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! Today, one of the last 2022 installments of the column looks back on the horror efforts of the year…
What you’ll see below are ten scary movies that were the cream of the crop this year. I’ll mostly be linking to my reviews, but they basically all come highly recommended. Especially in the top four, they’re quite good. Plus, I’m roping in none other than Myles Hughes to provide his own list. After all, we haven’t already spoken about horror enough this year on the podcast, haven’t we?
Enjoy, and as the aforementioned added bonus, let us begin with our own Myles’ list for 2022:
2. Crimes of the Future
8. The Black Phone
*Special Citation from both Myles and myself: The Batman*
Now, here are some of the best fright flicks of 2022:
Neil LaBute has made a career out of men behaving badly. Work like In the Company of Men established the playwright and filmmaker as someone chronicling the worst impulses of the gender. Now, he’s trying something different with House of Darkness. Here, LaBute isn’t reversing the roles so much as course correcting, and in doing so, seems brought to new life. If this isn’t quite the movie you’d expect from him, he does prove that he’s the right man for the job. This also stands out as one of his more distinctive efforts, even if I was reminded a bit of The Shape of Things, at least in very broad strokes.
House of Darkness is as if LaBute crossed Promising Young Woman with Tusk, by way of Bram Stoker. If that sounds a little unwieldy, well, it threatens to be. However, LaBute and company know what kind of a film they’re making, so it’s always kept in check. As tense thrillers go, this is a creative one, in that it’s almost all talking (not that LaBute fans will be surprised).
Mia Goth and Ti West have something special going right now. What they crafted earlier this year with X was pretty damn great, so this surprise sequel was a joy to find out about. Now, having seen Pearl at the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s more interesting to know that this exists. While X was a riff on horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pearl is closer in nature to the work of John Waters. Twisted but bathed in technicolor, the flick is unlike anything else out there. Midnight Madness at TIFF was made for something like this.
Pearl will confound some, but those on its wavelength will get a major kick out of it. Now, I will says, I was rubbed very much the wrong way by the film’s cruel streak towards animals, but it certainly establishes how off-kilter our protagonist is. I just wish the cruelty was centered more on humans, but that’s me.
Is Smile occasionally over-directed? Sure (I loves me some Dutch angles, Parker… but I don’t love them that much). Is it a paragon of inimitability in the horror genre? Absolutely not. But I’ll tell you this much: A24 could learn a thing or two from Smile, a movie that doesn’t dilute its own thrills or wander away from being anything other than an effective horror experience.
In this current cinematic landscape, that’s close to a flat-out miracle. *Reviewed by Robert Hamer*
Three films in, Jordan Peele has established himself as an event storyteller. Get Out shocked the cinematic world, winning him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in the process (not to mention Oscar nominations in Best Director and Best Picture, to boot). Us didn’t have the same awards cache, but cemented him as a “social horror” master and a filmmaker you pay close attention to. Now with Nope, Peele has managed to up the ante. The movie is bigger and in some ways bolder than anything he’s done before, even if there are missteps along the way. The film has an element of Steven Spielberg-esque spectacle to it, which is a new playground Peele’s chosen to frolic in. Regardless of if you like, love, or even find Nope to be a misfire, it’s impossible not to consider this director at the forefront of Hollywood storytelling. No one does metaphors like him.
Nope has a lot of the hallmarks you expect from Peele, with added ambition and spectacle this time around. Not all of it works, but when it does, it has moments that mesmerize. He knows how to craft cinema with a capital C, and it shows. The fact that this mix of science fiction and horror, with ample laughs thrown in, even has room for an element of filmmaking to be a part of the narrative shows that he doesn’t lack for drive. Even when parts of the flick don’t stand tall, others are right there to shoulder the load.
6. Terrifer 2
Art the Clown is back! After making a memorable starring debut in Terrifier (technically he appeared in the anthology film All Hallows Eve, but played by a different actor), the murderous clown is returning to take his place as the next great movie monster. Terrifier 2 injects steroids into the tiny horror flick that came before it, making a slasher epic. The bold move results in more gore, more kills, and more scares, but also added mythology and supernatural elements that just don’t really work. You almost never get two hour plus horror films, and this doesn’t earn that length, but it does have a lot of what you want out of a Terrifier sequel, that’s for sure.
Terrifier 2 is on the extreme side, but only really if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Anyone familiar with Art’s previous murderous antics will be prepared for the carnage at hand. So, if you’re concerned about reports of people passing out at screenings, just question if they went in blind or not. Sure, there’s some real gnarly murders here, but nothing so beyond the pale as to have someone require medical attention.
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.
What a joy it is to be surprised by a film. When you’re in my line of work, that doesn’t happen too often. Most of the time, you know too much, in fact. So, when circumstances dictated that I was headed to a screening of Barbarian without really any knowledge of what it was about, the possibilities were endless. Thrillingly, this movie would upend any expectations, so already going in cold provided a ridiculously good time. Funny, novel, scary, and incredibly tense, this has just about everything a genre fan could ask for. The fact that it’s deeply original as well? Well, that’s just some bloody icing on the cake.
Barbarian is a lot of fun because it’s aware of how to subvert your expectations. It’s quite impossible to guess where this one is ever going, so giving yourself over to the story is a joy. It’s like a roller coaster, zooming through its genre conventions in search of something new. For my money, this is one of the more purely enjoyable experiences I’ve had with a horror/thriller in some time.
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.
What were your favorite horror films of 2022? Let us know!