SUSPIRIA (Directed by Luca Guadagino, 152 minutes, USA, 2018)
What can I say about Luca Guadagnino’s mesmerizing and profoundly unsettling re-make of Italian horror master Dario Argento’s Suspiria that I haven’t said already? This film about a young girl recruited by a dance school run by a coven of witches still has me firmly under its spell even looking back on it all these months later. It mirrors Guadagnino’s previous film Call Me By Your Name in that both are a coming of age and a love story that leaves you speechless and completely enraptured in its final moments.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (Dir. by Lynn Ramsay, 89 minutes, USA, 2018)
I honestly think director Lynne Ramsay’s film didn’t get the accolades it deserved because it was so bleak and unrelentingly nihilistic. Joaquin Phoenix turns in a transfixing performance as a former Marine and ex–FBI agent who specializes in rescuing young women from sex traffickers. It’s a visually stunning journey that features Phoenix wrestling with the duality of tenderness and brutality, making his monstrosity of a character as unsettling as the film’s distrubing subject matter.
TULLY (Directed by Jason Reitman, 95 minutes, USA, 2018)
Tully was a victim of too many shit-talking think pieces written by people who never even saw the film. Diablo Cody does something really interesting here with her story of a pregnant mother who is gifted a night nanny for her newborn that I think got left behind in all the drama — not to mention all the attention Bale got for his transformative take on Chaney. Charlize Theron not only packed on the requisite pounds, she turns in one of the most sublime performances of her career bringing to life a complex script that tells an authentic and melancholy story.
HEREDITARY (Directed by Ari Aster, 129 minutes, USA, 2018)
2018 was a great year for horror fans and Hereditary was the just another example this new breed of intellectual horror, that was as heavy on the scares as it is on story and character development. Front-loaded with terror and gore, Hereditary also works as an engaging drama about a family in mourning. The cast, led by Toni Collette, turn in some, um, killer performances that make this easily one of the best horror films in the last five years.
CLIMAX (Directed by Gaspar Noe, 95 minutes, USA, 2018)
Easily the most terrifying film of the year, Climax is a descent into hell as a holiday party for a troupe of dancers spirals out of control when someone spikes the sangria with liquid LSD. The fear and paranoia is further amplified by the claustrophobia of a snowstorm. Director Gaspar Noé delivers a film that is as visceral as they come that leaves you with this overriding question: when is Sofia Boutella is going to get the mainstream success and leading roles she deserves? When, Lord?
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (Directed by Boots Riley, 111 minutes, USA, 2018)
While many rallied behind Black Panther, Sorry To Bother You is in fact a much more biting and relevant commentary on race, class and the world we live in. Not to mention that third act that left me simply speechless. Needless to say after a debut like this, Boots Riley has my full attention for anything else he decides to direct.
VOX LUX (Directed by Brady Corbet, 114 minutes, USA, 2018)
Natalie Portman is an aging, debaucherous pop goddess who proves the doomed rock star archetype isn’t just for the boys. Vox Lux is an engrossing character study of a young girl who survives a school shooting and then goes on to conquer the world with her music but pays a terrible price for her fame.
FIRST REFORMED (Directed by Paul Schrader, 113 minutes, USA, 2018)
The film’s premise — Ethan Hawke plays a troubled pastor doubting his faith — isn’t anything new, but Paul Schrader’s indelible script and the plethora of interpretations it invites elevates this to one of the most thought provoking films of the year.
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (Dir. by Lars von Trier, 152 minutes, USA, 2018)
It’s easily the funniest film about a serial killer you will see all year. Love him or loathe him, Lars Von Trier proves once again he is the bad boy of the art house with this scathingly meta deconstruction of the creative process that explores the many uncomfortable parallels between filmmaking and serial killing.
ANNIHILATION (Directed by Alex Garland, 115 minutes, USA, 2018)
Annihilation opens with a team of lady scientists sent to investigate a phenomena known as The Shimmer that has blanketed a coastal town and is growing larger by the day. I don’t know if it was the nearly all-female cast or the script’s dense sci-fi storylines that didn’t fit neatly in a tag line that scared Paramount enough that they dumped the film on Netflix to die. Luckily it has since gained a loyal following, myself included, as it continues to inspire the kind of healthy cinematic debate you rarely see today.