It’s 2023. But I’m taking a last gasp of 2022 with my ‘best of’ list, albeit one that focuses solely on horror. Why just horror? It kinda defined my new release viewing across the year, so it made sense for me to keep things narrow.
Let’s get on with it (in alphabetical order):
BARBARIAN (dir. Zach Cregger, USA)
I walked into the cinema not expecting much; I walked away mighty impress. A well-worn horror scenario assembled with enlightening reinvention, full of red herrings and hidden corridors. Eschews ‘elevated’ wankdom (although with today’s obligatory #metoo message) to get back to horror basics. And it stars Justin Long.
THE BLACK PHONE (dir. Scott Derrickson, USA)
The best Stephen King film of the year, not written by Stephen King. Cleverly uses its 1978 setting to create a kids-own world of bullying, domestic violence and the threat of something else: a balloon-carrying man with a van. The incorporation of supernatural elements was a surprise but one used to chilling effect, as was the constantly masked Ethan Hawke in the role of ‘The Grabber’.
FRESH (dir. Mimi Cave, USA)
A hootenanny of a watch from start to (slightly wonky) finish. In many ways, the less said the better, because this only really reveals its hand about 30 minutes in, along with the opening titles. Anyone who’s experienced online dating will get a kick out of its tongue-in-cheek, cynical ‘dissection’ of this new world of consumerism.
MEN (dir. Alex Garland, UK)
It’s one of those hate it or love it films, and I’m pleased to say I fall into the latter camp. One of my most enjoyable cinema-going adventures of the year (and one I did three times) that continues to provide oodles of conversation and conjecture, as well as a Cronenbergundian finale that outdid Cronenberg’s 2022 output.
THE NORTHMAN (dir. Robert Eggers, US, China, UK)
Okay, it’s not strictly a horror genre film, but there’s an argument that every Eggers is horror of some form, so I’m going with that argument. Also, there’s something so entirely ridiculous and overblown about this film that it could possibly have inched into my ‘worst of’ list, but nah. Our Nic is at her ice princess best.
THE STRANGER (dir. Thomas M. Wright, Australia)
Wright established a ‘tone’ with his previous feature, the under-seen ACUTE MISFORTUNE (2018), which he propagates to magnificent effect here. A taut, quietly malevolent pot-boiler that gets under the skin, and worse – gets into your brain. I can’t wait to see what Wright does next.
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT (dir. Gia Elliot, USA)
Another horror for the #metoo generation. Could have been trite but this low-budget stunner makes the most of its limitations to create a truly effective monster movie and, dare I say it, a truly effective CGI monster. Perfect example of the how good storytelling trumps all else. All hail Emma Fitzpatrick.
YOU WON’T BE ALONE (dir. Goran Stolevski, Australia, UK, Serbia)
Gritty, visceral, guttural, muscular, icky…. choose your adjectives, because there’s a lot that can be applied to this film. A searing tribute to the power of femininity that genuinely deserves to be described as unique. Told almost entirely in close-ups and with a harsh, whispered narration in Macedonia. Stunning.
AN HONOURABLE MENTION GOES TO…
TOP GUN: MAVERICK (dir. Joseph Kosinski, USA)
It’s not a horror film but it’s a ripper and deserves to be on every ‘best of’ list for 2022.