Now Watch This: The Best Underrated Indie Horror You May Have Missed in 2018
As another year of great genre entertainment begins, we celebrate the best genre gems of 2018. While there were several runaway horror hits and box office winners, this list (like our best of 2017 list) focuses on the many exceptional indie films that have flown under your radar. From brutal revenge thrillers to horror comedies to spine-tingling supernatural terror — we’ve got it all covered. Whatever your personal tastes, there’s bound to be something here you’ll love, as submitted by our writers from their personal Best of 2018 lists.
1. What Keeps You Alive (Dir. Colin Minihan)
Why do I like What Keeps You Alive? No, the question is, why did I love it? The latest from powerhouse couple Brittany Allen and Colin Minihan has it all; intensity, suspense, blood, sex and a killer score. This film does its damndest, and does it well, in making you think you might not know your partner as well as you think, and will very effectively have you looking over your shoulder. Or it may not, but what it will do is keep you engaged and wanting more.
And the best part of this film? When the actor cast as Jules’ husband didn’t work out, Minihan made the decision to replace him with Anderson, giving Jules a wife. And while having two females doesn’t add anything extra to the film, it’s a huge stepping stone for the LGBT+ community as lesbian couples, albeit, believable lesbian couples, are rarely at the forefront of a movie, let alone the main characters. But this isn’t just why I love it. Watch if for yourself, enjoy the amazing score by Allen, and root for you favorite — because only one is making it out alive. (Tiffany Blem)
2. The Snarling (Dir. Pablo Raybould)
With a new zombie horror movie being filmed in the village, locals Les (Laurence Saunders), Mike (Chris Simmons) and Bob (Ben Manning) take the opportunity to get involved as extras in the film. Unfortunately for them, fame is not the thing which the film has brought to the village. When a series of gruesome murders leaves a trail of dismembered bodies in the local woods, it is left down to the local Detective Inspector (Pablo Raybould) and sergeant Haskins (Ste Johnston) to try and solve the case. As the killings continue questions begin to rise; could these murders have anything to do with the film? Is there any connection to the full moon? And who ate all the breakfast?
The Snarling is a brilliant British horror-comedy from writer and director Pablo Raybould, who also features in the film as Detective Inspector. I was lucky enough to see the film at a sold-out screening at Horror-on-Sea January 2018, and for me it was the film of the festival. The film sets up a gruesome premise with the vicious murders, and there are a few moments where it manages to builds up the tension, but the main strength of the film is the brilliant comedy.
Pablo’s clever script keeps the laughter coming consistently throughout the film and has so many references even the hard-core horror fans will find it difficult to find them all during the first time watching. In addition to the script, the film has some excellent performances from the cast, although it is Laurence Saunders who really makes an impact in the film – playing both the dim-witted Lee Jarvis and his doppelganger; diva actor of both film and commercials Greg Lupeen. (Philip Rogers)
3. Elliot (Dir. Craig Jacobson)
Has anyone ever told you about an old idea they’ve had about the future? And how they plan on telling the world about it in their own invented, futuristic language, yet using outdated technology to do so? That’s the elliptical platform Dreams for Dead Cats LLC balances their feature film debut, Elliot, on. An abstract, lo-fi science fiction eye-plosion, Elliot is DIY cyberpunk burlesque at its most daringly inventive.
With ancient VHS camcorders, fuzzy tracking, and screaming color, Elliot presents to us a cautionary tale about the danger of upgrading ourselves in order to satisfy authority. In the process we will lose familiarity with both love and ourselves. This is one of the brightest-shining underground sparks of the year. (Jamie Marino)
4. Mask of Thorn (Dir. MJ Dixon)
Mask Of Thorn is written and directed by MJ Dixon, and produced by Anna Dixon. It stars Eve Kathryn Oliver, Sophie Bryant, Maria Lee Metheringham and Atticus Machiavellian as Thorn. Bethany’s (Oliver) friends kidnaper her for a surprise birthday party, but little do they know that the monster Thorn is hot on their trail. This is low budget, independent horror at its finest. Mask of Thorn is a prequel to the blood-drenched 2015 film, Legacy of Thorn. It’s bloody, gruesome fun — an instant cult classic. Brutally violent and beautifully bloody, this merciless slasher film is not to be taken lightly. There’s severed heads, body parts and tons of gore. What more could you ask for? (Monster Dugan)
Adopting the look and style of an 80’s slasher, Mask of Thorn delivers a fun throwback look and style to the film — but with some additional elements of sci-fi, it also gives it an additional energy and excitement. With Thorn trying to track down the innocent Bethany; played brilliantly by Eve Kathryn Oliver, the film could have easily been played out as a standard slasher. However, writer-director M J Dixon likes to play things differently and this time he has someone to fight back. Known for creating strong female characters, this time we have a Mina Adams played by kick ass Maria Lee Metheringham. Despite being a low budget film, when it comes to the gore Mask of Thorn really delivers with plenty of blood and decapitations throughout. Although the tone is more attune to the later slasher films in the Friday the 13th series, as the violence is delivered with a more comical tongue in cheek humor. (Philip Rogers)
5. Cam (Dir. Daniel Goldhaber)
A webcam girl encounters the worst stolen identity theft of all time, in the mind-twisting film of the year, CAM, written by an ex-cam girl, Isa Mazzei. Because of the subject matter, this turned off many people, but I discovered it to be one of the strongest psychological horror films of 2018.
Alice is a young woman who earns an outstanding living as a “webcam girl” and keeps her career private from most of her family and acquaintances. Nevertheless, things work for her, until her life takes a bad turn as a doppelgänger nightmare from hell takes over, and she loses command of her persona to a duplicate. Subsequently, her life spirals out of control when her secret is exposed to her loved ones and she struggles to maneuver the sleazy and perverse world that is her work.
This film might have been a ho-hum film centering on the exploitation of the women associated in this industry. Instead, the film focuses on Alice and her emotional battle as she must fight for her “identity”, Lola. She understands the world she has entered and is no babe in the woods. She loves and needs the Internet fame, and her desire for the money is addicting. However, the film shows us her true character — she is battling for herself and taking control of who and what she is. She is a survivor; she’s tough because she has to be. Madeline Brewer as Alice turns in an exceptional and compelling performance. In addition, the film is satisfyingly creepy, with a disturbing atmosphere that should appeal to most horror fans. (Tavera Del Toro)
6. Terrified (Dir. Demián Rugna)
While I missed this film at Fantastic Fest 2018, it was all anyone could talk about it. Over and over, I heard people refer to it as the scariest film of the year — a truly chilling and must-see ghost film. The film ended up winning Best Horror Film at the Fest, and I kicked myself for not catching it. Fortunately, Terrified was picked up by Shudder, and I was finally able to see for myself what all the hype was about.
Now, when a film has so much buzz attached to it, heightened expectations often lead to inevitable disappointment. But I’m happy to report that this film is just as intelligent, unnerving, and wonderfully creepy as promised. With minimal backstory and exceptional special effects, the film immediately draws you in, takes you on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns, and delivers one effectively skin crawling scare after another. It’s a gory and gleefully gruesome film that should not be missed. (The Angry Princess)
7. The Clovehitch Killer (Dir. Duncan Skiles)
Evil can be just right under the surface anywhere in the world. The Clovehitch Killer is an introspective look at repression, family and the moral soul of Middle America. How does Tyler, a teen from a small religious town protect his family when he suspects his seemingly wholesome father might be an infamous serial killer? Could a cold-blooded sadist be living a secret life right in his own house?
The Clovehitch Killer is my favorite hanging-on-the-edge-of-my-seat thriller for 2018. Based loosely on the real-life serial killer Dennis Rader, known as the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) killer, tension, not gore is the name of the game.
Dylan McDermott and Charlie Plummer lead an incredible and emotional cast. This a horror thriller with heart; a social commentary about what is normal, or more simply, what is right or wrong? The Clovehitch Killer is not a super gory film, but one that builds upon itself until you want to scream at the screen in anticipation of what’s coming next. It then leaves you troubled and pondering, what would you do, if given the same dilemma as Tyler? (Vicki Woods)
8. Our House (Dir. Anthony Scott Burns)
Our House is peppered with aerial shots showing the small, tree covered town. These shots convey a sleepy and quiet feeling. But it’s under these trees that the film is focusing on, the interior of what is first seen. What’s underneath the surface of everyday life? More notably, what’s underneath the dimension of the living that we can’t see and when the dead enter this dimension, is that sustainable? This is the deeper theme of Our House that connects all the events of the film. Looking deeper is healthy and a natural curiosity of the human condition. But digging too deep can lead to pathways that weren’t meant to be traveled and release energies that can’t be foreseen or understood.
Thomas Mann is excellent as the conflicted Ethan. He is the heart of the film and successfully elicits the sympathy needed from the viewer. The strong screenplay from Nathan Parker and direction of Anthony Scott Burns allows the viewer time to care for the family and show the hurt of the characters and the relationship dynamic between Ethan and his younger brother and sister. The untimely and sudden death of the parents took an emotional toll on the family and getting to know these characters is vital to the impact and arrival of the spirits of the deceased parents. And the heightened tension when the darker spirits soon follow.
Our House is an example of solid filmmaking and a wonderful ghost story with touches of science fiction. It features a great cast (newcomer Kate Moyer and Percy Hynes White are superb), and deliberate pacing that leads to a tension filled and exciting finale. It’s a supernatural masterpiece and is a must watch. (Jason McFiggins)
9. Rondo (Dir. Drew Barnhardt)
I went into Drew Barnhardt’s Rondo completely blind, something I don’t often do — and holy shit did it pay off in this instance. Rondo is hard to pigeonhole with sub genre, but if you enjoy dark humor, with nasty twists and turns, look no further. The film follows Paul, who has recently been discharged from the military and ends up bringing home night terrors and a significant dependence with alcohol.
Paul’s sister cares for him and decides to intervene, suggesting a visit with a therapist to help him vent and heal. While at the therapy session though, the Doctor prescribes a very peculiar remedy for the returning patriot, and what ensues is an unexpected mix of laughs and bloodshed. I wish more people would’ve started talking about this movie as it made its way through the festival circuit, but it appears that this indie gem slipped under the radar.
I’m here to tell you to not make the same mistake. Seek this one out, folks. It is one fun and fucked up flick. (Danni Darko)
10. Imitation Girl (Dir. Natash Kermani)
In Imitation Girl, a hyper-intelligent blob of black ooze falls from the skies of the sunsoaked American southwest. As it slowly crawls, it touches a glamour magazine, and the blob instantly becomes the girl on the cover of the magazine (Lauren Ashley Carter, playing both the alien and the pornstar on the magazine cover). The imitation-human of the cover girl, named Julianna, is a complete blank slate mentally and emotionally. Sequences of her learning things such as texture, how to walk, and how to eat are enchanting.
The alien is taken in by a kind Iranian immigrant family, and once with them, she absorbs knowledge at a spectacular rate of speed. The bulk of the film then deals with how both Julianna and the imitation girl deal with their own humanity. Life begins to fall apart for the adult film star, which leads to the climactic encounter between the two characters.
Lauren Ashley Carter owns this movie and shines every second she is on the screen. She plays each character with such contrast and independence that you will be perfectly convinced of the idea that these are two separate but identical beings. This film moved me, made me laugh, and still has not left my memory. It haunts me, like a rainstorm of enigmatic black ink. (Jamie Marino)
11. Revenge (Dir. Coralie Fargeat)
Rarely is a film this gruesome and bloody also so colorfully stylish and iconic. Watching a woman regain power from cruel misogynistic men — transforming like a phoenix (not to mention the gallons of blood) — was a cinematic phenomenon. For myself personally, Revenge is one of the best and most extreme Indie films of 2018. It has a raw energy and an intensity hardly ever seen in any genre.
Our protagonist, Jen is one bad-ass empowered bitch! Writer/director Coralie Fargeat masterfully created a character that at first seemed like a silly little sex object and by the end is the most empowered female possible. Jen (Matilda Lutz) is on a seemingly romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) until his two sleazy friends, Dimitri and Stan, arrive for an unannounced hunting trip. As tension mounts in the house, the situation abruptly and violently intensifies, culminating in a shocking act that leaves Jen left for dead. Unfortunately for her assailants, she survives and soon begins a relentless quest for grisly vengeance.
Revenge is one of the bloodiest films I have ever seen that wasn’t a parody, and that’s what made this gory and extreme film so immensely satisfying. Most exploitation films are slimy, and you feel dirty after viewing them. The change of perspective coming from a woman filmmaker made this an intelligent and powerful film. The hallway scene drenched in blood — well you just must see it for yourself! (Vicki Woods)
12. Terrifier (Dir. Damien Leone)
Sometime ago, I stumbled upon a horror short on YouTube titled Terrifier, a grindhouse-throwback about a psychotic clown who stalks and abducts a young woman with grisly results. At just under 20 minutes long, Damien Leone’s film is eerily effective, with grainy and gruesome special effects and a memorable, sadistic villain. Horror fans rejoiced when 2018 brought a new Terrifier to the screen, a full-length feature that captures the grimy energy of the earlier incarnation of Art and adds meaningfully to his warped backstory.
Starring David Howard Thornton as the killer clown and Jenna Kanell and Catherine Corcoran as his unwilling victims, the movie is a lean 85 minutes of gory practical effects, solid suspense, savage kills, and gallows humor (especially with Art himself, whose mannerisms, facial expressions, and vile acts are both frightening and comically morbid). The performances in Terrifier are all strong and confident; while much deserved praise has been lauded onto Thornton for his diabolical turn as Art, the other actors tackle their roles with equal gusto. There is an intriguing framing device that begins the narrative and establishes some mystery as to who will survive Art’s wave of slaughter and who will become the next victim to his knife, hacksaw, or pistol.
One disturbing sequence shows director Leone paying effective homage to Leatherface and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but Art the Clown remains his own beast, a mute and formidable serial killer with a painted grin and a lumbering stride. While Leone’s script is not overly complex, there’s just enough substance to the ghoulish story to keep audiences entertained during the limited run-time. Hopefully, Terrifier is not the last we will see of Art the Clown and his out-of-control rampages and cold-blooded humor. Damien Leone’s dedicated vision equates to one of my top indie horror films of 2018. (Josh Hancock)
13. Cannibals & Carpet Fitters (Dir. James Bushe)
Cannibals & Carpet Fitters is a slice of British horror-comedy that delivers on both levels of expectation, with some genuinely gory moments, a couple of genuine jump-scares and some truly hilarious laugh-out-loud moments. Keep an eye on director James Bushe, who has a bright future following this, his debut feature. (Richard Rowntree)
14. Snowflake (Dir. Adolfo Kolmerer)
Snowflake (also known as Schneeflöckchen) is a fantastic black horror comedy and my number one favorite Indie film of 2018. A satirical cross between a Grimm’s fairy tale and a Quentin Tarantino film, we follow the misadventures of Tana and Javid in their quest to avenge the deaths of their families.
While hunting down the murderer in an anarchic Berlin of the near future, the outlaws find themselves trapped in a fairy tale. Literally characters in a mysterious screenplay, they are entangled in a vicious circle of revenge — apparently all written by a clueless dentist. Because of their desire for vengeance, they must contend with a myriad of wicked fairy tale assassins, madmen, a blood-covered angel, and an electric-powered superhero.
With surreal, brutal, powerful characters, and enormous amounts of blood, Snowflake is the kind of film people will remember, and want to watch again and again. Director Adolfo Kolmerer and all involved, have created an unearthly fairy tale world of criminals and heroes that is unparalleled! Murder and mayhem haven’t been this much fun since Pulp Fiction! (Vicki Woods)
15. Mandy (Dir. Panos Cosmatos)
Easily one of my favorite and most unexpected films of 2018, Mandy is a psychedelic, metal-infused, head trip of a film about a man (Nicolas Cage) seeking revenge for the murder of his girlfriend, the titular Mandy (the wonderful Andrea Riseborough). It’s a wonderfully weird, sublimely strange, balls-to-the-wall bloodbath unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Replete with riveting performances all around, its Cage’s ferocious and fearless portrayal of a man on a murderous mission that truly makes Mandy fire on all cylinders. It’s a film perfectly suited for his uniquely unhinged acting talents, highlighting just how truly talented he really is.
Gloriously nightmarish, hallucinogenic and over-the-top, Mandy may not be for everyone. But it’s remarkable in so many ways and impossible to forget. In addition to being one of the most exciting films of the year, it also features one of the best soundtracks (by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson). Visually arresting, this refreshingly original take on the revenge sub genre is a cult classic in the making, the ultimate midnight movie. (The Angry Princess)
16. Welcome to Mercy (Dir. Tommy Bertelsen)
You can count on one hand the number of smart, well-executed possession movies that have been released since William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST. You can now add WELCOME TO MERCY to that list. Stigmata and possession are just the backdrops to a story written by star Kristen Ruhlin and directed by Tommy Bertelsen. Fans will get to see the obligatory ritual scene, some demonic show of force, and growling voices of the possessed that sound like a person channeling the music of Lamb of God. But there is something much deeper going on in Kristen Ruhlin’s story.
WELCOME TO MERCY is less interested in the physical aspects of a demon possession, and more interested in the consequences of decisions. Kristen Ruhlin frames her possession story around the plight of a young, single mother who returns to her childhood home to confront her past and say goodbye to her ailing father. What Madeline (Ruhlin) experiences is the sins of her family being passed down to her. Can Madeline unlock the secrets of her own childhood and fight for her very soul?
While not getting the press of 2018 horror movies like HEREDITARY or HALLOWEEN, IFC Midnight’s WELCOME TO MERCY deserves to be mentioned along the best movies of 2018, studio or independent. (Patrick Krause)
17. Pyewacket (Dir. Adam MacDonald)
Pyewacket is one of those rare movies that does everything well. It is without question a horror film, but it also perfectly manages the drama of a strained mother-daughter relationship with surprising sincerity and captures the emotional teen angst amid an unconventional coming of age story. With a strong focus on character from writer and director Adam MacDonald, we quickly come to care about Leah and her mother and become invested in them just as the horror elements take hold of the story. It’s at this point that the horror in the film becomes our own and a deep sense of dread grows as we realize the mother-daughter relationship is on a collision course with unspeakable evil.
The relationship between Nicole Munoz as Leah and Laurie Holden as her mother is the most vital aspect of the film, for without it any emotional impact from the story is lost. The two actresses do such a good job they elevate the already excellent script to greatness, especially Munoz who gives a raw, attention demanding performance. Her mere presence fills every scene with melancholy along with a sense of hope that always seems just within reach. And Holden offers the heart swelling, sometimes frustrating love of a mother approaching the end of her rope with touching accuracy.
This relationship alters the supernatural horror into devastating reality making Pyewacket one of the best films of the year. And keep an eye on Nicole Munoz, she’s as good as it gets and I personally can’t wait to see what she does next. (Jason McFiggins)
18. Trauma (Dir. Lucio A. Rojas)
Anyone that knows me is well aware of my love towards extreme horror. I can’t get enough gore and I never deny that fact. This year though, there is one movie in particular that tested my fortitude. Within the opening minutes of Lucio A. Rojas’ film Trauma, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, uneasily transfixed on the overwhelming violence playing out before me. “What the fuck did I get myself into?,” I thought to myself. The answer; one of best modern pieces of indie extreme horror.
It’s traditional only at the very core of the story; women becoming isolated and subsequently targeted. But Rojas and company deliver so much more, offering genuine angst to help fuel the moving performances and some fucking incredible FX. This was a film that the entire cast and crew had their hearts in, and you can tell. Each performance, every incredible and diverse death, the cinematography, the score, all come together to help make for one hell of a viewing experience.
Trauma is a raw and angry production. The women have to endure one of the most brutal confrontations I have ever come across on film. Lucio’s movie is beyond visceral, rightfully earning its spot among some of the most daring additions to cinema out there, because it went some places others don’t even fathom of treading. I warn you, this piece of extreme horror is definitely not for everyone. (Danni Darko)
19. The Book of Birdie (Dir. Elizabeth Schuch)
As I thought about what would be my top three films of 2018, there was only one movie that I knew would be on the list and would land squarely in the top spot – The Book of Birdie. No movie I saw last year consumed more of my thoughts than this one.
A beautiful coming-of-age story about a young woman coming of age in a convent after being placed there by her grandmother. Her own awakening sexuality is confused by the religious imagery around her and her growing fascination with blood becomes the viewer’s fascination with Birdie.
Director Elizabeth Schuch and cinematographer Konstantinos Koutsoliotas create one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen in any genre, but the real star here is the Ilirida Memedovski. In her first film, her portrayal of Birdie is a masterpiece. With the camera focused intensely on her face, Memedovski paints every emotion perfectly and captures the viewer’s heart and imagination. (Todd Reed)
20. Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (Dir. Stephen Cognetti)
The first HELL HOUSE LLC movie introduced viewers to The Abaddon Hotel. A group of friends attempted to convert the abandoned hotel into a Halloween haunt attraction, not realizing the hotel is truly haunted and also sitting upon a portal to Hell.
The sequel is set approximately eight years after the events in the first movie. Instead of simply repeating the story and scares from the first movie, HELL HOUSE LLC II: THE ABADDON HOTEL deepens the mythology of the haunted Abaddon Hotel, while giving fans even more scares. Sharp-eyed fans should also be on the lookout for clues within the hotel for what’s to come in the third movie (due in 2019).
HELL HOUSE LLC II: THE ABADDON HOTEL is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the found-footage genre, and one of the top indie horror movies of 2018. HELL HOUSE LLC is a series I return to again and again, and I eagerly await the next installment in 2019. (Patrick Krause)
21. They Remain (Dir. Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman)
I reviewed They Remain in full in the spring of 2018 if you’d like a more complete picture of what to expect, but for a summary: just know that this movie is crazy. Did you like Annihilation? This is a smaller, sometimes more confusing version of that film, scientists and all — plus it stars William Jackson Harper from The Good Place! If you aren’t bothered by non-linear timelines and hallucinatory visuals, then you might quite enjoy the surrealism and horror of They Remain, possibly one of the weirder movies that came out in 2018. (Jackie Ruth)
22. Empathy, Inc. (Dir. Yedidya Gorsetman)
My number two film for the year was almost as certain of a choice as The Book of Birdie, but I debated about whether it had enough horror elements in it to be considered for the list. But in the end, Empathy, Inc. is one of the best sci-fi thrillers I have ever had the pleasure to watch. After being made the scapegoat for his company’s losses, Joel (Zach Robidas) is fired and forced to move in with his in-laws. Desperate to return to the top, he invests in a company that works with Extreme Virtual Reality that lets its participants experience life as someone else.
Empathy, Inc. is nothing short of amazing — beautifully shot in film noir black & white. With performances that are absolutely stellar, this is probably the one film I watched more than any other during 2018. Empathy, Inc. showcases that budget really doesn’t matter when you have a great story and a talented cast. (Todd Reed)
23. Song of Solomon (Dir. Stephen Biro)
If you don’t know by now what this movie is all about, then exit the cubbyhole under your rock. After you do that, sell the rock so you have some money to see it. Song of Solomon has quickly become a legend among extreme horror fanatics, so much so that it brought together thousands of fans from all over the world and formed a positive, supportive, and thriving Facebook community. Yes, such a thing does exist.
The fuel of this exorcism horror yarn is the theological accuracy of the rituals and painstakingly researched script by director Stephen Biro. The rocket is Jessica Cameron’s performance as Mary, the possessed girl. She literally, and with sinister glee, gnaws a path through her own body and guts to give us a twisted, and uncomfortably sexy, interpretation of a human body ravaged by evil.
This is a film you do not dare miss. It is truly the beginning of a new era of extreme gore and horror, and you will regret not being a part of it. (Jamie Marino)
24. The Endless (Dir. Justin Benson)
My, it was a fantastic year for horror. Even though I viewed fewer films than normal this past year, I heard positive reviews about a film called The Endless, and I saw it in early December. The film’s start was slow, and I even wondered if this was the right film, however, the story breaks out and it sneaks onto your skin like a tick.
The story centers on two brothers, who escaped from a strange cult where the older brother Justin (played by writer and director Justin Benson) escaped with his younger brother Aaron (played by Aaron Moorehead) — running away and informing the media about the cult’s peculiar behaviors. Struggling to survive in the outside world a few years later, Aaron wants to return for a visit. But Justin, still suspicious of the cult, initially refuses; he breaks down and agrees and they drive back to the isolated rural community. The film explores their experiences back in the compound, as the members have strange habits. Soon the brothers discover it isn’t just the members are off-kilter but perhaps something else. And if they don’t come to grips with reality, their lives could be in peril.
I enjoyed the slow buildup of the film, and the brothers’ relationship clicked and seemed genuine. The ending can perplex you, and a second viewing is worth it. This is not a slasher or monster film, but a sci-fi blend with horror that leaves you with dread and slaps you across the face when you realize the true meaning of the film’s ending. I loved it, and though it’s a slow-paced film, it ranks as one of the year’s best for its great storyline — thought provoking and surprising. (Tavera del Toro)
25. Victor Crowley (Dir. Adam Green)
Victor Crowley is written and directed by Adam Green. It’s stars Kane Hodder, Felissa Rose, Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Brian Quinn and Tiffany Shepis. It’s been 10 years since Victor Crowley went on a rampage killing a boat load of patrons on a midnight swamp tour, and now he’s back for blood.
This is the fourth film in the Hatchet franchise. It harkens back to Green’s beloved 2006 classic, and is a sequel that arguably outshines the original. It’s insanely intense and brutally savage, with triple the kills. This is not a film to be missed. Broken bones, buckets of blood, and tons of torn flesh make for one hell of a good time!
Adam Green’s Victor Crowley is barbaric, angry and extremely violent. It’s the best slasher film in years. A must have for any horror fan. (Monster Dugan)
26. Dead Night (Dir. Bradford Baruh)
Dead Night is a world of cold fog, dark shadows, and moonlit landscapes. Every scene is constructed in a way that conveys the feeling of the characters being watched or followed. It’s a wonderful atmosphere that is the stuff horror dreams are made of.
Barbara Crampton as Leslie gives an icy and chillingly relaxed performance and exudes an elite level of confidence in the role. Crampton effortlessly owns every scene she’s in and by far has one of the strongest screen presences in the genre. One of the best scenes in the film takes place around the dinner table as James and Casey (AJ Bowen and Brea Grant) pick up on the fact that something is not right with Leslie. Bowen and Grant do great responsive work to Crampton’s strange and unsettling behavior in a tension-filled and cumulative scene. From here, Brea Grant gives a fantastic performance as Casey, the mom in an unthinkable situation.
Overall Dead Night is a fantastic and nightmarish descent featuring strong performances from its cast and great makeup and gore. There’s a transformation scene at the end that is a bone cracking, skin splitting, bloody masterpiece — a nice cherry on top of this awesome film. All of this and more made it one of my favorites of 2018 and if you haven’t seen it a chilly, snowy January night is the perfect time to watch. (Jason McFiggins)
27. Tigers Are Not Afraid (Dir. Issa Lopez)
I was so completely moved by Issa Lopez’s film which hails from Mexico and depicts the undeniably sad conditions countless face in the country. The Drug War there claims a tremendous loss of lives, structure, and faith. Tigers Are Not Afraid is a truly unique, adult ‘fairytale’ that focuses on a group of kids fighting for their survival and seeking revenge against the vicious Huascas, a gang who has terrorized so many for so long.
Blending dramatic themes, real-life horror, and beautiful imagery, the tale takes you on an unforgettable journey that tugged on heartstrings I didn’t even know I had. I straight up ugly cried in more than one scene in this female driven and wildly imaginative story, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. (Danni Darko)
28. Satan’s Slaves (Dir. Joko Anwar)
This highly effective Indonesian remake of the 1982 cult classic from Joko Anwar is eerie and atmospheric, a frightening tale that mines both the supernatural realm for scares as well as the psychological horror associated with loss. It’s a haunting example of trauma manifesting in terrifying ways — when the inner demons born of pain and suffering give birth to external monsters.
Satan’s Slaves contains strong echoes of horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby, Night of the Living Dead and The Omen, while still retaining its own originality and unique identity. Moody and suspenseful, Anwar takes his time getting to the real horror, letting us fully invest in the characters. However, there’s plenty of truly chilling and terror-inducing scenes to make this one of the most surprising and scariest films of 2018. (The Angry Princess)
29. Summer of ’84 (Dir. François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell)
If I’m a sucker for any kind of film regardless of the genre, it would be coming-of-age films. But when you combine that love with horror, I’m gonna have a good time (Stand By Me is the gold standard). Bonus points if it waxes nostalgia on the 80s, since that is when I came of age, too.
Summer of ‘84 is a wonderful little horror film about how the neighborhood children react when a serial killer is in their midst, and what happens when they suspect their neighbor Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer), a well-liked local police officer might be the killer. The movie does such a good job with its continuity and film style that when I was watching the movie with my sixteen-year-old, he thought we were watching an(other) 80’s nostalgia film I wanted him to see. He was surprised it was just released this year.
A likable cast, shades of Rear Window and Stranger Things, and yes, that coming-of-age element blend to make Summer of ‘84 a perfect little genre thriller. (Todd Reed)
30. Dead by Midnight/11 Central (Dir. Torey Haas)
I’ve been a fan of director Torey Haas since I saw his flick The Neon Dead years ago. Here was a guy in the indie world who didn’t care about being dark and moody but made a bright and funny and original film. He wasn’t afraid of big ideas or special effects, and he made a movie that was fun to watch. His latest filmDead by Midnight/ 11 Central is all of that jacked up on steroids.
This anthology film follows a tv channel’s crew through the Mistress of Midnight (Erin Brown) annual horror movie marathon. When the staff begins disappearing only to turn up in the increasingly darker films, it’s up to line producer Candice Spelling (Hannah Fireman) to stop the Mistress of Midnight before her final and most diabolical film goes to air. In a role made for Brown, aka Misty Mundae, The Mistress of Midnight is dark, sexy and undeniably menacing. Fierman (VHS, Siren) also blew me away. She came in swinging for this movie — a hardcore businesswoman who is willing to do anything it takes to come out on top, and I do mean anything!
The film features several different directors and writers for each segment. But unlike most anthologies, these really come together to look like the same movie. A mixture of great post production and sharing of cast made it nearly flawless to me. Add Haas’ Penchant for visual effects, and you’ll be questioning why this isn’t in every theater in the nation. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. They’ve released two segments on YouTube already just to give you a little taste. (Richard Tanner)
31. The Little Stranger (Dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and starring Domhnall Gleason, this period piece (based on a book) sort of came and went without much fanfare. But although it’s touted as a drama and mystery on IMDb, and it is both of those, this is also a successful ghost story with quite a twist. I went into this film not expecting much, and instead the movie has stuck with me throughout the year as something better than what most people might think from the trailer. It is rather slow, and it is mainly a drama, but there is enough mystery and horror in The Little Stranger to keep your attention. Hopefully more people discover it over the next few years. (Jackie Ruth)
32. Ghost Stories (Dir. Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman)
This stage production adaptation was a genuinely surprising and hard-hitting story, one that involved both literal ghosts and the kind that live in a suffering mind. Not only was it a feast for the eyes with Doctor Parnassus type tricks, but it also brought the scares in startling ways. Really enjoyable performances throughout, especially by Martin Freeman. A bit of a hybrid anthology, Ghost Stories is a clever film with substance and style that doesn’t quite fit into the mold of a traditional scary story. (Ahlissa Eichhorn)
Have you ever heard footsteps you can’t explain? Feel cold spots in a warm room, heard whispers in your ear, or see something just out of the corner of your eye? Do you believe in ghosts, or are you like me; you want to believe, but never get the solid proof you need? Then Ghost Stories is the film for you! Three unsolved paranormal stories are at the center of the British horror anthology Ghost Stories. Darkly melodramatic, disturbing and beautifully shot, this is a film that rises to a higher level than most horror anthologies.
Ghost Stories absolutely fascinated me and is hands down my favorite supernatural thriller of 2018 — and one of the best horror anthologies ever! Everything about this film worked for me. This is a film you must see if you love mysteries, horror, the supernatural or all three. The segments flow together perfectly. Add into that the stellar acting, unique stories, and an amazing and twisted OMG ending, this is a supernatural film that will leave genre fans haunted and satisfied. (Vicki Woods)
33. Mohawk (Dir. Ted Geoghegan)
Mohawk is the sophomore film from director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here). It’s a brutal and powerful historical thriller dealing with timely issues of racism and the heartbreaking treatment of the Mohawk tribe during the War of 1812.
Part savage revenge tale, part socio-political vivisection of man’s inhumanity to man, and part cat-and-mouse thriller, the film is beautifully shot and features exceptional performances from its cast, especially its strong female lead Kaniehtiio Horn. There’s also plenty of bloodshed to keep horror fans happy. (The Angry Princess)
34. Dogged (Dir. Richard Rowntree)
When Sam returns home to the tidal island where he grew up to attend a funeral, he soon discovers that the seedy underbelly of this small community harbours more than just a few secrets. Dogged is an impressive feature debut from director and co-writer Richard Rowntree, which was adapted from his award-winning short of the same name. A slow building modern folk horror, Dogged is a change of pace from the jump scares and torture porn films which seem to dominate the box office.
The film has some beautiful shots which capture the isolated feel of the island, although it is the more unconventional shots, with close ups and offset angles which constantly add to the menace of the scenes.
It not always about what is shown, but what is suggested that makes Dogged so impressive. The men running about menacing in masks, the flashbacks of the girl in the cornfields, the silence of the islanders who don’t want to talk. There is a darkness to the island and it draws you in as the events begin to unfold. (Philip Rogers)
35. One Cut of the Dead (Dir. Shin’ichiro Ueda)
The zombie genre has more life to it than the reanimated corpses portrayed on TV or in movies. Just when you think a storyteller can’t wring one more ounce of interest from zombie stories, along comes another example that fresh takes on zombies and the humans living in their world still remain.
Writer/Director Shin’ichiro Ueda’s ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is a hilarious zombie comedy. The movie starts off as a straight found-footage style story about an independent film crew trying to film a low budget zombie movie, when real zombies attack. The first part of the movie is standard, if not highly energetic, and just when the movie seems to end, the story is retold from a different point-of-view. That’s the genius of ONE CUT OF THE DEAD. Ueda tells his story from different vantage points multiple times during the entire running time of the movie, even using the credits at the very end of ONE CUT OF THE DEAD to show Ueda and his crew making ONE CUT OF THE DEAD.
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I had in 2018, and one of my choices for top independent horror films of the year. POM!!!! (Patrick Krause)