By Seth Lukas Hynes
This past year featured some further triumphs in the superhero genre, a resurgence of Gothic horror, a few outstanding character dramas, some knock-out action and an ever-dependable crop of independent films.
Here is my countdown of the top 10 best films of 2018.
10. The Night Comes For Us. A blisteringly intense Indonesian martial arts thriller, this may be the best example of thriller-as-horror – in the grim, oppressive tone it generates and the gory viciousness of its fight scenes – since The Raid: Redemption in 2012.
9. The Death of Stalin. An extremely dark yet hilarious comedy about power struggles in the Soviet Union.
8. The Wife. A heartbreaking yet often funny drama with a career-best performance from Glenn Close, The Wife has shades of both farce and mystery, weaving past and present together to shine a light on unequal relationships.
7. Hereditary. Grief, family resentment and darker forces form a festering undercurrent in the nail-biting narrative, and the rich character development makes the eventual graphic terror all the more shocking and earned.
6. Sweet Country. A riveting, stark yet even-handed Western about the dehumanizing effects of colonialism and the resilience, desperation and mundane cruelty in human beings.
5. Annihilation. A poignant, superbly-acted exploration of how we engage with trauma, refracted through an exotic, visually-stunning sci-fi setting.
4. First Man. A historical drama of astonishing polish and sustained tension, this film distills the historic challenge of the Apollo 11 Moon landing down to a deeply touching personal story.
3. Mandy. This hallucinatory nightmare by Panos Cosmatos perfectly replicates the feel of ‘80s action-horror, right down to the grainy film stock, lurid colour palette, moody electronic score, its slow, sombre build and over-the-top, ghastly pay-off. Nicolas Cage is tragic and terrifying as a gentle lumberjack who, after his wife is murdered by supernatural cultists, devolves into an unrelenting force of rage.
2. You Were Never Really Here. Reminiscent of Taxi Driver, this is a taut, brutal yet profoundly moving film about a traumatized veteran and enforcer who gets tangled in a child abduction conspiracy. It’s rare to find a film that so vividly conveys hope being wrenched away, beauty in death or tenderness coexisting with harsh, unglamorous violence.
1. Upgrade. A compelling, offbeat cyberpunk thriller with crackling dialogue, superbly-composed action and grungy atmosphere laced with dark humour and body horror. The plot is astoundingly efficient: the tension escalates smoothly on multiple fronts, and culminates in an indescribably brilliant final twist.