2018 was a monumental year for horror. So much creepy cinema for us fans to feast on. Of course with the films and their stories come the performances that make them so feast-worthy.
Here’s a list of Father Gore’s 20 favourite performances in horror last year. This will become a regular feature at Father Son Holy Gore at the beginning of each New Year. Because of that, it’d be great to hear opinions on YOUR favourite performances. Don’t forget to drop a comment down below to let everybody know your personal picks!
Without any further rambling, here’s 20 unforgettable genre performances from the year of 2018. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. And whatever you do, keep repeating to yourselves: It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.
20) Rotimi Paul
The First Purge
One of the best aspects of even the worst horrors – and Father Gore’s not saying The First Purge is bad, it’s on his Best of 2018 list – is a solid villain. Skeletor’s terrifying. His brand of villainy is exactly what the New Founding Fathers of America hoped for to help push through their agenda and policies. Rotimi Paul leaves his mark on this film and 2018 in general by bringing Skeletor to horrific life with enough energy for five actors.
19) Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman has steadily racked up impressive performances over the past decade or more. Annihilation is one of her finest hours (behind 2018’s Vox Lux), giving her a different character to play than other roles. Portman really feels like this woman, caught in a surreal, life/world altering situation. She grounds the character in reality even while the sci-fi madness swirls around her head. The late scene where she ‘dances’ with the entity in the Shimmer? A top film moment of all-time.
18) Suela Bako
This went under the radar for Western filmgoers. Bloodlands is modern dark fantasy parable about Albanian blood feuds. It’s a grim, engrossing dramatic horror. Suela Bako plays the mother of a family whose relationship with local lore is complicated. She plays a difficult character, caught between the modern world and the ancient one of her country. The love for her family comes through, as does her fear of old superstitions. The whole thing’s good. Bako’s easily its strength.
17) Tessa Thompson
There are two films on this list with two performances each worthy of being here. Annihilation has several good performances, and Tessa Thompson gives one of those, bringing life to what could’ve potentially been a decent but not memorable supporting role. Something not always present in actors working with horror stories is a genuine sense of fear. Good actors can sometimes not sell the feeling of uneasiness that comes along with actual horror. Thompson captures this unsettling quality in a quiet way, gradually helping the viewer understand the terrifying nature of the Shimmer through her perspective.
16) Nyasha Hatendi
Into the Dark: “Pooka”
Nacho Vigalondo’s contribution to the anthology series Into the Dark came out of left field. Pooka is a surreal piece of holiday horror, focusing on the capitalist deterioration of Christmas marketing alongside the psychological decay of one man, played by Nyasha Hatendi. His experience is like a nightmare in real time. We watch his life change for the better, somewhat, on a climb up the economic/social ladder, only for it to corrupt him. Or, is something else altogether happening to him? Hatendi’s portrayal of a man losing his mind is less over the top than you’d expect, sucking the viewer into his pain. When the final revelation comes, some may feel cheated. It’s worth the journey to watch Hatendi.
15) Ricardo Adam Zarate
Lowlife‘s a fantastic debut by Ryan Prows, coming at a time when it’s almost more relevant than it’s ever been in America, though it could’ve been made in the 1980s and found similar relevance, too.
Ricardo Adam Zarate plays El Monstruo— or at least one of them. He embodies a conflicted character with such personality behind a mask it’s astonishing to see this film was also his own feature debut. Even if the rest of Lowlife is awesome, it wouldn’t be half as awesome without Zarate. The story’s not cartoonish, yet at times, in the best ways, the film’s action embodies that feeling, and in the midst of it all Zarate never lets El Monstruo seem that way, retaining his human heart.
14) Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz
Revenge was, for Father Gore, an unexpected surprise. It’s a great subversion of the typical rape-revenge formula, this time rightfully directed+written by a woman, Coralie Fargeat.
Everything hinges on the strength of Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz’s performance. She plays a woman assaulted and left for dead in the desert by misogynistic men. She uses sheer physical strength and willpower to push herself back from the brink of death, forcing herself to find the men and kill them, one by one. Not a unique scenario. What’s unique is how Fargeat gives us a woman many men will write off as ‘just a whore’ or something similarly stupid, illustrating how this woman uses the underestimation of men against them to a bad ass extent. Lutz is awesome. Her gnarly face-off with the man who assaulted her is a memorable, blood drenched scene.
13) Claire Foy
Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane was shot on a new iPhone and its whole aesthetic helps the unsettling psychological horror of the story jump out of the screen. Claire Foy gives a tour-de-force performance as Sawyer, a woman trapped by flawed mental healthcare, treated like a hysterical woman by sexist hospital employees, and gaslit by an entire system/society. Her frustration becomes that of the audience. Foy’s a huge talent. There are moments where the cinematography wraps you up in a surreal psychological space. There are just as many where Foy does the same, never letting go, no matter how badly you need a breath.
12) Neville Archambault
Not many people loved 13 Cameras. The same goes for its sequel, 14 Cameras. Neville Archambault’s performance, especially in this sequel, is worth the price of admission. He’s a hulking man, whose presence commands attention, and also probably produces unease in many for the size of his muscles alone. He plays Gerald, a slumlord with dozens of properties. Unlike the regular, run of the mill landlord who operates like a sleazebag, Gerald’s using hidden cameras to stream the people who rent his properties – made even easier this day and age with Airbnb – and, like you couldn’t have guessed, he terrorises them, too. There are times when Gerald’s relatively silent and he’s just as fucking scary as when he’s raging, if not more.
11) Logan Marshall-Green
Upgrade is our generation’s Terminator.
Logan Marshall-Green’s performance as a man merged with machine is killer. He’s funny, like in the scene above, where he’s discovering what the STEM bio-mechanical upgrade can do, watching it take charge as he marvels at its strength. He likewise gives a terrific physical performance. He makes us feel the body horror of Leigh Whannells’ twisted sci-fi+horror creation. Marshall-Green is continually doing awesome things. Let’s hope he continues getting the great roles. (Fuck you Cinemax for cancelling Quarry!)
10) [Brief But Powerful]
Andrea Riseborough’s an actress that has quickly become a big get for directors. Her recent role in Nancy is powerful. It’s her short, sweet performance as the eponymous character in the Panos Cosmatos ’80s fever nightmare Mandy that has Father Gore SHOOK! Although the film hinges on Nicolas Cage bringing his brand of madness to the vengeance-seeking Red, there’s an equal amount of weight to Riseborough’s Mandy. She’s the WHOLE REASON the plot happens. She’s IT!
Just the look in her eyes, the way she laughs at the limp dicked cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache in a career best performance), all those minuscule moments that otherwise would be lost on a lesser talent, they’re the makings of a character whose brief time onscreen means nothing compared to the lasting impression she leaves.
9) Dan Stevens
Not only is Apostle one of the best horror films of 2018, it features an animal-like performance from Dan Stevens, who went from Downton Abbey to doing genre work like The Guest. His work in this Gareth Evans fantasy-horror is wildly emotional. He seethes with anger at times. In other scenes he’s full of tragic pain. Stevens again proves he’s a star, pound for pound. The final moments with him onscreen are beautiful, if not a little disturbing to boot— just perfect.
8) [Ensemble Cast]
The Haunting of Hill House
Everyone who enjoyed Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House REALLY enjoyed it. Father Gore was blown away by it, on every level. The intensity of the emotions at the core of the storytelling is the best of its ilk in recent years, or ever in the horror genre. The characters are so rich, so deep, and they tug at the heartstrings to the point you’ll wonder if you’re bleeding. Each of these actors and actresses brings their all, giving everything over to their characters. Although Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are standouts for this site, the whole cast make this series an intricate tapestry, and every last one of them bring something uniquely important to the episodes, made even better by how a chunk of the episodes focus on the individual siblings at one point or another.
7) Sean Harris
If you’ve seen Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, you might expect at least SOME of the darkness found in the debut feature film by its creator and star, Matthew Holness. You’ll never ever expect the depths of that darkness.
Possum is a psychological horror about a disgraced puppeteer who returns to a decaying home and the abusive uncle he wished he’d left behind forever. Sean Harris stars as the puppeteer, bringing his usual subtle demeanour to the role. He’s quiet, contained, and makes you feel every ounce of his disturbing psychological damage. The final moments of Possum may never leave you, especially if you’ve ever dealt with emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. Harris deserves more recognition, as does this film. May not be for everyone. You’ll need a wash after, and it’s not even graphic, either. That’s how pervasive the atmosphere gets, and how badly Harris will devastate your soul.
6) Dylan McDermott
The Clovehitch Killer
You can catch Father Gore’s full critical assessment of The Clovehitch Killer in his Serial Killer Celluloid column over at Scriptophobic here. While the film itself is solid, it’s mostly so because of Dylan McDermott’s out-of-the-park home run performance. He plays Don Burnside, a family man, a Boy Scout leader, and a faithful churchgoer. He’s also a brutal serial killer called Clovehitch in his spare time. The story’s loosely based on the real life of Dennis Rader a.k.a BTK (Bind Torture Kill), who murdered 10 people from 1974 to 1991, remaining uncaught until 2005. To say any more, for those who don’t know Rader, will be to spoil things.
Suffice to say, McDermott embodies this monstrous man with such skill it’s hard to believe people ever slept on him as an actor. He’s done great things with horror, particularly since becoming part of the Season 1 cast for American Horror Story (and returning a couple times). To see him here in such fine form is amazing, as well as it is a terrifying experience, too. If you don’t dig the film, you’ll be able to find something to enjoy in McDermott. The scene from the picture above is easily the best, and so jarring you may need to rewind a couple times as a digital pinch to show you that, yes, you ARE indeed witnessing this moment.
Top 5 Horror Performances of 2018
5) Madeline Brewer
Not much fiction out there – because the markets are flooded by testosterone – genuinely tries to look positively at women who make money doing sex work, in whatever shape or form they choose. Cam is directed by Daniel Goldhaber— more importantly, Isa Mazzei wrote the screenplay, from a story by her, Goldhaber, and Isabelle Link-Levy. Mazzei is a former sex worker, so her perspective offers something we rarely, if ever, get, and ESPECIALLY in our beloved genre of horror: truth about women.
Cam doesn’t look down on the cam girls the story depicts. They’re not victims, nor are they impervious to mistakes, or, y’know, just being human. Mazzei lets her protagonist Alice (Madeline Brewer) be herself, pursue her goals, and shows how the body/sex is art. Alice is empathetic, but not at any cost: she isn’t helpless, we also get to see her struggle, and she doesn’t have to be perfect to survive those struggles.
On top of Mazzei’s writing is the fearless performance out of Brewer. Father Gore’s been a fan of her since Orange is the New Black, and she’s recently been fan-fucking-tastic in a brutal role on The Handmaid’s Tale. Her performance in this film shows she has total leading role capabilities. She IS the journey the audience takes. You’ll never be able to let go once she takes hold of your attention. Brewer really takes the viewer through a surreal trip, and every last second is a goddamn treat.
Full article on Cam here.
4) [Triple Threat]
On the verge of becoming cliche for acting behind makeup, Tilda Swinton again reinvents herself as one of the great talents of her generation with a triple threat in Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece remake of Suspiria. She plays Madame Blanc, Dr. Josef Klemperer, and one of the Three Mothers, Helena Markos.
Although you can tell she’s behind Dr. Klemperer’s face, it remains a great performance, and having the only man with a significant speaking role in the film be played by a woman in prosthesis is a compelling addition to the overall themes of the story. It’s Mother Markos, whose entire body is basically a scab, that all but hides Swinton entirely. If the cast list didn’t share that this was Swinton, it would most likely elude most viewers that she’s the one behind the makeup. Swinton doesn’t just hide behind the work of an outrageously wonderful effects team, she embodies each of these characters with a strong presence. This is Peter Sellers-in-Dr. Strangelove for the 21st century.
Full article on Suspiria‘s themes here.
3) Dakota Johnson
Suspiria was Father Gore’s favourite of 2018, so no surprise two actresses from the film appear on this list. Swinton is extraordinary, but Dakota Johnson steals the show with a subtle performance as young American Susie in Berlin during the late ’70s, swept up in her own personal hell of matriarchal fascism. Forget Ms. Johnson’s involvement in the Fifty Shades nonsense. She’s a powerful actress. She goes from a timid ballet dancer to an unstoppable force of nature in just over two hours, and those final moments, including a quiet mid-credits moment, are like the whipped cream on a delicious pastry. A proper lead pulls the audience inside their perspective wholly, even if there’s significant focus on other characters in the story. Even at 152 minutes, Suspiria feels like a (horrifying) breeze because Johnson’s Susie is a character you can root for, no matter what happens.
2) Toni Collette
Everything’s subjective, especially art. People will like all sorts of different films for all kinds of different reasons. Hereditary has been loved by many. There’s just as many people who didn’t dig it, or at least didn’t find it as mind-blowing as other horror lovers. Father Gore was 100% impressed with everything in Ari Aster’s feature debut. At the top of that spectacular heap is Toni Collette. She distils intense grief, hereditary mental illness, and the sense of failure a mother feels in the face of tragedy into one of THE GREAT ROLES IN HORROR— EVER! Not just that, Collette’s performance should be considered one of the best in any genre. It doesn’t matter if the big prestige awards don’t recognise what we horror fans know. We’ll always have her bravura performance to enjoy and to shake us to the bone.
1) Matt Dillon
The House That Jack Built
Matt Dillon has been overlooked many a time in his career. Even in stuff like There’s Something About Mary he shows off an effortless talent. He’s been in bad films that remain watchable if only for his presence. Recently, his turn in Wayward Pines was engaging in the midst of weirdness.
The House That Jack Built – Lars von Trier’s latest misunderstood masterpiece gives Dillon the opportunity to let out his darkest side, as much as it does his funny bone(s). The film is an allegory about artistic representations of violence, so there’s a lot to unpack (full article here). Dillon’s smug, dry attitude takes what could’ve been pretentious in the mouth of an another actor and transforms it into pitch dark comedy, as well as, at times, profound madness. There are scenes in which he delivers von Trier’s lines in a way that’s simultaneously shocking and hilarious— that’s not something every performer can do. Although the entire film is a haymaker to the intellectual brain, despite what unimaginative bourgeois critics would have you believe, Dillon is one of the biggest reasons to never take your eyes off the screen, or you may miss something.
This one’s #1 on the list, narrowly beating out Collette, only because Dillon’s willingness to be hideous and nasty was risky, proved such by certain silly reactions to a flm that’s CLEARLY allegorical. It’s an understated performance. Dillon never goes over-the-top in his depiction of this horrible man, and his restraint as an actor is a sure, strong hand to help guide von Trier’s vision down the River Acheron.