A Year In Retrospect: 2018
Let’s kick off the New Year with a fond look back at the year that was with some of the Grinners favorites!
2018 has been an epic year for horror, with everything from excellent documentaries (TO HELL AND BACK: THE KANE HODDER STORY) to emotionally devastating familial horror (HEREDITARY), so it would be quite easy to put together a top ten of 2018 list. With that being said, and though there were so many genre films that I genuinely loved, I’ve decided to focus on one film: the one that not only lived up to every expectation, hope and fanatic desire: David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN.
Disregarding every sequel after the first film and acting as a continuation of John Carpenter’s 1978 original, 2018’s HALLOWEEN brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the series, giving us the return of Laurie Strode in a way that actually felt like the character we loved in the original. Damaged but ready to confront her abuser in Michael Myers, Laurie acts almost as Doctor Loomis did in Carpenter, protecting the people stalked by the angrier and seemingly more evil Myers (those potential victims happening to be Laurie’s estranged daughter and granddaughter).
HALLOWEEN did something very interesting, in that it brought back Carpenter as not only a producer but as composer of the score (along with his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies), giving the film that excellent Carpenter score and adding to an already brilliantly written and emotionally charged script. It’s a heartbreaking film, one that really shines a light on trauma and how one can let said trauma defeat them, or decide to run towards that trauma and defeat it yourself. The acting is top notch, The Shape is scary again and the film just feels like something so special to watch, it gets better with every viewing.
I walked into HALLOWEEN expecting a good movie, I walked out, having seen one of the best slashers ever made. Definitely my #1 film of the year.
The best 2018 films for films Social Justice Warriors could really get behind. Horror films have always been a reflection of the fears and issues of modern society. Think the of the “red scare” that was addressed in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or the horrors of racism shown in Night of the Living Dead. Last year gave us the brilliant exploration of modern racial tensions in Get Out. This year, we had Hereditary, which explored inherited mental illness, and the underrated Netflix original film Apostle, which manages to explore fascism, destruction of the environment, censorship, and some of capitalism’s shortcomings. It’s been a great year for horror that explores modern social justice causes and makes inclusive statements, but my favorite entries in this regard were definitely A Quiet Place and Cam, which strived to teach lessons we desperately need in these times. A Quiet Place explores disability without the normal amount of ableism usually seen in movies. It smartly avoids the typical tropes of an able bodied person becoming a savior for the person with the disability or the disabled person being an early kill because they aren’t capable of besting the monster/killer. (Credit is also due here to Hush, a terrific 2015 horror movie which also previously did this really well). In a lovely moment of inclusivity, Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf in real life, was cast as the smart, clever, and courageous young daughter Regan, whose deafness has given her entire family an advantage in a world which they must live in silence to survive. Since they know American Sign Language and can safely and quietly communicate, they have a true benefit in a silent world. Only Regan’s father retains some doubt about his daughter’s capabilities, as he works constantly to improve her malfunctioning cochlear implant, and prefers to take the anxious, scared, (but hearing) son on scouting expeditions rather than Regan. But Regan is intelligent, resourceful, and brave, which she proves time and again throughout the movie. Regan’s disability becomes the saving grace for the family in many ways, and, in fact, ends up allowing them to find a way to possibly defeat the monsters. Plus, the movie is just a terrific entry in the horror game and it’s the best use of silence in a movie I’ve seen in a long time.
Cam is exciting in the horror and film world period, because it is the rare film that examines sex workers without an ounce of pity or shame. Its’ main character is a cam girl who enjoys her work and her rising star within the cam world. She never expresses regret about her work, and she strives to be genuine and sexually fulfilled in her profession. When a doppelgänger appears to have stolen her account, robbing her of her ability to perform and posing as her in live cam shows, the film explores how being deprived of consent in both sex and sex work makes one feel out of control, terrified, and taken advantage of, but also continues to show how this sex worker enjoys her work. She never uses the horrific happenings as an excuse to leave her work, and in fact, desperately wants her position back and works to make that happen. The film subtly examines consent as it explores a woman who has her consent taken from her and does anything she can to get it back. There’s a statement that consent is vital in the line between being a sex worker you can pity and wish for their escape from the industry, and a sex worker you can support in their decision to do work they want to do. In the #metoo era, that’s a more important message than ever. It’s a seriously good exploration not just of choosing not to shame women who willfully choose sex work as a profession, but of allowing females to be strong and assured in their sexuality, and never shaming them for enjoying being sexual, period. Happy new year, horror lovers! I hope it brings you many more smart and scary films!
A Quiet Place
It’s so exciting when you’re highly anticipating a film and then when you finally see it, not only does it not disappoint, but it exceeds your expectations. A Quiet Place stood at the top of my most anticipated list at the beginning of the year and I am so thrilled to chart it at the top of my favorite films of 2018. It’s genuinely terrifying, perfectly written and directed (with top notch performances from the cast), and it’s got what is probably my favorite sound design in a film, ever. I remember being a little nervous about how well the “quiet” motif would play out, but John Krasinski and his team nailed it. In addition to being a solid horror film, A Quiet Place also has what I think is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in horror film history. It’ll spook your pants off and tug at your heart strings all at once. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you buy or rent it for your next movie night ASAP.
I’ll never forget the experience I had with Ari Aster’s film Hereditary. When I landed at Sundance 2018, all I heard were whispers of this mysterious film that would apparently be the “scariest film in decades”. I knewHereditary was one I could not miss. I sat down at the screening, knowing little to nothing about the film, and it blew my mind. Hereditary is well written, directed, and boasts an incredibly talented cast that makes the film even more effective. It rocked my world and shook me to my core. It is by far, one of the most horrific and terrifying stories about family, loss, and grief I have ever seen and I am happy to rank it in my top films of the year.
Summer of ‘84
Summer of 84 is easily one of my favorite entries in the ever popular 80s nostalgia or “kids on bikes” genre. The newest film by directing trio François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, collectively known as Roadkill Superstars or RKSS (Turbo Kid) is a spooky who-done-it that keeps you guessing and at the edge of your seat while the mystery unravels. Summer of 84 is a ton of fun, but it also doesn’t hesitate in taking you to a dark place, where you thought surely the film wouldn’t dare go. It’s without a doubt one of my favorites of the year that I look forward to revisiting.
I’ve been a Leigh Whannell fan since he tried to puzzle his way out of being chained up in a dingy bathroom with Cary Elwes, so any time I hear he’s working on a new project, I am HERE. FOR. IT. I was excited aboutUpgrade after first hearing about it, and even more thrilled after the first trailer dropped. I saw it as soon as possible when it hit theatres and as usual, Whannell delivered. I was living in Silicon Valley (CA) at the time, so the idea that science and technology could perhaps be taken too far didn’t seem like a theory that was too far off. The early scene that takes place in a self driving was terrifying and all too real, especially since Google’s self-driving car, Waymo, can be seen all over the freeways of the Bay Area. Upgrade is a damn good time and one that I plan on revisiting often.
Behold, the twisted, exquisite world of Area X; behold, the Shimmer! I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reachtrilogy a couple of years ago and was captivated by the enigmatic world he created on paper and couldn’t imagine how this world could possibly be brought to life on screen. In 2018, Alex Garland (Ex Machina) proved that it could be done and it would be done damn well. I was a little nervous, as I typically am when seeing a book-to-film adaptation for the first time, but I was so please with the beautiful translation Garland achieved. The all star, female led cast is phenomenal and the film holds one of the scariest monsters I saw in film this year.
Ignore all the silly nonsense articles about horror not having a great year in 2018. It had a fucking phenomenal year. Shudder cemented itself as an absolutely unstoppable juggernaut in the horror streaming game and has gone from snagging streaming rights for older classics to being the exclusive viewing home of contemporary gems such as Revenge and Mandy, which are two of the best genre films from the year. We saw the return of horror staples Joe Bob Briggs and Fangoria, as well as the comeback of horrors most famous slasher icon with Halloween. Genre television was beyond any form of excellence it’s experienced previously, with The Haunting of Hill House, Channel Zero and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina all striking chords with throngs of fans. Here are a few of my favorites from the year.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Expectations were high since I adore the comic and I’m an unabashed fan of Riverdale, and the cast and crew took those expectations and left them in the rear view. It took a few episodes to find it’s groove but once it had sunk its claws in, I fell head over heels for the denizens of Greendale. The constantly Halloween aesthetic, the retro fashion vibe, the celebratory cheers of “Praise Satan” as commonplace as “hello.” It was easy to love, especially with Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina and Chance Perdomo as the utterly charming Ambrose Spellman.
The Haunting of Hill House
Mike Flanagan reached into our hearts in the guise of a horror television show and ripped them out with one of the most touching and grounded family dramas to be on television in the last decade. What happened here is pure magic, a brilliant combination of true terror in the form of ghosts and inner demons. Flanagan joins the likes of Stephen King as a master of deeply connecting with a roster of characters while a nightmarish landscape exists in the periphery, right around the edges.
Our writer Jerry Smith has already said all that needs to be said but GOD DAMN, what a fucking return to form, right?
The original podcast from Shudder, starring horror vet Chase Williamson, was a fantastical mini series that is equal parts Cthulu mythos and The Ring. It’s a nostalgic love letter to the fans of horror from the video tape era. It’s captivating, with superb pacing and a masterful script that will have you biting at the bit for the next episode.