Horror is one of the most popular movie genres in all of film as well as one of the most profitable since they don’t tend to cost a whole lot to pull off. As a result, the genre often gives us an interesting mix of phoned in critical duds and artistic projects that explore the darkest reaches of the human mind and experience. In 2018 we got a new collection of intriguing, spooky and downright uncomfortable horror flicks with some turning heads while others simply built on what people already loved about the genre. As 2018 comes to a close I took a look at all the of the horror films I reviewed in 2018 and selected what I think are the best genre pieces that struck fear not our hearts. These are my picks for the Top 10 Horror Films of 2018.
For this list I looked at movies considered to be horror films that I viewed and reviewed in 2018. These include atmospheric horror films or thrillers with horror movie themes although many movies that fit into other genres and simply have horror flair weren’t featured on this countdown. As with every list in my Best of 2018 series each film from the year can only fit in one category so if you don’t see a movie you think should have made this list be sure to check out the rest of my Best of 2018 lineup to see where your favorite film may have landed. Also there are numerous horror films like “Suspiria” that did not receive a wide enough release for me to view so they won’t be on this list either.
This is part of a series of countdowns leading up to my picks for the 20 best movies of 2018 on New Years Day.
As always if you’d like to read my reviews of these films you can do so by clicking the name of the movie. I know horror is a heavy favorite among many people so I’m sure there are quite a few who will disagree with the results of this list. That’s why I want to hear from you. What is your favorite horror movies from 2018? Let me know in the comments below. Now on with the show!
10. “The First Purge”
The “Purge” franchise has certainly been milked for all its worth hasn’t it? Three films and a television spinoff later and it’s still going strong, but the television show isn’t all 2018 added to this franchise. We also got a prequel in “The First Purge” which explores how this night of legal crime began. “The First Purge” is one of numerous movies to tackle race relations in the United States in 2018, a theme touched on in past entries in the franchise as well, and while it’s by far one of if not THE worst film in this series that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. For all intents and purposes “The First Purge” is still a fun exploration of a world where crime is seen as cathartic rather than destructive, at least for a single night. Really the joy you get from this picture is all in how you look at it and for me it’s a passable at best horror flick that’s still worth checking out.
9. “Unfriended: Dark Web“
I enjoyed this film much more than other critics did and I enjoyed its predecessor as well. “Unfriended: Dark Web” embraces the same format at the first film, presenting us with a found-footage-esque perspective as we see a group of friends talking over social media as they find their way onto the Dark Web, eventually being targeted by a mysterious group with a bloodlust. I loved the perspective and I loved the tension that I felt watching this film as if I was viewing a snuff picture on my own computer. While that may seem somewhat sadistic of me to say, that is the sensation the filmmakers were going for in the end. The point here is to engage the viewer by making them feel like they’re seeing something tragic and real and that’s exactly what it feels like. It also plays into the final reveal at the end of the film perfectly. “Dark Web” may not rewrite the book on how to make a good found-footage horror movie, but it does show that there is still potential for the subgenre’s future.
8. “The Nun”
The Conjuring Universe has become possibly the biggest and most successful cinematic universe other than the MCU and in 2018 that track record continued with “The Nun”, the second spinoff of the series after the “Annabelle” movies. “The Nun” explores the origins of “Conjuring 2” demon Valak as a priest and a nun are dispatched to a monastery to examine strange occurrences after one of the resident nuns is found having committed suicide. While far from the best film in the franchise, “The Nun” is more than passable offering some neat frights, a creative and worthy villain and even a pretty cool twist even though you’d think we would have expected that from this series by now. The atmosphere is awesome, the scares are effective, and the story is engaging even if it’s not very inspired. At the end of the day “The Nun” is a solid horror movie that does what it needs to do, rising above its imperfections to continue the solid track record the Conjuring Universe has established over the last five years.
One of the most interesting horror thrillers of 2018, “Unsane” is a special kind of picture because it was filmed completely on an iPhone 7 Plus giving it an aesthetic as immersive as a found-footage film but still with the feel of a traditional movie experience. The narrative sees Claire Foy, who had a breakout year in 2018, play a woman fresh out of an abusive relationship who unknowingly commits herself to a mental institution where she may or may not have been tracked down by her ex-boyfriend. The film makes us, and the main character, question if she’s really being stalked by her ex or if she really is losing her mind. The tension is excellent, the cinematography is unique and fun, and the horror elements feel all too real especially as this film provides commentary on the profiteering of mental health organizations over the betterment of the patient. It’s a delightful film and a gem from 2018 that you have to see to believe.
6. “Bird Box”
The most recent horror release on this list, “Bird Box” has quickly become a popular Netflix original that has earned favorable comparisons to the 2008 train wreck “The Happening” as a thrilling and creepy experience that fully embraces its premise based on the concept of sight. The film explores a post-apocalyptic reality where entities have taken over the world and those who see them are forced to endure visions of their worst fears which lead them to commit suicide. This idea alone is creepy enough, but the execution is spot on sending a chill down your spine and forcing viewers to imagine what it would be like to have to live in a world where one of our most valued senses could also result in our imminent deaths. It’s one of two movies in 2018 that focused on sense-based horror and the fourth movie in just the last three years to embrace such a concept. None have yet to disappoint with “Bird Box” being one of the creepiest such films so far.
The eleventh film in one of the most legendary horror franchises in history, the 2018 “Halloween” was one of the year’s most anticipated offerings and it did not disappoint. Acting as a direct sequel to the 1978 original (ignoring all previous sequels) and set 40 years after the first film “Halloween” sees Michael Myers escape custody and target Laurie Strode, now a self-militarized hermit, once again. The sequel delivers a great mix of humor and slasher horror that pays homage to the series’ legacy while also taking on a life of its own to bring new elements and scares to a franchise long thought beyond its time. While it’s not very successful at blending its different tones, the overall experience is still excellent and gives longtime fans of the series something to enjoy while also satisfying a new generation of “Halloween” fans who now have their own modern classic to hold on to for years to come.
I did not enjoy “Hereditary” as much as many others did, but while it won’t be among my favorite movies of the year it is more than deserving of being considered one of the horror genre’s best. “Hereditary” continues a long running trend of atmospheric and tonal horror movies that leans more on imagery and story than cheap jump scares or providing a full-on fright fest. To put it simply, this tale about a mother and her family who are haunted by a cursed family legacy is more creepy than outright scary and that makes for a rather unique genre experience if you’re willing to take the time to enjoy it. “Hereditary” is a fun melding of arthouse horror and classic genre themes that is destined to be dissected and appreciated for years to come. While I didn’t find it very scary, in fact I felt it a bit pretentious, I did enjoy what it had to offer and it certainly deserves its place among the best horror pictures of 2018.
“Overlord” was the exact opposite of “Hereditary” and while it might not be easy to be subtle with a horror film, it’s also very difficult to fully embrace the approach without going too over the top. “Overlord”, a story about U.S. soldiers in World War II discovering Nazi zombie experiments in a small town, finds a great balance between its intense action and its fear inducing premise that keeps the viewer entertained while also touching on more subtle social themes relevant to today and yesterday. This is an engaging, aggressive and epic horror picture that assaults the viewer with suspense, mystery and odd imagery without ever feeling too pretentious or disorganized. I called it a “harmless and shamelessly enjoyable piece of horror action fun” and I stand by that comment today and would even go so far as to call it one of the most entertaining movies of 2018 in general.
2. “A Quiet Place”
While “Bird Box” offered a horrifying look at a world where sight is a danger to mankind, “A Quiet Place” focuses more on hearing and sound giving us a creatively developed post-apocalyptic reality where humans have fallen victim to a race of beings with incredible hearing abilities forcing people to avoid speaking or making any noise at all to avoid detection. Written and directed by and starring John Krasinski, “A Quiet Place” is one of the most original movies of the year and one of the first big box office smashes of 2018 as fans flocked to the theaters to see what all the buzz was about for themselves. Since its debut it has become the subject of slight scrutiny for plot holes related to its premise and the minor details hidden in the film, but for those who just want to enjoy what the film has to offer without delving too deep into the specifics of the world it presents “A Quiet Place” provides more than enough to be one of the best horror movies of not just 2018, but of the entire decade…and yet there is one film than stood out even more.
Where do I start with this film? “Mandy” is, to put it bluntly, an experience. It’s stylish, it’s unique, it’s completely over the top and it’s an all-around horror masterpiece. This film finally takes Nicholas Cage’s trademark overacting ability and puts it to good use as he portrays a man who loses his mind when a cult kills his wife. His quest for revenge takes us on a psychedelic, blood filled thrill ride like nothing we’ve seen in years in the horror genre. Director and co-writer Panos Cosmatos fully embraces his insane vision using unique color schemes, eccentric characters, and a well-written script to bring to life one of the most mind-bending genre pieces in years. In my review I called “Mandy” a “thrill ride of a mind bender that left me speechless” and that statement still holds true. It’s one of those films that begs you to dig deeper into what it’s trying to say, but even if you only want to enjoy what’s on the surface there’s more than enough to satisfy. While horror has given us many mainstream quality films over the years, in 2018 it’s the one that flew under the radar, “Mandy”, that reigns supreme in my book