This was a tremendous year for horror in the theaters, and further proof that yes, we are in a golden age. Here are Eric Li’s top 10 feature and short horror films of 2018.
It was so hard to pick just ten. There are several four-star selections that do not make the cut. The one and two selections are no-brainer selections, but after that, it’s a bit of a shuffle. So much so, that I’ve actually re-considered some of my selections from my podcast fearsome foursome, and moved my ordering around a little. I managed to streaming binge a few more 2018 movies, just to make sure I was covered, and found two more additions to my list. (Tumbbad and What Keeps You Alive.) Overlord slipped a little, but it was too much fun for me to leave off the list.
A big lesson learned is how many good horror movies show up in the horror film festivals. If you are a horror fan, you’ll get a chance to see lots of great indie fare before it hits the streaming services, and since most of them don’t get wide theatrical releases, it may be the best chance you have to see them on the big screen.
Top 10 Horror Feature Films of 2018
- Hereditary (Directed by Ari Aster) Not only the best horror film of 2018, but one of the best horror movies ever made. Powerhouse acting and a tight, intense script culminate in one of the most gripping movies in recent memory. Authentically scary, and a riveting family drama at the core. Not for the faint of heart.
- A Quiet Place (Directed by John Krasinksi) Gut wrenchingly stressful and fun at the same time. A movie that will go a long way to prove that smart original ideas can make big bank at the box office. Emily Blunt is having one hell of a year. (With Mary Poppins coming up.) Quiet please!
- Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund) Gross, inappropriate, and so much fun. Cinestate breathes life into a stale franchise, and makes it an unexpected blast to watch. And, wonder of wonders… it’s well acted! And gross. And raunchy. And funny. Did I mention gross? Grindhouse for our times!
- Tumbbad (Directed by Rahi Anil Barve) The Bollywood horror tale of greed and addiction that breaks into the western consciousness. Brooding, exotic, and Indian to the core. Hopefully a sign of things to come from the sub-continent.
- Tigers are Not Afraid (Directed by Issa Lopez) Part Peter Pan, part Pan’s Labyrinth, and part Oliver Twist, this Mexican tale of street urchins battling urban drug lords comes with an endearing and haunting twist.
- The Ritual (Directed by David Bruckner) The woods have never been scarier. Immortalized with one of the most memorable new monsters you’ve seen in a very long time. Where did they come up with that thing? This movie keeps you on your toes, and does not telegraph much of anything.
- What Keeps You Alive (Directed by Colin Minehan) A top notch thriller, and further proof that the wife and husband combination of actress Brittany Allen and director Colin Minehan is absolute horror gold. This is a milestone in LGBT cinema, without banging you over the head with it. Gripping from start to finish.
- Overlord (Directed by Julius Avery) An unlikely blend of an excellent war movie and a fun Frankenstein-ish plot makes for a fantastic romp at the theater. Familiar in the best way, taking advantage of tropes while steel feeling fresh… or at least as fresh as undead Nazis can be. Get plenty of popcorn ready!
- Annihilation (Directed by Alex Garland) A hallucinogenic nightmarish dream of a movie, taking a very complicated book and making a beautiful (and complicated) movie. Quiet, unnerving, and unlike anything you’ve seen before.
- St. Agatha (Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman) THIS is the evil nun movie you should see… granted, it’s getting its streaming release next year, but it will be worth the wait. The horror moments really cut through the narration and leave an impact.
Honorable Mentions: I Kill Giants, Framed, Hammer of the Gods, Survival of the Film Freaks, Suspiria, The Laplace’s Demon, Revenge, and Ghost Stories.
Top 10 Short Horror Films of 2018
Something unexpected happened to me in creating The Scariest Things. I fell in love with the Horror Short film, and more specifically, I fell in love with the Horror Film Festival circuit in which they showed these pieces. Here are my favorites from 2018.
- Blood Flows Down (US) (Directed by Zandashe Brown) Poetic and atmospheric. A beautiful tale of the inheritance of a curse from a bayou mother to her daughter. Compelling and melancholy, this was my favorite short film from the Overlook Film Festival.
- The Dollmaker (US) (Directed by Al Loughler) Concise and spirited storytelling at its best. This is a modern day dark fairy tale, a simple morality play with a couple of great gotcha moments within its short run time. Rules are rules!
- Folk Tales(Poland) (Directed by Pawel Lukomski) Speaking of fairy tales: this is a grim tale of a young African man who has been kidnapped by organ harvesters, escapes into the Polish woods, and finds refuge from legendary witch. Contemporary and relevant to our times.
- Zygote (Canada/South Africa)(Directed by Neill Blomkamp) Blomkamp brings all his special effects expertise to bear in this Aliens-like segment. The film hints that this is made from something bigger, and boldly introduces a new high production-value method for horror shorts.
- The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds (US)(Directed by Anthony Cousins) An uproarious send up of the camp slasher sub-genre. This compact homage manages to hit all the fun horror trope triggers with a wicked wink.
- The House of Seven Gables (US) (Directed by Ben Wickey) This Poe and Lovecraft influenced tale of the origins of a real-life big haunted mansion in Salem, Massachusetts is spooky bedtime story fare. One of the best films shown at the H.P. Lovecraft film festival. A wonderful mix of puppet animation and old-fashioned hand drawn cells.
- We Summoned a Demon (US) (Directed by Chris McInroy) Boffo fun, and reveling in the stupidity of its protagonists, We Summoned a Demon reinforces McInroy’s prominence as one of the best horror-comedy short directors in the business.
- The Beaning (US) (Directed by Sean McCoy) An experimental film that embraces a conspiracy theory that the New York Yankees are a truly evil organization that through black magic orchestrated the (real) death of Cleveland Indians player Ray Chapman by a bean-ball, the last man to be killed in MLB. Damned Yankees, indeed!
- CLAW (US) (Directed by Christopher Litten) So wrong! And yet, so right. This NC-17 tale of a porn star who is paid to have sex with a lobster is offensive, amusing, and just nasty. But great! Trust me.
- The Music of John Low (Sweden) (Directed by Marko Kattilkoski) This masterful period piece feels like it was pulled straight from a Call of Cthulhu role playing game. A private investigator in the 1930’s tracks down an ancient mysterious tome and looks to bring some form of personal justice for the evil that has ruined his life.
The 2017 slate was impressive. Get Out, A Dark Song, Raw, The Girl With all the Gifts, Happy Death Day, Colossal, XX and It made for an impressive slate of horror films. 2018 matched, if not exceeded the 2017 presentations, but I think we can safely say that we have had two stellar years back to back. Here’s hoping for more great genre fare for 2019!
And, a HUGE thank you for all of our readers and listeners who have spent some time with us. This was our maiden voyage, and we love doing this so much that it has made our lives better here at the Scariest Things. Here’s to a happy 2019 for all our fans!
-Eric Li, Managing Editor