Although this list is a little late due to a badly broken shoulder and equally broken dictation software I saw too many great horror films over the year to let the opportunity slide. 2018 was a rich year for horror cinema with much of the best work emanating from the blurred edges of the genre such as the certifiably mental Mandy and the unflinchingly mega violent The Night Comes for Us.
This list is pure opinion and constitutes the movies I felt made themselves unmissable through exceptionally talented execution, unbridled bravado and in some cases sheer bloody-minded dedication and commitment.
One notable film is missing in the shape of The House That Jack Built but I am reserving my opinion on this as I am waiting to watch the uncut version that played in specially hired cinemas.
With that said, here are the 10 most fearless, controversial, edgy and entertaining horror films I viewed in 2018.
10. ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE
Zombie horror, Musical, Comedy John McPhail
Oh the weather outside is frightful…
After beheading a zombie snowman Anna and her best friend John must sing and dance their way through the devolution of society to reach their loved ones and possible survival.
Anna and the Apocalypse holds the attention and ambushes your affections through the sheer infectiousness of its disgustingly talented young cast. Ella Hunt is the pick of the bunch as the titular Anna in a sassy performance that clearly points to stellar things. Paul Kaye keeps the grown-up end of the cast afloat with a remarkably weird performance as the headmaster. At times he appears to be channelling a psychopathic Fagin through the conduit of the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Give it a go because there is a high chance it will put a grin on your face, and who doesn’t need that these days, and may just wheedle its way into your heart forever.
Digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes on February 12, 2019
9. FRIENDLY BEAST
Horror, Thriller Gabriela Amaral
Vicious anthropological incrimination
Inácio is a restaurant owner on the edge. His high-end establishment is floundering and his sanity hanging by a sinewy thread. When an amateurish and garishly rapey robbery breaks the bitchy monotony that thread is severed.
Crammed full of startling imagery and inventive ambiguity there is a streak of raven nihilism running through it as wide as a psychotic grin. Friendly Beast features a jaw-dropping blood-streaked sex scene that makes the pool antics of Showgirls look like Victorian-era courtship.
A superbly crafted genre picture that claws at the rancid scabs of the human condition to reveal the raw horrors that lie beneath.
8. ONE CUT OF THE DEAD
Horror, Comedy Shin’ichirô Ueda
Don’t stop shooting…..
In the quest to nail a one take live zombie feature a film director pushes his cast and crew to the outer limits of artistic endeavour.
You will want to turn this one of within the first 20 minutes but resist the urge and you will be rewarded with the freshest most inventive zombie flick since Train to Busan. Packed full of surprises, clever genre nods and satisfying payoffs this is much more than a bandwagon jumping low budget undead b-movie. In reality, it is the most tender love-letter to the trials and tribulations of low budget movie making in recent memory.
This fabulously entertaining romp is reminiscent of an episode of the superb Inside Number 9 on steroids and ends up being so drenched in its own meta that you will find your head spinning with delight.
Horror, Action, Survival Thriller Coralie Fargeat
In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is…
Jen joins her super-rich married lover on a romantic trip to a remote villa in the Moroccan desert. When his hunting buddies unexpectedly rock up events take a disturbingly lecherous turn and she becomes embroiled in a deadly tussle that leaves her ravenous for the sweet taste of brutal retribution.
Those that have hated on Revenge for lack of realism this year may have missed the point. Crucially, it is exactly this entirely intentional lack of verisimilitude that allows the lurid action to blossom, pumping arterial flumes of entertainment into every corner of its Grand Guignol splash pool.
Notorious for its excess induced shortages of on set fake blood this gorgeous gorefest basks in its style over substance mantra and boasts some of the finest cinematography of the year.
Blistering with ravishing iconic imagery fit to burnish a vintage Tarantino wank fantasy Revenge cossets its genre backdrop, not as a creative comfort blanket but as a blood whelked badge of honour.
6. ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY
Horror, Drama, Sci-fi Quarxx
Simon is holed up in a dilapidated farm with his tragically disabled sister Estelle. Complicit in her degradation and racked with guilt he is determined to fight the system and preserve the fragile equilibrium of their tortured existence. As the net of social concern closes Simon deploys ever more extreme measures including seeking salvation from otherworldly sources.
Boasting one of the most grimly unwatchable opening sequences of the year this eminently grown-up piece of New French Extremity combines audacious genre tropes and sandpaper social comment with fearsome intelligence.
Stunningly shot and acted this little-seen gem delivers a poignant cinematic expose on the dangers of delusion and how it haunts the deep fissures in society’s attitude to mental health.
5. SUMMER OF ’84
Horror, Drama, Mystery François Simard, Anouk Whissell
The suburbs are where the craziest shit happens….
An eclectic gang of teenagers buy into a serial killer based conspiracy theory for the summer. But is this a shared adventure game to mark the end of childhood, or is there something genuinely horrifying hiding in plain sight in the very heart of suburbia?
Beautifully constructed from the DNA of a hundred final summer movies it is, of course, as derivative as they come but is so addictively natural, gripping and often surprising that it avoids becoming a sterile clone.
The cast is universally engaging, perfectly capturing both the awkwardness and over-confidence of youth. Each character is given proper time to evolve with subtle glimpses of home life that speak volumes for the allure of escapism and provokes moments of genuine empathetic sweetness.
Edited with stylish levity by Austin Andrews the pace rarely drops and the mystery remains enthralling until the big reveal. Although having said that, try and go into this future coming of age classic as cold as possible because a large part of it’s power lies buried beneath its final reels.
Summer of 84 works hard to break out of low budget genre circles and certainly deserves to do so. Rarely does a film this charming manage to be this chilling.
4. CRYSTAL EYES
Neo Giallo horror Ezequiel Endelman, Leandro Montejano
The bird with the crystal-meth plumage…
It’s 1984 and coked up super-bitch model Alexis Carpenter is fatally scorched in a champagne-induced runway inferno. One year later and the Giallo gloves are well and truly on as a vicious murderer stalks those involved in a commemorative photo-shoot.
On its most elemental level Crystal Eyes is the cinematic equivalent of a joyous game of Giallo bingo. Checking off the essential tropes such as shattered stained glass, blindness, masks, psychoanalytic trauma close up stabbings and many, many more is an utter blast on the way to an incorrigibly witty full house.
However, beneath this glossy deep red veneer lies a labour of love that embodies everything good in independent horror cinema.
The soundtrack is primarily the expected synth based affair yet there are lush orchestral flourishes and odd disco interludes as, mirroring the movie as a whole, it revels in its own derivative excess. On top of this, there is a show-stopping sequence where Argentinian singing star Diana Maria belts out the specially written title song from a black and white TV set bathed in blue neon.
Gore is, of course, a fundamental element of the Giallo movie and Crystal Eyes does not disappoint in its well-stocked homicide department. Yet, there is a knowing levity to the bloodletting in both the ineptitude of the victims and the randomness of murder weapons. One double death, in particular, is executed with a playfully cine-literate style that elevates it beyond mere imitation.
This infectiously trashy homage to all things Giallo could easily have ended up as a luridly brave low budget attempt. However, through sheer enthusiasm, boundless imagination and contagious creativity, it defies the odds to forge its own wonderfully entertaining and weirdly credible identity.
Horror, Mystery, Drama Ari Aster
Evil runs in the family…..
After the demise of her reclusive mother, Annie Graham and her family begin a stomach-lurching free-fall into the emotionally clammy clutches of a dysfunctional living hell.
From the playfully ambiguous opening shot onwards it is clear that Hereditary has zero qualms in using arch cinematic devices to manipulate the viewer. Fluctuating between enthralling and intimate Mike Leigh inspired realism and creepy Peter Greenaway style absurdity the film frequently dips out of precise focus and may well prove a patience-testing watch for many.
Anyone familiar with the director’s previous work will know of his propensity for taboo-busting and there are many moments here that will impact and punish the audience, specifically parents.
A meticulously constructed accident sequence, replete with a mischievously hideous reveal, triumphs and throws down a cheeky gauntlet to the Final Destination franchise.
Shocking imagery pervades Hereditary like a degenerative disease permeating the very bones of the carefully closeted skeletons and each tentative glimpse into the eyes of the impending evil becomes exponentially more fraught.
Essentially a penetrating study of the frailties of family ties in the face of blame and mistrust it demands a viewing, even out of curiosity, and you may just unmask and adopt your new favourite horror movie.
Extreme horror, Action, Drama Lucio A. Rojas
Four female friends visit rural Chile and open up a disgustingly wriggly can of vicious worms that have grown fat on a diet of raging insanity.
If you make it through the first 5 minutes or so then you will be rewarded with the most disgraceful cinematic sewage pipe in years and the best counter-attack to A Serbian Film bores around.
Solid camera work and brilliantly executed gore effects elevate the film above timider extreme horror fare as its lack of fuck-giving will leave you in need of a hot bleach shower of the mind.
Trauma tries to hide behind a duplicitous charade of social conscience to enable its relentless tides of facial derangement, incestuous vomit rape and general stabbing and limb hacking. However, they are fooling no one as the film slides brazenly into an exploitation cesspit.
This is a truly spiteful and reactionary little movie that will revolt and repel any well-balanced viewer. It also happens to be the purest horror film of the whole year. Watch it if you dare.
Horror, LSD dance musical, Nihilism Gaspar Noé
Life is a fleeting pleasure…
It’s the mid-nineties and 20 young hip-hop hoofers coagulate in a remote building. Unfortunately, or not dependant on your disposition, some cheeky monkey has juiced up the communal sangria with weapons-grade hallucinogenics. Soon, the good-natured dance battles descend into the kind of nihilistic drug-crazed rampage that would have Dante asking Albert Camus if he was alright to drive him home.
Arising from the dangerworld of Gaspar Noé’s twisted imagination Climax is as close to a cinematic depiction of a bad acid trip as anyone should want to get. Shot in just 15 days the film opens with a sequence of candid interviews with the protagonists framed by stacks of infamous DVD’s on one side and literary hand grenades on the other. A cursory glance at their titles will tell you everything you need to know about the incoming barrage of head messing discombobulation. In typical Noé fashion, this is not for the purpose of cultural kudos….it’s a fucking warning.
Strap yourself in for a wild, wild ride as we visit such film musical perennials as unbridled incest, flaming scalps, feral masturbation, electrocuted tripping toddlers and hot piss on the dance floor.
In terms of his relentless mission to single-handedly trigger every being in the known universe, this is a comparatively tame offering from Mr Noé. However, in terms of an expression of artistic bravado that utterly refuses to betray its thunderous primal scream ethics, it is a stone-cold masterpiece of cine-literate abandon.
The 95min runtime, it feels much longer in a narcotic kind of way, is chock full to the filthy, frothy brim with stylistic hot-dogging and aesthetic grandstanding. Extended dance sequences freewheel hypnotically into the sweltering embrace of giddy excess. The hyper-real titles rape the screen just at the exact moment the characters become inescapably ripped of their collective tits. The blistering soundtrack symphonies the hedonistic rollercoaster of debauchery before dissolving into the sweet catharsis of The Rolling Stones. And that’s just the tip of the creative iceberg as the movie sails tantalisingly close to art installation territory.
One deliciously pretentious title card insert declares “Life is a Collective Impossibility” – both a direct modernist footnote to Dante’s “Hell is other people” and a clear statement of intent of this epic film’s agenda.
See this blisteringly intense movie masterwork as soon as you possibly can.
So there you have it. Many more films could have made the list. Feel free to let me know if you think my choices are wrong and suggest films that may have flown blissfully under my RADAR. Though please don’t waste your time arguing that CLIMAX is not even a horror film because the director himself informed me that it unequivocally was whilst I was watching it with him and there is no one more qualified than him to judge.
I look forward to bringing you more reviews of the hottest horror flicks in the coming year.