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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The 13 Scariest, Spookiest and Most Unsettling Horror Movies of 2018

Start planning a Halloween movie marathon — these are the best horror films of the year so far.
By Sarah Ward
October 29, 2018
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The 13 Scariest, Spookiest and Most Unsettling Horror Movies of 2018

Start planning a Halloween movie marathon — these are the best horror films of the year so far.
By Sarah Ward
October 29, 2018
  shares

It's the most wonderful time of the year if you're a horror fan. For the committed, watching scary movies is a year-round pastime — but there's nothing like the extra jump that comes when Halloween rolls around. Maybe it's all those creepy jack-o-lanterns? Maybe it's the extra sugar? Maybe it's just seeing the world embrace everything spooky not only for an entire night, but for the month of October leading up to it.

Whatever your motivation to get cosy on your couch with a frightening flick — or enjoy bumps and jumps in a cinema filled with people — 2018 has delivered plenty of excellent fear- and tension-inducing movies. Including a death-soaked dance party, Japanese zombies on the loose and Nicolas Cage at his most unhinged, here are 13 stellar scary, thrilling and unsettling efforts — enough to make your very own Halloween movie marathon.

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HEREDITARY

With Hereditary, first-time feature filmmaker Ari Aster didn't just make an almost unbearably tense horror film, or one of the year's best examples of the genre. He did both, but he also made a masterclass in dread — you know, the feeling that makes you want to watch most of the movie with your fists and teeth clenched — and a masterful depiction of grief's lingering power. Expect to feel uneasy from start to finish as the Graham family's lives disintegrate when trauma after trauma comes calling for them. Toni Collette's haunting pain-riddled performance helps ramp up the anxiety too, but Aster dedicates his entire film to ensuring every frame, sound and moment is as disquieting as possible.

Read our full review here

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HALLOWEEN

Cue the best horror soundtrack in the business, because the quintessential slasher franchise is back. Yes, the Halloween series has delivered some downright terrible movies (the very 00s Halloween: Resurrection, for example), but this iconic saga still holds its own with its newest entry. Not only does Michael Myers return for the tenth time in 11 films, but Jamie Lee Curtis returns as the ultimate final girl Laurie Strode. And when Michael starts wreaking havoc on their hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois once more, she's ready — in a direct sequel to the first Halloween that nods to everything that made John Carpenter's original so iconic, also references many of the series' sequels and remains a fantastic addition in its own right.

Halloween is in cinemas now. Read our full review here

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A QUIET PLACE

A Quiet Place isn't John Krasinksi's first film as a director. It isn't even his second. But this near-wordless horror effort truly announced The Office star's arrival as a filmmaker, complete with style, nerve-rattling scares and a powerful gut-punch of a performance from Emily Blunt. The married pair is not only keeping it in the family, but also play a family trying to survive a post-apocalyptic future. Here, even the slightest sound attracts savage creatures and results in a swift death — and, it also results in one of 2018's best horror movies, as well as an all-round technical feat that thoroughly weaponises silence.

Read our full review here

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ANNIHILATION

The second film from author-turned-director Alex Garland after Ex Machina, Annihilation was originally set for a big-screen release, only for last-minute plans to send it to Netflix in most countries instead. No matter how you watch it, it's a sci-fi/horror trip that seethes with both existential and otherworldly terrors. Natalie Portman leads the cast as biology professor and former soldier Lena, whose husband (Oscar Isaac) returns from a super-secret special forces mission after a year's absence. Alas, nothing is quite right — and when Lena volunteers to follow in his footsteps to try to save him, she takes a team searching for answers within a radiant electromagnetic field called 'the Shimmer".

Watch it on Netflix here

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ONE CUT OF THE DEAD

A box office extravaganza in Japan that's made its super low budget back several hundred times over (yes, several hundred), One Cut of the Dead starts out like many a zombie flick. Combine a group of people, a creepy setting and a sudden attack of the undead, and you know what you're in for — even if the victims are a team of filmmakers making a zombie movie, and even if it's all initially captured in one unending take. With Shinichiro Ueda's movie, however, you really don't know what you're in for, even when you're certain that you do Saying more is saying too much, but this is a smart, energetic and highly enjoyable take on a busy genre that has a heap of tricks and twists up its sleeves.

One Cut of the Dead will screen as part of the Japanese Film Festival — on November 15 and 24 in Sydney and November 22 and 30 in Melbourne

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REVENGE

The idea that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is completely outdated, and even insulting. Hell truly hath no fury like a woman exploited by men who simply think they can get away with anything. That's the general idea behind the rape-revenge genre, and the aptly named Revenge is the latest example. A brutal and commanding feature debut by French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, it follows Matilda Lutz's Jen, who thinks she's spending a weekend away with her married boyfriend, only for two of his friends to arrive unexpectedly. When things take a turn for the worst, saying that Jen fights back is an absolute understatement.

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MANDY

Two words: cheddar goblin. That'll make more sense once you've seen Mandy, and if it doesn't make you want to watch this out-there genre effort, then the movie mightn't be for you. Starring Nicolas Cage at his most Nicolas Cage-like, the film sees the inimitable star play a lumberjack happily in love with his titular partner (Andrea Riseborough) until a cult and their demonic demon bikers decide to snatch her up. Needless to say, things get strange, bloody and unhinged, with director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) making an 80s-set mind-bender that would've even seemed excessive if it came out three decades ago. That's meant in the best possible manner, with everything from the feature's colour-saturated visuals, to its ferocious score, to Cage's glorious performance all hitting the mark — and, perhaps surprisingly, the movie's melancholy tone as well.

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THE ENDLESS

On paper, The Endless might sound like the sum of its intriguing but far from unusual parts, with creepy cults, temporal trickery and sibling struggles all fairly common film fodder. On the screen, however, this film from director/actor duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead proves anything but standard. In fact, it's the kind of sci-fi/horror flick that will floor you with its ingenuity, make you want to watch it again immediately afterwards, and inspire you to check out the filmmaker's first effort, Resolution. Imaginative, enthralling, astute with its aesthetics and atmosphere, and insightful in contemplating both human and supernatural drama, this account of two brothers returning to the close-knit camp they used to call home is the whole weird and wonderful package.

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CLIMAX

A dance party where everyone's invited, but hardly anyone will make it out alive? That's Gaspar Noe's Climax. While the writer/director is known for pushing buttons and boundaries thanks to the likes of Irreversible, Enter the Void and Love, his latest film isn't quite as provocative in the same manner — but it's still a memorable and mesmerising Noe feature from start to finish. In fact, it just might be his best work. After a dance crew finish their rehearsals, they do what they do best to blow off some steam. Alas, someone has spiked the sangria, and soon an emotional and physical slaughter begins. The frenetic soundtrack rarely lets up, and neither does the carnage or the chaos. In short, it's a lurid, bloody and hypnotic case of mayhem and murder on the dance floor.

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UPGRADE

Before Tom Hardy starred as a man whose body was overtaken by a being that could violently control his every move, Tom Hardy lookalike Logan Marshall-Green starred in a movie with almost the exact same premise. Upgrade is a completely different film to Venom, and a better one. It's a sci-fi-horror hybrid that carves out a bleak dystopian world, sets its protagonist on a mission and has an action-packed blast with both. The idea behind the flick is simple, but oh-so-thrilling in Aussie director Leigh Whannell's hands. After a tragic incident, Marshall-Green's Grey Trace loses his wife and the ability to walk, until he's implanted with software called STEM. Grey wants revenge on the people responsible for his misfortune, and STEM is a little too happy to help.

Read our full review here

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UNSANE

When Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) seeks out psychiatric assistance in a new city, she expects to chat to an expert who can help her to cope with anxiety and trauma. Instead, she's involuntarily committed into a facility. As you'd expect, it's hardly conducive to improving her overworked, overstressed mental state, or assuaging her terror after being forced to upend her life to avoid a stalker. Foy is magnetic as a woman simultaneously unravelling and trying to keep her wits about her, in what's proving to be a big year for the First Man and The Girl in the Spider's Web star. And, she also benefits from Steven Soderbergh's decision to film Unsane entirely on an iPhone, with a tense, claustrophobic film getting images that couldn't better match its mood.

Read our full review here

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THE WOLF HOUSE

The most striking, inventive and impressive animated movie of the year doesn't stem from Pixar or Studio Ghibli or any name that you're familiar with. Instead, it's an astonishing and unsettling combination of art installation and filmmaking by artists turned filmmakers Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña. The Wolf House takes its cues from fairytales as a girl with three little pigs finds refuge in a building in the woods, but this is closer to David Lynch's nightmares than anything you might've read as a kid. It's also a technical marvel, using large-scale stop-motion to unparalleled effect, with its scenes staged and filmed in galleries around the world.

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PROFILE

Profile is the latest film to use what might seem like a gimmick — and the third linked Night WatchWanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter director Timur Bekmambetov — and it's absolutely captivating. Unlike Unfriended and Searching, which he produced, Bekmambetov helms this based-on-a-true-story account of a journalist (Valene Kane) investigating ISIS enlistment campaigns by befriending a charming recruiter (Shazad Latif) online. Tabs, programs and windows pop up thick and fast, and the stress soars with it, as a bond forms between the two. Tense and horrific in a variety of ways, this is slick, thrilling and utterly involving filmmaking. And with pitch-perfect performances to go with it, it's a film that not only entertains and engages, but lingers.

Published on October 29, 2018 by Sarah Ward

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