The 19 Best Horror Movies And TV Shows Of 2018
What scared you in 2018?
2018 was a terrifying year, and not just because of the horror movies and shows on this list. If anything, having so much great horror to watch was a welcome distraction from the terrors of real life. Thank Paimon for escapism, right?
Whether you wanted to get terrified in theaters surrounded by like-minded horror fans, or simply scare the crap out of yourself sitting on the couch with the lights off, 2018 had you covered. Do you like your horror dressed up as family drama? Would you rather go all-out insane with a battle axe and some macaroni and cheese? Or how about simply revisiting some of the classics in new and bone-chilling ways?
Horror remains the best escape from the real world that we have, because great horror demands all your attention. It gets your adrenaline pumping and keeps you glued to your seat. For a couple of gripping hours--or many more, in the case of the great longer-form horror we get on TV these days--it keeps your mind hostage, preventing you from thinking about anything else.
In no particular order, these 19 movies and shows were the best horror available in entertainment this year. What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments below, then check out our lists of the top 10 movies and top 10 TV shows this year, the 30 best Netflix exclusives, and the 28 best performances of the year.
1. The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House if scary, sure. It's filled with jump scares, hidden haunts that you won't see until it's too late, and so much tension that you'll spend the entire time on the edge of your seat. More importantly, though, The Haunting of Hill House is an impeccably made family drama.
While it belongs firmly in the horror genre, what makes this Netflix original so special is that it's not the scares that drive it. Instead, it's the story of this family falling apart in the aftermath of a traumatic event and being forced to reckon with it years later. It's hard not to feel for every member of the Crane family as they confront their demons, both literal and figurative, in an attempt to simply live their lives.
When it's at its best--which happens quite often throughout the season--that's the element The Haunting of Hill House leans heavily on. Every year there's plenty of well-made horror projects, including those that trade in the same type of scares as this. It's rare for any of them to have the emotional punch of this series, though, and it's that raw emotional terror that makes Hill House such a compelling thing to watch. -- Chris Hayner
It's tricky to describe Annihilation in any way that does it justice. Part cosmic horror, part sci-fi thriller, part existential meditation on the nature of personhood, director Alex Garland took Jeff VanderMeer's experimental novel of the same name and pushed it to its absolute limits. With an all female starring cast made up of powerhouse actors like Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson, supported by Oscar Isaac doing his best trope-reversed damsel in distress, Annihilation is at once a minimalist art piece and robust creature-feature with tension to spare.
Ostensibly the story of a team of scientists setting out to explore the mysterious "Area X," an anomalous area of swamp land struck by what may or may not have be an alien artifact, Annihilation rapidly warps itself into a dream-like, surrealist painting where animals and plants have mutated into impossible hybrids. Worse yet, as the team soon discovers, the same phenomenon is happening to them--and there's nothing they can do to stop it. The end result is as bloody and as horrifying as you might expect.
Despite being more than a little challenging to watch at points for the squeamish among us, Annihilation never stops being beautiful, and never forgets its own desperately human core--even when that human element is rapidly transforming into something else entirely. -- Meg Downey
When it comes to remakes, the horror genre has the all around best track record of any category. Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of Dario Argento’s classic 1977 Italian Horror genre film is arguably the greatest to date. In a Kubrickian fashion, Guadagnino borrows the pieces he personally finds most alluring from the original, discards the rest, and brings them to life with his own vision. The result is that Suspiria is a fundamentally new and original masterpiece in its own right.
Suspiria’s myriad achievements and quirks should not be overlooked by any serious cinephile. The centerpiece--or pieces--of this achievement are the several performances by Guadagnino's long-time collaborator Tilda Swinton. But no horror film is complete without the horror itself. To this end, Suspiria gracefully turns dance into gruesome torture, depicts people or objects as twisted as any Cronenberg film, and paints an outside post-war world fraught with tragedy that mirrors the inner turmoil of its characters to an almost stifling degree. -- Ryan Schubert
A dysfunctional family isn't a particularly original source of horror, and Hereditary doesn't blow the genre open with some revolutionary new take. It's just gripping, white-knuckled, old school horror that never, over more than two hours, lets you get comfortable for long, despite the familiarity of its themes and tropes.
Hereditary is one hell of a horror movie, but it's also a family drama that explores how tragedy and grief can twist people into unrecognizable shapes. The movie examines how people deal with grief; the reactions of the Graham family--Toni Collette's Annie, Gabriel Byrne's Steve, Alex Wolff's Peter, and Milly Shapiro's Charlie--run the gamut when Annie's mother (Peter and Charlie's grandmother) dies. The tragedy unravels them in a slow burn that makes the ending--where the story finally descends into utter, terrifying chaos--no less than traumatic. But the real twist comes in the first act, when an unbelievably shocking development reveals exactly what kind of movie Hereditary is. First time feature director and writer Ari Aster here proved himself a master of horror in a single stroke, and we can't wait to see what he does next. -- Mike Rougeau
Some classic film franchises get a remake. Others get a reboot. But the Halloween franchise got a retcon. With Halloween (2018), the filmmakers wiped out seven sequels to the original Halloween (1978), and told a standalone "40 years later" story. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as a traumatized Laurie Strode, now a grandmother, who's protecting her family from an aging, escaped Mike Myers.
Monsters are terrifying when they're unknown to us. And the new Halloween restores that dark ambiguity. We don't need to know who Mike Myers is related to, or the granular motivations for why he does what he does. He just needs to kill. And in this film, which is a slasher through and through despite some darkly funny scenes, he does so with teeth-shattering, brutal efficiency. -- Kevin Wong
Was Mandy's Red Miller the role Nicolas Cage was born to play? Who knows, but it sure was a triumph either way. Cage is best when he fully embraces characters that play back into his meta meme-made-human persona, and director Panos Cosmatos' Mandy--a f***ed up fever dream about revenge, forging battle axes, and macaroni and cheese--was the perfect vehicle for that.
Trying to make sense of this movie misses the point. The experience of watching it is simply enough. Throw the normal rules of cinema out the window; Who cares if half the dialogue is unintelligible? Why shouldn't the movie's breakout star be a fake pasta mascot who appears in a commercial in the background for a few seconds? What if Cage spends a whole scene screaming, chugging vodka, and trashing a bathroom? Mandy abounds with themes and moods that are deep as an ocean, and often as inscrutable. But it's a heady trip just to see it at all. -- Mike Rougeau
Overlord has the makings of B-movie badness: A squad of everyman US soldiers has to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied French village on the eve of the D-Day Normandy invasion. The village hides a secret, though: The Nazis have transformed the church's undercroft into a secret lab where they're creating unkillable, zombie-like supersoldiers. Naturally.
But Overlord works on basically every level. Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell lead a likeable cast of characters, while Mathilde Ollivier's not-so-helpless villager Chloe meets them tit-for-tat. The war action thrills and the horror chills, and the movie makes excellent use of the tropes of its setting and genre while bringing plenty of new ideas to the table as well. All in all it made for one of the most fun movie experiences of the year. -- Mike Rougeau
8. A Quiet Place
Who'd have thought that Jim from The Office would deliver one of the year's best horror movies? John Krasinski might be better known for his acting roles--which also include the recent Amazon thriller Jack Ryan and Michael Bay's 13 Hours--but he's emerging as a great director too. A Quiet Place is his second movie, and he takes a simple horror/sci-fi concept and wrings every last drop of tension from it.
A Quiet Place is an incredibly tense thrill ride with some unexpectedly powerful emotional moments. It's impossible not to be drawn into the story of a family trying to survive in a world where even the slightest noise could bring on an attack from a species of savage, hungry mutant creatures. The stylish direction and brilliant use of sound makes the movie scary, but what really helps it stands out is the moving human drama, delivered by a superb cast that includes Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Krasinski himself. The movie was justly rewarded with big box office returns, and a sequel is on the way--let's hope it's just as good.--Dan Auty
Apostle is the latest movie from The Raid: Redemption director Gareth Evans, and it saw him move from martial arts madness into dark horror territory. Apostle is set in 1905, and stars Legion's Dan Stevens as Richardson, a man who infiltrates a religious cult on a remote island with the intention of rescuing his kidnapped sister. This is very much a movie of two halves, and the first plays out more like a spooky mystery than a straight horror movie, as Richardson becomes part of this deeply religious society.
But if the main influence of the first half is creepy British folk-horror films like The Wicker Man, then the rest simply tosses everything else into the mix. The movie leaves the realm of the "real" and embraces the supernatural, throwing in some horrific torture, surreal, nightmarish imagery, and even a couple of bone-crunching fights along the way. It's inevitable that this throw-it-at-the-wall approach will create elements that don't always work; the climactic scenes feel a little rushed, and even at 130 minutes, there are plot points that seem a little under-explained. But in an era of generic, formulaic horror, there weren’t any other movies quite like Apostle in 2018. -- Dan Auty
10. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina really caught us by surprise. It's nothing like the TGIF sitcom we remember. Instead, it's like someone took Riverdale and injected a lot of Satan and a fantastic cast. Sabrina has a gothic horror aesthetic and a supply of spooky creatures running through it as it unravels the story of a young girl town between two worlds--the mortal world and the bewitching world. It's the kind of adaptation modern Sabrina comics deserve and, thankfully, it's not slowing down anytime soon. Season 2 is currently in production. -- Chris E. Hayner
This gripping chiller was one of the most original horror movies of the year. It's set in the world of adult web cams, and focuses on Alice, a cam girl who's life is changed when someone--or something--with her name, face, and live cam login starts occupying her channel. On paper, Cam's mix of sex and horror suggests that it will be an exploitative film, but while it's definitely disturbing, it also presents a sensitive, intelligent view of the live cam industry as well as some insightful observations about how we interact with modern technology.
Cam is definitely a horror film, but it ultimately has more in common with the surreal work of David Lynch and the tech-satire of Black Mirror than a more conventional scary movie. There are no jump scares and there's little violence, and most of the movie either takes place in daylight or in the brightly-lit glare of Alice's studio. But for horror fans bored of the clichés and predictable scares of the genre, Cam is an ambitious, scary treat. -- Dan Auty
12. The Purge
TV, it turns out, is the perfect medium for The Purge's particular combination of slasher-esque horror, social satire, and ridiculous-but-worrisome premise. The idea of trying to survive a single night of lawlessness every year doesn't really hold up to intense scrutiny, but that's not the point--Purge Night in the franchise is an effective vehicle to make comments about the real world, while also putting characters in dreadful and frightening situations. And at that, the TV version of The Purge excels. With the added runtime a 10-part series affords, Universal's The Purge show is able to dig into a lot of ideas the movies so far have only hinted at.
For a show about scary masked psychos turning America into a Mad Max-style warzone, The Purge is a pretty intelligent, multi-layered show. And when it's not making you think about America and society, it's throwing some intense action and horror your way. There's a lot to like about The Purge, not the least of which is how it engages your brain while freaking you out. -- Phil Hornshaw
The streaming service Shudder released a number of superb new horror movies this year, and this Argentinian shocker is perhaps the best. It's not what Terrified is about--this tale of possession and paranormal infestation sounds fairly standard on paper--but how it’s done. Director Demian Rugna throws everything at the wall; there's no time wasted in the build-up, and within ten minutes a bloodied woman is being thrown around a room by some unseen evil.
From then it's a relentless onslaught of supernatural madness, as three people--a veteran cop, a paranormal investigator, and her old colleague--are brought together when they investigate strange goings-on on a normal suburban street. Featuring more scares per minute than anything else released this year, and packed with bizarre and disturbing imagery, Rugna takes a load of familiar horror tropes and delivers something truly wild. It's the most aptly titled movie of 2018, and a must-see for horror fans. -- Dan Auty
While the ordinary title and basic plot might not suggest that this French movie is going to be anything special, the movie is one of the wildest, goriest action/horror hybrids for a long time. A young woman named Jen is brutalised and left for dead in the desert by three men; unluckily for them, she survives and returns to exact her bloody vengeance. Coralie Fargeat's debut film quickly abandons reality to deliver a hypnotic, exciting, ultra-stylised and hyper-violent thriller. As the film progresses, it starts to have more in common with the likes of Mad Max or The Terminator than any conventional horror movie, with minimal dialogue and just an incredibly exciting series of chases and confrontations as Jen picks off her attackers in increasingly outlandish ways. Matilda Lutz delivers a stunning performance as the party girl who transforms into a superhuman killing machine. -- Dan Auty
15. Goosebumps 2
No, of course Goosebumps 2 isn't filled with gore, horrific jump scares, and shocking psychological terror that will traumatize you for days. However, it's one of very few "horror" movies you can watch with your kids who might not be ready for the likes of Hereditary or Mandy just yet. This sequel to the last Goosebumps film sees Jack Black return as author RL Stein and manages to pack in some relatively fun thrills and chills that should keep you and your family entertained, if you're looking for an easy-to-digest scary movie for all ages. What's more, there are some nice shoutouts to horror classics sprinkled throughout, including Halloween III: Season of the Witch. -- Chris Hayner
16. Hold the Dark
Jeremy Saulnier followed his dark thriller Blue Ruin and Green Ruin with this bleak, ambitious Netflix movie. It's set in a small Alaskan town, where a young mother is coming to terms with the the abduction of her child by a pack of wolves. She contacts renowned a wolf expert to track and kill the animal that took her child, but with her soldier husband on the way home from Iraq, a bloody reckoning is inevitable.
With a superb cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough, and a terrifying Alexander Skarsgård, Hold The Dark is a stunningly acted, intense, and ambiguous movie. The striking locations, stunning cinematography, and droning music help create an environment that is unforgiving and almost otherworldly--while nothing actually supernatural happens, Hold the Dark often feels like a horror movie than a straight thriller. But that's not to say it’s always a slow-paced, open-ended mystery. Saulnier might like his narrative ambiguity, but he also loves to deliver visceral action, and there are moment of shocking violence, including a harrowing, brilliantly-directed shoot-out sequence. For those who like their thrillers to provoke and challenge as well as thrill, Hold the Dark is an impressive achievement that isn’t quickly forgotten. -- Dan Auty
17. The Terror
When it came to serious, claustrophobic horror, it was hard to beat The Terror on TV this year. This adaptation of Dan Simmons' novel presents a fictionalized account of what happened to a pair of ships, the Terror and the Erebus, that mysteriously disappeared in 1848 while attempting to find a trading route through the Arctic. Over the course of 10 episodes, the show builds up an intense, gripping story as the crews of both ships learn to survive in this harsh environment.
The Terror is slow, serious, and uncompromisingly bleak, which might account for the fact that it didn't have the profile of some other scary series this year. But for those who go on this journey, it is utterly engrossing viewing. It features one of the best ensemble casts of the year, with incredible performances from a host of recognizable faces, including Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ian Hart, and Ciarán Hinds. And while it never relies on predictable scares, it absolutely delivers the horror goods too, with giant ice monsters, murder, madness, and cannibalism all on the menu. -- Dan Auty
Director Steven Soderbergh has made a wide variety of movies over the years, from big commercial films such as Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean's 11 series, to small, weird, low budget experiments. This year's hugely entertaining horror thriller Unsane straddles both camps. It has a major star in Claire Foy, best known for Netflix's The Queen and the recent The Girl In the Spider's Web. But it's far from a conventional movie. This is a creepy, uncomfortable film that Soderberg decided to shoot entirely on an iPhone.
While an obvious smartphone look is hardly going to suit every movie, in Unsane it really works. Foy plays a woman recovering from a trauma who is involuntarily admitted into a psychiatric hospital, where she encounters the very person she has spent the last two years trying to escape. Unsane plays with themes of delusion and mental instability, and the iPhone's familiar, ultra-real look removes that layer of distance that a traditionally-shot movie has, and allows Soderberg to really get up close--both figuratively and literally--to his characters. Foy gives a magnetic performance as the woman trying to keep her mind together, and there's strong support from Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Juno Temple (Suicide Squad), and Amy Irving (Carrie). It's a gripping, unpredictable, weird, and funny movie, and one of the year's best. -- Dan Auty
19. Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories probably went under a lot of people’s radars in 2018, but it’s well worth checking out. Set up as an anthology of three supernatural tales, this quintessentially British horror film is an effectively creepy chiller that features one hell of a satisfying twist. Following paranormal debunker Phillip Goodman--don’t let the surname fool you--as he investigates three cold cases, Ghost Stories successfully weaves each short story into the greater narrative. While all three tales have their moments, it’s the haunting of a night watchman, gruffly brought to life via an understated performance from Paul Whitehouse, that is the most effective.
Writer-director-star Andy Nyman and his co-director, Jeremy Dyson, create a wonderfully creepy atmosphere across the three ghostly narratives conjuring up a palpable sense of eerie dread among all the set piece scares. Couple that with a roster of great performances from an all star cast and you’ve got yourself a great British horror. --Adam Mason
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