Is the most horrifying thing about 2018 so far real life? Probably! But, on the other hand, it has been a really diverse year for horror. Whether it's family drama or giant Venom-looking aliens, existential dread, body horror, zombies, clowns... you name it and horror has been doing it this year.
Since there's so much to wade through and we're only halfway through 2018, I enlisted the help of Jamie Righetti of IndieWire to mow through 10 of the horror movies we like best so far.
TERRIFIER (March 15)
Two girls waiting for a ride after drinking too much at a Halloween party meet Art. Art is a clown. Art kills people. Gruesomely.
Terrifier is a delightfully extreme slasher and the third on-screen appearance of our friend Art. Don't worry, though — if this is your first meeting with Art, you won't be confused. Art doesn't talk. And yet, there's a touch of the Freddy Krueger about Art. He just loves what he does. And what he does is brutalize human bodies beyond recognition. Terrifier is darkly humorous and evisceratingly grim.
Check it out if you're looking for a creepy clown of the non-Stephen King variety. Don't check it out if extremely intense violence towards women's bodies is gonna make you have a bad day. Or, conversely, if you really love that sort of thing, might I recommend therapy in lieu of this movie?
MOM AND DAD (January 19)
Nicholas Cage's penchant for shouty over-acting can be used for good. I wouldn't go so far as to say he's perfect for all horror because the remake of The Wicker Man (2006) exists, but there is a way to make that energy work — and Mom and Dad is the movie that pulls it off.
Cage is joined by Selma Blair as the titular Mom and Dad, two parents struggling with their teenage daughter and tween son. Everything seems manageable until an unexplained condition sweeps the country, turning unconditional love into uncontrollable homicide. Every parent wants to kill their kids sometimes. Mom and Dad just makes that literal.
Definitely watch it if the feeling that your kids are your replacements ever keeps you up at night. Skip it if you think that maybe now is not the cultural moment to be watching movies about parents hating their children to death.
PYEWACKET (March 23)
The inverse of a movie where parents want to kill their kids is one where kids want to kill their parents. Pyewacket is, above all, a movie about the ugliness of grief; not just from a scorned daughter who's furious about moving away from her friends and her last sense of normalcy, but also from a mother whose self-care is easily judged as selfishness. Losing a father has been successfully explored with The Babadook, but Pyewacket's exploration of adolescence and the disintegration of a mother/daughter bond gets pretty haunting and even gruesome in places.
Check it out if your '90s teenage angst needs feeding. Maybe skip it if you've lost a parent in the last, oh, I dunno, ever.
A QUIET PLACE (April 6)
There's at least one horror movie each year that is labeled "art." Sometimes the movie has something to say, sometimes it's very pretty, and sometimes there's a very specific conceit the whole premise hangs from. A Quiet Place falls under the third category — a horror movie whose core concept is that, for almost the entire run of the film, no one can speak above a whisper. A Quiet Place had a lot of buzz around it upon release and, honestly, the best thing you could've done is wait until now to see it so you aren't overwhelmed by the hype machine. Free from that expectation, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt shine as husband and wife in this silent apocalypse.
Check it out if you can see A Quiet Place in a completely silent, dark room and are into holding your breath for long stretches. Skip it if plots holes and lack of explanation make your brain ruin a good time for you.
ANNIHILATION (February 23)
Annihilation got done dirty. Shortly after its cinematic release, word got out that it was already streaming on Netflix. And it was — outside of the United States. But, somehow, the power of theatrical release was lost, and Annihilation puttered out on the side of the road under the false perception that it was direct-to-video fare. Nothing could be further from the truth. Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, et al take audiences on a journey to the darkest parts of the soul. Annihilation is non-stop existential dread. It's so lush, so beautiful, so disquieting, not only can't you look away, but you absolutely shouldn't.
Check it out if you love thinking about the limits of your own petty human existence. Skip it if skeletal bears who scream with human voices aren't your bag. Hey, it's specific, but I'm sure someone out there will be happy to know.
HEREDITARY (June 8)
Ari Aster's debut horror feature quickly earned comparisons to Rosemary's Baby after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and it's not just hype. Hereditary is chilling and unsettling and features a jaw-dropping twist to rival The Sixth Sense.
Hereditary centers on Annie (Toni Collette in an Oscar-worthy performance, seriously) and her family, who are adjusting following the death of the family matriarch. As Annie works through her grief, she soon discovers there are some disturbing secrets hidden in her family tree, and that sometimes the dead are better left resting in peace.
Hereditary isn't exactly a crowd pleaser, but if you dig stylish horror heavily influenced by classics like The Exorcist and Don't Look Now (such as The VVitch or It Comes at Night), this is the movie for you. Hereditary is a bit of a slow burn, but once it gets going, it's a full-on assault of dread and some pretty horrific and unforgettable images. If by some miracle Hereditary doesn't leave you eternally creeped out, be sure to check out Aster's short films, especially The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, another very dark take on a dysfunctional family that you won't soon be able to shake.
REVENGE (May 11)
The rape-revenge genre has always walked a precariously fine line between its exploitative roots and over-the-top sadomasochism. Still, rape-revenge films like Ms. 45 and Lady Snowblood didn't just serve as precursors to films like Kill Bill, they also helped shine a light on the trauma of rape and the courage and endurance survivors have exhibited in its aftermath.
French director Coralie Fargeat's Revenge doesn't just continue in this tradition, it also adds a much needed female perspective on the genre, offering up lead actress Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as an unforgettable Final Girl for the ages.
Lutz stars as Jen, who finds her romantic vacation disrupted by her married boyfriend's hunting buddies. Tension builds to a breaking point, leaving Jen violated and half-dead. But Jen rises from the ashes, intent on a bloody revenge that will leave fans of the New French Extremity genre (think Martyrs and High Tension) cheering for more. But be warned, Revenge is extremely gory and graphic. While it thankfully doesn't feature an explicit rape scene, the film is so intense that an audience member had to be treated by paramedics during the film's Toronto Film Festival premiere in 2017. Still, this is a blood-soaked cat-and-mouse thriller that can't be missed.
THE RITUAL (February 9)
Some of this year's best horror movies didn't find their way into theaters but, instead, can be found on Netflix, and The Ritual is one of them. Directed by David Bruckner, who wrote the Amateur Night segment on 2012's V/H/S, The Ritual borrows heavily from British folk horror. Soon enough, though, the story combines itself with some creepy Norse pagan images while still weaving its own special nightmare.
After the tragic death of a friend, four college buddies reunite to backpack their way through the Swedish forest in his memory, but a wrong turn leads them into a forbidden place where dark magic lingers, where time and space lose all meaning, and where something truly monstrous is stalking their every move.
The Ritual feels like Ben Wheatley's superb Kill List, and slots in perfectly alongside folk horror classics like (the original) The Wicker Man and The Blood on Satan's Claw. The film masterfully builds the tension as the men get more and more lost, but it does have some brutal murders, a creepy Nordic cult, and an absolutely terrifying (and impressive) creature that rivals the horrific bear from Annihilation as one of the scariest movie monsters of the year. Beyond big scares, The Ritual also tackles guilt, redemption, and second chances. It might make you think twice about going on a hike, but it will also get you thinking about how we're able to stand up in the face of inexplicable tragedy.
THE ENDLESS (April 6)
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead took the horror community by surprise with their 2014 body horror hit Spring, which left fans eager for more. In The Endless, the duo tackle time travel with a Lovecraftian tale that will both scare and keep you coming back for more.
The filmmakers star as brothers Justin and Aaron, who escaped from a "crazy UFO death cult" as teenagers. After receiving a cryptic video message, the brothers return to the cult seeking closure. While Aaron falls under the spell of nostalgia, Justin remains skeptical, until events begin to occur that are too strange for either to ignore any longer.
The Endless opens with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft, which comments on mankind's fear of the unknown, and the film definitely takes its cues from the horror master through tense suggestion over explicit horror. Nothing is quite as scary as what our minds can cook up, and The Endless expertly prods the mind into overdrive. It's a film that begs multiple viewings, à la Memento, to unravel the film's timey-wimey plot, and long-time fans will also be pleased by the film's nod to the filmmaking duo's 2012 film, Resolution.
CARGO (May 18)
As The Walking Dead slowly staggers into its ninth season, it's safe to say the heyday of the zombie genre is behind us. But smart, fresh takes on the familiar trope, such as The Girl With All the Gifts and Les Affamés (Ravenous), remind us why we love the genre so much.
Thankfully, Netflix's Cargo falls into the latter category. Set in the Australian Outback, the film stars Martin Freeman (Sherlock, Black Panther) as Andy, a father who must find safety for his infant daughter during a zombie outbreak — but there's one big problem: Andy himself is infected and the clock is ticking down before he turns for good.
Cargo tugs on the heartstrings much like 2016's smash hit Train to Busan, but it also harkens back to George A. Romero's The Night of the Living Dead, blending sharp social commentary alongside horror. The film offers up fracking as the most likely source of the outbreak. But Cargo doesn't just stop with environmentalism. It also calls Australia's history of colonization into play with the film's villain, Vic (Anthony Hayes), who imprisons members of a local Indigenous tribe and uses them as bait to attract zombies, whose corpses he then robs. This smart blend of commentary and family drama, paired with some creepy zombies who ooze sticky sap from their eyes and mouths as they turn, make Cargo a welcome addition to the genre.
Congratulations! Now you know the 10 best horror movies (thus far) from the year The Purge will probably become real, aka 2018. Let us know what horror movies you've loved so far this year and we can all hide in our apartments and watch them together!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.