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Heather’s Favorites of 2018

2019/01/04 22:46:36 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

We made it, everyone! 2018 is now officially behind us, which means we have a new year of horror to get excited about. But before we start looking ahead, I figured I’d take one last look back on some of the great films that came out last year. I know we generally celebrate all facets of horror fandom with our lists, but for me, most of my 2018 revolved around viewing a vast array of cinematic delights, so it only makes sense that I focus mainly on movies here.

That being said, before I get started, I thought it was worth mentioning a few other things that certainly made 2018 super memorable. The year kicked off with my very first book signing ever (which I still don’t quite believe actually happened, but there are pictures, so I’ve come to accept it), plus I also had the pleasure of seeing John Carpenter perform for a third year in a row, experienced The Fly on the big screen at Beyond Fest with David Cronenberg in attendance (which was freaking rad), and we even finally got all of the Corpse Club together in Chicago this past August at Flashback Weekend.

Also, there were a few books that I definitely want to mention here for any of you readers who might be on the hunt for something new to feed those literary appetites in 2019: the novelizations of both Halloween (2018) and Anna and the Apocalypse, Paperbacks from Hell, Yuletide Terror, and I just finally started Our Lady of the Inferno a few weeks ago, too. 2018 also featured a ton of killer soundtracks/scores and this was the first year in a long time where I added numerous new releases to my music collection: Suspiria (2018), Annihilation, Mandy, Bird Box, as well as the aforementioned Halloween (2018)and Anna and the Apocalypse.

All in all, 2018 was a pretty stellar time for us horror fans, and we should consider ourselves very lucky to get to experience it all firsthand. Just imagine how jealous all those chumps in 2048 are gonna be one day.

Suspiria (2018): For nearly nine months, I had been pretty damn sure that the next film on my Favorites List would end up being the ultimate movie of the year for me, but then along came Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria this past fall, and it completely swept me off my feet (pun absolutely intended). It’s one of the films I had been most nervous about ever since it was announced, because I was just hoping to see something that truly felt like a spiritual follow-up to Dario Argento’s OG Suspiria, but was also very much its own thing, and Guadagnino totally nails it with his adaptation.

Between Dakota Johnson’s stunning portrayal of Susie Bannion to Mia Goth’s revelatory performance as the warm-hearted Sara to pretty much every single other moment in the film (including the wholly transformative Tilda Swinton, who takes on three characters), this iteration of Suspiria was easily one of the most surprising releases of 2019, and I’ve been consumed by the masterful display of genre storytelling on display here ever since I succumbed to its influences at Fantastic Fest in September.

MandyI feel like I’ve been talking about Mandy forever (nearly 12 months now), so I’ll keep this one short and sweet (you can read my full review HERE). When I saw it at last year’s Sundance, Mandy completely blew my mind, and it’s a film that very much became part of my cinematic DNA through subsequent rewatches.

That first screening, I was left with a sense of buzzy exhilaration. The second time I watched it, I was completely head over heels for all the little details peppered throughout the film’s wildly weird narrative. And upon my third viewing, its final moments left me in tears, as Panos Cosmatos’ exploration of grief and loss finally caught up with me in ways I was not expecting, which is a testament to Cosmatos’ beautiful handling of the film’s thematic elements. If you somehow missed Mandy, it’s currently available on Shudder and is very much worth your time.

Halloween (2018): Last year was apparently a bit nerve-wracking for me as a fan, between my anticipation for the aforementioned Suspiria as well as with David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), especially considering the latter was tossing aside decades of mythology in an effort to get the franchise more streamlined and back to its roots. Because I’m a fan who loves all forms of Michael Myers-related continuity, but can get a little precious over a franchise that I’ve spent most of my life loving (I’m terrible, I know), I wasn’t necessarily against rebooting things, but I wasn’t sure how well this new Halloween was going to work going into it. But in that opening scene, Green set the stage with one of the most unnerving moments in the Halloween series (which took place in daylight, and featured Myers unmasked to boot, which is no small feat in itself), and I knew this universe I have loved for more than 30 years was in great hands.

The return of Jamie Lee Curtis was another key component to just why H40 works as well as it does, as we finally get a fully realized version of an adult Laurie Strode who was done playing the victim, and was ready to go to war with the entity that robbed her of any sort of meaningful existence over the course of the last 40 years. As both a Halloween and a die-hard slasher fan, Halloween (2018) gave me everything I could have hoped for, and so much I didn’t even know I wanted from this sequel in the first place, and I love it for that.

Anna and the ApocalypseIf Suspiria had me giving myself over to the dance this year, it was Anna and the Apocalypse that left me with a constant song in my heart over the last few months. A film I had originally screened at Fantastic Fest 2017, I spent most of 2018 waiting for the arrival of Anna, and upon subsequent revisits this fall, John McPhail’s gloriously fun zom-com Christmas musical firmly established itself as one of the most ambitious and wondrously heartfelt genre offerings we’ve seen in some time (the last movie that filled me with this kind of love was What We Do in the Shadows).

I know its theatrical run was still somewhat limited, so many fans missed out on seeing it in 2018, but I look forward to Anna and the Apocalypse becoming a holiday horror staple in the near future, as it’s deserving of that much (and honestly, so much more, too—personally, I’m hoping for a sing-a-long version in the future). If I’m being honest, 2018 wasn’t a great year for me, but it was Anna that helped reinforce the idea that even when the world has gone to hell, you still gotta keep on living, and I’m grateful for that reminder as I head into 2019.

The Night Comes For UsAs someone who has really enjoyed watching the progression of Timo Tjahjanto’s career over the last few years, I think it’s pretty freaking cool that in 2018 he delivered up two truly stellar films that are so vastly different from each other: the brutal and bloody bullet-riddled ballet The Night Comes For Us and his supernatural shocker May the Devil Take You. And while I enjoyed both films immensely, I ended up going with The Night Comes For Us for this list because I’ve now watched it at home several times (thanks Netflix!), I just fall even more in love with it the more time I spend with it.

The action set pieces literally left my jaw on the proverbial floor time and time (and time… and time) again, and in the midst of all the bone-crunching insanity, Night also features some lovely and thoughtful performances from its talented cast top to bottom. It also left me praying to the Action Gods that we get more from this universe, too, because there’s definitely a lot of great stories from this world that I’d love to see Tjahjanto get a chance to make in the (hopefully near) future. Oh, and WHITE BOY BOBBY 4EVA.

Hereditary2018 was a heavy year for horror, and probably the weightiest of the bunch was Ari Aster’s Hereditary, yet another film I caught at last year’s Sundance, and has stuck with me for over a year now. I understand why some folks may not have connected with Hereditary, as there are parts of the film that are just downright ugly and confrontational, but to me, that’s kind of its point.

Grief is ugly. Grief is confrontational, and if I may riff a bit on a popular saying: you get to pick your friends, but you don’t get to pick your family, and sometimes, families aren’t all that awesome, as evidenced by the events in Hereditary. A lot has been said about Toni Collette’s core-shaking performance in Hereditary, too (and for very good reason, she is INCREDIBLE), but I’d like to do one last tip of my hat to Alex Wolff, who does a lot of heavy lifting here as well, and he’s proven himself one of the most exciting young actors out there working today.

The Strangers: Prey at NightMe picking The Strangers: Prey at Night for my favorites list should come as zero surprise to anyone who knows me. I’m a slasher nut, the first Strangers is amongst my favorite modern horror movies, and I can never resist the siren call of a great Jim Steinman power ballad whenever one plays in my vicinity. Johannes Roberts took on the unenviable task of trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice with Prey at Night, and rather than just rehash the vibes and story beats of The Strangers for his sequel, he decided to turn the film into his very own love letter to John Carpenter, and I was very much all about it.

And while it may start off a little unevenly, once we settle into the vacation trailer park and the masked killers begin their games, that’s when Roberts goes to town, and I had a total blast with everything that followed. And as many have pointed out over the last year, the pool scene is undoubtedly what us horror fans would call an “all-timer,” so that alone makes The Strangers: Prey at Night worth mentioning here.

Let the Corpses TanA film I haven’t heard too many folks talking about from 2018 is Let the Corpses Tan, which is a damned shame, so I thought I’d include it here because it very much is a movie worth discussing. A film that I would describe as “genre adjacent” (a phrase I coined earlier this year that will come in handy later on in this list), Let the Corpses Tan is the latest from filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears) that confidently blends together a sweaty arthouse aesthetic with a spaghetti western swagger and a dose of Italian crime thriller thrown in for good measure, and it left me completely mesmerized.

Some may feel that Let the Corpses Tan was a bit too much of a “style over substance” experience, which I totally get, but I thought its oddly structured narrative and dazzling visuals only propelled the latest from Cattet and Forzani to even greater heights. It received a very limited release last year, and I’m not really sure where the film has gone from there, but here’s hoping it maybe finds a home at Shudder in 2019.

What Keeps You AliveColin Minihan is another director who I’ve really enjoyed seeing evolve as a filmmaker over the last few years, and his latest, the psychological thriller What Keeps You Alive, is easily his best effort to date. If I’m being totally honest, going into WKYA, I was hoping to enjoy it, but had no idea it would end up leaving such a huge impression on me as a viewer.

It’s a film that’s best experienced knowing very little about going into it (the trailer for the film reveals WAY too much, so if you’re curious about this one, skip the trailer for your own benefit), so I’ll just leave it at this: if you think you have What Keeps You Alive pegged before watching it, Minihan has some truly twisted surprises in store for you. Also, both Brittany Allen and Hannah Emily Anderson deliver some brilliant performances here, making What Keeps You Alive a film worth watching if you haven’t already done so.

OverlordSometimes you want thought-provoking horror that shakes you to your core, and sometimes you just want to watch a group of badass heroic soldiers take down a Nazi regime and battle against the undead in an action-fueled horror mashup. And Overlord does exactly that. When it comes to big screen experiences of 2018, Overlord was probably the most “fun” I had all year sitting in a theater, and I hope it marks the beginning of Bad Robot’s commitment to R-rated genre fare. The entire cast is utterly delightful and I’m very excited to see where director Julius Avery’s career goes from here (especially after that Flash Gordon announcement). Oh, and I’m super down to see more from this world, so fingers crossed Bad Robot sees the potential as well.

PyewacketI’m heading back to soul-crushing horror territory with Pyewacket, an unnerving and gut-wrenching tale that serves up another prime example of why you should always be careful what you wish for, as a mother and daughter (Laurie Holden, Nicole Muñoz) struggle to connect after the loss of their family’s patriarch, and the teen decides to lash out by summoning a demonic force, and as you can imagine, things go downhill very quickly from there.

As someone who didn’t always have the greatest relationship with my mom, Pyewacket pummeled me and dredged up a few of my own maternal issues along the way, but it’s the film’s final moments that ended up leaving me aghast and wholly devastated (even if I saw it coming). Seriously powerful filmmaking from Adam MacDonald, Pyewacket is a movie that I suspect even you lucky folks out there with normal parental relationships would enjoy as well.

The EndlessThe Endless is another movie that works far better when its mysteries are left for viewers to discover all for themselves, so I’ll keep this one super brief: if you dig any of the previous films from the uber-talented directorial team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (especially Resolution), then The Endless should undoubtedly be right up your proverbial alley. It’s magnificent, low-budget, high-ambition indie filmmaking at its very finest that I absolutely loved (and it’s currently available on Netflix, too!).

Assassination NationIf I’m being honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever sit down and watch Assassination Nation again, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an essential film that should be recognized for being one of the ballsiest, timeliest (is that even a word? It is now.) and vital movies released during 2018. Writer/director Sam Levinson confronts society’s obsession with social media in Assassination Nation, as well as a myriad of other issues that have been plaguing our world as of late, and the results are a scathing exploration of just how messed up everything has become due to our obsession with “otherness” and how quickly things can fall apart when mob rule mentality takes over. Love it or hate it, I can guarantee you won’t see another film from this year quite like Assassination Nation, and it would make for a helluva double feature with Joseph Kahn’s Bodied (which made my Honorable Mentions section).

A Simple FavorAnother film that I would describe as “genre adjacent,” I only finally caught up with Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor this week, and it quickly became one of my favorite films of this past year (and I’m also super sad I missed it in theaters). A whip-smart thriller filled with more twists and turns than a contortionists’ convention, A Simple Favor soars due to the pitch-perfect performances from Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, delivering a provocative thrill ride from start to finish.

Even beyond that, A Simple Favor has the good sense to use both Jean Smart and Linda Cardellini for two key supporting roles (SO AWESOME), and while I may have had a few inklings on some of the story’s reveals, there were still many surprises to be had, and I truly enjoyed it. If you were like me and slept on A Simple Favor in 2018, be sure to right that wrong just as soon as possible.

Also, there’s a moment in A Simple Favor where Kendrick overexplains her wardrobe choices while mentioning Target’s adorable sock selection, and I don’t think there’s another single line of dialogue uttered in a movie released during 2018 that could perfectly sum me up as a person as that one did.

Honorable Mentions:

  • A Quiet Place
  • Searching
  • Border
  • Never Goin’ Back
  • Lowlife
  • Heavy Trip
  • Summer of ’84
  • Upgrade
  • Ghost Stories
  • Annihilation
  • Deadpool 2
  • Mom and Dad
  • The Housemaid
  • Bodied
  • Skyscraper

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Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2018? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.

Heather Wixson
About the Author - Heather Wixson

After falling in love with the horror genre at a very early age, Heather Wixson has spent the last decade carving out a name for herself in the genre world as a both a journalist and as a proponent of independent horror cinema. Wixson is currently the Managing Editor for DailyDead.com, and was previously a featured writer at DreadCentral.com and TerrorTube.com where her online career began; she’s also been a contributor at FEARnet as well as a panelist for several of their online programs.

Wixson recently finished her first book, Monster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema's Most Memorable Creatures, and is currently working on her second upcoming book project on special effects artists as well.

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