As we pass another marker on our way to subterranean forevers and/or meeting our makers (my money’s on Xenu), let’s lay on the brakes for a bit and count our horror blessings, shall we? 2018 was another great year, from the page to the screen and everything in between. (I only have a Wii U, so no video games, okay?) Here are some of my favorite things that inundated my ears and eyeholes throughout the year:
Chasing around two grandkids put a major cramp on my reading this year, unless I can include The Gingerbread Man on my list (I mean, it doesn’t end particularly well for him anyway). However, I did squeeze in one earlier this year, and made a mad dash to finish another as it was a Christmas gift and I kind of figured it would make my list. P.S. I did read other books this year, but they were older and aged, much like myself.
Paperbacks from Hell: Author Grady Hendrix digs as deep as you’d want him to on the boom (boon? Bane?) of horror paperbacks in the ’70s and ’80s; he has a strong affection for the more lurid and insane books of the time, and his infectious prose will have you hunting through used bookstores before you’re even done reading. Bonus marks for the gorgeous reprints of the glorious covers. (Yes, I know it came out in 2017, but I’m a slow reader.)
True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking: Everyone around these parts knows I’m a ride or die Don Coscarelli phan, and his memoir True Indie is just one more reason to love the man. Filled with anecdotes throughout his amazing career, from Jim, the World’s Greatest to Phantasm: Ravager, True Indie is told with the folksy charm and good humor necessary to survive (and thrive) for so long as an artist in an impossible industry. A great book from one of the good guys.
FAVORITE TV SERIES
Can I put Paw Patrol on this list? Because it is something I definitely saw a lot of this year. No? Fine. When I could squeeze myself away from Chase and the gang, these are the small screen sights I managed to take in and love.
The Haunting of Hill House: Wherein Mike Flanagan hits up Netflix and stretches out beyond feature length, and comes up with a familial drama (loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s novel) that is as emotionally devastating as it is creepy. Come for the ghosts, stay for the family.
Deadwax: Meanwhile over on Shudder, Deadwax caught my ears and eyes with a strange blast of eight approximately 15-minute episodes connected to tell one story, much like David Lynch DJ-ing a concept album. Does for obsessive record collecting what Cigarette Burns does for cinephiles. Let’s hope for many more needle drops from writer/director Graham Reznick for years to come. Bonus points awarded for Ted Raimi.
Channel Zero: No-End House: Back to Shudder I go, as they currently house the first three seasons of SYFY’s Channel Zero. I haven’t seen the latest season, The Dream Door, but I have finally caught up to No-End House, season two’s loving ode to doppelgängers and domestic distress. Flooded with bizarre imagery and strong performances, Channel Zero is the horror series every horror fan should see, yet doesn’t seem to talk about enough. If you haven’t yet, catch up on some beautiful nightmares.
When I need a rest from the grandkids and their delightful cacophony, I shut out the world with the following podcasts. They make every escape pleasurable and engaging.
Corpse Club isn’t terrible, either.
What a year! There were a lot of really, very, very good movies and a few all-timers. I’ll list a bunch and then chat about a few, so I hopefully hold you until the end, okay?
Unfriended: Dark Web: While the first delved into the supernatural to explain insidious online trauma, this superior sequel surpasses it by tying the events to reality, which as we know, is much more frightening. Get off your computer! (After you read this, of course.)
The Strangers: Prey at Night: Speaking of surpassing the original, here’s one that loses the nihilistic vibe and presents instead a retro ’80s slasher complete with Carpenter font, music, and style. People will rightfully be watching the poolside scene forever.
Hell Fest: It was a great year for slashers, and here’s one that skips all of the post-meta commentary and plays it straight. It could have used a couple more creative kills, but it has style to burn, a likable cast, and is as unpretentious as they come.
Cam: The world of cam workers was completely new to me before viewing this, but I was immediately enveloped through strong writing, direction, and performances. Some have likened it to a stretched-out Twilight Zone episode, but the atmosphere is sustained throughout the running time, and gives agency to a group of people who deserve it.
Overlord: Look, I’m not even a big war movie buff, and using AC/DC’s "Hell’s Bells" in the trailer wasn’t selling me, either. (Not a fan of that tune.) But surprise, surprise, I was completely engaged with the war stuff, and then when the horror hits, well, sign me up, sarge. Great cast (Wyatt Russell is aces) and bonus points for a couple sly The Thing homages.
Terrified (aka Aterrados): Where have all the set pieces gone, you ask? Well, they’re all here, stuffed into one disjointed, the-whole-neighborhood-is-haunted phantasmagoria. Some of the wildest, startling images of the year are here, doled out like traumatic cinema flash bombs. Del Toro is producing the remake (which will also be directed by the original film's creator, Demián Rugna), but wound your eyes here first.
Revenge: The trickiest of sub-genres to pull off, rape revenge is frustratingly used as the weakest of plot mechanisms without true concern for the only thing that matters: the victim. Not here. This is a battle cry from the very soul of every victim, and a magnetic telling of catharsis and redemption. And there’s so, so much blood.
Suspiria: The only way to retell a beloved horror classic is not to; other than the setting of a dance studio, 2018’s redux focuses on those within that setting. The terror comes from the cabalistic nature of the staff and our heroine’s growing concern as to her place in this world. Only in the final act does it twirl with abandon, before landing in a state of surprising grace.
Mandy: This is probably the most polarizing movie of the year; people either glommed to Nicolas Cage digging his way through a psychedelic rabbit hole or they didn’t. Put me in the former camp, as I was mesmerized by this vibrating tone poem on loss. Plus, Cenobite bikers and chainsaw duels.
Halloween (2018): Unclouded by nostalgia but excited beyond belief, this was easily my favorite filmgoing experience of the year. Paying homage to the past while picking up the story in the present, we see the Strode family come together to rid the world of their boogeyman, with voices finally being heard triumphantly in a stylish and (at last again) frightening way. Long live Laurie.
BEST EXPERIENCE OF 2018
The highest of the highs? In August, the missus and I flew to Chicago for Flashback Weekend, where we finally met most of the Daily Dead family in person after working here for over three years. Getting to hang with Jonathan, Christy, Heather, Patrick, Derek, Jordan; recording a loose and lovely live episode of Corpse Club (Full Moon’s Corona Master is now available for streaming); watching Heather work her magic on the panels she hosted; meeting F This Movie!’s J Bones and Adam Riske; and breaking several breads with this group of people that I am proud to call my family. (You know, the ones you like.)
So there you have it, another top-notch year for horror! May your 2019 be filled with light, joy, and nothing but the best spook-filled vibes.
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2018? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.