The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! This time around, we’re taking a look at the very best horror efforts that have graced screens so far during the year that is 2022…
Earlier on in the year, I wrote a piece (here) highlighting how good the genre has been to us during the first part of 2022. Now, half of the way through, that continues to be true. You’ll be able to see my top five momentarily, but I will say three films have really stood out, horror-wise, so far. They are, in alphabetical order, Fresh, Scream, and X. Three very different movies that still offered up a ton to horror fans. Now, on to the list!
Here are my picks for the five best horror films so far in 2022, accompanied by a piece from my review:
Without question, Men is a lot to take in. Just know that going in. Finding the horror in emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and toxic masculinity is tricky ground to traverse, but this latest A24 elevated horror film largely succeeds. It asks a lot of you, both in terms of its formal presentation as well as its thematic elements. Writer/director Alex Garland builds on the love of challenging genre cinema that he’s been crafting as a director, with Men fitting in solidly between Ex Machina and Annihilation. Less likely to get awards attention than the former and less likely to be a cult favorite like the latter, it still very much carves its own unique path. If nothing else, it’s more evidence that whatever Garland crafts is worth taking notice of.
What makes Men more than just an exercise in suffering is striking visuals, tremendous acting, and an open-ended nature that leaves at least a bit open to interpretation. This slow burn will leave a mark on you, that’s for sure. The question is just whether it will be a positive one or not. For my money, while there are missteps, much more works here than does not. Plus, there’s at least one sequence in the movie that you literally have to see in order to believe. Garland fans are going to want to pour over this one for as much meaning as possible.
This may sound like a criticism for a film that I like, but The Black Phone should be scarier. A horror flick that plays more like a thriller, this has a terrifying premise, to be sure. Oddly, the movie opts not to go overboard in terms of terror. While that could make for a less satisfying final product in some cases, here it’s not the case. This is so rock-solid in its craftsmanship that even if you’re not cowering in fear, you’re constantly compelled. There’s a ton to like here, even if sheer horror is not really something on the film’s mind.
The Black Phone may be a Joe Hill adaptation, but it really does feel like a Stephen King work. That’s obviously a comparison both have tried to avoid in the past, but Scott Derrickson really does lean in to the King of it all. It meets Stand By Me, with a bit of Panic Room thrown in, isn’t the worst way to describe this flick. Fans of the short story will likely be pleased, but it’s hardly a prerequisite for enjoying his one.
Throwback horror serves many a purpose when it’s done well. Not only does let you appreciate what’s come before, but it also potentially introduces a whole new audience to the glory days of the genre. In making X a hybrid of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a behind the scenes look at the making of something like Debbie Does Dallas, the film manages to blaze its own trail while bowing its head to cinematic history. Regardless of if you’ve seen 70’s fare or not, you can understand what’s being homaged, as well as what’s being satirized or even given a new spin. The movie is very good on its own, but the more you get it, the better it becomes.
X is a great example of how you can honor the genre classics while still very much doing your own thing. Plus, in mixing horror with pornography, it’s a surprisingly deft showcase for how both types of filmmaking has an entrepreneurial and independent spirit. Writer/director Ti West knows his scary movies, but he also knows how to pay tribute while not just being a copycat. His affection meets with his strong storytelling to delivery arguably his most complete flick to date. West has made throwbacks before, but this is his best one yet.
The Sundance Film Festival can sometimes feel like it’s showing audiences the same things over and over again. When that mold is broken, well, that’s when the fest shines brightest. Nothing beats seeing something completely new. The excitement is there and you have the sense that careers are being watched. Sundance obviously is virtual here in 2022, and that’s both good and bad for many reasons, but it is a shame not to be on the ground in Park City for the unveiling of Fresh. Without question, this would have been the talk of the fest. This movie is a thriller that is as fun as it is gory, as satirical as it is violent, and as funny as it is exciting. It’s a home run.
Fresh is a demented delight, through and through. Skewering the modern dating scene while also telling a thriller tale we’ve never seen before, it weaves an enthralling web. Deeply rooted in genre but also feeling somehow above it, all the while never seemingly “above” it, it’s an accomplishment I’ve been just giddy thinking about for the last day. This deserves to be the big crossover hit of the festival this year, without question.
This might be a controversial statement, but I don’t think there has been a bad installment in the Scream franchise. Scream 2 and Scream 4 are legitimately great horror sequels. Scream 3 is the clear weak spot, but it’s still very solid and more than entertainment enough to recommend. So, there’s definitely a decent bar to clear with a new Scream. Luckily, this version, simply called Scream instead of Scream 5, is the best sequel in the series. Bloody, funny, reverential, but also willing to go in new directions, it’s everything you can hope for in a horror sequel. If this is the end of the franchise, it’s going out on a high note. If it’s new life, it’s a bold sign of what might be to come.
Scream is, perhaps surprisingly, the most meta of the series to date. Not content to just be a goof slasher flick (which it is), the film takes aim at sequels of its own ilk. Also on the chopping block is the fictional Stab franchise, as well as elevated horror in general. What could have been scattershot and an attempt to be relevant instead feels like genuine freshness and the natural next step for this series. The movie bites off a lot, but its intelligence and sense of fun means that it never comes off as more than it can chew.
Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!