These are the best horror movies of the year — January through June.
2018 is half over now and the quality of horror movies hitting screens big and small continues to kick ass. The content varies to include zombies, ghosts, cults, mental anguish, bears, and maybe even Bigfoot, but the one constant is a steady stream of scares, terror, and unease.
Quick note: Three of this year’s best releases — Mon Mon Mon Monsters, Ravenous (aka Les Affames), and Revenge — all made my Best Horror of 2017 list based on their festival runs, so I’m not including them this year too despite it being their “official” release year.
Keep reading for a look at the ten best horror movies of 2018 so far.
Alex Garland’s latest is one hell of an experience, and while it’s both a drama of the soul and a trippy science fiction film it’s also more than a little horrific. From the nightmare of grief and depression to the terror of the unknown, the film brings darkness to life with beautiful visuals and colors that feel new as they strike your eyes. There’s also a scene with a bear that brings the horrifying goods, but while the visceral beats land hard it’s the film’s emotionally haunting observations that will stay with you after the credits roll. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]
We’ll probably never get a 28 Months Later, but thanks to The Cured that realization is a bit easier to swallow. This is a zombie tale taking place well after the outbreak and assault and instead focuses on recovery, and it comes with its own drama and terror. Its visual style owes itself in part to Danny Boyle’s film and helps this one deliver suspense, thrills, and intensity as it explores the high cost of kindness. [My review, available July 3rd on Blu-ray/DVD]
This horror anthology started life as a stage play but finds new life on the screen for a wider audience. A skeptic investigators three stories of the supernatural, and while they offer a variety of thrills the film’s at its most memorable with a framing device which builds into something truly special. Humor plays a big role too, although it’s the unsettling weight of the past that sits at the film’s forefront. [My review, currently available on VOD]
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum
Found footage films get a bad rap for good reason as most of them are cheaply made and lazy as hell. There are good ones out there though, and this South Korean effort is exhibit A. It’s basic in its plot — idiots visit an abandoned asylum late at night — but in addition to some atypically solid performances the scares are frequent and smartly crafted fun. [Not currently available]
It’s not uncommon for memorably acclaimed horror films to get their start at the Sundance Film Festival — Saw, The Witch, and The Blair Witch Project are just a few — and this year’s breakout is Hereditary. The film focuses on a family in distress as grief and malicious forces have their way with them, and the personal terrors come in the form of some terrifically frightening sequences. The two lead performances are far stronger than the genre typically calls for, and they raise the film’s effect by association as characters we’ve come to care about descend into a truly horrifying reality. [My review, currently in theaters]
Gothic chillers used to be the norm with genre films, but they went out of favor decades ago. One comes along periodically, though, and this year we’ve already had two. (Another great one is right below.) This Irish tale of dark family secrets and the supernatural tells a visually inventive, creepy, and sexy tale about guilt, ghosts, and a gross brother wanting to boink his admittedly hot sister. It’s the best movie that could have also been called The Shape of Water. [Currently available on Blu-ray/DVD]
The writer of The Orphanage and The Impossible delivers another tale of children in danger with four siblings pretending they’re not orphans in order to avoid catching the eye of social services. It’s the least of their problems, though, as something in their house wants out. It’s a smartly told chiller with a fantastic young cast including George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, and Mia Goth. [Available August 7th on Blu-ray/DVD]
Primal Rage: The Legend of Oh-Mah
Bigfoot movies are my jam — seriously, I ranked 47 of them last year — and I’ll always watch new ones despite the sad truth that most are unmemorable. This year has already seen a few, and this is both the best of the bunch and a terrifically fun horror movie period. What starts as a familiar horror trope involving a bickering couple shifts gears with threats from nature, armed humans, and Bigfoot creatures who’ve evolved beyond mere growls and arm-swinging. Script creativity, solid practical effects, and a unique creature design make for a fun time with Sasquatch. [Available July 3rd on DVD]
Adam MacDonald’s debut feature Backcountry made my Best Horror of 2015 list, and his sophomore effort seems destined to repeat that feat this year. Like that film, his follow-up focuses its terrors in the woods, but it trades our natural fear of hungry grizzly bears for supernatural horrors that are every bit as scary. MacDonald’s tale involves angry youths, devilish deals, and a demonic presence guaranteed to terrify, and it is not to be missed. [My review, available August 7th on Blu-ray/DVD]
Director David Bruckner’s solo feature debut may have premiered on the small screen (via Netflix), but it’s plenty big when it comes to the horror. It sends four friends into the woods one year after a fifth friend’s murder, but as devastating as that loss was they’re in for far, far worse. It’s a creepy tale that takes full advantage of its cold landscape, and it features possibly the best creature design of the past few years. Seriously, the beast alone is reason enough to watch. [Currently streaming on Netflix]
Honorable mentions: Insidious: The Last Key, A Quiet Place, Still/Born, The Strangers: Prey at Night, The Tag-Along 2