best horror movies of 2018

Horror had a great year in 2018, perhaps because our everyday lives have morphed into an on-going horror story. But while the real world offers no clear conclusion to our current nightmare, horror movies provide a kind of catharsis, because they always draw to an end. Sure, sometimes evil wins in these films, but sometimes, good prevails. The major themes of horror movies in 2018 revolved around revenge, regret, and reflection. So many films on this list are about characters ruminating on the horrors of the past, and coming out a different person in the present. The message seems to be that we all crave change, but we realize we’re going to have to go through hell to achieve it. These are the 20 best horror movies of 2018.

clovehitch killer

20. The Clovehitch Killer

Dennis Rader, the serial killer infamously known as BTK (for Bind, Torture, Kill), evaded capture for nearly 20 years. And in the midst of committing his grisly murders, he also had time to be a Boy Scout troop leader, and a family man, with a wife and two children. How does someone so inherently evil slip so easily into family life? And how does his family never suspect his true nature? This question is the inspiration for The Clovehitch KillerDuncan Skiles‘ unsettling indie horror film that uses almost all of the BTK details, minus the actual names. Teenager Tyler (Charlie Plummer) lives a sheltered, but happy, life with his very Christian family. The patriarch is the extremely nerdy Don (Dylan McDermott)…but what if Don isn’t as harmless as he seems? What if Don is, in fact, hiding a terrifying secret? Clovehitch tries to play up the mystery angle longer than it should – we already know Don is, indeed, a serial killer, long before Charlie does. But what makes The Clovehitch Killer so memorable is the believable way Duncan and screenwriter Christopher Ford establish the familial unit, and make us understand how Don’s family could go so long never suspecting who he really was. McDermott’s performance is the real stand-out here – the actor can switch back and forth between harmless dweeb to terrifying killer with ease, and it’s disturbingly realistic.

 

the little stranger

19. The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger, the latest from Lenny Abrahamson, director of Room, came and went with little fanfare this year. What a shame. Adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger is a chilling gothic melodrama that almost immediately establishes a sense of unease. Domhnall Gleeson is Dr. Faraday, a lower-class chap in the 1940s who so badly wants to improve his social status, and also take over Hundreds Hall, a sprawling, crumbling estate he has a storied history with. Faraday works his way into the life of the family inhabiting Hundreds Hall, treating burn victim Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter) while courting (albeit badly) Roderick’s sister, Caroline (Ruth Wilson). But there are dark secrets hidden within the peeling walls of Hundreds Hall, and while everyone else seems terrified, Faraday is at peace. This is where he thinks he belongs, and it doesn’t matter how many people are killed or maimed in the process. The Little Stranger is a classic, old school ghost story – the likes of which used to be told around flickering fireplaces as the years were drawing to a close. It works its way into your bones, and turns them to ice in the process.

 

mohawk

18. Mohawk

It’s gutsy to make a movie where America and Americans are so blatantly the villain, and that’s exactly what director/writer Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) and co-writer Grady Hendrix did with Mohawk. Like Last of the Mohicans meets Last House on the Left, this American horror story set in the midst of the War of 1812 finds a polyamorous unit – two Mohawks, Oak (an ass-kicking Kaniehtiio Horn) and Calvin (Justin Rain), and British soldier Joshua (Eamon Farren), up against a band of extremely ugly Americans. Six American soldiers, lead by Captain Hezekiah Holt (a deliciously nasty Ezra Buzzington), are in pursuit of the trio, and things go from bad to worse very quickly. Brutal, cruel and unapologetically unpleasant, Mohawk is a great example of how you can do a lot with a little. It’s clear Geoghegan and company aren’t working with the highest of budgets, but the characters are so well-drawn that we’re sucked into their world without question. Mohawk isn’t your traditional horror movie, and that’s what makes it special.

 

unsane

17. Unsane

Shot entirely on the iPhone 7 Plus, Unsane is Steven Soderbergh‘s twisted tribute to Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor, with a 21st century twist. Claire Foy is the wonderfully-named Sawyer Valentini, a high-strung young woman terrified that her stalker (Joshua Leonard) could be lurking around every corner. Things get so bad that Sawyer makes an appointment with a shrink, but this backfires when she accidentally ends up voluntarily committing herself to a mental hospital. She swears to the mental hospital staff that she’s not crazy – but of course, that’s exactly what a crazy person would say. As if this weren’t bad enough, her stalker ends up taking a job at the hospital to get close to her – a fact that no one believes. At first, it looks like Unsane is going to be subtle and artsy. But then Soderbergh pulls the rug out and reveals that what he’s really interested in is making a trashy thriller where people suffer terrible, violent fates. This is entirely Foy’s show, and while her American accent keeps slipping, she makes for a compelling, frantic heroine.

 

terrified

16. Terrified

Who needs logic when you have non-stop terrorDemián Rugna‘s Argentinian horror film doesn’t really care about plot, or common sense. It only has one goal: scaring the shit out of you. And for the most part, it succeeds. An anthology of sorts, Terrified tells the stories of several paranormal events happening in a Buenos Aires neighborhood. Unseen forces slam hapless people into walls, monsters come out of the closet, and the decaying dead return home. If you’re looking for clever plotting, or strong dialogue, look elsewhere. But Rugna knows exactly how to scare the audience, and I’m not only talking jump-scares here (although there are those, too). One segment, in which a dead child ends up returning from the grave and propped-up at a kitchen table, is one of the most effectively scary sequences you’ll ever see – the moment builds, and builds, and while the corpse sits perfectly still, the tension and dread is almost unbearable. There’s already an American remake in the works, with Guillermo del Toro producing, but it’s going to be hard to top what’s on display here.

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