This Thursday, friends and families will gather for Thanksgiving, an American tradition marked in equal parts by expressions of gratitude and gluttony. I know about half of you have a parent or uncle or friend who will insist everyone goes around the table to say what they're most thankful for; standard responses include health, career success, and love. Even when years are tough, Thanksgiving is a time to realize that things could be much worse and, no matter how much or little we have, we're always luckier than some.
If you're a cinephile, especially a horror fan, 2018 has given us plenty to be thankful for. Despite what you might have heard recently in a controversial editorial on Vogue (*cough*clickbait*cough*) horror has reached new heights, generated more dollars, and pleased more fans and critics than just about any other genre this year. So, when my kooky uncle Lester insists everyone in the Millican family takes a moment to say what he or she is most thankful for, I'll have a list-literally!
This fan's horror-related blessings can be divided into three categories: Amazing movies, fantastic television series, and wonderful projects to look forward to in the not-too-distant future. I can't claim to speak for all horror fans, but I have a feeling many my fellow aficionados will agree, we can thank the Lord (or hail Satan) for the gifts we received in 2018.
A Quiet Place
I'm incredibly thankful that John Krasinski, the actor best known for playing hapless Jim Halpert on The Office, turned out to be a versatile filmmaker and a skilled fear-practitioner. Who knew he'd emerge as one of horror's rising stars after directing, co-writing, and starring in A Quiet Place, a film that shattered established conventions delivering thrills and poignant drama in equal measure. I'm thankful his talented wife, Emily Blunt, was Krasinski's on-screen co-star, and I'm thankful that the production found two incredible actors to round out the fictional Abbott family; Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe gave exceptional performances and I can't wait to see where their budding careers take them. I'm impressed and eternally thankful that A Quiet Place managed to get entire theaters packed with moviegoers to shut the fuck up!
For better or worse, I'm one of those critics who, upon seeing Hereditary at SXSW, declared it the scariest movie since The Exorcist. Whether it lived up to my hype or your personal expectations, there's no denying Hereditary rocked the horror landscape, bringing a ton of attention to the oft-maligned genre and, for that, I am thankful. For the trauma I endured, the pressure it put on my heart, and the hours I spent involuntarily replaying Hereditary's most harrowing moment, I am thankful. That a young, relatively unknown director named Ari Aster was allowed to helm a major motion picture, I am thankful. For his ability to assemble an unbelievable ensemble cast comprised of Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Alex Wolff, I am immensely thankful; the fact that Collette has been generating legitimate Oscar buzz is itself a major accomplishment. For the instantly canonical, deeply faceted, envelope-pushing film that is Hereditary, I say "Hail Paimon!"
All horror fans can be thankful for the diversity or genre movies 2018 bestowed upon us, a literal cornucopia of morbid delights. In addition to the mainstream crowd-pleaser A Quiet Place and the exercise in endurance that was Hereditary, we got an arthouse fever-dream masterpiece in the form of Mandy. While other arthouse horror flicks like It Follows and The Witch proved divisive, the LSD-infused Mandy is hooking legions of horror connoisseurs-despite abiding by fantastic dream-logic that's impossible to fully understand. I'm thankful that writer/director Panos Cosmatos created Red Miller, a character and role that's actually worthy of Nicholas Cage's unhinged genius. I'm grateful for the demonic motorcycle gang that still haunt my dreams, the searing soundtrack that still singes my ears, and perhaps obviously, I'm nauseatingly thankful for the macaroni-spewing Cheddar Goblin.
I'm thankful 2018's Halloween lived up to its hype, pleasing that vast majority of the franchise's fans. Part of my gratitude is selfish, as I don't think I could have handled the wrath of angry Internet fanboys/girls who were clearly waiting in the shadows, hoping for an opportunity to pounce. And even though it deleted the entire mythology established beyond John Carpenter's original Halloween, David Gordon Green's film felt like a legitimate continuation of the story that began on October 31st, 1978. I'm thankful original Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis, came back to reprise the role she made iconic, and I'm thankful that Carpenter was on board for the entire process as a consultant, a producer, and the film's composer. I'm thankful that Michael Myers is actually scary again-and hopeful that Halloween's success will lead to successful reboots of other classic franchises (like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th).
Santa Clarita Diet Season 2
I'm thankful that I write for MovieWeb because it gives me the opportunity to remind horror fans how extremely awesome The Santa Clarita Diet was and is. As good as Season 1 was, Season 2 is better, and I'm thankful Netflix has put it's support behind such a hilarious and utterly grotesque gem (they've already renewed the gut-twisting zom-com for a third season in 2019). I'm thankful that Drew Barrymore is as talented, funny, and downright delightful as she ever was and that Timothy Olyphant turns out to have such a knack for side-splitting comedy. I'm thankful that a TV series can be disgusting and uplifting simultaneously and that the special effects teams never scrimp when it comes to blood-or vomit.
The Haunting of Hill House
I'm thankful that my world didn't fall apart when it came to a screeching halt the day I realized it was necessary to binge-watch all 10 episodes of Mike Flannagan's near-masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House (loosely based on the novel by Shirley Jackson). All calls went to voicemail and emails went unanswered as I immersed myself in the tragic lives of the Crains, a family haunted both literally and figuratively. I'm thankful horror content exists that's both compelling and spine-tingling with top-notch terror achieved without jump scares. I'm thankful that a story that felt complex and disparate fell into place like a puzzle revealing an unimaginable magnum opus. I'm thankful for all the hidden ghosts that make The Haunting of Hill House worthy of repeat viewing, and I'm thankful for the emotionally devastating yet masterfully-executed Episode 6, "Two Storms" that was filmed in a single shot. Amazing!
The Walking Dead Season 9
Hear me out before you call for my head in a spike (that's an inside joke for the hardcore Walking Dead fans): I'm not happy that what was once AMC's flagship program became a depressing drudge through a rural zombie apocalypse (a predicament even the appearance of Negan couldn't cure), but I'm thankful that The Walking Dead is finally getting good again as we near the midpoint of Season 9. Sure, it only turned the corner a couple episodes back, but that six-year time jump was just the shot in the arm the show needed. I mean, Maggie had been pregnant for four seasons and she wasn't even showing yet! It's a new era now, and we've got strangers, love-triangles, and Whisperers to worry about. There are dark undertones and riddles yet to be unraveled. And who'd have thought the show could even survive the departure of both Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie Greene/Rhee (Lauren Cohan)? Whether the new story arch pleases those of us who have already stuck with The Walking Dead for the best part of a decade, at least we're finally forging new territories.
I'm thankful that the Stephen King Renaissance of 2017 exemplified by Gerald's Game, 1922, and (most significantly) IT didn't end in 2018-it merely went into hibernation for what is certain to by a soaring resurgence in 2019 (and beyond)! 2018 brought us news that a new adaptation of Pet Sematary (often considered King's most terrifying tome) and horror fans are thankful that we don't have much longer to wait until we can set eyes on it. Helmed by Starry Eyes directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, Pet Sematary is slated to hit US theaters on April 5th. From what we've seen so far in the film's first (and as yet only) trailer, we're in for one hell of a creepy ride. Anyone even remotely familiar with King's novel and/or Mary Lambert's 1989 adaptation knows that Pet Sematary goes to some extremely dark places, avenues even the most controversial auteurs fear to tread. This is something we really need to brace ourselves for and, for that, I am thankful.
IT: Chapter Two
I'm thankful that we're getting two major motion pictures based on Stephen King novels next year. In addition to the previously mentioned Pet Sematary, we'll be getting a sequel to Andy Muschietti's 2017 megahit, the initiator of the Stephen King Renaissance, IT: Chapter Two. We'll all be floating on September 6th when we reunite with The Losers Club and meet their adult counterparts as the face-off once again against the insidious Pennywise (emerging from his 27-year slumber). I'm thankful that Muschietti was given a bigger budget to work with this time, meaning we can expect things to be even bigger and more epic that 2017's IT. Whether it turns out to be a trauma-inducer or a gleeful popcorn-chomper, we're thankful that R-rated horror movies are making a comeback. And speaking of the impending Stephen King Renaissance resurgence, don't even get me started on how thankful I am that we'll bee seeing Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining, in 2020!
Three From Hell
Horror fans aren't only looking forward to the blockbusters; a ton of us are pumped to experience Rob Zombie's unexpected sequel to 2005's The Devil's Rejects in 2019. I say unexpected because, six months ago, none of us even thought the sequel was a possibility. Not because the major players aren't all still alive and well, but because their characters were, to put it delicately, incapacitated. This makes the reappearance of Otis Driftwood, Baby Firefly, and Captain Spaulding in Three From Hell an unexpected treat, one we anticipate with morbid glee. For the fact that Zombie continues to pursue successful careers as both a musician and a filmmaker is something I'm both impressed by and thankful for. Now pass me those mashed potatoes!