By Jason Sawyer – Dec. 29, 2018
It’s the honest truth – 2018 was a ridiculously good year for horror. A simple Top-10 Movies list, which will be posted tomorrow, just wouldn’t suffice for the wealth of horror offerings made over the last 12 months, so I decided to break down the year’s best into 10 different categories to better explore all the greatness there was to be enjoyed throughout. Since we didn’t launch until mid-September, I’ve been scrambling to cover as much ground as possible, and while I didn’t get to everything, there’s nearly 50 films here in consideration. So with that, let’s get to it.
This is for honoring the various providers and producers of horror material who consistently release quality films.
2nd Runner-Up – IFC Midnight
Year after year, IFC Midnight cranks out a wealth of quality films – The Babadook and The Autopsy of Jane Doe being a couple of the most famous – and this year was no exception. Regrettably, the clock ran out on reviewing some of these titles for ’18, but their notable releases were: The Clovehitch Killer, Ghost Stories, Pyewacket, Wildling, The Devil’s Doorway, What Keeps You Alive, Lowlife, Our House, Feral, Welcome to Mercy, and Midnighters.
1st Runner-Up – Blumhouse
I’ve mentioned it several times the last few months that Jason Blum is an exceptionally busy person. With something like 30 film production credits this year – most all horror – he shows no signs of slowing down in the future either. With a winning formula of tight budget management and faith in creator control, he’s been doing his part to forward the genre by proving that it can be profitable and interesting at the same time. Now that’s he been flexing his growing influence by acquiring classic franchises, there’s no telling what promising potential projects may lie ahead. Their notable releases were: Halloween, The First Purge, Upgrade, Unfriended: Dark Web, Insidious: The Last Key, Cam, Delirium, Truth or Dare, Stephanie, Seven in Heaven, All the Creatures Were Stirring, Into the Dark, and non-horror early Oscar favorite BlacKkKlansman.
Best – Shudder
The best $5 a month a horror fan can spend. While their original content may not be as prolific as that of Blumhouse, both the quality and quantity of the original and exclusive content they procure and the bargain price at which it offered propel it to the top of the category. They have an amazing collection of classic and archival titles too. It doesn’t take long to gather that Shudder is operated and cultivated by diehard fans who know the good stuff when they see it. Their notable releases were: Mandy, Summer of 84, Terrified, Revenge, Satan’s Slaves, The Witch in the Window, You Might Be the Killer, Downrange, the Joe Bob Briggs marathons, Deadwax, Ruin Me, Still/Born, and Dead Shack.
This one speaks for itself, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking as well.
2nd Runner-up – Werner (Overlord)
1st Runner-up – Mutant Bear (Annihilation)
Best – The Jotun (The Ritual)
Best Character Performance
This category is for those who weren’t given much depth, screen time, or dialogue, but still managed to make a big impact. (Sorry Michael Myers, Predator, and The Strangers, but you’re all disqualified for familiarity.)
2nd Runner-Up – Sharon Morgan As Her (Apostle)
What straight-up scares there are to be had in Gareth Evans’ bleak period piece Apostle are provided by this mysterious blood-guzzling deity-like figure who, while imprisoned in an entanglement of her own overgrowth, is quite capable of travelling in an astral manner to occasionally antagonize (or perhaps warn) our hero at inopportune moments.
1st Runner-Up – Consuelo Trujillo As Hermana Muerte (Veronica)
It probably wasn’t intended for this blind, chain-smoking, no-nonsense nun to steal the show during her brief appearances – she was merely supposed to be the plot dumper who gives our heroine important story-moving information that she couldn’t be privy to otherwise – but she does, and it was something of a mistake to waste such a memorable character. In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot else.
Best – David Howard Thornton As Art the Clown (Terrifier)
Terrifier doesn’t succeed very well at all as a movie – there’s barely any effort applied to provide even the most basic of narratives – but as a showcase for its spotlight villain, Art the Clown, it actually does quite well. Thornton nails the balance of extreme menace and ironic whimsy – exactly what you’d want from a killer clown – and his depiction of the near-invincible and out-maneuverable psycho is, essentially, the entire film.
Some movies don’t have the advantage of deep budgets or fancy effects to gain and hold the audience’s interest – they must rely largely on the strength of their story to get the job done. And some times, movies do have those things and still have damn good scripts.
– 2nd Runner-up: Ari Aster – Hereditary
– 1st Runner-up: Isa Mazzei – Cam
Best: Matt Leslie & Stephen J. Smith – Summer of 84
More so than any other film up for consideration, Summer of 84 is especially reliant on its plot beats, story twists, and subversions of expectations and tropes to succeed. Further, the movie is quiet about what it’s up to, subtly building toward a third act that hits with a ton of force. It’s a fiercely rewarding mystery with a devastating finish, and Leslie & Smith’s script provides the elements that make it shine.
The director is the one who is ultimately held responsible if a movie is completed as a disastrous mess, so it’s fair they get the credit when it turns out great. The best generally exhibit a blend of vision, control, and resourcefulness, and this year, these were our favorites:
– 2nd Runner-Up: Panos Cosmatos – Mandy
– 1st Runner-Up: John Krasinski – A Quiet Place
Best: Paul Urkijo Alijo – Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
While fans are gushing over the fantastic debut feature of Herediary creator Ari Astor (who I had at 3rd runner-up), this phenomenal first film from Basque writer/director Alijo has gone sadly overlooked. Visually stunning and thematically strong with an engaging story and strong performances throughout, Alijo conjures comparisons to filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Terry Gilliam while establishing a unique tone that is decidedly his own, and for that, he takes the top spot here.
Best Youth Performance
You might not realize just how many roles there are for children in the horror genre until you start counting. There’s a lot, and that makes sense too. Children in peril is a fast way to engage an audience when you want to scare or unsettle them, and evil children are even more effective. Also, increasingly, horror is more closely examining parental relationships as well. As such, there was actually a lot of competition here.
– 2nd Runner-up: Charlie Tacker – The Witch in the Window
– 1st Runner-up: Simone Landers – Cargo
Best: Savannah Liles – Prodigy
Liles’ performance as sociopathic super-genius Ellie – a child so dangerous that she is held in restraints and treated with terror in a highly classified government facility – is the glue that holds this whole movie together. Largely dialogue-driven, her battle of wits with unorthodox psychiatrist Fonda, played by Richard Neil whose performance is very solid as well, makes for a surprisingly riveting film.
From here on out, the rest of the categories are pretty self-explanatory.
Best Supporting Actor
– 2nd Runner-up: Rich Sommer – Summer of 84
– 1st Runner-up: Linus Roache – Mandy
Best: Eneko Sagardoy – Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
As captive demon Sartael, Sagardoy brings the complex and mischievous imp to charismatic life – portraying a conflicted antagonist that is torn between a sense of hellish duty, resentment for his failures and resulting captivity, and a desire to simply be free of it all. With his piteous obligation to responsibility paired with a lack of enthusiastic conviction to see it through, rarely has a demon been as readily relatable as his.
Best Supporting Actress
– 2nd Runner-up: Andi Matichak – Halloween
– 1st Runner-up: Andrea Riseborough – Mandy
Best: Laurie Holden – Pyewacket
Pyewacket is on a list of films that I was too harsh toward early on in my reviews and one of the motivators behind re-designing my whole rating process. While I harped on this film’s third act and its handling of its supernatural elements, it’s likely that I missed the greater point about a catastrophic relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter. Holden plays a frustratingly and realistically human role as Mrs. Reyes, torn apart over the grief of losing her husband while simultaneously blind to her daughter’s own struggles with the loss of her father. She’s both sympathetic and infuriating, so when the summoned demon of the title takes on her form to torment the young daughter, the film takes a chilling turn. This is one of the performances that has stuck with me after binging dozens of movies.
– 2nd Runner-up: Anders Danielsen Lie – The Night Eats the World
– 1st Runner-up: Alex Draper – The Witch in the Window
Best: Nicolas Cage – Mandy
No surprises here, as the one-time Oscar winner and two-time nominee has finally been paired with a role that both demands and accommodates the wild and unhinged performances that Cage has become associated with in his later career. The character of Red is not terribly special – a seemingly average Joe with a hidden past who is sent on a quest for bloody revenge after miscreants kill his wife and leave him for dead. To say it’s been done understates how often it’s been done. Yet, Cage breathes fire on what becomes a crusade to purge the earth of an evil and toxic force as much as it is to right the wrongs endured by Mandy, and the amazing film simply wouldn’t astonish like it does without him in the driver’s seat.
While the best female lead performance of the year was easy to decide upon, this was an extremely competitive category which included the likes of Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, and Emily Blunt. This is who we went with.
2nd Runner-up: Claire Foy – Unsane
1st Runner-up: Madeline Brewer – Cam
Best: Toni Collette – Hereditary
This was the easiest decision to make throughout this entire process. Collette turns in a tour de force performance for the ages as the supremely troubled Annie, who struggles with the loss of her mother, with whom she had a complicated and bitter relationship, and things only get far worse from there. Hereditary is her showcase, full stop, and her portrayal of an excruciating descent into madness and despair will be talked about for many years to come.