By ARIA SALESSI
The beginning of the new year hasn’t been looking great for horror films so far, with cash-grabbing films like Escape Room showing on the screens right now. Multitudes of other horror movies are to be released throughout this year as well, such as Jordan Peele’s Us and It: Chapter Two. However, there were many excellent horror movies released last year that deserve a moment of reminiscence.
Best Horror Movies
Annihilation (February 23)
Sci-fi horror is a relatively rare genre to come into movies theaters nowadays, and thankfully, Annihilation was one of them. Annihilation follows a group of scientists as they journey into a mysterious zone termed “the shimmer”. At the beginning of the film, viewers try to make claims about what the shimmer is, and as the film progresses, audiences get to see what once seemed enchanting turn into something deadly. My favorite part of this film was the beautiful, quality CGI. The film was a gift to the naked eye, as everything was lush and beautiful. Another thing I liked about the film was how everything seemed peaceful at first, until a cataclysm of terrifying events occurred, usually involving attacks from mutant animals, like a ten-foot tall bear. The protagonist, Lena (Natalie Portman), also had an excellent performance.
Annihilation is a rare opportunity for movie fans to see a sci-fi horror movie in theaters and an even rarer chance to see one with a unique plot that doesn’t involve an overused trope like aliens, unlike every other sci-fi movie these days.
The Strangers: Prey at Night (March 9)
Mike (Martin Henderson) and his wife Cindy (Christina Hendricks) take their children, Kinsey (Bailee Madison) and Luke (Lewis Pullman), on a road trip to a trailer park. What was supposed to be a fun and secluded trip turned into a fight for survival when three masked knife-wielding psychopaths decide to target them.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is a sequel to the cult classic The Strangers that was released in 2008. I was a fan of the first one, so I was ecstatic to hear that a new one was going to be released. One of my favorite things about Prey at Night was that it attached viewers to the relatable characters and then severed that connection without hesitation. An example of this is with Cindy. She wanted to do the best for her daughter and seemed like she really loved her, but unfortunately one of the masked killers stabbed her to death in front of her own daughter. Another thing I loved about the movie was that it had a 90’s horror vibe. Throughout the film, there were several shots where the camera would zoom in on one of the character’s face while they were in peril. Although the film doesn’t have the most creative plot, it did differ from other slasher movies, since the victims actually put up a fight against the killers. One last thing I really liked about the film was when Luke faced one of the killers in a pool. The fight included details I hadn’t seen in films before, which was including how the music would fade in and out whenever Luke and the killer went underwater.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is a fun one hour and thirty-minute roller coaster that shows the strength people can gain when their lives are in peril.
Unsane (March 23)
Unsane was a small film released by Steven Soderbergh on an iPhone 7. It follows the story of Sawyer Valentino (Claire Foy) who moves to Boston to escape her stalker. While consulting with a therapist, Valentino accidentally signs herself up for a mental facility for 24 hours. However, Valentino’s paranoia that one of the staff members is her former stalker lands her in the facility for a longer time.
When I first walked into the theater to watch this film, I wasn’t expecting much, but as the film progressed, it got very strange and exciting. One reason was that her stalker sabotaged her multiple times to make her seem even more erratic to the doctors, so that her stay period was extended. Throughout the film, I was rooting for Sawyer to survive. Claire Foy was a perfect fit for this role and truly brought her character to life.
Unsane takes viewers on a psychological rollercoaster and takes the act of sabotage to an extreme level.
A Quiet Place (April 6)
If they hear you, they hunt you. A Quiet Place follows a family of five who lives in a world where making the smallest of sounds could get them brutally killed by creatures that are only capable of hearing.
My favorite aspect of A Quiet Place was its minimal use of sound. Throughout the film, the family rarely ever made a sound, and when they did, things truly got terrifying. However, to combat this, the family created many ways in which they can reduce their noise. From playing Monopoly with pieces of cloth to pouring sand on the floor to minimize the noise of their footsteps, this family definitely mastered the art of staying silent. In the rare moments when one of the characters would make a loud noise, I would cringe knowing that they were going to encounter the creature in any second.
A Quiet Place is a film that even people who aren’t fans of horror can appreciate.
Hereditary (June 8)
When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to discover terrifying secrets about their family tree. Directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary brought true fear to the audiences by building suspense until the viewers feel truly uncomfortable. It was surprising how this film was able to create such intense suspense without the use of the classic loud music that is strewn into horror movies these days. There were also no jump scares, which was unique, as jump scares are typically an overused trope in the horror genre. Another contributing factor to the film’s suspense was the acting. During scenes when the characters were in peril, they seemed to transfer their fear to the audience members.
Hereditary was a unique horror film that would leave a chill down anyone’s spine.
Unfriended: Dark Web (July 20)
After finding a laptop, a man goes online to play a game with his closest friends. He then finds a mysterious folder showing several gruesome videos of people in peril. After, an anonymous user messages him that if he or any his friends get off their devices, they will die. These characters turn into pieces of a game as each of them is killed off while the others are only able to watch in terror.
Unfriended: Dark Web was the sequel that nobody asked for, but I’m glad it happened. It took a completely different approach from the first film, focusing on the real world rather than supernatural. One thing I enjoyed about the Unfriended films is that the viewers have a viewpoint of a laptop screen. This is very unique and has only been used in these two films. I also enjoyed the ways the people on the Dark Web manipulated their victims. An example of this is when a hacker killed one of the protagonist’s mother by stopping her life support machine. What I enjoyed most about this film is that it made me feel a little paranoid about my computer and technology in general, because there are hackers like this in real life.
Unfriended: Dark Web made viewers more aware of the dangers of the internet and how you aren’t as safe as you think you are behind a computer screen.
The Nun (September 6)
When a priest in an abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest and a novitiate are sent by the Vatican to investigate the reason. Together, they uncover the abbey’s dark secret: it is the home to a demon nun.
The Nun was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I enjoyed this film because it was able to drag out suspenseful scenes for a long time before climaxing with a jump scare. Although jump scares are a cheap way of scaring the audience,The Nun manages to make them much more artistic with extraordinary cinematography. The moments we saw the Nun were truly terrifying and made me feel uneasy. One of the most interesting aspects in the film was how the priest and her novitiate had to throw the blood of Jesus Christ on the demon Nun’s face to eradicate her. The film is a great addition to The Conjuring franchise by elaborating on an antagonist that has been in the previous films in the series.
The Nun creates a fan favorite character from The Conjuring universe into something dark, gothic and terrifying.
Hellfest (September 27)
On Halloween night, three women and their boyfriends go to a horror-themed amusement park called Hellfest. Their fun-filled night turns into a nightmare when a serial killer decides to turn the park into his playground and hunt down each of his victims one by one.
Hellfest was a simple film that managed to stand out from other slasher movies by having likable characters and an entertaining setting. I enjoyed how the killer stalked and toyed with his victims by making his intents to kill seem like jokes. There was also an extremely despairing scene at the beginning of the film where the killer and Natalie (Amy Forsyth) were in the same room together. He held a knife to a woman’s stomach acting like he was going to stab her. Since it was a horror amusement park, Natalie thought it was a part of the act and told him to just do it. She became his first victim.
Hellfest is a fun slasher film that will definitely make your head turn the next time you’re in a horror-themed amusement park.
Bird Box (December 13)
Never lose sight of survival. When a mysterious force causes people to see their worst fear, which in turn causes them to commit suicide, a mother and her two children embark on a dangerous mission to find a sanctuary.
Many of the aspects of Bird Box appealed to me. The main one was Sandra Bullock’s acting, who played Malorie. Throughout the film, Malorie was fierce and able to take control of anything thrown at her. The film’s plot was also very mysterious. During the film, I wanted to see the entity, but this never happened because the entity looked different to everyone. Throughout the film, Malorie and her children had to wear blindfolds while they embarked on the journey in their canoe. The scenes in the canoe were very suspenseful as they had to navigate through the dangerous waters without vision.
Bird Box is unique and makes viewers wonder what they would see if this entity really existed.
While 2018 provided us many phenomenal horror films, it also brought others that were quite dreadful.
Worst Horror Movies
Insidious: The Last Key (January 4)
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth movie in the Insidious franchise, in which parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a call from a man claiming his house is haunted. The only thing that I enjoyed about this film was Lin Shayne’s (Elise Rainier) acting. Throughout this film and many other of her horror films, she has been capable of making her ridiculous lines as fluid and meaningful as possible. She was definitely the star of this film. Besides Lin Shayne, the film was no different from any of its other predecessors. The only scare viewers got were from the constant, cheesy jumpscares that occurred throughout the film, paired with irritatingly loud music. As for the main villain of the film, he looked like a cheap Halloween decoration someone would buy at Party City.
Insidious: The Last Key may fulfill fans of the franchise hoping for another film, but for people who aren’t great fans of the films, The Last Key will seem like another replay of the first three films with a slightly different plot. Insidious: The Last Key should have been locked from release and never gotten the chance to be in theaters.
Truth or Dare (April 13)
A group of college friends ventures to Mexico over spring break to have one last fun getaway together before they graduate. Throughout their party, a stranger invites the friends to an abandoned castle to play a friendly game of Truth or Dare. One they start the game, they discover they have awakened something evil, which forces them to either share their darkest secrets or perform hazardous dares. Unfortunately, if you stop playing the game, you die.
The moment I saw the trailer for this film, I wasn’t expecting much. It seemed like another cheesy PG-13 horror movie meant for groups of friends to go watch and mess around in. And this is exactly what it was. The middle of the film was quite entertainng, as it just involved the group of friends being forced to reveal their embarrassing secrets and doing dangerous dares. Many people in the theatre were also laughing about how absurd it was. Additionally, the story behind the demon was quite ridiculous and ruined the whole film for me.The film started taking itself too seriously instead of focusing on the “truth or dare” aspect of the film, which was what drew audiences to the movie in the first place.
Truth or Dare suffered from a director trying to put logic into a mindless film that was meant to solely entertain audiences with a giddy plot.
The First Purge (July 4)
To push the crime rate lower for the year, the New Founding Fathers of America have decided to test a new sociological theory that legalizes all crime for 12 hours.
I have been a huge fan of The Purge films for a while, and I was ecstatic to hear that a new one was coming out. Unfortunately, the film fell far under my expectations. Unlike the first three films in the franchise, The First Purge veers away from the horror genre and tries to become a full-on action film, which didn’t fit at all. It seemed extremely forced and too different from the first three films.
The First Purge should have been purged from theatres and sadly had to end the franchise on a cliche, action-ridden film that brought audiences nothing entertaining to the table.
Slenderman (August 10)
A group of friends named Hallie (Julia Goldani Tellis), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), Wren (Joey King) and Katie (Annalise Basso) go online to try and summon Slenderman for a fun sleepover. Weeks later, Katie disappears, and several strange and disturbing events occur, causing the girls to suspect Slenderman may not be an urban legend after all.
Most people know what Slenderman is: a tall, thin, man-like creature who has no facial features. His premise seems scary, but unfortunately, the film was a laughing stock. Nothing involving the film was scary. The characters in the film were also extremely unlikeable, performed dumb acts and didn’t seem to be affected at all by their friend disappearing.
Slenderman had the opportunity to make something great with its interesting villain, but it instead turned into another PG-13 horror film trying to get some extra cash for its studio. Maybe this Creepypasta character should have stayed online and away from the big screen.
Halloween (October 19)
It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has survived the vicious attack from Michael Myers (Nick Castle). Myers manages to escape from his prison bus, becoming a danger for Laurie again. However, there is a difference between Laurie now and 40 years ago: she’s ready for him.
I’ve seen all of the Halloween films and unfortunately, I am not a fan of any of them. They all seem the same to me and have never grasped my interest. The one thing I liked about this film was Jamie Lee Curtis’s acting. Everyone else in the cast just seemed awkward. As for Michael, he is still the same old character we’ve seen in the last 10 films.
Halloween brought nothing new to the table that the last 10 films haven’t brought us. An all to a powerful knife-wielding masked killer might be entertaining in the first few films in the franchise, but after that, the formula gets too repetitive and worn out, just like Michael’s mask.
The Possession of Hannah Grace (November 30)
An exorcism leads to the death of a young woman named Hannah Grace. Later, the cadaver is sent to Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) in a morgue during her night shift. Throughout the night, several disturbing events lead Megan to believe that evil resides within the corpse.
The Possession of Hannah Grace is a film that has been done so many times. Examples of these include The Possession of Michael King, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Autopsy of Jane Doe. These films offer viewers nothing but cheap jump scares from the dark to spook them. The Possession of Hannah Grace was one of the most generic films I have ever seen with this type of plot. Despite her excellent acting skills, Mitchell doesn’t seem to show any of them throughout the entire movie. The “scary” moments of the film consisted of Megan walking through several dark hallways and turning her head from side to side.
The Possession of Hannah Grace is just like Hannah Grace herself: lifeless, generic, and boring. This film feels like a prime example of an industry trying to scavenge for what little money it can get.