Sure, there have been some disappointments as well (I’m looking at you The Cloverfield Paradox, The Strangers: Prey at Night, and Winchester) but there’ve also been some incredible genre offerings that have fallen through the cracks. If you’re one of those cinephiles who complains there’s nothing new or original horror movies being produced these days, you simply aren’t looking hard enough.
But hey, that’s what I’m here for: To separate the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to. In order to maintain my reputation as an expert in modern horror, I see just about everything released, be they on big screens, Blu-ray/DVD, or VOD. As such, I’m in a position to direct genre fans (or mainstream moviegoers looking for some thrills off the beaten path) to films that are definitely worthy of your time and attention.
Below, in no particular order, are my picks for the 10 best horror movies of 2018 that you’ve (probably) already missed. All of them are available on VOD and most have been released on Blu-ray/DVD (meaning they’d definitely enhance any media collector’s horde). Happy hunting!
The Ritual (Directed by David Bruckner)
The first truly great horror movie of 2018 was The Ritual, and the fact that the film is a Netflix Original is proof the streaming giant is now a bona fide source for envelope-pushing, boundary-breaking genre content. It combines the disorienting claustrophobia of The Blair Witch project and the supernatural terror of The Evil Dead with elements of folk horror and real-life Norse mythology. The Ritual also features one of the coolest, original creature designs in recent memory, delivering a beast that’s unlike anything else committed to celluloid. The film is anchored by a stellar cast and a knock-out script that keeps things grounded in reality-even when things get completely outlandish!
Marrowbone (Directed by Sergio G. Sánchez)
Director Sergio G. Sánchez is a legend for having penned the screenplay for The Orphanage (considered one of the best supernatural horror movies of the 21st Century); the filmmaker is both the scribe and director of Marrowbone, a complex and nuanced creeper that will keep fans of slow-burn Southern Gothics rapt. If features a brilliant ensemble cast of talented young actors including Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split), Mia Goth (The Shape of Water, The Survivalist), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things, Shut In). There’s a mystery at the core of Marrowbone that will keep you guessing until the very end, not to mention a double twist likely to leave you dizzy and devastated.
The Lodgers (Directed by Brian O’Malley)
It’s almost impossible not to compare The Lodgers to The Others when it comes to period, mood, and aesthetic, but don’t expect a carbon copy of past genre offerings with a predictable twist. Fans of lush beauty juxtaposed against oppressive gloom and decay will find the film utterly irresistible. The Lodgers was filmed in Ireland’s Loftus Hall, a crumbling manor actually rumored to be haunted; it’s one of those films where the location becomes more than just a setting, but a character itself. It’s slow burn, so a modicum of patience is required, but The Lodgers concludes with an unforgettable sequence that’s haunting and hallucinatory, as captivating as it is unsettling. The Lodgers was released by recently-established Dread Central Presents, the horror distribution arm of Epic Pictures.
Director’s Cut (Directed by Adam Rifkin)
The second film on this list from Dread Central Presents is Director’s Cut, a bizarre genre mash-up that defies easy classification. It’s directed by Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward, Detroit Rock City) and stars Penn Jillette (half of the iconic illusionist duo Penn and Teller) as unhinged, starstruck crowd funder Herbert Blount. When Blount arrives on set for his perk, he’s aghast to find the production in complete dismay (in his opinion, at least). Motivated by a desire to see the film succeed (and his uncontrollable attraction to “star” Missi Pyle) he highjacks the entire project; the result is Blount’s personal “director’s cut”. Primarily a comedy, Director’s Cut nonetheless goes to some very dark places; the film also includes a cameo from Teller who delivers a performance that’s worth the (figurative) price of admission by itself.
Incident in a Ghostland aka Ghostland (Directed by Pascal Laugier)
Though horror is becoming increasingly mainstream in the 21st Century, it’s important to remember that the genre is designed to shock us and challenge us in addition to merely entertaining. An Incident in a Ghostland is a relentless reminder of the powerful and devastating extremes horror practitioners often strive for (and sometimes achieve). The film is problematic; in addition to an on-set accident that scarred lead actress Taylor Hickson, you may have heard it decried for unflattering portrayals of both the mentally ill and members of the transsexual community. But what did people expect from the writer/director of Martyrs (2008), a film often called too brutal and depraved for multiple viewings? If you can get past the distracting chatter (and aren’t easily triggered), Ghostland is a deceptively deep meditation on escapism and literature’s ability to transform pain into poetry.
Mom and Dad (Directed by Brian Taylor)
I’m not ashamed to admit that I consider Nicholas Cage a national treasure (pun intended). Sure, he participates is some less-than-stellar films, but Cage always gives his all, committing 100% to even the most outlandish and/or 2-dimensional characters. Mom and Dad, however, is a perfect vehicle for the actor’s madcap intensity. The plot revolves around a virus that temporarily transforms loving parents into infanticidal murderers, so we see Cage go from mild-mannered dad-next-door to the kind of unhinged maniac he portrays so convincingly. Beneath the pitch-black comedy and hard-R caliber violence is some heady subtext regarding darker aspects of procreation and paternity, admitting truths most moms and dads would never dare to speak out loud.
Wildling (Directed by Fritz Böhm)
Wildling plays out like a horrifying fairy tale, a modern-day Rapunzel-if she was a feral child or possibly even a werewolf, that is! The plot is fairly straight forward, but the film’s incredible cinematography, crackling script, and brilliant performances by all cast members elevates it above the masses. It proves you don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to produce a successful thriller and, though familiar, Wildling feels like a breath of fresh air. Thematically, you can make a parallel between this film and 2000’s Ginger Snaps, as both films use body horror and monsters as metaphors for adulthood and emerging female sexuality. Young actress Bel Powley carries the film with compelling support form Liv Tyler (The Strangers, Lord of the Rings) and Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play franchise).
Bad Samaritan (Directed by Dean Devlin)
If you liked 2016’s Don’t Breathe, chances are you’ll love Bad Samaritan. It’s got the same set up of young thieves choosing the wrong “victim” to burglarize, a morality tale that insists nothing good can come from ill-gotten gains, and a warning to those looking for short cuts and quick, effortless cash. Still, there a battle of wits that sets this tale apart, a game of mental chess that can’t be contained within a single house. Bad Samaritan isn’t always an easy film to watch; in addition to uncomfortable scenes of domination and implied animal abuse, chances are you’ll want to strangle main character Sean Falco (played by Robert Sheehan) after watching him make a series of stupid mistakes. But that’s part of what make Bad Samaritan such a unique and turbulent ride: He’s a reluctant and mostly ineffectual hero throughout, leaving us with no one to count on or identify with. It’s like witnessing a train wreck in slow motion; harrowing to behold but impossible to look away from.
The Domestics (Directed by Mike P. Nelson)
If you found Netflix’s apocalyptic road-trip thriller How It Ends as disappointing as I did, The Domestics might just be the perfect cure. Whereas How It Ends asks how far a person will go to find the love of their life at the end of the world, The Domestics posits an inverse scenario: What if the apocalypse arrived when a couple is already on the brink of divorce? Would the added stress of a world gone to hell be the final nail in the relationship’s coffin, or will the shared adversities rekindle their bonds? I guess you’ll have to watch the film to find out! The Domestics presents a shattered America where areas are controlled by gangs, each of which lives by a unique code of conduct (though all should be avoided at all costs). It’s not quite a Mad Max caliber wasteland, but it’s getting close.
Ghost Stories (Directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman)
At a time when paranormal investigations and anthologies are both popular tropes in horror, Ghost Stories is still tragically underknown at the time of this posting. (I say underknown as opposed to underrated, because those who have seen the film have almost always love it.) Based on the West End play by League of Gentleman writer Jeremy Dyson, Ghost Stories follows skeptical parapsychologist Professor Goodman (played by Andy Nyman) as he attempts to unravel a trio of perplexing, potentially supernatural cases. The treads that tie these incidents together, and the twists and obstacles that Goodman faces along the way, will hold viewers entranced from start to finish. At this point, Ghost Stories is either poised to become one of the year’s best-received genre offerings, or a sleeper fans will unearth years from now.