The most bizarre movies coming out in 2018 that will melt your mind

Sometimes we go to movies to laugh, sometimes we go to cry, and sometimes we want to have our brains royally screwed with. No medium like film can take you on a psychedelic trip, make you question the nature of everything around you, or get you inside the head space of the truly deranged—and it appears that 2018 might yield a bumper crop of movies designed to blow the doors right off our fragile brains. Here are some upcoming movies that will melt your mind.

Annihilation (Feb. 23)

Jeff VanderMeer's 2014 novel Annihilation was a hit, and also a maddening, challenging read. It's the story of an expedition—the 12th, with the previous 11 all ending in various tragedies—to a place called Area X, a portion of the Earth where everything has gone wrong and the laws of physics no longer seem to apply. The novel promised to be just as challenging to adapt as it was to read, but recent footage previewed to an audience at CinemaCon Las Vegas may have proven that the tricky adaptation is in very sure hands.

Written and directed by Ex Machina and Dredd scribe Alex Garland, Annihilation will also benefit from the talents of veteran actress Jennifer Jason Leigh and the always-reliable Natalie Portman. The advance footage shown off in Vegas is said to be creepy and atmospheric, with only a hint of the insanity that must necessarily follow from a faithful adaptation of the novel.

Abruptio (May 31)

From writer/director Evan Marlowe comes Abruptio, a thriller with an intense premise: a man wakes up one morning to find that a bomb has been implanted in his neck. If he wants to keep it from going off, he has to do things—horrible things—all while trying to find out who is doing this to him and why. It sounds pretty bizarre, even before you get to the part in the synopsis where it explains that all the characters "will be performed by life-sized, realistic latex puppets."

Providing voice work are James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in the lead, along with horror icons Sid Haig and Robert Englund, and future horror icon Jordan Peele. While it's worth acknowledging that employing puppets to tell the story of a man forced to do things against his will has the ring of potential brilliance, it's also likely that Abruptio may be the kind of Uncanny Valley head-screw that will send audience members with certain sensitivities screaming into the theater lobby. With a tentative release date of May 31, we'll just have to wait to see whether it's a work of genius, madness, or both.

Mortal Engines (Dec. 14)

The Mortal Engines series of YA novels has been ripe for adaptation for some time, and author Philip Reeve's vision will finally hit the big screen next year. The novels are set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future where enormous cities on wheels scour a devastated Earth for resources—and do battle with each other. Such a setting will require filmmakers with a strong grasp of epic scale, and fortunately, the adaptation of the first book—also called Mortal Engines—is in the right hands.

Producer Peter Jackson will be co-scripting along with his Lord of the Rings co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, with directing duties handed off to Christian Rivers, a second-unit director on all three LotR films, making his feature directing debut. Up-and-coming Irish actor Robert Sheehan has been cast in the lead, heading up an interesting cast that includes Colin Salmon (Arrow)Patrick Malahide (Game of Thrones), and Jackson favorite Hugo Weaving. 

Early concept art shared by the producer suggests that fans of the novels have a lot to be excited about, but they're going to have to wait for awhile—Mortal Engines doesn't arrive in theaters until December 14, 2018. 

The House That Jack Built (TBD)

Not many filmmakers are as visually provocative as Lars von Trier, which makes any new project of his a potential brain-bender. But his forthcoming The House That Jack Built sports a truly unsettling premise: it's an examination of the career of a serial killer who has been active for more than a decade and who views each of his murders as a work of art. In the hands of von Trier, such a story promises a deep, dark psychological ride.

Veteran actor Matt Dillon will take the lead, with Bruno Ganz and Uma Thurman also among the announced cast. IFC Films, which was brave enough to release von Trier's 2009 work of insanity Antichrist, announced at Cannes earlier this year that it had snapped up the rights to the film's distribution. Oddly, von Trier had first pitched the project as a television miniseries before deciding to shoot it as a feature on a minuscule budget. No firm release date has been announced, but The House That Jack Built will hit theaters next year. If its maker's previous body of work is any indication whatsoever, it's sure to be not so much a film as an unnerving experience of the highest order.

Ready Player One (March 30)

Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One secured a film deal before the book was even in stores, and it makes sense that Hollywood would view it as a potent property. The novel's plot involves a VR gamer in a dystopian future who must run a gauntlet of '80s pop culture-themed challenges while looking for an Easter egg, and it piles on references to properties from Tempest to Blade Runner to Monty Python and the Holy Grail—making it a bit tricky to adapt from a licensing standpoint.

But having Steven Spielberg on board to direct never hurt any project's chances, and a recently released trailer implies heavily that any significant licensing problems have been resolved. While fan reactions have been mixed, it's tough to see why—if you can keep your head from spinning long enough, you'll pick out appearances by the Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, Duke Nukem, Deadshot, Gandalf, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, a '58 Plymouth Fury named Christine, and the Batmobile, just for starters. 

Ready Player One was originally scheduled to be released during the holiday season, but was wisely pushed back to avoid competing with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Fans will have to wait to see how Cline's pinnacle of nerd culture translates to the big screen. 

Mom and Dad (TBD)

From the mind of the man who brought Crank and Crank: High Voltage to the screen comes Mom and Dad, a suburban horror flick that pits kids against their parents when a mysterious plague turns the would-be caretakers into rage-filled murderers. Starring the pitch-perfectly cast Nic Cage and Selma Blair as a pair of lethal guardians, the film is said to exploit the former's "natural inclination to turn his performances all the way up to, and past, 11."

Speaking with Deadline at The Toronto Film Festival in 2017, where audiences first saw the bloody bash, Cage said, "I saw this as my right to exercise my belief in freedom of speech. This was Sex Pistols from start to finish, this is punk rock." Translation: If Nic Cage thinks it's crazy, imagine how general audiences will feel.

Combined with The Guardian's additional note that "the infanticidal imagery will linger, whether you like it or not," if director Brian Taylor also decided to crank up his usual penchant for frenzied pacing and eye-popping visuals, the resulting film should be something to behold. 

Captive State (Aug. 17)

Captive State is a sci-fi thriller with a cerebral concept: what would your average neighborhood look like a decade or so after an occupation by a hostile force? Moreover, what if that hostile force were extraterrestrial? The film will explore the neighborhood dynamics between the human dissidents and collaborators, and according to its official synopsis will employ "a grounded sci-fi setting to shine light on the modern surveillance state and the threats to civil liberties and the role of dissent within an authoritarian society."

Rupert Wyatt, the man at the helm of all three modern Planet of the Apes films, recently wrapped this production with the help of an amazing cast that includes John Goodman, D.B. Sweeney, The Conjuring star Vera Farmiga, and Moonlight's Ashton Sanders. The script was the subject of a bidding war won by Participant Media late last year, and production went into overdrive immediately after it was announced—which means the production company is pretty positive it has a hit on its hands.

A Wrinkle in Time (March 9)

Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 YA novel A Wrinkle in Time has been melting young brains for generations. The story of a precocious teen girl who must rescue her psychic younger brother from a fate worse than death with the help of interdimensional beings Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, the book's more surreal aspects have made it highly resistant to live-action adaptation. But this shouldn't be a problem for Disney, which has loaded the production with a budget north of $100 million and an all-star cast.

Selma director Ava DuVernay will be at the helm, becoming the first woman of color ever to direct a big-budget live-action tentpole film. Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen screenwriter Jennifer Lee is responsible for the script, and the aforementioned stellar cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Ant-Man's Michael Pena, 12 Years a Slave's Storm Reid, and none other than Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which. According to DuVernay, fans of the novel can expect an updated yet faithful adaptation, meaning that filmgoers of all stripes should be in for a brain-bending good time.

Alita: Battle Angel (July 20)

A live-action adaptation of the post-apocalyptic manga and anime Battle Angel Alita has been in the works since 2010, when the project was suggested to producer James Cameron by his friend Guillermo del Toro. While Cameron took to the idea immediately, he was really only familiar with one of the books in the manga series—until co-writer Laeta Kalogridis came aboard and opened Cameron's eyes to just how deep the property was.

As Cameron's producing partner Jon Landau explained, "We were very close to doing [Battle Angel] before Avatar," but "we really wanted to take our time in developing a large arc-ing story that really encompasses the whole world." Cameron had originally intended to direct, but with his plate all full of Avatar sequels for the next several years at least, that duty has fallen into more than capable hands—Robert Rodriguez, the man behind the Machete and Sin City films, has been tapped. The cast is also shaping up nicely, with Jennifer Connelly recently joining an ensemble already stacked with Jackie Earle Haley, Mahershala Ali, and Christoph Waltz. Landau had previously noted that the title would need work since Cameron only makes films that start with T or A, and it turns out he wasn't joking. It's now called Alita: Battle Angel.

The Endless (TBD)

Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are fans of the Tribeca Film Festival, and Festival officials return their affection. Tribeca Executive VP Paula Weinstein labeled them "artists to watch" after the strong showing of their 2012 thriller Resolution, and their latest film The Endless performed admirably there as well. The movie, in which the co-directors also star as characters who share their actual first names, explores the mindset of a pair of brothers who have escaped the clutches of a cult but are compelled to return years later by a mysterious tape sent in the mail.

Early images from the film hint at a trippy visual aesthetic, and the plot synopsis suggests that the cult's crazy otherworldly beliefs maybe aren't so crazy after all. It all adds up to a project that just might be worth keeping a close eye on, coming from a pair of ambitious filmmakers who seem due for a breakout hit. The film's Tribeca appearance led to a wide North American distribution deal, with an eye toward an early 2018 release date.

Sorry To Bother You (TBD)

A story set in a "macabre, magical-realist" version of Oakland, California, Sorry to Bother You is the story of a down-on-his-luck African-American telemarketer who discovers a magical key to upward mobility—the ability to make his voice sound like a famous white actor. Propelling himself to business success, he stumbles upon the bizarre truth about his corporate overlords … which, if the filmmaker's pedigree is an indication, should be just as insane as it is on-the-nose.

Sorry to Bother You is the directorial debut of legendary rapper Boots Riley of Oakland rap group The Coup, which has spent over two decades making some of the most subversive, anti-corporate music anyone has ever heard. His presence alone, along with the film's screwy premise, is enough to guarantee a heaping helping of provocative wit and craziness—but with Patton Oswalt, David Cross, and Danny freaking Glover seeing enough in the project to sign on, we just might be looking at a genre-defying, anti-authoritarian, rebellious screed for the ages. Currently in production, Sorry to Bother You will make its way to theaters sometime next year.

Night on Bald Mountain (TBD)

The astonishing success of this year's live-action Beauty and the Beast remake has encouraged Disney to dig deeper than ever before in search of properties that are ripe for a similar treatment. As we await Guy Ritchie's Aladdin, Tim Burton's Dumbo and many, many more, one project has flown quietly under the radar for a couple years—a live-action adaptation of Night on Bald Mountain, the scariest, trippiest segment of the landmark 1940 film Fantasia

The segment—which is notably short on actual plot—features a towering, demonic winged creature called Chernabog that presides over a night of festivities for a host of restless spirits, and it's the classic Disney animation style at its most surreal and unsettling. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who penned the Vin Diesel vehicle The Last Witch Hunter and contributed the story to this year's Power Rangers reboot, have reportedly been developing the script, which insiders say will focus on the backstory of the demonic Chernabog much as Maleficent did for Sleeping Beauty's villainous witch. No firm release date has been set, but Night on Bald Mountain should arrive to rekindle old childhood nightmares sometime in 2018.

The House with a Clock in its Walls (Sept. 21)

Based on the 1973 gothic horror novel written John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in its Walls tells the story of Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan who goes to live with his uncle Jonathan, only to find out "that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan's house."

With an all-star cast of Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, and Kyle MacLachlan bringing the principal characters to life, and relative newcomer Owen Vaccaro taking the role of Lewis, not to mention the backing of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, the prospect of this film being a stunner looks pretty solid. It also happens to be the first of a 12-novel series, so the pressure of delivering a unique creative infusion into an already very Harry Potter-esque concept has to be high.

The House with a Clock in its Walls will also be the first foray into the YA genre for director Eli Roth, known for his innovative and brutal contributions to the decidedly adult horror genre with films like Cabin Fever, Hostel, and The Green Inferno. However, with Roth's interpretation of Gorey's imagery, described by Birth.Movies.Death as "stunning gothic artwork," mixed with an approach to material that needs to appeal to a broad audience, this film could prove to be mind-melting and terrifying all at once.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (TBD)

Perhaps no feature film has endured such a rocky ride to screens as director Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. His quest to get the film made long ago began to mirror the foolish, futile endeavors of the Quixote of the classic Cervantes novel; an entire feature documentary, Lost In La Mancha, was produced chronicling the never-ending series of disasters which nearly caused Gilliam to give up on the project forever, and that was in 2002. But somehow, improbably, Gilliam's labor of love and/or madness is coming to theaters next year (which can only be confidently announced because it has wrapped shooting), and it sounds every bit worth the wait.

The story focuses on an old man who believes he is the legendary Quixote, who mistakes a confused advertising executive for his faithful squire and proceeds to drag the man through a time-jumping, mind-bending adventure where dreams and reality become tough to tell apart. 

Gilliam reminded everyone of his Monty Python roots with his deadpan, self-deprecating announcement of the shoot's completion: "Don Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist, and a romantic, determined not to accept the limitations of reality, marching on regardless of setbacks, as we have done," he said. "Any sensible person would have given up years ago, but sometimes pig-headed dreamers win in the end, so thank you to all of the ill-paid fantasists and believers who have joined to make this longstanding dream a reality!"

Inversion (TBD)

The sci-fi thriller Inversion has two things going for it right off the bat: Samuel L. Jackson (who may at this point be employing clones to keep up with his workload), and an insane premise. Jackson will portray a Homeland Security investigator hot on the trail of an American con man and a Chinese scientist whom he thinks are responsible for a whole new type of natural disaster—sudden, unexplained loss of gravity.

The $130 million production is sure to be long on crazy spectacle, and it also marks the beginning of an interesting endeavor—it's the first feature from Facing East, a Hong Kong/Beijing-based production company that will produce films intended for both the American and Chinese markets. In addition to Jackson and Travis Fimmel (star of Warcraft, which did very well in China), Chinese actress Yifei Liu will be making her Hollywood debut in the film. Children of Men scribe David Arata co-wrote the script with Bragi F. Schut (Season of the Witch) and Oscar winner Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), and veteran director Peter Segal (Anger Management) will be at the helm. No release date has been set, but we can look forward to Inversion flipping our lids sometime next year.

The Mandela Effect (TBD)

In 2010, a blogger coined the "Mandela effect" to describe a situation that seemed to be on the rise with the internet: people remembering the same events in different ways, sometimes completely differently. The term comes from the fact that an odd number of people seemed to remember South African president Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. (He didn't.) Perhaps the most popular and visible "evidence" is that opposing groups can't agree on the spelling of the popular children's book series The Berenstain Bears. (Hint: it's that one.)

Since memory is highly unreliable, it's an effect to which almost anyone is susceptible, and if you care to research the phenomenon, the hole goes insanely deep. But such a head-twisty concept is overdue for the Hollywood treatment: co-writer and director David Guy Levy (Would You Rather) will bring The Mandela Effect to the big screen, starring Charlie Hofheimer as a man for whom the everyday details of the world begin to change—and keep changing, until he starts to question the nature of reality itself. Levy called the concept "a timely and relatable topic which we think audiences will really gravitate towards, and we are excited to make this into a heady sci-fi film that will ooze with indie spirit." Production is currently underway, and The Mandela Effect will hit the screen sometime in 2018—just don't be surprised if you show up expecting the story of Mandela's life.