2018 was deep in weirdness. Although we deemed only a trio of movies (one of which was technically a 2017 release) as worthy of Certification as among the 366 Weirdest Films of All Time, there were a lot of hard cuts at the bottom of this year’s top 10 list. At the beginning of the year, we were confident that the homoheroic spoof Fags in the Fast Lane would remain among the ten strangest cinematic offerings by December, and yet it got lost among a multitude of odd releases. Chained for Life was a metanarrative farce starring real-life “freaks” making a movie in their off hours, but it didn’t sniff the top 10. Nor did ‘s Double Lover (despite featuring the year’s most innovative gynecological camerawork), Australia’s microbudgeted Hitler Lives! (despite depicting Nazi war criminals as marionettes), or the Suspiria remake (despite having the best avant-garde exploding-witch choreography of the year).
Besides that wealth of weirdness on the big screen, we should note that the small screen brought us the second (and sadly final) season of the metaphysical comedy/mystery “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” while went miniseries mad with the Nippo-Gothic “Tokyo Vampire Hotel” (also released in a condensed and even more incoherent version as a feature film). And, on a final note, we’ll mention that we’re holding off on ranking ‘s surreal Hollywood noir Under the Silver Lake, which is going back to the editing bay for a rework after debuting to puzzled audiences at Cannes (we expect his original vision will be both better and weirder, but eventually think we’ll be able to see both side-by-side for comparison).
As for the choice of movies: as always, I personally pick them using a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the degree of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I rank them in whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that. As always, films are listed in random order—the weirdest of orders.
So, on to the official Weirdest Movies of 2018 List! May each successive year grow stranger and more challenging than the next…
5. Border [Gräns] – A woman with a “chromosomal abnormality” works as a customs agent due to her supernatural ability to sniff out smugglers; one day, she meets a man with a similar neanderthal appearance… “The other” has rarely been so freaking other as in this Swedish film that starts out as a magical realist drama before flirting with some seriously disturbing horror. Fantastic makeup and great (?) sex scenes, leading to some very odd reproductive results. This is the only movie on our ten weirdest list not yet officially reviewed here (stay tuned…)
1. Mandy – Certified Weird! A lumberjack takes revenge on the Manson-like hippie cult that killed his true love, Mandy. The prophesied Nic-Cage-kills-bikers-and-hippies-while-tripping-on-acid fantasia you’ve been waiting on is here, and it lived up to expectations in every way, becoming the must-see midnight movie experience of the year. Giles Edwards raved that it “plays like a Romantic era poem that collides violently with one helluva nightmare… almost a movie to be felt more than watched.” Let’s hope that the seven-year gap between Panos Cosmatos‘ first movie and this one will shrink for his next outing; he looks to be the new standard bearer for arty, mind-bending exploitation films.
2. November – Certified Weird! A love triangle set in Estonia in the Middle Ages, when magic was real. There’s a plot, but the setting is the thing here: November is a world of witches, werewolves, the Black Plague, and, most uniquely kratts—a kind of peasant robot assembled from farm implements (or whatever you have lying around) and infused with souls purchased from the Devil. The peasants adapt Christianity to their pre-existing pagan beliefs, chewing up the communion wafers and spitting them onto bullets so they can harness the power of Jesus to hunt game. The effective black and white cinematography and doom-y musical score nurture the dreamy atmosphere. November‘s extraordinarily surreal milieu allows it to leapfrog Sorry to Bother You on the weird-skewed list.
3. Sorry to Bother You – Certified Weird! When telemarketer Cassius Green learns to use his “white voice,” he shoots up the corporate ranks, becomes a “power caller,” and is asked to compromise his principles in a shocking way. Boots Riley’s out-of-nowhere satire plays like something Putney Swope‘s long-lost grandson might have dreamed up after an all-night pot-smoking session. I’m not going to get swept up by the mainstream hyperbole and tell you that it dials the absurdity up to “11”—but it pushes a solid 9.
9. Snowflake [Schneeflöckchen] – In near-future Berlin, Javid and Tan find their fate preordained by a dentist’s ever-changing movie script as they pursue vengeance for their family’s deaths while in turn being pursued by hit men hired by the daughter of two bystanders they murdered while on their quest. Giles Edwards described it as “the cross-section where Delirious and Fight Club meet Adaptation as an action-revenge-comedy littered with comic book energy and political commentary…” Perhaps the best screenplay of the year; sadly, this was too weird to receive a theatrical release in this country, but it is readily available on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD.
10. Apocalypsis – In a dystopian future/present/alternate history, a saintly albino woman has visions while reading the book of Revelation, and tries to convert an atheistic conspiracy theorist/hacktivist who’s being hunted by agents of the New World Order. Taken at face value, it’s an ecumenical outreach from the end times crowd to the chemtrails crowd, with bad acting and cheap but surprisingly effective acid trip visuals sprinkled throughout. The year’s most accomplished, and weirdest, “outsider” offering. Director’s notes explain that it all takes place in an alternate universe about to be swallowed up by a black hole.
7. Annihilation – As her husband, the only survivor of an expedition into a bizarre phenomena referred to as the Shimmer, recuperates, a biologist enters the region in search of answers. ‘s sophomore feature reminds us of and ‘s enough for us to broadly categorize this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s science fiction novel offering as a “weird movie.” It’s a pretty great one by any measuring stick.
6. The Wild Boys [Les garçons sauvages] – After raping and accidentally murdering their literature teacher, five miscreant boys are sent to sea for discipline, under the supervision of a flinty captain. offers “captain’s map-tattooed member; open-faced uterus gun holster; cactus ambrosia-jizz plant” as potential “three weird things” entries.
4. Night is Short, Walk on Girl -Shy, lovestruck “Senpai” follows peppy schoolgirl “Otome” from afar over an almost endless surreal night that includes philosophical drinking contests, fire-eating contests, an encounter with the God of Used Books, a peripatetic musical theater, and a cold epidemic. Someone must have spiked the brandy with mescaline in this hallucinatory anime romantic comedy. does it again, but in a whimsical way.
8. Madeline’s Madeline – A troubled 16-year old girl escapes her neurotic home life by immersing herself in an experimental theater troupe. ‘s breakthrough film is a promising and passionate shot across the bow of the timid indie drama scene, a collection of typical film festival narrative preoccupations—dysfunctional family dynamics, reflective meditations on the trials of the working artist—blurred by an experimental film lens. Young Helena Howard is a star in the making, and let’s hope she won’t forget her weird, arty roots after she’s cast as a Marvel superheroine down the road.