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.
Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN series represents a high watermark in cinema history, so it gives me no end of pleasure to have contributed to Second Sight‘s sublime limited edition release of the 7th and final film in the Hammer FRANKENSTEIN franchise, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974).
My contribution is an essay on class and privilege in the booklet of this release, which sits alongside other essays by Kevin Lyons and Kelly Robinson. I was also tickled pink to have passed the Hammer Studios test with barely an edit to my piece, which feels like winning an Oscar in my world.
Peter Cushing is utterly brilliant here as the mad scientist descending even further into madness (while mourning is wife in real life – note his extra-deathly pallor).
I’m in labour. My new book baby, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, is ready to be birthed (i.e. on pre-order).
I’m pretty much fully dilated and ready to expel this little monster into the world. She is the progeny of many creators (a gang-bang you may say, but please don’t judge me). She is also fully sensorial, which means as well as caressing your eyeballs, she will give you an olfactory experience you’ll never forget.
Be still my beating heart. This film. VIDEODROME. Cinema doesn’t get much better. And this beautiful 4K Ultra HD Special Release from Arrow Films even smells fantastic.
I’m proud to have contributed a retrospective roundtable discussion for the booklet with Cerise Howard, Dr Josh Nelson and Dr Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. But this is only a small portion of this special release, which is bursting with vivid viscerality.
THE NIGHT PORTER (dir. Liliana Cavani, 1974) is one of those films that is well-known. But for all the wrong reasons, and not for good reason either. This means it’s often languishing at the bottom of ‘to watch’ lists when it should be promoted to the top.
Not only is it a marvel to see Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling at the top of their game here, but it is a extremely touching, rawly human love story – surprisingly so, and uncomfortably so for many, which sadly means a remarkable piece of cinema is simply dismissed as exploitation.
To take on the self-appointed task of defending THE NIGHT PORTER on The Projection Booth with Mike White and Kat Ellinger was challenging and, although I don’t usually listen back to my podcast appearances, this is one where I decided to replay snippets and see if I rose to that challenge. I was pleased by what I heard, and even more pleased to hear Kat’s insights (she is definitely one of the best commentators on classic cinema working today).
So, why not have a listen yourself? With a little bit of luck, we might help you see THE NIGHT PORTER through fresh eyes and ‘get under its skin’.
On Sunday 7th August 2022, I hosted a Q&A with filmmaker Sophie Hyde, actor Daryl McCormack (pictured left) and Emma Thompson (pictured right) following a special advanced screening of GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE at Cinema Nova.
And what an occasion it was! The audience was pumped, the film was feel-good fab, and we were all left floating on air (mainly due to Dame Emma’s enigmatic presence). Here’s photo evidence…
Joining Alex von Hofmann and Kym Logan on their That Reminds Me Of podcast recently was a reunion of sorts, given Kym and I worked together in a former life. So, it’s little wonder that we spent 1.5 hours discussing the ins & outs of the film MEN and other assorted film banter.
I didn’t realise I was going to appear on camera as part of this recording, which gives our chat a decidedly relaxed quality. A blessing, maybe? I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
And as an added ‘bonus’, there’s an extra 30 minutes of me banging on about me, which you can watch right here…
Time got away from me, so consider this post a belated shout-out for Cinema Nova’s Film Club screening of MEN, starring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear (brilliance x 2!), which saw me join host KoKo for a post-film audience discussion.
This event possibly involved far longer ramblings from me than anticipated, given the film rendered the audience semi-mute but – hey – that’s the sign of a good film, I say.
I will take this as an opportunity to encourage all foolhardy filmgoers to give this one a shot – not for the lily-livered but worth it if you don’t mind a bit of folk-body-horror.