As we looked back at 2018, each of the Mercury’s movie critics decided to highlight just one of our favorite movies of the year—movies that might not get as many awards or eyes as the most talked-about or financially successful films of the year, but movies that are still very much worth watching and rewatching.

What is this beautiful, terrifying thing called Annihilation? Is it sci-fi? Horror? Extended metaphor? Okay, fine: Metaphor for what, then? For cancer? Depression? Fuck it, maybe it’s just shimmering, grotesquely gorgeous weirdness for the sake of it, since writer/director Alex Garland certainly isn’t interested in making this dread-soaked daymare all that plotty. Like his previous film, Ex Machina, Annihilation’s story only exists to ensnare its characters—and, once they’re trapped, to squeeze until the why of them is forced into the air. Will whatever is released explode, or will it wither? It will transform, as we all do, and there’s something simultaneously comforting and terrifying about that certainty. Those contradictory emotions are intertwined in every aspect of Annihilation—on the faces of its amazing cast (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac), in the grounded otherworldliness of its visuals, and in a mesmerizing score that presses lilting stringed melodies into cramped spaces filled with blawping electric gutterances. Not many films really examine all the aspects of metamorphosis, physical and psychological, the way Annihilation does. (dir. Alex Garland, available via iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Movie Madness)

Read more of the Mercury’s award-winning* movies and TV coverage! For movie times, click here.

*Not actually award-winning