By: Paul Farrell
Braid is a gorgeous, lyrical coming-of-age film in reverse, concerned with the horrors — both cerebral and physical — associated with identity and purpose. It’s about three women with a desire for a future that’s always out of reach, trapped within a present that is forever rooted in the past. They’re stuck in a game — the game of life — and it’s as cruel and unyielding as the world around them.
It’s a fascinating puzzle of a film, with a kinetic, eye-catching style that amplifies the horrors of its runtime and creates something unforgettable. I can’t wait to see what writer and director Mitzi Peirone does next.
Anya Taylor-joy and Olivia Cooke deliver two of my favorite performances of the year in this quiet, unsettling look at the darkness which might hide behind the clean, calculated perfection of the upper middle class.
Disconnected apathy collides with driven empathy when two girls decide that they might be able to do the unthinkable to create a better life. The film employs a subtle sense of mounting dread which permeates every second of screen time, building toward a finale that says as much about the psychopath as it does the repressed youth — begging the question, which is more dangerous?
8. The Endless
The Endless is everything I love about the movies. It’s science fiction. It’s horror. It’s huge in scope. It’s intimate. Like I said, it’s…everything.
At its core, it follows two brothers who long ago escaped from a cult which had been taking them down a path which would’ve lead to their inevitable demise. Years later, they return to the site of the cult, uncovering a secret power that not only challenges what they believe, but what they want.
A life’s worth can be determined by a number of things…the question is: is free will one of them?
A completely original, grandiose science-fiction epic that’s laced with horrors the likes of which we very rarely see in mainstream movies. The visuals are breathtaking, captivating in a way that begets the audience’s suspension of disbelief regarding whether or not the characters onscreen would be drawn to such things.
The story is complicated and its denouement unforgivingly so, challenging the viewer to dissect the events onscreen and come to their own conclusions. It’s a movie that I’ll revisit many times, more than likely taking something different away from it each and every time I see it — all in the stead of discerning humanity’s meaning, purpose, and enduring legacy on this earth.
Genre-bending cinema at its finest.
Rarely has a film had so much expectation surrounding it, so much hype — and then delivered full tilt on all of it.
Panos Cosmatos’ film is a fever dream of lush, striking visuals which sear themselves into the brain well before the narrative devolves into a Hellish nightmare-scape of violence and depravity. Still, for all of the Cenobite-bikers and chainsaw fights, the whole affair manages to maintain a fragile sense of beauty that is a testament to the performances and filmmaking alike.
Mandy is what going to the movies is all about.
5. Satan’s Slaves
Joko Anwar’s film begins as a family drama; a story of the living haunted by the living, when a close-knit family is faced with the care of a loved one on the cusp of death. It functions beautifully as a ghostly affair and yet transitions into something far more sinister and disconcerting.
The scares are plentiful and flawlessly executed while the characters are elegantly drawn and emotionally captivating, serving to make the inevitable climax all the more heartbreaking. A modern-day horror masterpiece.
Suspiria is about motherhood — the responsibility, the purpose, and the risk. An ice-cold poem written in red-hot dance against a backdrop as frigid as the manner in which the coven at its core calculates its next decision. It concerns power and agency, a distinctly feminine battle against repression in the stead of unfiltered expression.
A passionate, grotesque, and explosive film that is not ever likely to leave my mind.
3. Anna And The Apocalypse
Anna And The Apocalypse begins as a classic, Hollywood-style musical — archetypes and all — with catchy songs, a likable cast, and a peppy, romanticized high-school environment.
Then the zombies show up.
Just when you thought the zombie genre had no reinvention left…it’s put to music. Catchy music. But that’s not the only reason it works. The characters are fantastically drawn and incredibly compelling — that way, once the gory, undead mayhem begins, the viewer never loses sight of what’s important. Few zombie films have the ability to make me cover my eyes, laugh out loud, and shed a tear, but this one delivers on all three and instantly went down as an all-time favorite.
My relationship with the Halloween franchise spans almost the entirety of my time as a horror fan. Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are characters near and dear to my heart, so my expectations going into a new, Jamie Lee Curtis-led entry were incredibly high.
For me, it delivered.
This is the Michael Myers that terrorized babysitters in 1978. This is the senseless, essentially faceless evil — unrelenting in its aims and merciless in its actions — that Dr. Loomis dedicated his life to trying to stop. And then there’s Laurie.
Jamie Lee Curtis turns in one of the performances of the year. As driven and dangerous as her nemesis, creating a mirror image of the monster in her sights. Above all, however, she stands as a beacon of love, of dedication, no matter how flawed, to her family. A flame in the darkness, burning bright regardless of the cost and dangers therein.
For me, it was a breath of fresh air and a worthy capper to a franchise that has had many ups and downs. Furthermore it’s a film I will watch more than probably any other on this list and, I’m sure, will only grow in my estimation as it becomes more and more ingrained into the franchise I so dearly love.
Hereditary concerns a family in the throes of dealing with the death of their matriarch — a private, yet condemning woman who seemed to have a hold on her relations despite her overt secrecy regarding her own affairs. Toni Collette is at the center of it as the deceased’s daughter, struggling to interpret and express her grief given how little resolution she received in light of her mother’s passing.
The situation is a microcosm for what follows in its wake, a careful, slowly creeping dread which inhabits and poisons the people and the house where they dwell. It’s uncomfortable. Visually stunning. Constantly captivating.
Toni Collette stands out amongst a cast of flawless performances, carrying a heavy, alienating film to an empathetic place. The performances allow the viewer to penetrate the incredibly disturbing boundaries of the narrative and feel the weight of the deeply rooted horrors which happen throughout the film’s runtime.
An unforgettable work of art and my favorite film of the year, horror or otherwise.
Podcasts are fantastic — versatile in that they can provide the comfort of hanging out with friends and chatting about movies, or the academic satisfaction of learning something new or uncovering a fresh interpretation. They come from people who give up their time and energy for no other reason than to share their love of something — in this case, horror movies — and they’ve led to some of the best conversations about film I’ve ever had.
These were the casts that brought me the most enjoyment in 2018. THANK YOU to all who were involved in these, you have no idea how much I appreciate it. If anyone out there is looking for some fantastic voices talking horror or film in general, look no further: