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Jonathan Barkan’s Best Horror Films of 2018

And so another year comes to an end. I think it is safe to say horror has never been as ubiquitous or as much in the mainstream as it has in 2018. From stellar television shows such as The Terror, Castle Rock, and The Haunting of Hill House (amongst others) to the phenomenal films that came out throughout the year, horror content was strong, powerful, scary, and challenging. Now is the time to take the opportunity and look back on an amazing year packed full of fantastic genre fare.

As I have always done with “Best of” lists, I will call out some of the most incredible titles I saw throughout the year BUT I have a few stipulations that will make things a little different than many other lists around the web:

  • My list is in alphabetical order. That’s it. There is no other ranking system in place.
  • Some of the films I have on my list are ones that I saw at festivals and may or may not have U.S. release dates. As an example of this, I put Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s The Endless on my Best of 2017 list even though the film was fully released earlier this year.
  • On the opposite end of the previous point’s coin, there might be movies I list that have come out a while ago but only got a legit release this year.
  • While I have seen a LOT of movies throughout the year, I haven’t seen everything, so please forgive me if a film you love isn’t mentioned anywhere here. It’s just impossible to see everything, no matter how hard I try.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way, let’s dive into my 10 Best Horror Films of 2018!


1. Annihilation

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It’s rather hard to describe Annihilation without sounding a little discombobulated. It’s easy enough to say that it’s about a group of women who enter a quarantined zone where the normal laws of physics don’t apply. Strange and mysterious events strain the group beyond its breaking points and the results are as unbelievable as they are captivating. But that really doesn’t do it justice nor does it fully explain the scope of what the film has to offer.

I went into Alex Garland’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece with absolutely zero knowledge of what I was about to experience. To say that this was a smart decision is an understatement. Every scene held majestic beauty and the way it unfolded was nothing short of astounding. If you haven’t seen Annihilation, I really hope you’ll give it a shot.


2. A Quiet Place

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John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was one of the biggest movies released this year and certainly the biggest horror title, generating nearly $190 million domestically. The tale of a family that must survive in a post-apocalyptic world where causing sound can get you killed, the movie was widely praised by both critics and audiences alike.

As for me, I truly believe that A Quiet Place will be regarded as one of the greatest horror films of the 21st century. I know that’s incredibly hyperbolic but that doesn’t change my stance. The way that the film wonderfully built the family dynamic and used what many perceive to be a weakness as strength is nothing short of inspired. This is a movie that proves the emotional punch of horror can be just as powerful as the terrors it has to offer.


3. Before I Wake

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Mike Flanagan’s long-delayed supernatural horror/drama follows a young boy who is adopted by two adults whose son tragically died. However, their new son is anything but normal as they quickly realize that his dreams manifest themselves into reality, affecting the very lives of those around him. While that may sound lovely in concept, let’s not forget that young children don’t always have pleasant dreams…sometimes they have terrifying nightmares.

Flanagan has made a name for himself by finding a way to inject humanity into horror in ways that ensure the films never lose their scares. For as deeply unsettling as Before I Wake genuinely is, it’s just as emotionally powerful, with a gut-punch of an ending that has stuck with me the entire year.


4. Ghost Stories

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British horror is done right in this fantastic anthology from writers/directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, based on their 2010 stage play. The film follows Professor Goodman as a man who disproves paranormal events and the people who propagate them. However, when he investigates three new cases, something about them shakes the very foundation of his long-held beliefs.

What sets Ghost Stories apart from many other films this year was how measured and old-school it felt. Set upon a foundation of an unrelentingly creepy atmosphere, this movie has earned a lot of love and all of it is deserved. If this is what a new wave of British horror is ready to offer, then I’m 100% here for every bit of it. I sincerely hope we see a lot more from Nyman and Dyson.


5. Halloween

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Man, talk about a series coming back stronger than ever! Blumhouse’s Halloween not only injected new life into Michael Myers, but it also did so while never neglecting Laurie Strode, who is honestly the more interesting character from the Halloween films. By unflinchingly going into the world of a survivor who lives in a state of constant fear and PTSD, the Halloween series gained its first truly human entry. And it did so without sacrificing the necessary kills that made this slasher series so iconic.

While some movies that continue a franchise depend upon nostalgic quotes and callbacks to previous entries in order to, well… exist (I’m looking at you, The Predator), Halloween used those tactics in ways that made sense to the story and felt natural. Bolstered by exceptional acting, wickedly funny moments, and one of the highest body counts in the series, this film gave me everything I wanted and more. It is, without a doubt, the work of people who love the series, love the genre, and, perhaps most importantly, love being horror fans.


6. Hereditary

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I was hearing nonstop about how great Hereditary was throughout the year. Every festival I went to, “Have you seen Hereditary yet? Oh my god, you need to see it!” It got to the point, where my curiosity was on par with my frustration that I seemingly was always locked down with something else when a screening for Ari Aster’s film was happening. In fact, it took until just before the film’s release for me to see it and good lord was I enamored.

A throwback to the horror films of the ’70s, Hereditary‘s atmosphere, pacing, and acting are all of the highest calibre. Toni Collette’s performance is especially masterful. It’s the kind of rendition that deserves all the awards, including Oscar for Best Actress. Trust me when I say that everyone’s love for the movie is rightfully placed and that this film will be spoken about and dissected for years to come.


7. One Cut of the Dead

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This is easily my favorite horror theatrical experience of the year. Hands down. No joke. Dead serious. Sitting amongst a packed theater full of my peers and fellow horror fans during FrightFest, I couldn’t stop laughing, cheering, and smiling as the film progressed. Sure, the second act kinda drags a little bit but every part of it is still necessary as it sets up the hilarious and surprisingly touching third act where everything comes together.

One Cut of the Dead is one of those movies that I saw and I immediately knew I’d seen something unquestionably special. It’s the first movie I’ve seen at a festival where I walked out of the theater and thought to myself, “I want to see that again right now!” If that isn’t some of the highest praise I can give to a movie, I don’t know what is.


8.Overlord

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I walked into Overlord knowing exactly what I wanted and I walked out of Overlord having gotten precisely that. For years, I’d dreamt of a day when there would be Wolfenstein: The Movie and then Overlord came around and it ticked off pretty much all the boxes. There were Nazi experiments, twisted medical abominations, a mix of real-life violence and occult calamities… It really was the dream combination.

Featuring one of the best opening sequences of the year, Overlord doesn’t pull any punches about its intentions. There is no attempt to be something greater than the sum of its parts nor is there a hidden agenda. In a day and age when Neo-Nazis are brazenly open on social media and the streets of our cities, it’s pretty goddamn cathartic and delightful to see a movie where old-school Nazis get their comeuppance.


9. Suspiria

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Like many of you, Dario Argento’s Suspiria is high on my list of the greatest horror films ever made. What it lacks in plot and story (let’s all be honest and admit that it’s razor-thin, if that) it most certainly makes up for in some of the most iconic visuals (an exposed beating heart gets stabbed. ‘Nuff said.) and music in horror history.

Still, I wasn’t as apprehensive as many of my peers were about Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining. Rather, I went into my screening with a completely open mind and left nearly three hours later blown away a film that was dedicated to being its own take and offer something completely different than what we’d been enjoying for four decades. While the climax is a bit iffy for some (myself included), there is no doubt that Suspiria is a bold and captivating love letter that stands (dances?) very firmly on its own two feet.


10. Upgrade

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Remember when you and your friends would go to an action movie in theaters and then, after it was done, walk into the lobby feeling exhilarated and ready to take on the world? That’s the kind of feeling I had after watching Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade. I wanted to learn parkour and take up kickboxing and maybe partake in a Tough Mudder or two. Rarely does a movie get my adrenaline as high but Upgrade rocked my goddamn world.

From Logan Marshall-Green’s genuinely phenomenal portrayal of Grey to the blisteringly exciting action sequences (that don’t skimp on the gore), Upgrade is that movie that is waiting for people to see so that they will fall in love with it. While perhaps the least “horror” title on this list, every single horror fan that watches it will understand why it belongs very squarely in our genre.


Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some honorable mentions that deserve recognition outside of the main list. These include titles such as Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, What Keeps You Alive, Satan’s Slaves, Tigers Are Not Afraid, The Unthinkable, Lords of Chaos, The Guilty, The Head, Unfriended: Dark Web, and The Quake. I cannot recommend seeking out these titles as they push the horror genre in new, exciting, emotional, and terrifying ways. Each of these is wildly different from any of the rest and that’s what makes them, and this genre, so much damn fun.

Alright, so those are my best movies (and honorable mentions) of 2018. I hope you have your own list that you are as passionate about that you’d feel comfortable sharing with me in the comments below. Alternatively, you can chat me up on Twitter. Whichever strikes your fancy, if at all!

Thank you all for an extraordinary 2018 and I can’t wait to see you all next year!

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