Now it is time for my favorite list of the year: the list of next year! As an eternal cinematic optimist, I always love to be the one to reassure you, dear reader, that there are plenty of amazing films to still be seen.
One of the big differences between this year and the years passed, is that more and more films I see at festivals are available sooner. I typically have a long list of upcoming releases to cull down to a top 10 for you, but this year I was only able to build it to 9. This is both due to more films getting quick distribution after festivals, through Netflix and Shudder, as well as certain festivals screening more mainstream films, which already have their theatrical run planned soon after the fest. From where I see it, greater access to these films is a good thing, so I refuse to mourn the dwindling numbers of inaccessible films. If this is the last time I get to write such a list, it means you have already gotten access to all of the awesome festival films I get to see, and that sounds lovely.
As always, this list contains films I have already seen and loved. I’m excited for US, GLASS, and HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U too, but I’m not about to endorse a film I have yet to see.
I’ve included whatever information I can get about the film’s release below. We all know this changes constantly, so this will likely be inaccurate as soon as I post it.
GAGS. Remember the scary clown outbreak of 2016? Well, a lot of that hysteria can be attributed to filming the short film that was the precursor to the horror-comedy feature GAGS. Taking place over one night, though multiple groups of people in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the film is balances hilarity and downright creepy ass clowns as the various townsfolk try to get to the bottom of these vicious clown rumors. Genre veteran Lauren Ashley Carter is just one of the big ensemble cast, but she manages to shine through the crowd as an acerbic reporter whose verbal sparring made GAGS the most quotable film of 2018’s Cinepocalypse film festival.
Release Details: None yet, but keep an eye out for this one.
LUZ. Unbelievably, LUZ was created as a film-studies thesis project, but suffers from none of the typical markings of an insufferable “student film.” Taking place first at a bar, then in a police interrogation, the film asks the audience to help it reconstruct the incidents in question. The film is not a passive experience, but it is a rich one. As the power of storytelling, and alcohol, become clearer, the film’s narrative transforms itself from one of fantasy to a more brutal and possibly demonic tale. The story structure utilized in LUZ is not one I’ve ever seen before, but the gamble writer/director Tilman Singer takes somehow pays off beautifully. It is far greater than the sum of its parts, and leaves you marveling at how the hell he pulled it all off.
Release Details: Sometime in early 2019, but that’s all we know.
LIFECHANGER. Shapeshifters and skinwalkers have a deep history in many culture’s tales of horrors. Though we have seen films addressing a demon’s ability to jump from one body to the next, seeing the physical transformation from one body to another by some other worldly being has been mostly saved for werewolves. Justin McConnell’s LIFECHANGER takes this version of body horror, adds in an unreliable narrator, and a good dash of toxic masculinity to create his latest horror film. Though the transformations are downright disgusting (and the practical effects a marvel), the true horror of the film is the emotional toll this situation has on the affected and those around him. Surprisingly tender and internally critical LIFECHANGER makes body horror personal.
Release Details: VOD on January 1st, 2019! Happy New Year!
IN FABRIC. Why aren’t there more haunted clothing movies? I mean, it is a preposterous idea, but no more so than a possessed doll or a bed that eats. Filmmaker Peter Strickland made waves in genre and offbeat cinema with Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, and here he perfectly upholds his new status as a lyrical and sharp voice. Far funnier than his previous films IN FABRIC is in fact about a haunted dress. We follow the garment as it travels in and out of the lives of a stellar ensemble cast. However, the dressmakers and women who work at the shop that sold the dress steal the show as nearly-absurdist shells of humans.
Release Details: Sometime in 2019, but no idea exactly when.
PIERCING. Another fantastic film with heavy expectations is Nicolas Pesce‘s PIERCING. Previously only known for THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, it was a relief to see that Pesce was able to recreate a similar sensation of doom and foreboding, but in a completely different kind of movie. PIERCING is an darkly humorous adaptation of a Ryû Murakami’s novel. It is sexy and violent, but also slick and modern. For all of the pastoral charms of EYES, here we now have the immersive claustrophobia of the city and its endless hallways. Both Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska are exquisitely cast as an unfortunately well-paired duo. In just one night together things get very messy, and painfully bloody.
Release Details: In Theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on February 1, 2019.
THE PERFECTION. I know that people often say you should not know a lot about a movie before seeing it, but when it comes to THE PERFECTION, please heed this warning. Starring a playful Allison Williams and Logan Browning, the film initially follows two star cellists. Not necessarily rivals, these two women started their careers at the same place before each took a very different path. Just as you think you know exactly where the story is going, the film laughs at your cinematic hubris, yanks the rug out from under you, and leads you down a wildly different path. The sheer audacity of this storytelling deserves our attention, and its success as a compelling tale, even with such a non-traditional plot, is a really fun ride.
Release Details: Nothing announced at this time.
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD. Not technically a horror film, but ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is about the making of a zombie film, so I’ll give it a pass. It is also one of the more heartfelt, delightful films I saw at festivals in 2018, and I want to call your attention to it. Any any film about making a film goes, the layers of stories within stories are the best part of these navel gazers. In ONE CUT OF THE DEAD a filmmaker is tasked with making a single-take zombie film, which he then makes about a filmmaker making a zombie film. If you are picturing a non-yakuza twist on WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, you are not wrong. But beyond the ridiculous premise is a film of a lot of dedicated, and sometime overly enthusiastic, actors and crew who all just want to make the best damn microbudgeted zombie movie they can.
Release Details: None yet in the US, but an early 2019 UK release gives us hope. (The version of the film which popped up on Amazon this week is a bootleg.)
JUST A BREATH AWAY (formerly DANS LA BRUME). You all know I love a good apocalypse. The end of the world is just such a massive idea to consider, and I am always intrigued by all of the different iterations of this end. Whether its a plague, aliens, natural disasters, or the great unknown, the cinematic potential for facing our collective end is (ironically) endless. JUST A BREATH AWAY shows the end of Paris, as we know it, following an earthquake. The city is blanketed in a heavy but deadly gas. Lower floors of buildings spell certain death, but in a modern city like Paris, the upper floors offer safety and containment. I’ll be the first to admit that some of the emotional beats here are a little heavy, but I love the thoughtful reconstitution of a society after this very peculiar scourge.
Release Details: No known information at this time.
HOLIDAY. This one is brutal. Taking place in the Turkish Riviera, HOLIDAY never lets you sink into the escapist world of yachts and champagne. All of that wealth and beauty comes at a steep cost, which Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) must learn on her own. The film often toys with your expectations of the friendly but potentially naive woman. Never shying away from rape and murder on screen, HOLIDAY has been the only film I’ve ever seen at Fantastic Fest with a spoken trigger warning at the beginning. (To be honest, I don’t think think that was necessary, but it came from a good place.)
Release Details: Nothing yet.
Neither MEGA TIME SQUAD nor CHAINED FOR LIFE are horror films, so they don’t quite fit here, but definitely watch them when they are available.