2018 has been, for me anyway, an interesting year in horror. I attended my first full FrightFest in London as well as the Glasgow event. I also went to my local horror festival, known as Dundead, held at the Dundee Contemporary Arts. As well as the horrors unleashed there, there has been a number of horrors let loose at the cinemas too. Some have scared the hell out of audiences, some have made them laugh…and not always intentionally!
Personally, I think it has been a good year for horror. There have been some truly outstanding films.
With that in mind below are, for me, the five best horror films I’ve seen at the cinema. Each of the films below, are films that scared me. As a result, you won’t see on this list Tigers Are Not Afraid, Errementari: The Blacksmith And The Devil and Anna And The Apocalypse. As good as they are, they didn’t scare me.
But the ones below certainly did.
SUMMER OF 84
Summer of 84 is, like it’s title suggests, a throwback to the 1980’s and on the surface, this film about a group of teens who begin to suspect their neighbour may be a serial killer, perhaps owes a debt to films like The ‘Burbs, The Monster Squad and The Goonies. However, what this film has, is something those films, while fun, don’t,is an ending floors you. Most films of this kind have the kids overcome whatever is in their way and emerge victorious. Not here. Here, the film never forgets these are kids and as a result the ending, one that will shock and haunt you, has a hell of an impact.
Brilliantly written, directed and acted, Summer of 84 is a superb film.
The feature debut of Ari Aster arrived with some critics making comparisons to The Exorcist. Those were unfair. But there is no question, Hereditary is an unsettling film in its own right. It helped that the trailers for the film set it up to be one thing and then, of course, it turned out to be something else entirely. I’ve complained about trailers perhaps making you think a film is something it’s not, but here it made sense; where this film ends up is certainly not where you thought it would.
It’s a film the slowly chills and creeps you out, leading up to an ending that is unsettling. The cast are first rate, with Toni Collette giving an superb performance as the Mother. It’s not a film that works for everyone. Certainly at the screening I was at, there was some laughter during the last act.
But not from me. Hereditary gripped and chilled me from the beginning right up to its ending, and even lingered after.
A Quiet Place
If there is something to be said about modern cinema audiences, it’s that they can often be loud and distracting. Snacks, whispering to each other and worst of all on their phones. It is rare these days for a film to come along to grip an audience from the beginning so tightly that the actually resort to total silence.
Perhaps then it’s not a surprise that a film that managed that is A Quiet Place. From it’s opening moments, up to the end it’s a film that grips and doesn’t let go. But as well as the tension and scares, it’s also an emotionally powerful film too. The story of a family trying to survive in a world where the slightest noise could get you killed, it’s almost a silent film, but thanks to terrific direction from John Krasinski and good performances from Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, you don’t need a lot of dialogue to convey the family dynamic and the bonds between them.
It’s a brilliant film, fill of tension (a scene with Blunt being stalked by a creature will keep you on edge) and some good scares.
One of the things about film festivals is that you often get the chance to see films on a cinema screen that you may not see there otherwise. One of the other things, is that you may see films that may pass you by.
Pyewacket is such a film. It went straight to DVD in the UK when eventually released here, but I had the fortune to see it at the FrightFest Glasgow event.
The story of a teenage girl who, in a fit of anger directed at her mother casts a spell to evoke a spirit to kill her mother, the film written and directed by Adam MacDonald makes a brave decision, in never showing what was evoked. That means MacDonald has to build the tension, and unnerve the audience, without resorting to cheap shocks. It’s something a lot of horror films can’t pull off, but MacDonald does it superbly and along with two superb performances from Nicole Munoz and Laurie Holden, Pyewacket keeps the audience on edge right up to the very end.
It’s a chilling film, one that if you haven’t seen or are unsure of, you should take the chance. It is worth it.
The Devil’s Doorway
I’ve said before I do enjoy the found footage genre. When done well, they can really get you on edge. All it takes is a little movement, a noise and your nerves are shredded. You can of course, point to the major issue with found footage films, in that at some point, any sane person would throw the camera away and run like hell, but logic aside, they make for great films.
But The Devil’s Doorway is something special. The story of two Priests sent to investigate an apparent miracle at a home for so-called ‘falling women’ takes a horrific turn in it’s second half, leading to a truly frightening finale. But even before it gets there it has you on edge as glimpses of something or sounds build the tension.
With superb performances from the cast, The Devil’s Doorway, the debut film from Aislinn Clarke is a truly frightening film. I saw it at FrightFest London and thought it the scariest film of the festival. I also said at the time, I thought it the scariest found footage film I’d seen since [REC].
I stand by those statements. If you can, see it as soon as possible.
I said at the beginning that it has been a good year for horror. With the box office success of films like The Nun, Halloween, A Quiet Place and others, horror is in great shape heading into 2019.
And certainly, from the films listed above, still delivering the scares too.