Well, we’ve made it through another year. 2018 was kind of all over the place in terms of horror, so I think my favorites list is going to pretty much follow suit. My list is in no particular order, so feel free to read them however you want. Go nuts in 2019, and enjoy!
Hereditary: I know, I know. You’ve probably heard about this movie ad nauseum and honestly there’s probably not a lot more I can add to the discussion about this film that you haven’t heard already. But that’s never stopped me before, so here we go. I was worried Hereditary would suffer from inflated expectations, so I went in trying not to set the bar too high. As the credits rolled and I walked out of the theater, I honestly didn’t know what to feel, having just watched a bitter family drama that crescendos into a finale of demonic cults, possession, and surreal gore. It was difficult wrapping my mind around it, but as I kept thinking about it, I realized that it had embedded itself in my brain for weeks after I’d originally seen it. And for me, you can’t ask for much more from a horror film.
The Night Comes for Us: I feel really bad because I had my wife watch this one with me. She’s not that big into horror, but she loves martial arts movies. What I should have realized, however, is that the reason this movie got a lot of buzz in horror circles is likely because people are literally chopped to bits throughout the film. A bit of research could have saved some trauma in my house, so for that I’m sorry. That being said... HOLY SHIT GANG THERE’S SO MUCH BLOOD IN THIS MOVIE. It’s absolutely relentless and I loved every minute of it. They don’t waste too much time with plot beyond bad guy doesn’t want to be bad anymore so he protects a small girl by killing virtually every member of a triad in Indonesia. Said bad-guy-turned-hero Joe Taslim should be a damn household name. The guy commands your attention in every scene right up until the ending that I’ve had stuck in my head ever since I saw it. It’s blood soaked mayhem at its finest.
Wolfman’s Got Nards: Salem Horror Fest was a big highlight for me in 2017, and my trip in 2018 proved to be another amazing event, starting with this documentary about the making of and legacy of the The Monster Squad, directed by its star, André Gower. I really got a kick out of it, not only for the behind-the-scenes stuff, but also for a dive into what happened to the movie after it made its initial run. I’d felt bad that for a movie I loved so much as a kid, I never really went back to see it again until decades later. It turns out, nobody really did because there was no easy way to find it, and the documentary tracks how the film went from a box office flop that severely damaged director Fred Dekker’s career, found an audience on video/cable, and then lay dormant for years until a series of viewings at the Alamo Drafthouse showed there was enough of an audience for a full DVD release that introduced it to the world all over again. The documentary is a lot of fun, and I was also lucky enough to catch Gower and writer/producer Henry Darrow McComas for an interview about their journey with The Monster Squad and the documentary.
Scary Stories Documentary: This is another movie that I got to catch at Salem Horror Fest, and I already did a full review earlier this year, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. I’ll just say that if you’re a fan of the books, you need to see this documentary. It’s a gorgeously crafted love letter to the series that includes some background on author Alvin Schwartz and illustrator Stephen Gammell and, more importantly, discusses how these books have impacted our culture from pushes to ban it in elementary schools to the influences it has had on people’s creativity in the decades since it was published. And the great news is that the documentary has picked up a theatrical release for August 2019, so you should be able to see it near you this year.
Santa Clarita Diet Season 2: With all of the great television being produced as of late, it’s hard for me to commit to too many of them because I frankly don’t have the energy to keep up. Santa Clarita Diet, however, will always be required viewing especially after a second season that managed to avoid the sophomore slump. Drew Barrymore’s Sheila continues to adjust to her newfound zombie-induced confidence that also includes those pesky zombie cravings, and Timothy Olyphant’s Joel is an absolute delight as he continues to fray at the edges while trying to keep his family together. But everyone in this ensemble gets a moment to steal the show, from Liv Hewson’s righteous but grumpy teenage daughter, to Skyler Gisondo’s sweetly hapless neighbor, to Nathan Fillion’s gregarious, undead severed head. It’s a show that manages to be hilarious, sweet, and incredibly bloody all at the same time. I can’t wait for season 3.
Halloween (2018): Look, I realize the importance of supporting original stories in horror, and that we don’t want the genre to become more homogenized than it already is. But dammit, sometimes I just want the movie equivalent of a great slice of pizza. And it seems like David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley finally realized that the key to a great slice of pizza is to keep it simple.
The new Halloween keeps the staple ingredients that remind you of the classic 1978 original (tense stalking sequences, creepy score) and introduces a couple of new elements (a sprinkle of humor, a dash of character study) to put their own stamp on it. Sure, they may have left it in the oven a little too long with that Dr. Sartain twist, but I still thought it was pretty damn satisfying.
The Passion of Darkly Noon: Admittedly, this is very much not a 2018 film. Released in 1995, it popped up on Shudder this year and I was intrigued by a movie that stars Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd, and Viggo Mortensen that I’d somehow never heard of before. Given the basic premise, where a religiously brainwashed young man becomes obsessed with the free-spirited woman who takes him in, I was kind of expecting something with a ’90s era Skinemax vibe.
What I got instead defies description as we follow Fraser’s character into a mental descent that includes hallucinations of his zombified parents, a barbed-wire vest, and what I kid you not is a five-minute sequence of a giant, rhinestone-covered shoe floating through a river. If I’m not doing a good job at selling this movie it’s because I need to make it clear that a lot of you will not like this movie at all. But if you’re willing to take a chance on a moody, bizarre slice of surrealism, then you might indeed enjoy this one.
The Witch in the Window: I don’t usually gravitate towards haunted house movies, but as someone who grew up with a single dad, I am a sucker for a movie with a father/son relationship at its core. Such is the case for the Shudder exclusive The Witch in the Window, a film that follows a man who has taken his estranged son to help him fix up an old house in Vermont. Naturally, since this is a horror movie, the previous occupant was the titular witch who seems hell-bent on keeping them in that house with her forever. It takes a little bit for this movie to really get going, focusing primarily on the core relationship while plugging in a few well-placed creepy moments, some of which go by so quickly you could almost miss them. But once the movie kicks into gear, it really starts screwing with reality for the protagonists and for us. The bittersweet ending seals the deal for me in making this a standout for 2018.
I spend an inordinate amount of my time listening to horror podcasts, so I just want to highlight a few of my favorites over the past year (and, of course, if you’re not already listening to Corpse Club, get on that ASAP!)
Kill by Kill: Sure, you may love the Friday the 13th franchise, but are you willing to spend years of of your life producing a podcast devoted to the character development (or lack thereof) of every person to make an appearance in the franchise? Patrick Hamilton and Gena Radcliffe do just that, diving into every single installment of Friday the 13th with sporadic sidetracks to other films just to shake things up a bit. They recently just finished the entire Friday franchise, but rumor has it they’ll be back in 2019 to start a new journey that will be the stuff of Nightmares.
Dead Ringers: While it’s not uncommon for two horror movies to have similar elements, their respective executions can give them each unique flavors. Nolan McBride and a rotating group of co-hosts focus on films with this dynamic by taking deep dives into both sides of double features to find what connects each movie and distinguishes them apart from one another.
Horror Business: Sometimes you just need to listen to a couple of curmudgeons shoot the shit about horror movies. That’s just what you get with Justin and Liam as they highlight a pair of movies each episode with plenty of tangents about other horror films and things that just generally annoy them. Check it out for your regular dose of salt.
Teen Creeps: Even though I was only marginally into YA horror as a kid, this show from hosts Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai still manages to make me nostalgic for the likes of R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and other authors who focus on the tween demographic. They recap a different book each week with overviews, discussion, and quite a few laughs.
Faculty of Horror: I almost didn’t include this one because anyone who’s followed me in any capacity has probably already heard me sing its praises time and time again. But dammit, this show is what got me into horror analysis in the first place. Hosts Alexandra West and Andrea Subissati are insanely intelligent while still keeping the material approachable and funny. They represent everything that I love about the horror community, and if you’re not listening, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2018? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.