When film historians look back on 2018, they’ll likely cite our divisive political climate as the reason why horror had such a glorious year. Our normal stance would be to argue that horror is always great; the only thing that changes is how much attention the mainstream pays it. That being said, this year has seen some epic, defining moments in the genre. Here’s a look at some of 2018’s biggest horror highlights:
January: The year started on a high note withHereditary and Mandy stunning audiences at the Sundance Film Festival, and the improbable fourth outing in the Insidious series, The Last Key, unlocking $29.5 million on its opening weekend alone. Losers’ Club devotees let Pennywise float into their homes with the Blu-Ray release of It: Chapter One. Horror Grand Master Jack Ketchum, whose transgressive novels The Girl Next Door andOffspring were adapted into equally controversial movies, died of cancer at 71.
February: Dame Helen Mirren took a shot at horror with Winchester, based on a real-life mansion with a real-weird history, while Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block carved out a gory, inter-dimensional cannibal-focused third season on Syfy. The Ritualarrived in the U.S., raising the bar on creature F/X, and a stellar female cast brought depth and nuance to the sci-fi/horror film Annihilation.
March: Horror gained some gold with Get Outscoring an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (out of its four total Academy Award nominations). Ten years after masked home invaders knocked on Liv Tyler’s door, The Strangers: Pray at Night saw the creepy trio hunting their way through a trailer park to the beat of an ’80s soundtrack. The Terror’s debut season gave us chills with its gorgeous frozen landscapes, and Rob Zombie started shooting his surprise follow-up to The Devil’s Rejects and revealed the title, 3 From Hell.
April: On the heels of Get Out’s success, the release of A Quiet Place sparked a loud debate about the phrase “elevated horror,” with critics and fans butting heads in think pieces and chat rooms about what makes horror great. Unfortunately, the genre love didn’t extend to Ash vs Evil Dead — the show’s cancellation prompted Bruce Campbell to announce he’s retiring from playing the iconic chainsaw-wielding hero. Hail to the king, baby.
May: A different King, first name Stephen, released his umpteenth book, The Outsider, going for a whodunit vibe that still brought the nightmare fuel. In other King news, John Lithgow took on the iconic role of Jud Crandall in the remake of Pet Sematary. Andrew Lincoln announced he was leaving The Walking Dead after nine seasons and the excellent Exorcist series was canceled after two seasons. The rape-revenge subgenre got a boost of kickass feminist adrenaline with the theatrical release Revenge. And Margot Kidder — Lois Lane to many, loved by us for Black Christmasand The Amityville Horror — passed away.
June: The brutal first Halloween trailer dropped, prompting multiple freeze-frame dissections for Easter eggs and plot info. Hereditary’s theatrical release lived up to the festival circuit buzz. (Hail Paimon!) More of a buzzkill was word that “Friday the 13th the Game” had to cancel all its new planned content due to the franchise’s long-running legal woes. After nine months of fan fantasy casting for It: Chapter Two, the full roster of adult Losers was revealed, while Don Mancini told us that Chucky wants to play some more, this time as a Child’s Play television series.
July: Not to be outdone, MGM announced they’re rebooting Child’s Play (Mancini said he isn’t a fan).Equally controversial? News that Buffy the Vampire Slayer would return with a new Slayer. Since Joss Whedon will be involved, fingers crossed that it’ll take place in the world of the excellent Buffy comics, in which the Scooby Gang and an army of Slayers live on. The First Purgedelivered an origin story, Castle Rock invented a whole damn origin universe, Joe Bob Briggs broke the internet with his epic The Last Drive-Inmarathon. (Thanks for watching … if you could!)
August:The Meg was fairly toothless and Slender Man was slim on scares, but Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich made up for creative kills with a non-stop, non-PC murderthon that executed one of the most controversial deaths we’ve ever seen on screen. Which is saying a lot. A bit more highbrow was Valencourt and Quirk Books’ announcement that they’ll publish a limited series of reissues of novels featured in Grady Hendrix’s seminalPaperbacks From Hell, in all their pulpy cover art glory. Surprise hit of the month: Searching took a cliché format (almost every scene takes place on a computer or smart phone screen) and delivered a taut thriller.
September:The Predator crashed back to earth for a new hunting spree, The Conjuring franchise unleashed The Nun, Apostle celebrated pagan folk horror, and the legendary Lizzie Borden got an infusion of fresh blood with Lizzie. Mandy gifted us with a new horror mascot called the Cheddar Goblin, The Purge swarmed onto TV, and CBS revealed that Jordan Peele will lead us into the fifth dimension with a reboot of The Twilight Zone. Whew!
October: The revival of two iconic titles, Halloweenand Fangoria magazine, cemented the year’s place in horror history. Television offered up a glut of spooky-season series to binge: Into the Dark,Channel Zero: The Dream Door, Eli Roth’s History of Horror, The Haunting of Hill House, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Robert Englund slipping on Freddy’s glove one more (last?) time for a special Halloween episode of The Goldbergs. We also said a sad farewell to genre stalwart Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead, In Cold Blood, The Ninth Configuration) and hello to Terrified, an amazing Argentinian horror film that’s already getting an English-language remake by Guillermo del Toro.
November: Another long-awaited reboot/reimagining/remake/whatever, Suspiria, divided audiences (We loved it.) Overlord crashed into theaters, mixing Nazis with zombies, Camgave us a new reason to fear going online, then the holidays gave us Anna and the Apocalypse, which mixed zombies and Christmas and musicals. Rick Grimes exited The Walking Deadbut, surprise! He’ll return in movies. The Satanic Temple filed a lawsuit against use of their church’s statue in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but settled fast and amicably. Author Daniel Kraus vowed to bring another legendary missing treasure, George Romero’s unseen 1973 short, The Amusement Park, to light after watching it and tweeting that it’s “Romero’s most overtly horrifying film.” For one day only, IFC Films screened the controversial unrated director’s cut of Lars von Trier’s serial killer movie The House That Jack Built.
December: Oh, what sights we could have seen — Guillermo del Toro tweeted out a list of all his unmade screenplays. The little green man was back and still looking for his gold in Leprechaun Returns, a direct sequel to the original that (spoiler alert) features a Jennifer Aniston sound-alike reprising the actress’s career-defining role in a voice cameo. We helped Joe Bob Briggs close out the year with A Very Joe Bob Christmas, and just in time for 2019, Jordan Peele reignited the conversation about what a “social thriller” vs. a “horror film” is when he dropped the (truly excellent) trailer for his next film, Us.
Feel free to let us know what else we should have included over on Twitter. Here’s to an equally killer 2019.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Japanese designer and artist Yuni Yoshida says she wants her surreal creations to cause people to think “Wait, something is different” — and her design for this amazing hair skull certainly accomplishes that.
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Jordan Peele released a terrifying trailer for Us, about which the director says: “I wanted to create a monster mythology.”
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By Sam Zimmerman
This week’s States of Horror highlights a civil rights-inspired anthology segment and one of our best contemporary home invasion horrors.
Mississippi: Tales From the Hood 2
Long overdue, a sequel to influential and overlooked 1995 horror anthology, Tales From the Hood, arrived in 2018 with original creators Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott in tow. In the final segment, “The Sacrifice,” Cundieff hits hard, telling a thoughtful and cutting ghost story set in Mississippi politics and informed by the horrific Emmet Till tragedy. It’s a piece with a specific and very real sense of place, both because of the Till’s murder in the state and the impact it had on civil rights, as well as the current American landscape Cundieff is aiming to address. The segment and the film as a whole are a welcome return for the filmmaker, and I hope there’s much more from Cundieff on the horizon.
Missouri: You’re Next
The Home Invasion subgenera is often marked by just how grueling its canon can be. These are harrowing ordeals and the films that stage them are meant to reflect that. And then, there is 2011’s You’re Next, a wicked grin of a film whose suspense is expertly staged, dark humor perfectly pitched, and bloodshed particularly rousing, thanks to an electrifying performance from Sharni Vinson and sharp wit from writer Simon Barrett (who hails from the film’s setting and shooting location, Columbia, Missouri).
THINGS WE LOVE
We Still Believe
One of the many reasons we love The Lost Boys is for its killer soundtrack, and Death Waltz Recording Co. has given two of the most memorable tracks the treatment they deserve. Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister” and Tim Capello’s “I Still Believe” have been pressed onto 7″ vinyl releases — one of which even glows in the dark. Perfect for spinning on the turntable when you ready to sleep all day and party all night.