You may not have heard, but horror is dying. Or maybe it’s enjoying a renaissance? I can’t keep up, but the one thing I do know is that I saw some fantastically great horror films this year. What are they you ask? Terrific question. Now keep reading for the answer as I present to you the 18 best horror movies of 2018.
A quick note: four of this year’s best horror new releases made 2017’s best horror list on the strength of their festival premieres, so I’m not including them again as part of the numbered ranking below. I am including them at the head of the list, though, as they officially released this year, are fantastic and deserve your attention.
Anna and the Apocalypse
This zom-com Christmas musical from Scotland is an epic blast of genre fun, and its bloodletting, wit, and aurally-addictive songs deserve to be in the eyes and ears of people who love awesome things. Which should be everyone. The film brings the funny without losing sight of more horrific beats, and it gives us an appealing mix of characters who quickly start biting it — or being bitten — brought to life by a roster of talented performers. See it with a crowd, see it home alone, just see it and revel in the glory of the most entertaining thing to come out of Scotland since our very own Kieran Fisher.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters
Writer/director Giddens Ko previously delivered the sweetly affecting coming of age tale, You Are the Apple of My Eye, but his latest shows him to be equally adept at exploring a far darker look at the pains of youth. There are mean and sad themes at work here, and the fact that it hits those bloody, nihilistic, and painfully honest beats while also being incredibly funny is something of a minor miracle. It’s a story featuring monsters, both human and otherwise, telling a tale of bullying, consequences, and accountability, and its ultimate observation devastates and haunts us long after the credits roll.
Ravenous (Les Affames)
The familiar trappings of a zombie apocalypse are just the beginning here, but they’re taken in directions most similar films don’t attempt. The undead are still human, their pain is still very real, and their purpose is a mystery in its own right. It’s beautiful, bloody, and sad to boot, and unlike most zombie films the story has its share of mystery.
Rape/revenge tales are rarely presented as attractively-shot daylight affairs, but that’s precisely what’s accomplished with Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut. She wisely avoids forcing viewers to witness the assault and instead focuses her film on the pursuit of the title. Its gorgeous outdoor landscape offers a fantastic backdrop for the chase and vengeance.
18. Primal Rage: The Legend of Oh-Ma
Bigfoot movies are my jam — seriously, I ranked 47 of them in 2017 — 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. It’s a crass creature feature in some ways and stands apart from the rest of the list, but it’s great fun. 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.
Slashers aren’t exactly what’s expected from director David Gordon Green, but he brings his skills to the genre with the same intelligent eye he’s applied to indies and comedies alike. It’s a slick, attractively shot film with memorable tracking shots of Michael moving through an oblivious Haddonfield and dispatching human prey. Green also doesn’t shy away from the grisly kills, and while several are captured postmortem, the resulting carnage is brought to life with some fantastic practical effects work. Michael stays busy throughout racking up nearly twenty kills which is fairly impressive for someone in their sixties who still refuses to run after his targets. The script is bumpy at best, but there’s no denying the power of seeing Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) face down an equally graying Michael one last time. (Well, last for now anyway.)
16. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum
This creepy and scary South Korean flick is the only found footage film to make the cut this year, but even one movie using the format is impressive as they’re too often dull and frustrating affairs. Neither adjective applies here as we’re introduced to a charismatic and enjoyable cast of characters, and the scares start hitting sooner rather than later with beats built on both jumps and atmosphere. It’s unassuming and has no pretense of dramatic weight, but it brings the goods in the horror department.
15. The Night Eats the World
It can be difficult to get excited about zombie movies as there are just so damn many of them and they usually suck, but this year saw a handful that put fresh breathe in the sub-genre’s lungs. We already know that zombies can be terrifying when they snarl (28 Days Later) and scream (Les Affames), but one of The Night Eats the World‘s many highlights is the realization that they’re even scarier when they’re silent. The undead here look and act the part as they bare their teeth, run when in pursuit, and tear into flesh with abandon, but they do it all without uttering a sound. It adds an additional layer of eerie silence to an already quiet and desolate cityscape. Their lack of vocal stylings is fitting for the film as it’s something of a slow burn punctuated with brief bursts of violence, sadness, and energetic tension.