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Unk’s Year End Roundup! 2018!

January 1st, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

2018 was a damn great year for horror films. I don’t have the mental capacity to make a ranking list, so here are some of my favorite horror movie/TV memories of the past 365 days…

PYEWACKET

I can’t resist this simple, straightforward telling of the dire consequences of negative wish fulfillment. It plays out like the world’s darkest AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL. NICOLE MUNOZ stars as Leah, a broody goth-lite teen with some serious anger management issues. Both she and her mother (LAURIE HOLDEN) are struggling through the aftermath of the recent death of Leah’s father and neither is very adept at channeling their darker emotions regarding the loss. Mom’s solution is to move into an isolated house in the woods, which only makes Leah feel estranged from her friends and even less in control of her life. The two have an epic fight and an enraged Leah ends up performing a black magic ritual that promises to snuff out her mother’s existence. Shortly after, the two make amends but the conjured evil spirit (Pyewacket) happens to have an impeccable work ethic and is insistent on finishing the job. PYEWACKET won’t likely blow your mind and it has no interest in reinventing the wheel but what it lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for with sincerity and basic competence. It’s a classic story, as sturdy as a tree trunk, and the central characters are relatable enough to make it genuinely suspenseful.

CAM

This flick about an online sex worker battling wits with a malicious doppelganger left me itching for a more definitive conclusion. I’m giving it high props anyway for keeping me thoroughly entertained. I can’t pretend to understand exactly what transpires but the exploration of the loss of identity in the social media age is fascinating anyway. My absolute favorite element of this slightly aggravating head-scratcher is its phenomenal central performance by MADELINE BREWER who delivers a memorably effervescent star turn. I hope to see her in many more films in the future.

OVERLORD

I would not have minded if OVERLORD went a little more nuts in the monster department. This movie about a rag-tag team of American soldiers discovering a sinister Nazi plot didn’t quite have the gooey grand finale I was anticipating but it’s still tons of old-school fun. KURT RUSSELL’s son WYATT excels at just the type of rough-around-the-edges, reluctant hero character his father perfected back in the day. Something tells me this one is going to play better at home than in the theater and has a long life of cult fandom waiting ahead for it. There are more than a few highly impressive set pieces and I’m of the feeling that multiple viewings will only enhance them.

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT

I’m not the biggest fan of the original THE STRANGERS (although I flip for its “Because you were home” scorpion tail sting) so I was surprised how much I dug this low investment, side-dish sequel. The novel trailer park as funhouse setting really worked for me and try as I might, I could not help loving its MTV-era reliance on ‘80s pop music. If you’re going to be murdered, it may as well be to the synth-stained vocal stylings of KIM WILDE.

THE MEG

I do wish Meg ate more people but this movie starred JASON STATHAM and therefore it rocks.

TERRIFIER

The plot is nothing to write home about but boy is Art the clown scary as hell. DAVID HOWARD THORTON has such an expressive mug and he delivers one of the best make-up heavy horror performances since ROBERT ENGLUND portrayed you know who. Ultimately the movie itself didn’t quite grab me but its nightmarish centerpiece miscreant certainly did.

THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW

Writer/director ANDY MITTON (YELLOWBRICKROAD, WE GO ON) has tacitly become a tremendously reliable horror auteur. His light poetic touch gives his modern horror tales an uncanny vibe that makes them feel like classic psychological ghost stories. As superbly crafted as the supernatural element of this tale is, it also earnestly relays a rocky yet moving relationship between a father and his son. If you are a fan of haunted house movies, this is a must.

SATAN’S SLAVES

I have not seen the original 1980 Indonesian Horror film of the same name that this film is a loose prequel/sequel to but if it’s anywhere near as creepy as this flick, I certainly want to. Writer/director JOKO ANWAR does an incredible job juggling a multitude of characters in this family haunting tale, each of which is as vital as the other. There’s a strong autobiographical element that brings a sense of natural realism and it makes the horror scenes that much more credible and terrifying.

A QUIET PLACE

I can’t think of any other movie going experience in which the premise of the film (sound =death) took such hold of an audience; so many glaring eyes at anyone who dared rustle in their seats or chew popcorn! I’m a sucker for a movie with a big heart (the father/daughter reconciliation left me misty-eyed) that can also scare your socks off. PG-13 or not, this monster thriller had moments of squirm-inducing anxiety that brought me back to my first viewing of ALIEN.

BIRD BOX

Speaking of confronting the downfall of society with more than one hand tied behind your back, BIRD BOX (based on a book written before A QUIET PLACE) is another compelling take on an apocalypse (I grew up entranced by THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE? so Hollywood, feel free to make more). This Netflix nugget dropped instantly inspiring a million memes and an inevitable backlash but I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t keep me perpetually captivated. I so relate to any material that focuses on the terror of being responsible for another life because I have nightmares about my cats getting lost every night. Plus nobody can get me to say a bad word about SANDY B.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

I was more than a little miffed when I learned writer/director MIKE FLANAGAN had the audacity to perform a major renovation on SHIRLEY JACKSON’s exquisite tale. I decided to hate-watch it anyway and sure as hell, my hate turned to love at record speed. Lo and behold FLANAGAN, against all odds, delivered a JOHN IRVING goes to hell masterpiece of family dysfunction. The neat as a bow ending felt like a bit of a betrayal but I’ll never curse a hearty four-course horror meal over a too sweet dessert.

THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

This here is my jam. I’m never more happy then when I can escape into a horror series that clicks in all the right places with charming characters and an excellently decorated home base. I miss BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER so much in these dark times and the wonderfully dark SABRINA eased my longing and then some. I could have used a little more of Salem the cat but cousin Ambrose (CHANCE PERDOMO) provides a reasonable stopgap and MICHELLE GOMEZ as Mrs. Wardwell is the best mischievous frenemy since Dr. Smith rattled the Robinsons in LOST IN SPACE.

CASTLE ROCK “The Queen”

Oh boy. I dug this entire (sometimes uneven) series but the seventh episode appropriately titled “The Queen” rocked my heart into oblivion. Horror royalty SISSY SPACEK delivers a performance for the ages as Ruth, a woman crashing through eventful periods of her life under the spell of dementia. It’s an hour of soul-shattering television and just when I thought it couldn’t get more pitch-perfect they went and played the most appropriate song in the universe, NANCY SINATRA’s “Time”. Bravo.

MANDY

Aw, when NICOLAS CAGE gets the right material he can bring something that exactly no other man can. I haven’t enjoyed him this much since he went full on bonkers in VAMPIRE’S KISS. Speaking of material, someone please buy a fruit basket for costume designer ALICE EYASSARTIER for me. All I want is a baseball jersey with either a number 44 on it or a roaring tiger face. Wow, 2018 sure was the year for the mind-f*ck movie, eh?

ANNIHILATION

My eyes really couldn’t get enough of this movie. It’s like watching a heady sci-fi epic while flipping through an artsy coffee table book at the same time. ALEX GARLAND finds this incredible middle ground where the beautiful and the grotesque collide and many times it’s hard to decipher whether you should “aw!” or “ew!” (many times, both at the same time is appropriate). The final act flew a couple hundred miles over my head but I adore the mystery of it anyway. I know it is impossible but there’s also a creature attack scene in this movie that has me fantasizing about GARLAND remaking 1979’s PROPHECY about twenty-four hours a day. My dreams are too big for this world.

THE RITUAL

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when a film adaptation lives up to its source material and this flick does just that with remarkable craftiness and gusto. I’m a big fan of ADAM NEVILL’s novel of the same name and I’m so impressed with how this film prunes out elements that might not have worked on screen and more impressively, added layers that miraculously deepen the tale. The premise is familiar survival horror territory but in a genius stroke, the main character is tasked with battling guilt and grief just as much as he must lock horns with an unimaginable backwoods monster. This movie towers in my head because I first watched it with my Mother and brother after my father had died and it somehow struck me as an anthem saluting perseverance when facing the unfixable.

HEREDITARY

Ugh. I know this movie is difficult. I think it goes about a mile too far into the WTF?-zone in the last lap too- but it unnerved me soooo good in places that I felt near crazy at times. I was honestly so discombobulated by the nefarious sound design that at one point, I thought that a wounded stray dog had come into the theater and was barking for help. I found myself in a semi-dream state where I wouldn’t be surprised if I started to hallucinate. Whatever its faults, it brought a tangible waking-nightmare feeling that I have to give mad props to. Much has been said (deservingly so) about TONI COLLETTE’s performance but I also have to throw mad laurels at ALEX WOLFF (who is also great in MY FRIEND DAHMER) who played the son. He killed me. After THE MOST HORRIFYING OCCURRENCE, his reaction is to go to bed! The dude goes to sleep! Finally, I feel like I’ve been represented on screen!

SUSPIRIA

I can’t believe I was warned NOT to see this movie by a “friend”! Are you kidding me? Some people say this movie is “too long” to which I say, “Boo-hoo, pack a lunch and settle in.” Yes, I loved every minute of it. It’s the female peacock version of ARGENTO’s masterpiece, generally the same worthy bird, just with a more subdued color palette. TILDA SWINTON has never been more TILDA (even when she’s not TILDA) and DAKOTA JOHNSON brings it in ways I never would have guessed she was capable of. I also dug the lovely cameo from OG witch-bait JESSICA HARPER and the trifling stand out presence of RENEE SOUTENDIJK (EVE OF DESTRUCTION). Director LUCA GUADAGNINO impeccably nests the supernatural crisis in real-world events to ground them and then swings the pendulum into surreal otherworldliness just when you’ve gotten your sea legs. Haunting, brutal and trippy as all get out, I didn’t want to leave this witch school, I was begging for tenure.

HALLOWEEN

My list is not in any order but I’ve saved my personal favorite for last anyway. This blessed return to Haddonfield, Illinois may not be the most original or artistic of the year but it filled my heart with the most horror-infused joy anyway. I’m just so damn grateful to spend quality time with my favorite horror character again- and I’m talking about Laurie not Mike. I am truly in worship of this incarnation of my hero. It may have been more comforting to see Laurie as the fully functioning yet hyper-neurotic, Type A personality in 1998’s H2O but in this alternate timeline, JAMIE LEE CURTIS brings back Laurie’s square peg outsider quality which I think is crucial. (even if it’s not as snugly satisfying). It’s a subtle, fascinating performance that I only wanted to see more of. The movie is best when it’s keeping itself as sharp, clean and streamlined as a butcher knife and only stumbles when it needlessly complicates things (or neglects to kill off deserving characters). Sure, I would much rather have learned the fates of Tommy and Lindsey (or even Ben Tramer) over Lonnie but there’s so much obvious Easter egg love for the fans that it feels gluttonous to complain (Laurie still has her ENDSOR portrait!). And then there’s that score! Just the luxury of getting wrapped up in that JOHN CARPENTER synth-quilt again feels like a glorious windfall.

All in all, it’s a modern slasher masterpiece in my book; the characters are strong, the atmosphere is intoxicating and the kills feel consequential. This is the one movie that I’ve seen this year that I’m sure to return to again and again. The original HALLOWEEN is THE ground zero for my unabashed horror fandom and (although I highly value ROB ZOMBIE’s personal interpretations as well) this truly felt like going home again.

That’s it! I didn’t like everything, I swear. I just decided to leave the movies that I was less enthused by out in the cold where they belong. I also sure as hell didn’t see everything so if there are any titles I forgot to mention that you enjoyed, let us all know in the comments! Happy New Year!

Tags: General Horror




10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Caffeinated JoeNo Gravatar // Jan 1, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Great choices! Some of these I still need to see. Thanks for the list to remind me. Happy 2019!

  • 2 Ben SNo Gravatar // Jan 1, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so jealous of your discipline when it comes to watching new horror movies. It’s not that I don’t WANT TO, it’s just that I forget or get overwhelmed! This list is so helpful. And you’ve convinced me that I need to see HALLOWEEN again. Happy New Year! It’s the best holiday gift that you’ve been writing a lot!!

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 1, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Caffeinated Joe,

    SUMMER OF 84 and Pascal Laugier’s INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND are two others I need to check out when I can. Maybe I’ll add them on here later. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

    Ben S,

    Thanks for all of your support! I’m hoping to update the site more often this year. Hope you have a great 2019!

  • 4 WB KelsoNo Gravatar // Jan 2, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Annihilation was my favorite flick of last year. And Strangers Prey at Night was oddly cathartic for me in a “Because you tried to kill us” sense.

  • 5 StickmannNo Gravatar // Jan 3, 2019 at 12:19 am

    It’s a totally unexpected curveball (which makes it all the more appealing), but have you seen the “Teddy Perkins” episode of “Atlanta” in its second season in 2018? Just as a standalone entry, one could conclude the series is a “Channel Zero”-type TV show. The tonal shift from the expected dramedy arrived without warning, and left me as a viewer haunted. No scares per se, but there was just this effective sense of a slide toward an unavoidable doom that was determined a generation ago. How and if the protagonist would even survive is always in question, and is encapsulated by him trying to articulate a “What If?” moment. I’m comfortable in categorizing it within the Horror genre because of this.

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 4, 2019 at 1:41 am

    WB Kelso,

    Annihilation is fascinating- liked it even more the second time I watched it. I can’t believe how entertaining I found S:PAN. I wish the first victim lasted a little longer but I found myself really into the climax. Glad I gave it a chance.

    Stickman,

    I’ve had a couple people mention that episode of ATLANTA to me and telling me how creepy it is. I have to check it out for sure!

    Everyone,
    Sorry, there will be no Funhouse this week. We’re enduring a sudden medical issue with our cat so it was impossible. Prayers to Saint Francis are appreciated. Send her love- she is my best friend ever.

  • 7 Dylan Donnie-DukeNo Gravatar // Jan 4, 2019 at 11:34 am

    So much goodness here, Unk! Thank you for sharing! “Mandy” and “Halloween” are very closely tied for first place for me. I loved the Art House first half of “Mandy,” then the Cannon Films throwback last half. I have a theory that Linus Roache approached this film thinking that he would out-crazy the Cage, and Nick caught on to it and said, “Hold my gallon of vodka.” That two minute intermission of his laughcryscream outburst should have had the Popeye music playing under it, because that Costco-sized vodka was his spinach.
    I absolutely adored “Halloween,” though they almost lost me with the doctor twist. It just did not sit well with me. They made it up with the cop’s head jack-o-lantern, though.
    Have a great 2019 at KT Castle!!

  • 8 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 7, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    DDD,

    That Doctor twist in H 2018 didn’t work for me either! I could stomach it a little better when I viewed it a second time but it still seemed so unbelievable and unnecessary. Still, so much to love for me. That one really long tracking shot of MM ending up with the kill in the window blind was gorgeous- (I just wish they thought to get Kyle Richards to be the unsuspecting victim on the phone). Hope you have a great 2019!

  • 9 Dr Nick RivieraNo Gravatar // Jan 7, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Great list Unk! And your writing is a joy, as always. I’ve seen everything on your list excpet OVERLORD. It’s a solid list, even if I don’t agree with every choice (I thought the SUSPIRIA remake was an overlong MESS, the “twist” in HALLOWEEN was a HUGE misstep in an otherwise excellent film, and I kinda hated MANDY).

    If I only got to add one film to your list it would be GHOST STORIES. Wow, what a great surprise this one is. Have you seen it? I’ve heard some people don’t like it but I wouldn’t want to know any of those people.

    https://letterboxd.com/chainsawmasacre/film/ghost-stories-2017/

    Some other recent films that I would put on your list (some of which may be 2017, others of which may stretch the definition of “horror”):

    What Keeps You Alive (I just watched this last weekend. Loved it. https://letterboxd.com/chainsawmasacre/film/what-keeps-you-alive/)
    You Were Never Really Here
    Us and Them
    Thoroughbreds
    Upgrade
    Revenge (on Shudder)
    1922 (on Netflix)
    Terrified (on Shudder)

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 11, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Dr Nick!

    Thanks so much for so many titles! Can’t wait to hunt those down. I’ll put GHOST STORIES on the top- sounds like my kind of movie.

    Sorry you didn’t like SUSPIRIA but I guess it does seem like a movie that people either love or hate. I’m surprised you hated MANDY but I get it. As much as I loved the visuals and Cage’s performance I wasn’t as over the moon for it as others. The one thing it that it looks like we can all agree on is that awkward twist in HALLOWEEN ( It didn’t even seem physically possible). Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to damage my overall experience. I had to see it inn the theater twice and I rarely do that anymore!

    I’ve got to try out that Letterboxed thing one of these days- I’m starting to really get out of touch!

    Thanks again to adding so much to this list! I’m sure other readers will be interested in your suggestions too! I did see UPGRADE and enjoyed a lot. I should have included that one!

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