Heroes Reborn), Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Gore 4 fav, Seychelle Gabrielle (Falling Skies), and is written and directed by Owen Egerton with a wry, clever touch.

Boarding School
There were also a couple of films released last year which centered on kids being sent away to a school, where whatever lessons learned were offset by tests of survival, one being Down a Dark Hall, starring Uma Thurman. While that film certainly had its moments, the Gore 4 preferred Boarding School for this list. When a young teenage boy, played by Luke Prael, who suffers from night terrors and has a penchant for wearing dresses, is sent to a strict school for misfits, graduation takes a second seat to staying alive as the students begin dying one by one. Throw in some Nazi flashbacks and you get one unorthodox film. Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who had previously helmed the football film, Remember the Titans and executive produced the first two Hostel movies, and with a cast that includes Will Patton and Samantha Mathis, Boarding School is well worth checking into.

The Dark
From writer/director, Justin P. Lange comes The Dark, a disturbing tale that takes on the very real issue of child abuse and the monsters it can create. The film follows the story of an undead teenage girl who prowls a forest and comes upon a boy blinded by his kidnapper. The two form a friendship that deals with the one’s Stockholm Syndrome and handicap, and the other’s never-ending thirst for blood. Think Let the Right One In mixed with Pet Sematary. Based on his earlier short film, it’s a powerful feature debut for Lange, with strong performances by Toby Nichols as the boy and especially Nadia Alexander as Nina, the ‘monster’ who attempts to come to terms with her violent tendencies.  It’s interesting to note that, despite its title, the film takes place entirely during the daytime, unusual for a horror film, but which entirely works here. The mood instead is created by the plight of these two horribly scarred individuals who must find a way to survive in a world that has taken so much from them. Never mind that one of them is dead, or, rather, undead. She’s still more human than the monster that made her that way.

The First Purge
Certainly one of horror’s most politically-charged franchises has been that of The Purge, where murder and mayhem are made legal for a 12 hour period one night a year as a means of eliminating, or at least, reducing crime over the other 364 days. After three very successful films, the filmmakers decided to go back to the beginning and explore how the Purge began, as an experiment on Staten Island, in The First Purge. It turned out to be an exceptional entry in the series, with a standout performance by Y’lan Noel as a drug lord who is forced to not only protect his territory, but also those he cares about. Issues like race and class warfare are  tackled and you can read the Gore 4’s look at the movie and subsequent TV series right here.

Halloween
Was there any doubt that the return of one of horror’s most iconic characters would make our list? Michael Myers was back in a big way in 2018 and so was his nemesis, Jamie Lee Curtis’ ex-babysittter, Laurie Strode, now a gun-toting survival expert. Serving as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s classic original, and featuring his indelible piano-led theme music, Halloween showcased three generations of kick-ass women joining together to stop the seemingly unstoppable serial killer with the mask. It was a triumphant comeback and you can check out our review of Halloween 2018 for more in-depth analysis.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
If a Jurassic World movie fails to make a top horror list in the year it’s released, it’s probably not due to a lack of quality, but rather the compiler forgetting that these are indeed horror films. Seriously, what’s more horrific than a prehistoric monster either stomping you to death or trying to eat you? In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the previous entry’s stars, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, return to save our giant reptilian friends from an impending catastrophic event that threatens to destroy their island home. The second half of the film essentially becomes a house of horrors as the action transfers to the mainland and we are introduced to the most terrifying hybrid yet, the ferocious Indoraptor. Fallen Kingdom not only expands upon its predecessor’s themes, it sets up another exciting entry in the series. Take a look at the Gore 4’s review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The Nun
For those who like a good ghost story, The Conjuring franchise has proven to be one of the most reliable, and certainly successful in horror over the past decade. After two Conjuring films which centered on the paranormal investigations of the Warrens, and two Annabelle films, which revolved around a possessed doll, the franchise took a side jaunt into the world of Valak, a demon that manifests itself in the form of a nun and which first appeared in The Conjuring 2 two years earlier. Demián Bechir (Alien: Covenant) and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) star as a priest and a young nun who travel to a monastery in Romania in 1952, to learn why one of the sisters hung herself. It is one of the truly scary films that was released last year, and just one look at that demonic nun is enough to send shivers down your spine. This is a franchise that has plenty more stories to tell.

Overlord
It’s the eve of the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II, and a squad of U.S. paratroopers are sent in behind enemy lines with a mission to take out a radio tower that the Germans are using. What begins as a straightforward, old-fashioned war film takes a very dark and gruesome turn as the soldiers discover horrors beyond anything they could have imagined when they learn the Nazis are conducting experiments to resurrect the dead. Starring Wyatt Russell (Kurt’s son) as the American squad commander, Overlord came and went pretty quickly last November, but it’s a violent, gory, hardcore horror film with compelling characters and plenty of action. While it may not have won at the box office, it’s destined to take on greater status in the years ahead, much like Wyatt’s dad’s The Thing.

A Quiet Place
Last year’s breakout horror hit was no doubt, A Quiet Place, which made a big sound at the box office, amassing $188M domestic/$340 worldwide (on a $17M budget) for Platinum Dunes. Directed by The Office‘s John Krasinski, and starring himself and his wife, Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place was an almost unbearably suspenseful, riveting film from start to finish. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world that has been overrun by vicious, extraterrestrial creatures that are attracted to the most minute of sounds, a couple must pull out all the stops to protect their children and survive in this grave new world. The beasts, once we get a good look at them, are fantastic creations. And, in a well-thought-out move, young, deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is cast as the hearing-impaired daughter, and she brings a level of authenticity that is so vital for such a premise. See the Gore 4’s review of A Quiet Place.

Revenge
After hitting the festival circuit in late 2017 into 2018, an intense, bloody film entitled Revenge saw its release to general audiences last spring. The title may say it all, but it still won’t prepare you for the grueling ordeal the main character goes through in this stylishly shot action revenge horror thriller. The oh-so-watchable Matilda Lutz stars as a woman having an affair who is brutalized by one of her fling’s friends, and ultimately must undergo a transformation of sorts to bring comeuppance upon her adversaries. It’s brutal, visceral and cathartic, and fits right along with films like Last House on the Left and I Spit on our Grave. That Revenge is written and directed by a woman, Coralie Fargeat, in her feature debut, however, sets it apart from those other films and gives it a unique perspective. Matilda Lutz, who also played the lead in the sequel, Rings, is a star to watch out for.

Summer of 84
A delightful and frightful throwback to the horror films of yesterday comes Summer of 84. Seeing limited theatrical release last year, the movie pays homage to everything from The Hardy Boys and The Goonies to It and Stranger Things. Graham Verchere stars as teenage sleuth, Davey, with shades of Fox Mulder, who suspects his neighbor, a police officer no less, is also a serial killer of teenage boys. Despite no one believing him, Davey, along with his three best friends, attempts to gather enough evidence to convince others of his suspicions, and he won’t stop until he gets it, no matter the dangers involved. This Canadian film, directed by a trio of filmmakers, features music reminiscent of that of Carpenter’s Halloween or Tangerine Dream’s Risky Business, and is a fun little mystery devoid of any major stars, which only works in its favor. It’s a movie that will take you back to that time of your youth when hanging out with your friends, and the adventures you shared with them, in the neighborhood you all lived in, were all that mattered. Though seemingly normal and tranquil on the outside, “who knows what really goes on beyond closed doors?”

Venom
After the massive success in 2018 of Marvel Comics’ Black PantherAvengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, few expected too much out of Sony’s anti-hero, Venom, when it was released in the fall. And not just because it wasn’t included as part of the same Marvel Universe as those other films, but because the character’s previous appearance on the big screen, in 2007’s Spider-man 3, was deemed so unsuccessful. This time the character worked, thanks to an all-out performance by Tom Hardy, with support from Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed, and direction by Ruben Fleischer. While last year’s Deadpool 2 fell outside the realm of horror, Venom, with its snarling, toothy, head-ripping titular character, belongs alongside the likes of previous horror comic characters brought to the big screen like Spawn, Blade and Hellboy. That Venom became one of the highest grossing films of 2018, both here and abroad, was one of the year’s biggest surprises. Check out the Gore 4 review.

What Keeps You Alive
Another film out of Canada comes the taut suspenser, What Keeps You Alive. It stars Hannah Emily Anderson (who the Gore 4 loved in Jigsaw and USA’s television series, The Purge) and Brittany Allen (USA’s Falling Water and also Jigsaw) as a married couple celebrating their one-year anniversary at a scenic lakeside cabin. However, one of them is harboring a deep and dark secret, and when it begins to reveal itself, the two are plunged into a horrific weekend unlike anything either of them could have expected. It comes from writer/director, Colin Minihan, who, along with his brother, Stuart Ortiz, form the Vicious Brothers, and together they previously did the films, Grave Encounters 1 & 2, Extraterrestrial and It Stains the Sands Red. This film takes many twists and turns, with sudden spurts of violence interspersed throughout.  It goes in places you don’t see coming, and you’ll be guessing what comes next right to the bitter end.

So, that pretty much does it for the best horror films of 2018. Wait, that’s really it? Perhaps you were looking to come across a couple of critically acclaimed films that made many other top 10 or 15 lists? Well, if you were assuming to find Sundance darling, Hereditary, or the remake of Suspiria, you came to the wrong place. You can read the Gore 4 review of Hereditary to learn why it didn’t make this list. In short, it was a depressing version of Ordinary People with a supernatural element thrown in, featuring an over-the-top performance by Toni Collette that just didn’t ring true. Likewise, Suspiria, while containing a couple of jarring sequences, was way too long and boring, with Tilda Swinton playing three characters for no apparent reason. Though Dakota Johnson was a pleasure to watch, the film lacked any of the style and color that Dario Argento brought to his original classic.

There were a few other films that just fell short of making our list that are still well worth seeing. The Meg finally made it to the big screen, starring Jason Statham in a fun, action-packed, science-filled adventure. Death House, written by the late Gunnar Hansen, was dubbed ‘the Expendables of Horror,’ due to its bevy of b-movie and up stars, from Dee Wallace and Barbara Crampton to Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley and Michael Berryman. It’s a disturbing trip deep into an experimental prison where a new nightmare lurks around every corner. The futuristic Upgrade, starring Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) , had some impressive camerawork to go with its terrific lead performance, and was an entertaining film throughout, but it seemed more science fiction, ala Robocop, and not enough horror to include here. Oscar-winning actor, Nicolas Cage, whose career path has veered into some interesting directions, had a couple of noteworthy films the past year. One was the psychedelic cult horror revenge film, Mandy, with Cage at his maniacal best. In the other, Mom and Dad, Cage co-stars with Selma Blair as a married couple intent on killing their kids when a mysterious signal affects them and everyone else who ever had a child. It’s Day of the Parents as they finally get to take out their frustrations towards annoying and unruly offspring in the most violent of ways.

And finally, Netflix’ Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, really belongs among any list of the top horror films of 2018. We could say it came out too late in the year, or that being on Netflix makes it more of a made-for-TV movie as reasons why it isn’t included above, but in reality it was just inadvertently left off this list and it would be too much trouble to reformat everything to get it included, and no one wants any trouble. So, we’ll make up for the omission by spotlighting it here. If you haven’t heard of Bird Box, there’s a very good chance you’ve been living in a cave or under a rock, so one has to wonder what made you come out so you could read this list. Bird Box was nothing short of a phenomenon when it was released on Netflix a week and a half before Christmas, with record viewing audiences for the streaming service. It’s another post-apocalyptic thriller, with a mysterious supernatural force that causes anyone who lays eyes on it to kill themselves. It wastes no time in getting to the horror elements, with a spectacular, blood-curdling series of events when all hell starts to break loose. The film goes back and forth through various time periods in telling its unsettling story, and Bullock is steadfast and strong as a mother determined to protect her two kids. Bird Box would make for a perfect double feature with A Quiet Place. It’s a must-see.

Now, while the Gore 4 took great effort to see most of the horror films released in theaters and on home video and streaming platforms last year (and why it’s taken a month into 2019 to catch up and compile a thorough list), still a handful of interesting films escaped us. But only a handful. All in all, it was a pretty good year for horror, but 2019 is poised to perhaps be even better. We’ve already gotten Glass, with Happy Death Day 2U and the Pet Sematary remake on the horizon. Jordan Peele has his highly anticipated sophomore effort, Us, on the way. And we’re getting a Godzilla mega-mash in May and the eagerly awaited It, Chapter Two in September. So, make room for plenty of popcorn and soda this year. And, whenever possible, try hitting any horror film festivals in your vicinity. It’s a great place to discover interesting, often independent films that may be hard to find elsewhere for quite some time. Now, what do you think of this list? Does it nearly match that of your own, or is it way off the charts? Feel free to let your choices be known in the comments below. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program!

— Bloody Best of by Brian de Castro

7 comments

  1. Wicked Ass review Brian…
    I have seen 9 out of the 16 movies!
    I need to catch up ASAP 🖤

    • 9 out of 16 is pretty good. Curious as to which ones were your favs and if you especially liked anything from last year I may have missed.

      • I really Loved Overlord & Revenge! You forgot one of my Favorites of the year HellFest was a Bloody FunFest! Mandy missed your list too… I enjoyed it but wished they had more Mandy!☠

        • I mentioned Hell Fest in the mini-review of Blood Fest. I just preferred the latter of the two fests. And I liked some aspects of Mandy, which was why I thought it was worth noting, but I felt it was too slow and weird at times. I’m also not a fan of religious cults, or any cults for that matter, which includes the kool-aid drinking followers of he-who-shall-not-be-named.

  2. Just watched Upgrade. Thought it was fantastic!

    • Agreed, Upgrade was top-notch. So often action scenes are shot by directors who don’t know how to shoot action scenes. Not here. The way they shot the fight sequences relied less on the editing, with a lot of quick cuts that make it hard to follow as so many do, and instead let them play out, utilizing unique, inventive camerawork. Kudos to Leigh Whannell, best known for co-creating the Saw and Insidious horror franchises. Upgrade is more in the sci-fi genre, which is the reason it’s not on the Gore 4’s Bloody Best list, but it was still too good not to mention.

  3. This list performs a great service to the filmmakers involved because the list contains many horror entries that may not be well known releases. Nice to list the indies along with the mainstream! Certainly several “came and went” but hopefully they will find new life! An original and valid list.

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