Jeff Burk is the author of several bizarro books, the head-editor of Deadite Press, the host of the Jeff Attacks Podcast, and watcher of too many movies.
It’s that time again – my favorite movies of 2018!
Want to see what I liked in previous years? Check out these links:
Holy shit was 2018 a fucking crazy year. If you follow the news and world events you know that 2018 was one of the nuttiest years in recent memory. Just as the world went crazy around us, I feel the movies of 2018, whether intentionally or not, captured that spirit perfectly.
Hollywood hasn’t known what to do with the box office as of late. While giant budget franchise sequels still dominate, the studios have been forced to reduce their budgets on other projects and began to desperately throw anything at the wall to see what would stick. How else do you explain a year in which MANDY, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN all ending up with wide distribution or backing from a major studio?
There’s been a lot of talk for years about how we are in a new golden age of television. I’d like to propose that we may be in that for film as well. Sure, if you’re just looking at box office numbers it doesn’t appear that way but then OZ was never a number one rated show either.
Due to studios quietly release niche titles, streaming services getting in on the production game, and the almost infinite number of independent distribution methods, there was a shit-ton of movies to see this year if your tastes lean to the wacky, horrific, and/or weird. I saw about eighty movies in 2018 and there were still another about another twenty that I never got around to.
If you’re one of those people that say there’s no original movies coming out these days, you aren’t even fucking trying.
When I was looking at other people’s top ten lists from 2018 one big thing jumped out at me – everyone’s lists look so different. The sheer variety and quality in all corners of the film world in 2018 was nothing short of inspiring. No matter where your tastes lay, there were movies for you.
Just to get it out of way because if I don’t every comment will be asking me – yes, I saw HEREDITARY. No, it didn’t make my list. Deal with it.
Every year there is some debate in the comments on how I come up with my list, in particular, the question of how I determine release dates. Most movies it’s easy to pinpoint the year they were released it but sometimes there are releases that have festival screenings up to a year before the general audience can see it. If a movie had a limited release last year but the wide wasn’t until this year and that’s how I saw it – I count it. If it had a limited release that I saw but it’s not wide until next year – I still count it. It’s not a perfect system but it’s what I got.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to my favorite movies of 2018! Like I said, there was a ton of movies that I liked this year and they couldn’t all be on my top ten. Here’s some that almost made the cut.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES, LOWLIFE, REVENGE, UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, ASSASSINATION NATION, and THE RITUAL.
Check out those movies. They were all seriously good. But they weren’t my favorites of 2018.
10: YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (Brett Simmons, United States)
A camp counselor wakes up covered in blood with himself and his fellow counselors are being hunted by a masked killer. He calls his horror movie obsessed friend for advice on survival but she puts forward a question – is he sure he’s not the killer?
YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER is a clever and innovative film that takes all the cliché slasher tropes and completely turns them on their head. Inspired by a twitter thread between Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes of all things, the movie is hilarious for horror fans who have seen way too many slasher flicks and spend way too much time wondering what Jason Voorhees does off-screen.
9: ANIMAL WORLD (Han Yan, China)
After a man finds himself in extreme debt, he enters the world’s most extreme rock-paper-scissors tournament to win a chance to have his debt voided. Also, when he gets stressed out he hallucinates that he is a ninja Ronald McDonald that graphically kills monsters. And Michael Douglas is in this for some insane reason.
Just reading that description makes this sounds like a mess but against all odds, it works fantastically. The tournament works as a tight and gripping thriller and you’ll find yourself completely hooked and absorbed in each round. In a year that had a lot of insane films that shouldn’t have worked but did, this is a stand-out that fell beneath most cult-fans’ radar.
8: UPGRADE (Leigh Whannell, Australia/United States)
After an attack leaves a man fully paralyzed and his wife dead, he gets an experimental cybernetic implant that gives him full control of limbs again. But the implant has a “mind” of its own and can take over his body to perform superhuman feats. With these new abilities, he sets out to find who killed his love and ruined his life.
This was THE action movie of 2018. The action sequences are just a joy to watch in their kinetic energy and effective punctuation of extreme gore. While the movie could have just had the main character and his implant and still be weird, the creators went the extra mile and created a truly bizarre cyberpunk world. Each scene introduces new characters and situations that could have been their own entire movie. Instead, we go at a break-neck-pace (sometimes literally) from one over-the-top surreal action scene to another.
I won’t give anything away but the ending to this movie is fantastic. You’re going to think you know what is actually going on the entire movie but the twist here is so satisfying.
7: CAM (Daniel Goldhaber, United States)
An up-and-coming camgirl finds herself trapped in a nightmare as a digital doppelganger of her attempts to steal her business and ruin her life.
Sex workers are frequently portrayed in horror as either objects of exploitation or titillation. It was extremely refreshing to come across this title which uses the world of sex work as a main theme and yet never comes across as leering at the characters (it helps that the script was written by a camgirl).
Not only do we get character types we rarely see taken seriously in film but we also get an original and relevant story revolving around technological horror that most horror films are desperate to avoid (characters actually have phones and know how to use Google in this movie!). I would describe the overall horror of this story as almost a Lovecraftian take the internet and social media.
It’s not a perfect movie but this is the type of forward-thinking horror that I want to see more of.
6: PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, United States)
How fucking insane was 2018? It was so insane that one of the most fun movie watching experiences of the year was a fucking PUPPET MASTER sequel of all goddamn things.
Essentially a soft reboot of the franchise, the story follows a convention dedicated to collecting Nazi puppets (there are conventions for everything these days) which, predictably, come to live and begin to kill everyone.
If you like your horror trashy, offensive, and gory, oh boy, do I have a winner for you here! The puppets are racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic and their bigotry comes out in their kills. And what glorious kills they are! This is easily the more violent and graphic movie that came out in 2018.
If you’re into Troma and other similar low-budget trash (I say that in the best way possible), this is an absolute must watch.
5: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (Boots Riley, United States)
How a film about black call-center workers makes sales using their “white voices” that turns into a grand and surreal critique of capitalism got a mass release completely boggles my mind. Boots Riley (of the fantastic anti-capitalistic funk/hip-hop group, the Coup) has his first turn (and maybe his last) behind the camera in a movie that is smart and just out-and-out strange.
I want to talk about so much of this movie but it’s really best that you just go into this blind. Even the trailers, which seem to show a lot, don’t even hint at how out-there this movie gets.
Funny, insightful, and destined to be a cult classic.
4: THE ENDLESS (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, United States)
I just fucking love the films of Benson and Moorehead. There is no one else out there making movies quite like them. Their previous two works (RESOLUTION and SPRING) made my top ten lists in years past and now with their third film, we are here again.
This time, not only are Benson and Moorehead the writers and directors, but they are also the stars of the movie. They play two brothers who, years ago, escaped what may have been a suicide cult. After getting a video from the cult, they decide to go back to see old friends and family to try to get some sort of closure. The story spins out from there an turns into a cosmic horror journey into the very nature of their reality.
Once again, this genius creative team has delivered a stunningly original work that mashes genres together and creates something visionary. Of all the new voices in genre films in recent years, no creators are as cutting-edge and willing to take chances as Benson and Moorehead. Whatever they do next, I can’t wait to see it.
3: TERRIFIED (Demián Rugna, Argentina)
The scariest movie of 2018.
After a series of very strange and very violent events rock a neighborhood, a group of people began an investigation believing an entire city block is haunted. We’ve seen this basic set up many times before in the horror genre. I do appreciate the little twist that it’s not one house but a whole block that is haunted but we are all familiar with the trope of a team of people investigating a haunting. Where this film shines is in just how effective it is.
Like TRAIN TO BUSAN last year, TERRIFIED takes a well-worn horror set-up and just does it better than almost everyone else that has come before. From the opening scene to the very end, the movie constantly shocks and surprised with supernatural horror and bursts of brutal violence.
Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the genre to make a great horror movie. Sometimes you just need to be fucking terrifying.
2: DIRECTOR’S CUT (Adam Rifkin, United States)
This is one of the most innovative and original movies I have seen in many years.
Try to keep up with me in describing what this is – a man (play by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame) is part of crowd-funding a low-budget horror movie but is extremely unhappy with how it turned out. So he kidnaps the star of the film (who he is also obsessed with) and make her film new scenes which he splices into the film (also in the process he makes himself the star). We, the viewers, are watching his new edit of the film. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, we’re watching his director’s commentary that would be a bonus feature on the home release.
Written by Penn Jillette, this is a mind-bending deconstruction of the nature of horror tropes, celebrity obsession, and the blurring of who is really in control of production that crowd-funding brings to modern film-making (and, yes, this was crowd-funded), you have never seen a movie presented like this before (if you have, let me know what it was). The layer upon layer of meta-narrative shouldn’t work and yet somehow it all comes together to tell a great story in a truly new way. When was the last time you saw a movie that really was completely different than anything else that has come before?
This is one of the most ambitious and intelligent low-budget features that I’ve seen in a very long time. You may not like it as much as I did, but I guarantee that you’ll agree there’s nothing else like it in the world.
1: A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, United States)
I feel dirty right now.
Me, mister underground-low-budget-hardcore-horror-guy, and here I am naming a mass market PG-13 film the best of 2018.
Fuck it, this movie was fantastic.
The movie follows a family in a post-apocalyptic world in which the Earth has been overrun with man-eating monsters that hunt using sound. So the only way to survive is to be as quiet as possible all-the-time. Almost a silent film, the movie takes a large scale end-of-the-world scenario and zooms in to focus on just one family’s battle to live.
Spoiler for the opening scene here – I have to give credit to any mass release film that is willing to start with killing a little kid. When I was in the theater and that happened, I was totally in.
I don’t have much analysis to give here. This was just straight-up wonder Hollywood film-making that reminds you how much fun going to the movies can be. I’ve heard and read some criticism and accusations of plot holes, but nothing I’ve heard really bothered me just because this was just such a fun experience.
My underground street cred be damned, this was the most enjoyable experience I had at the movies all year. It’s just a wild and thrilling ride that will have you on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes and leaving with a smile and feeling revved up on the excitement of film.
What more can you really ask for?
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2019
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (Micahel Dougherty, United States)
It’s Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.
Nuff fucking said.