Yeah, I get it. I’m late and lazy, as my dad used to say. (He couldn’t use the phrase “a day late and a dollar short” because that’s why he was in prison.)
I’m late to the Best Of Party because I was waiting for The Menu to hit HBO Max, and I’m lazy for only selecting horror films. The reason being: not only was 2022 a pretty decent year for horror cinema, it also felt a little anachronistic trying to sandwich Tár in-between X and The Sadness.
But the approach did allow me to consume more horror than I usually do, which is always a plus. And I’m here to say the offerings this year were quite excellent. Hell, in an average cycle around the sun, films like Sissy (Australia), Midnight (South Korea), Hatching (Finland), and Piggy (Spain) would all fit comfortably in my Top 10. That’s how good of a year it was.
(Also, while not good enough to be discussed in any kind of Best Of conversation, I was quite partial to the Terror Train remake and its same-year sequel. The films aren’t great, but that’s kinda what I’m driving at here. They were not great in that early 80s slasher cycle kind of way. More streaming services like Tubi should spend a few million dollars every year—pennies to them!—financing low budget slasher movies for their platforms. Let hungry, up-and-coming directors take a swing and get some reps in. If we’re replacing the video store with streaming, let’s fucking do it right, man.)
But enough chit-chat. I could write an entire book celebrating bad movies. Let’s get to it.
10. The Cursed
Appropriately named, The Cursed was doomed immediately with its February release date and generic title. Making matters worse, it’s now just languishing away on Hulu rather unceremoniously. I hadn’t even heard of the damned thing until two weeks ago. Which is a total shame for such a fun monster movie.
The Cursed, directed by Sean Ellis, begins as a werewolf period piece à la Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) and The Wolfman (2010) and morphs into something more. . .I think the term, “Lovecraftian” is overused, so I’ll go with The Thing-like.
Fuck, I guess that’s Lovecraftian, too.
9. Crimes of the Future
David Cronenberg needs no introduction to the audience reading this. And, to be sure, having The Master return to the body horror that made him a basement-hold name is worthy of celebration on its own. Unfortunately, Crimes of the Future feels more like a paint-by-numbers retread of all the director’s previous themes. That being said, Cronenberg aping Cronenberg is still pretty fucking great, and Viggo Mortensen turns in one of my favorite performances of the year.
An American Audition of sorts for the post #MeToo era, Andrew Semans’ Resurrection is built on the dual powerhouse performances of Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth. The film is a small, tense thriller about gaslighting and power dynamics—and it ends as happily as you might imagine.
7. Speak No Evil
Speaking of happy endings! Take the revolver out of your mouth and throw this one on!
The first of two Sam Raimi-inspired movies on this list—in a year where even Raimi himself directed a film!
Zach Creggar from The Whitest Kids U’ Know may not have been a name associated with the likes of Evil Dead II or Drag Me to Hell, but it will be now. Forever. His film Barbarian is every bit deserving to be mentioned in such company.
Having said he wanted to do “David Fincher above and Sam Raimi below,” Creggar takes a stressful Airbnb situation (Fincher) and turns it into a violent bloodbath (Raimi) in a tonal balancing act that threatens catastrophe with every bizarre structural change. However, everything holds together like a bunch of blood-soaked bandaids on a broken leg.
I.e., it’ll get you to the hospital, but it’s still funny and crazy as all hell.
5. The Sadness
You’ve seen The Sadness before. If you’ve seen any zombie film, you’ve seen it. 28 Days Later. The Crazies. The Taint.
As a matter of fact, The Sadness is The Taint of Taiwan. Just without all the dicks.
In Rob Jabbaz’s debut film, a virus is turning everyone into blood-thirsty, rapey maniacs—which, as I said, is nothing unique or groundbreaking. What makes The Sadness so special is its total commitment to mischievousness. Presidents get grenades shoved into their mouths. Babies get fucked the hell up. Eyeballs aren’t safe at home in their sockets. Nothing is sacred.
Pure, undistilled exploitation shenanigans.
Well, that answers that question, doesn’t it? (Review here)
3. The Menu
Truly, I was not expecting to like The Menu as much as I did. But I held off writing my list until I saw it based on the word-of-mouth buzz. And fuck, I’m so happy I did.
I don’t know who director Mark Mylod is, but the dude is a master of narrative control. The Menu does a thing that would kill most other thrillers by forcing the audience to switch loyalties as more information is revealed. Indeed, if someone had shown me the final shooting script before production, I would have sent it back for rewrites, saying there’s no way you’re ever going to make this work.
But then again, I’m no Mark Mylod. We are all goopy, hairy pieces of shit compared to Mark Mylod.
I promised another Raimi-inflected romp, and here we go. But first, I’m going to say some things right off the bat that will initially turn you off: found footage. Youtuber. Haunted house.
Yuck and yawn.
Despite the great reaction to Deadstream when it began streaming on Shudder earlier this year, I put this puppy off for months simply due to those reasons listed above. Which, as it turns out, was a complete and total, unforced error.
The good news is you can learn from my mistake and see this right away. Unless, that is, you don’t want to watch a real-time, first person POV Evil Dead movie with a very fun, Ash-esque character.
Fair enough, weirdo.
1. Mad God
Phil Tippett is a special effects wizard known for his work on Star Wars, RoboCop, Jurassic Park, and Starship Troopers. During production of RoboCop 2 (1990!), he began filming a wordless epic done entirely with stop-motion animation in his home. Thirty-some years later, Mad God is the finished product.
And in the same way the film lacks dialogue, I, too, am without the words to properly describe it. (My more in-depth review is here.) It’s comfort food for the Ray Harryhausen-loving soul. Nirvana for creature fans. Inscrutable and atmospheric for the artsy fucks. A masterpiece.