Well, well, well, here we are again, nursing our New Year’s hangovers, making plans to go to the gym and opening up that new Dilbert desk calendar (and man, do I miss The Far Side calendars). 2018 had me very nervous, my dear Hellions. For a while there, I didn’t think there would be enough worthy movies to make it to the unholy top 13 list. Last year wasn’t the strongest year for horror movies, but there are some damn fine flicks to enjoy. So, take my paw and let’s travel back in time…
#13 – SATAN’S SLAVES
Talk about a last minute entry! I literally watched this right after I had finalized my list because I heard it was on Shudder. It’s not very often I get to tout an Indonesian horror flick. Not to be confused with Satan’s Slave (1976), this horrific ghost/Satanic cult foray into primo jump scares is tense, atmospheric and crazy terrifying. The English subtitles are in need of another pass by a translator, but you can enjoy it without them. It’s that creepy. * Editor’s note, this movie knocked The First Purge off the list. Sorry Staten Island.
#12 – THOROUGHBREDS
What’s a top 13 list without an entry that involves Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch, Split)? Thoroughbreds just skirts the horror line, but damn is it twisted fun. Lily (Anya) is a rich brat who hates her step-dad and lacks empathy. Amanda (Olivia Cooke from the amazing Bates Motel) is her old friend, an automaton born without the ability to feel emotions who once stabbed her beloved horse to death. These two chicks are fucking nuts in all the best ways. Great performances all around, and it’s also Anton Yelchin’s last movie before his tragic demise. Watch it and pour a little libation on the floor for Anton.
#11 – HALLOWEEN
I was very excited to see what the folks at Blumhouse would do with a franchise that had seen better days (but had yet to fall into the pit of Hellraiser inanity). I LOVE the original. It’s one of those pivotal movies in my horror education. I dig part 3 and 4 and could do without all the rest. And Rob Zombie’s attempt? Let’s move on. Anyway, this is a direct sequel to the original, asking us all to forget the others happened (did Bobby Ewing just step out of the shower?). Poor Laurie Strode is still traumatized by the babysitter massacre. Now a grandma channeling Sarah Connor, she’s just waiting for Mikey to get out of max so she can finish him off. Luckily for her, a pair of podcasters are just the hokey patsies to reenergize the unkillable killer. It was better than the sequels, but for me, fell flat in some areas that could have made it amazing. When it was over, my first thought was – I hope this is the actual end. I think if I had tempered my expectations, I would have liked it even more. Ignore me. It’s a solid horror movie.
#10 – TERRIFIED
We’re going international again, this time to Argentina for some bat crap insane multiple hauntings. Terrified has THE scariest and most disturbing imagery of the year. There isn’t just one haunted house on this idyllic Buenos Aires street. No, there are three, and shit is gonna get crazy. From rotting dead boys who come back home for milk and cookies and something sinister and hungry in a kitchen cabinet sucking the blood from a wounded hand, this is one of the craziest ghost movies I’ve seen in a long while. If you have a kid afraid of monsters under the bed, DO NOT let them see this. You’ll be carting them off to a looney bin if you do. I hear they’re remaking it for an American audience with the same director. I hope they don’t lose the mojo.
#9 – VERONICA
OK, now we’re off to Spain for a disturbing possession movie that, in my opinion, trumps The Exorcist. Teenager Veronica plays with a Ouija board during an eclipse and done gets her soul repossessed. Here’s the cool part. It’s based on an actual Ouija/possession case in Madrid back in 1991, so that always adds to the icicles up the spine vibe. I fell in love with Veronica, a teen with way too much responsibility who just wanted to be a dumb kid for a fateful moment. With scary nuns and devilish disasters and well executed jump scares, you’ll steer your ass away from spirits boards for life after this puppy.
#8 – TERRIFIER
Art the Clown is the scariest motherfucker who ever donned greasepaint. Taking place on Halloween night and mostly in an abandoned building, Terrifier channels the best of 80’s gore with spectacular kills and some true WTF moments. I’m no fan of clown horror flicks and thought this would be just like all the rest. Crap, was I wrong. Seriously, when Art smiles that bloody-mouthed smile, your genitals will crawl up to your esophagus. No blood is spared and please, oh please, let there be a world with more Art the Clown!
#7 – THE RITUAL
This was an early entry from our pals at Netflix. Based on a novel by Adam Neville, this British don’t-go-in-the-woods descent into terror centers around five buddies who have had their share of tragedy. Honoring their friend’s last wishes, they get to hiking in the middle of freaking nowhere in Sweden. When the weather gets bad, they find shelter in a rickety cabin and so, so much more. We’re taking hallucinatory images that may be real, bones in trees, a village of the freaking damned and a mythical monster. The creature effects in The Ritual are unforgettable. This is destined to be a movie I revisit time and time again. And yet another import from a far off land.
Did I have any high hopes for a follow up to The Strangers? Hell no! I took Hellion #2 and my mother to see it at a matinee so I didn’t have to pay full price. Well, I’m here eating my hat. In some ways, I liked this better than the first. Loved the 80s music (you will never hear Total Eclipse of the Heart and not think of the swimming pool) and it has two scenes that I think are damn close to legendary. Killer cast meets masked killers. What’s not to love? Unlike the first, this is one I have to own.
#5 – HEREDITARY
Kudos to releasing a ‘mainstream’ movie with more what-the-hell-am-I-watching moments than you can shake a machete at. Toni Collette gives the performance of the year as a woman cracking up as her family falls apart. Mom dies. Uber stranger daughter gets the James Dean treatment, son loses it and hubby just tries to make dinner and keep their shit together. This is basically two movies. The first three quarters has a The Shining aura about it with a gradual buildup and breakdown. Collette physically reminds me of Shelly Duvall and their mental collapses are just as similar and moving. There is a moment when a switch is flipped (you’ll know it) and it’s time to fasten your seatbelts. The ending is not for everyone, hence a lot of confused and angry people in my theater. Good. Stay out of my genre!
Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you that this is not only on my list, but in the top 5! I mean, it definitely has the most ridiculous title of the year. And it’s a fucking Puppet Master movie. It’s also the one movie I can’t stop thinking and talking about. Why? Well, it’s written by the amazing S. Craig Zahler (who has given us Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99). ‘Nuff said. Witty, self-aware and loaded with unique kills, nudity and gore, it’s everything previous Puppet Master movies are not. If you ever wanted to see a dead guy pee on his own head in a toilet bowl, look no further. And it has cameos by Barbara Crampton and Udo Kier. Hot damn, this was the most fun I had watching a movie all year.
#3 – REVENGE
I’m not a big fan of the rape/revenge subgenre, though I do like the trio of I Spit On Your Grave remakes. Revenge is made with such artful direction, it stands head and improvised weapons above the rest. Matilda Anna Ingird Lutz has herself a real star turn as Jen, a young wanna be messing around with a married man in his sweet desert house. When his two creepy friends crash the party for a day of hunting, the raping begins and the blood flows. And let me tell you, the amount of blood shed in this flick is epic. Jen bleeds more than ten stuck pigs. It’s over the top and goes a little Machete every now and then, and that’s perfect. The final sequence running in circles around the house is gag inducing and brilliant. The bar is now set and I dare someone to raise it.
#2 – OVERLORD
Thank you, JJ Abrams! Overlord is not one, but two great movies. If you like war flicks, this is your jam. If you’re a horror hound, ditto. If you’re like me and dig both, holy Hannah is this awesome. American GI’s have their plane shot down over a Nazi occupied town in France and need to take out a tower so Normandy can happen. No pressure. The shit that happens in the plane in the opening sequence had me breathless. I know it’s no shock that those creepy ass Nazis have been up to their old weird science shenanigans again. What ensues is pure chaos, savage monsters, explosions and gunfire. I could easily slide this into the number one slot. In fact, this and the next movie have been jockeying back and forth for months now. I’m sure a year or two, I might declare this the winner. But for now, we’ll call it 1B…or 2.
#1 – A QUIET PLACE
Jim Halpert, who knew you had this in you? A Quiet Place is, quite simply, brilliant. The world has been taken over by creatures from another world. They may be blind, but they can hear your every move. It opens with a stunning gut punch and ratchets up the tension like a torture rack for the next 90+ minutes. I’ve literally never been so uptight in a movie theater. I had to have my ass cheeks surgically separated. With a small but stellar cast, A Quiet Place is an instant classic. Especially for a guy like me who is obsessed with alien/horror movies (The Thing, Alien, Signs). This takes a familiar trope and adds a spin that makes it unforgettable. Like It Follows, this is one of those movies that will be the measuring stick by which I judge a person’s character. A sequel is already in the works, following a new band of survivors. I doubt it can equal this, but I’m in.
Here are the other movies that were in contention and just missed the cut:
And my nod to the stinker of the year is THE MEG. Just like 2017’s dreadful THE MUMMY, The Meg was so bad, my blood pressure spiked and I wanted to tear the screen in half – or take a nap, which I settled for.