From the beginning of the year, 2018 has produced killer horror movies. Hereditary and Mandy rocked the Sundance Film Festival and debuted to killer reviews. Then came A Quiet Place which became one of the best-reviewed movies (of any genre) of the year. More have come since, making this year a special one for scaring audiences. These are our top 10 (so far):
Director Steven Soderbergh (Side Effects) returned to the world of psychological horror this year with Unsane. Braced by a true lead portrayal by Claire Foy, the movie is set in a mental institution. Foy plays Sawyer, a young woman who's just moved to a new city to escape a dangerous stalker. When she's committed, however, she finds her stalker amongst the staff and we start to wonder where reality begins and ends for Sawyer. Soderbergh hides the film's secrets well and Foy is excellent in a far-ranging performance.
A demonic thriller, Pyewacket has one of the most horrific twist endings of the year. After moving to a remote house after her father's death, occult fan Leah (Nicole Munoz) fights with her mother and wishes her dead. Leah summons the demon Pyewacket and discovers the demon is very real. While it shapeshifts and terrorizes Leah and her friends, the teen searches for a way to reverse what she's done.
8. 'Mom and Dad'
A blast, Mom and Dad is the premiere horror comedy of 2018 thanks to the wonderfully absurd work of Nicolas Cage. Of course, it helps to have a fun concept and this one is particularly devilish. Mom and Dad wonders what would happen if every parent in the world suddenly had an inexhaustible urge to kill their children? The unimaginable scene plays out and director Brian Taylor winks at us throughout. When Cage stares murderously at his 9-year-old early in the movie, something seems amiss. But he quickly smiles and we're left wondering if he's kidding, or biding his time. At 83 minutes, the story moves at a breakneck pace, mimicking the panic onscreen. It's sharp-witted and scary, but elevated to something special by Cage going bonkers. And things get really interesting when the grandparents show up.
7. 'The Endless'
The Endless is one of those bloodless sci-fi horror films that'll have you on edge. It takes a while to get going, but once two brothers revisit the cult they left years earlier, you can feel something is very off. Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who also star, The Endless is a sequel to their stellar 2012 movie, Resolution. The mystery of the cult is unraveled slowly as the brothers find time and space have no borders, and reality is someplace very far away.
Invigorated by a man/machine plot and hyperspeed editing, Upgrade was one of 2018's best horror surprises. It's about a quadriplegic mechanic who undergoes an experimental procedure that allows him to walk again. But the computer gets inside his mind, and controls his movements involuntarily. As he harnesses his newfound power, the mechanic becomes a killing machine and sets out to avenge his wife's murder. Behind the dead bodies and rivers of blood, Upgrade has a sharp social subtext. As today's society moves ever closer to living with artificial intelligence, our bodies will become increasingly useless. (Self-driving cars play a big role in Upgrade.) Then, our minds will too.
Probably the most ambitious and best-looking horror film of the year, Annihilation is a worthy adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's novel of the same name. As "The Shimmer" expands ever larger, swallowing part of the southern United States, a team of soldiers and scientists enter the strange anomaly looking for answers. What they find is like nothing they imagined. The Shimmer is reconstructing DNA as it interacts with nature, creating some seriously dangerous creatures. The team marches onward, losing each other, and their minds, in the process.
We can talk all about how Revenge is a smart subversion of the genre from which it takes its name. Vengeance movies are typically wrapped around some badass who watches his entire family get wiped out by some villain. The operative word in that sentence being "his." Males rule the action game, we all know this by now. But it's not like the ladies haven't had some glory. From I Spit on Your Grave to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the revenge genre has been subverted before. However I submit to you it's never been done like this.
3. 'A Quiet Place'
Despite some plot holes, A Quiet Place thrills from the outset. It also boasts the best creature design of the year. Part post-apocalyptic thriller, part horror film, A Quiet Place is set in a future world where lethal, sightless creatures have wiped out almost every life form on the planet. One family has stayed alive by remaining silent and using sign language to communicate, but they're constantly in danger. Any noise can bring death swiftly, and Mom (Emily Blunt) is pregnant.
A fever nightmare, Mandy is a journey into the brain of visionary co-writer/ director Panos Cosmatos. Having already produced an indie horror classic with his first film (Beyond the Black Rainbow), the Italian-Canadian filmmaker gets more mainstream in Mandy. With cult legend Nicolas Cage in tow, Cosmatos went about creating a revenge experience unlike any put to film before. And, note, "more mainstream" does not equal mainstream. Cosmatos's sensibilities are not made for the MPAA or marketing schmucks and their catch phrases. You can't deny the allure of Cage on a bloody hunt for vengeance with a chromed-out steel axe.
Not just a horror film, but a true horror experience, Hereditary is the most visceral scary movie of the year. Watch it alone late at night. You'll hear sounds. You'll feel a presence in the room. You'll probably have to turn the movie off. Without spoiling anything, Hereditary follows a normal family who loses their grandmother and immediately starts experiencing weird occurrences. When tragedy strikes, their world becomes even smaller and they're all in immediate danger. How do you reconcile pure evil when it enters your life? In Hereditary, there's no way out.