By: Kat Adams
Hereditary didn’t have the same impact on me that it seemed to have on many, despite unfairly targeting the Kat Demographic with generational mental illness, cults, and a level-gaze at full-body grief. Hereditary makes bold choices, but is indifferent about using them to elevate its story. It mostly seems to say, “Bad stuff sucks, really bad stuff really sucks, and you should never go to a second location with your mom’s friend.” The film is built on tautology, but still feels singular as an experience. My feelings about it are more complicated than anything Hereditary is trying to say, which is a good summary of most things that come tenth on a top ten list.
9. Sorry To Bother You
No, I don’t really think it’s horror. No, I’m not going to apologize for including it.
8. You Might Be The Killer
Like Hereditary, You Might Be The Killer isn’t trying to say anything particularly complicated. Unlike Hereditary, You Might Be The Killer never once pretends to have subtext. This honesty is why it ranks two spots above Hereditary, even though I — the actual haver of this opinion — recognize that is absolute nonsense. Though “Film Based on a Twitter Thread” sounds like a a throwaway 30 Rock joke, You Might Be The Killer is extraordinary fun and gets great mileage out of its leads.
In a close race with the X-Men, horror films have gotten the most mileage from teen angst and uncertainty. “Adolescence is hard” is its own subgenre. Pyewacket succeeds in a crowded field by bringing the audience along on the protagonist’s loss of innocence. The viewer thinks they understand the circumstances and stakes, only to have those assumptions — if not challenged — nuanced into a more sophisticated understanding of the world. William Blake approves.
6. The Ritual
My headcanon classifies The Ritual as a gender-swapped retelling of The Descent, and it’s not that far-fetched. Dealing with themes of broken trust and corrosive secrets between long-time friends, The Ritual explores supernatural and mundane threats to equally unnerving effect.
It’s not hyperbolic to say I’ve thought of Cam most days since I watched it. Cam’s foundation is the empathy with which it observes its protagonist’s sex work, never giving into salaciousness or condemnation. It captures the precarious and lucrative hustle of content creators in general, and understands the true, aggregate horror of the internet. It feels unique and original — a product of it being so perfectly of its moment, that nothing like it could have appeared before now.
Veronica’s story is not unique, but the gentleness with which it sketches its titular protagonist sets it apart. Unlike most cinematic teens whose stories begin with a ouija board and the youthful delusion of invulnerability, Veronica is not particularly in need of a moral reckoning. She’s trying her best in difficult circumstances, as is everyone in her family. Her likability heightens the stakes, making a scary film even more frightening.
3. The Endless
The fear with a sequel like The Endless is that it will undo the beauty of its predecessor’s ambiguity. Resolution explored complex subjects with a light but confident touch. Any more definition would have limited its impact; any less would have made it incomprehensible. Why risk that balance with a victory lap? Fortunately, The Endless isn’t looking to retread or recapture, but expand. What does it take to break out of a pattern? How many people get that chance? Why is moving past things that no longer serve us so difficult? The Endless doesn’t claim to always know, but it has a few ideas.
No one wanted a new Suspiria, but humans have never been particularly good at knowing what’s best for them. Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 classic bleeds and pants and wails. In Suspiria, anguish and ecstasy are two faces of the same, unknowable truth, and it employs beauty as often as repulsion to tell its story. It’s as brutal as its predecessor, but ends on a tender and surprising grace note. It’s setting is inspired, as is grounding the story in a school for modern dance rather than ballet. Fingers crossed that Guadagnino can introduce us to Mothers Tenebrarum and Lachrymarum in the future.
Our favorites — of anything — tend to be things that make us feel seen, less alone, and resonate with how we believe the world works. For me, Alex Garland’s oeuvre is so personal, it can be hard to articulate my feelings around it. As sci-fi horror, Annihilation dazzles with inventive visuals and a fresh threat. As a story and metaphor, it captures the outwardly calm, inwardly cataclysmic liminal period after loss, crisis, and change. It is concerned with the difficult truths of experience — how people choose to change and grow together, even though no one can predict what that will mean; how we are remade by the routine devastation of life; how fear and grief are personal and solitary; how we each decide to make peace. Like Suspiria, it looks at suffering and makes it — if not beautiful — awesome through perfect acceptance. In reminding you that pain is lonely, it makes you feel less alone.
Honorable Mentions: Anna And The Apocalypse, Slice, Halloween, Hell Fest, Upgrade, Marrowbone, Unfriended: Dark Web
Best Scare: The Witch In The Window
Best Score: Suspiria
Best Film I Should’ve Watched 2 Years Ago: Train To Busan
Best 2019 Movie of 2018: The Perfection
Best Horror Fiction Podcast: The Black Tapes