***Editors Note - We are going to be releasing all the writers top picks today. So keep your eyes peeled for the best horror 2018 has to offer from each of our writers
MY 2018 TOP TEN – Matt Rogerson
Matt rings in the New Year with his own take on 2018’s best horror offerings.
Since 2015, I’ve been convinced that we are in a new golden age of horror. Each year, the output just gets stronger and the world seems to take more notice. 2017 brought us the highest-grossing horror film ever in Andy Muschietti’s Stephen King adaptation IT, and a bona fide masterpiece that sparked the consciousness of the whole world and went on to win an Oscar. Jordan Peele’s Get Out pretty much defined the year (and deservedly so), but there was a host of great horror with a conscience such as MFA and Mohawk to name just two.
So what did 2018 have in store for us? Could it possibly top the previous year? If anything, it has been better, delivering on the promise of 2017 in the form of a number of celebrated films by a more diverse cast and crew, and several debut directorial efforts. There is at least one film on my list that BETTER HAD SEE SOMEONE NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR or I think the whole community will riot! We’ve got our eyes on you, Academy! Aside from that, we’ve seen some stunning new films released in cinemas and on VoD platforms, and not to forget an IMMENSE genre limited series in Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House. Overall, I’d argue horror has gotten stronger still in the past 12 months.
Here’s my top ten for 2018:
DISQUALIFIED: Incident in a Ghostland
I haven’t been able to get Pascal Laugier’s latest film out of my head for months. When I first saw it back in July, I was so affected that I re-watched it every weekend for a month. It gripped me with its visceral, challenging subject matter and provocative nature. This film almost occupied my number one spot, but there are…problems. The combination of some lazy tropes and real life events leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, and I’m afraid I have to use this time to call them out.
Firstly, the transphobia. Flippant, throwaway, but it isn’t what the world needs to see right now. In 2018, we live in a world where the trans community has seen attacks grow and rights shrink, and it seems there isn’t a day gone by online where trans women and men and non-binary persons aren’t having to defend their very existence in the face of vicious bigots. In a world where this is going on, writing one of your film’s vicious, predatory villains as a transgender woman is not what anyone needs to see right now. That their sidekick is a giant strong ox with clear developmental delay and severe learning difficulties adds ableism to transphobia. And as if both of those weren’t enough, we have the issues on set, and Laugier needs to be held responsible for Taylor Hickson’s facial disfigurement that was caused while shooting a scene for the film. The actor finds herself permanently disfigured because of a stunt that wasn’t set up safely.
I decided that the above was enough to strike the film from my list altogether, but still wanted to discuss it and re-enforce the criticisms of the film. In its place is a fantastic modern feminist genre piece from a first time director and writer team, a film that snuck its way around a few festivals before being quietly finding a home on Netflix. One of the most visually arresting and surprisingly satisfying films of the year, you’ll find it at number 6.
The first film on my list is a feature film debut from writer/director Matthew Holness, who I best remember as the architect of Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, a fantastic comedy series that everybody should hunt down and watch.
Possum seemed to appear out of nowhere towards the end of the year, and hit UK cinemas with a disturbing resonance. A psychological tale of a former children’s entertainer and his strange and macabre (eponymous) puppet, it strikes a disconcerting tone right from the off, and goes from strength to strength throughout its lean 85 minute runtime. Possum carries with it a reminder of the crimes of Jimmy Savile, a children’s television presenter/media megastar in the UK who with the aid of establishment allies covered up his lifetime of despicable crimes (Savile was a serial molester of children) until after his death. In many ways, the country is still reeling from the Savile revelations, in part because, on one level or another, the British public at least suspected something was rotten, and of course there were some who knew about it and either turned a blind eye or wilfully obstructed justice in keeping it quiet.
Outside of the UK, Possum will not necessarily have the same relevance, though it should certainly bewitch and disturb. An excellent script, fine central performances (from Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong) and assured direction by Holness ensured that Possum crept into the darkest recesses of my mind towards the end of 2018.
9. Brothers’ Nest
Chances are you know little to nothing about Brothers’ Nest. This fantastically black comedy, about the titular brothers and a plot to murder their elderly mother, has been seen in US and UK festivals but has not, to my knowledge, had an official release in either territory. Hopefully it will at least see VoD distribution before too long.
Lazily compared to the Coen Brothers and their own debut feature, Blood Simple, Clayton Jacobson’s film (Jacobson also plays one of the warring titular brothers, alongside real-life sibling Shane) offers comedy so black it rots before the eyes, and carries genuine emotional drama and tragedy thanks to the fine character work in the script and the genuine chemistry between the brothers.
8. Tigers Are Not Afraid
Unlike Brothers’ Nest, you’ve likely heard of this one by now. Issa López film about a gang of five children trying to survive in the Mexican barrio carries the Guillermo Del Toro seal of approval and has picked up awards everywhere. There’s not much I can say about this delightful, touching supernatural drama that hasn’t already been said.
Watch it. In theatres if you can, or by VoD and blu-ray when available.
7. You Were Never Really Here
Technically a 2017 release, it didn’t secure major distribution until 2018 so I am counting it. Not only one of the best genre films of the year, Lynne Ramsay’s psychological noir is one of the best of the year, full stop. The writer/director of Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk About Kevin intertwines her usual themes of grief, guilt and death with the expressionism of early noir (think Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak) and the beautiful visuals of neo-noir (think Lynch, Fincher, early Nolan) to tell a dark and obfuscating adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name.
A stunning film, with a terrific Joaquin Phoenix in the central role as a haunted mercenary and an equally haunting performance from Ekaterina Samsonov.
Directed by Daniel Goldhaber from a screenplay by Isa Mazzei, Cam is the tale of a cam-girl called “Lola” (Madeline Brewer) drawn into a rivalry with another girl (The Love Witch’s Samantha Robinson) that soon sees her psyche unravel as her identity is apparently stolen. The film then delves into tropes most notably explored by David Lynch (although Sophia Takal’s 2016 indie masterpiece Always Shine is perhaps the most noteworthy comparison), but at no point does it feel like a diluted version of other works.
As if being an incredibly accomplished debut in a subgenre that demands excellence wasn’t enough, Cam is also to be celebrated for its uncompromising, non-judgmental portrayal of sex work, managing to imbue the narrative with a message of empowerment that falls refreshingly far from the male gaze and patriarchy. Sex work IS work and Cam is available on Netflix.
Coralie Fargeat’s rape revenge action horror was a festival screener in late 2017, that was subsequently given an official release in February of this year and has since wowed festival audiences, found a home on Shudder and been granted a blu ray release.
All of the above is very well deserved. To see a subgenre that has always suffered from the male gaze finally be tackled by a female director is reason enough to see it, but this assured directorial effort is one of the most visually impressive and well-paced films of recent years. Matilda Lutz shows us vulnerability, determination, resourcefulness and reckoning in that order, and carries the film very well indeed.
As we hack our way through the business end of the list, we inevitably encounter Ari Aster’s debut feature that broke the world back in June. You all know by now that it stars Toni Colette and Alex Wolff in Award-worthy performances and manages to reinvigorate one of the most tired subgenres in horror – the Satanic Panic film.
So much has been said of Hereditary already that there is little else for me to add. Likely to be at number 1 on most people’s end of year lists, at 4 on mine simply because it took me a second watch to get over the hype and appreciate it on its own terms.
3. The Endless
Can someone please throw a heap of money at Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and just let them continue to write and direct the films they want to make without interference. Thanks muchly.
Another one that is ‘officially’ from 2017, but saw its official release in April 2018. The Endless is a supernatural science fiction film that stars the writer/director duo (who also produced, edited and created the amazing special effects for the film) as warring brothers. It manages to look and feel like something truly special…because it is. Following on from events in the pair’s 2012 film Resolution, The Endless brings together a clutch of genre tropes (warring brothers, UFO death cults, haunted videocassettes, an uncontainable evil) that fit together seamlessly under Benson and Moorhead’s auspices.
From the rich characterisation in the script to the central and supporting performances, to the glorious special effects and pervading sense of existential dread, there is nothing in this film that could be bettered. It is, quite simply, a perfect film.
2. Assassination Nation
While The Endless is a perfectly executed film, Assassination Nation is a visceral whirlwind of a movie, an assault on the senses that never lets up, never slows down, maintaining its dizzying, stomach-churning pace from start to finish.
Sam Levinson’s lurid arthouse shocker manages a seemingly impossible task. It is a hydra of a movie, a many-headed beast that perfectly encapsulates 2018. Much like the year, it moves from target to target with a frenzied pace, spearing its many prey, lambasting and consuming it (while at the same time subverting and satirising the judgemental attitudes of self-appointed moral guardians from the mainstream media to the twitterati) in 140 characters before moving onto the next target.
This creates a rollercoaster ride of fury. The city of Salem devolves into a series of modern-day witch hunts as a computer hacker discovers and leaks the personal secrets of its residents. The ensemble cast (the various strands of the movie move so quickly that it is difficult to pinpoint a ‘central’ performance) are superb, notably Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Anika Noni Rose, Colman Domingo, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale and Bella Thorne.
Alex Garland’s follow up to Ex Machina was released by Netflix back in February, and instantly became the finest genre film of the year. While lots of fantastic films have been released over the course of the last 12 months, none have quite toppled it from my mind. It is, therefore, my film of the year.
Terrifically well-written and directed, with performances by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson that show that women can play the same badass sci fi/action movie ensembles as men without being reduced to a bunch of male fantasy caricatures. Though Portman is ostensibly the lead, each character has their own arc that is given adequate attention as the plot progresses.
Annihilation effortlessly surpasses expectations just as the mutating landscapes of its mysterious quarantine zone effortlessly adapts and adopts and consumes the earth.
OK 2019 HORROR CREATORS…LET’S SEE WHAT YA GOT!!!
The son of a VHS pirate, Matt Rogerson became a horror fan at a tender young age. A student of the genre, he is currently writing his first book (about Italian horror and the Vatican) and he believes horror cinema is in the middle of a new golden age.
This week on Beyond The Void Horror Podcast The famous rapper NECRO joins the podcast to talk about the biz, horror & his new album. Plus Patrick returns again to talk about The Burning Moon one of the notorious gore exploitation films ever made. It’s a big week and you are invited! You can listen here or you can Listen/Subscribe on iTunes here!