Drawing heavy inspiration from movies like Evil Dead II (1987), Studio 666 is an extremely gory and silly horror comedy. Starring the six members of the Foo Fighters as themselves, Studio 666 is about Dave Grohl becoming possessed by a demonic force and terrorizing his bandmates while recording a new album. Blood and body parts fly freely, and the jokes are plentiful in this movie tailor-made for fans of both horror movies and rock music. The movie also features Jenna Ortega, Whitney Cummings, Will Forte, John Carpenter, and Kerry King (the guitarist from Slayer).
Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) returned to his horror roots in 2022 with The Black Phone. Featuring Ethan Hawke in an unnerving performance as a child-abducting killer called The Grabber, The Black Phone is a tense film that weaves a supernatural story line into a movie about bullies, abuse, and family. Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw star as siblings Finney and Gwen, and they each have their own supernatural means of trying to free Finney from The Grabber’s grasp after Finney becomes the latest victim kidnapped by the masked maniac. This is a movie that pulls you in deeper and deeper as young Finney’s plight seems more and more hopeless.
By taking the Predator franchise into the past, Prey creates a movie that reinvigorates the series with a “back to basics” approach. Set in the Great Plains during 1719, Prey follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a Comanche woman who wants to prove that she can be a great hunter. When a Predator arrives from outer space, Naru is thrust into the hunt of her life as the alien monster makes trophies out of her people’s warriors and anyone else who falls within its laser-sights. Prey is an exhilarating action-horror movie with clever plotting that builds Naru’s story into an exciting, non-stop adventure that unfolds in a completely satisfying way.
Writer/director Jordan Peele created another thought-provoking hit with Nope. The story involves a brother and sister (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) whose father dies in an inexplicable accident. With the family business going under, they decide to document evidence of a UFO they’ve seen hovering around their isolated family home in an attempt to sell the footage for profit. As with Jordan Peele’s previous movies, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), not everything is as it seems at first. Steven Yuen, Michael Wincott, and Keith David are also featured in this movies that has layers upon layers of meaning, while at the same time being a fun spectacle that works just as well as a science-fiction creature feature.
Barbarian is a movie that defies easy categorization, and to even attempt to place in a particular genre other than “horror” would do a disservice to people who haven’t experienced it yet. Barbarian stars Georgina Campbell as Tess Marshall, a woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview. Tess finds her rental house already occupied by Keith (Bill Skarsgård), but with Keith seeming nice enough and with no other options available, Tess stays the night. Unfortunately, Tess soon discovers something sinister beneath the house… What follows is a wild ride that deserves to be seen completely unspoiled. Barbarian is tense, scary, funny, violent, gory, and gloriously unafraid of taking chances with some really out-there twists.
Scream was the first big horror hit of 2022. Released in January, Scream captured the collective imaginations of old and new fans alike by wonderfully honoring the legacy of the franchise while sending it in a new direction. Neve Campbell (Sidney), David Arquette (Dewey), and Courtney Cox (Gale) returned in support of a great new cast including Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera as sisters Tara and Sam Carpenter. If you’ve ever been a fan of a Scream movie and haven’t seen Scream (2022) yet, you should. It’s also a good jumping-on point for people new to the franchise.
Elevated by a wonderful lead performance from Sosie Bacon, Smile is one of the best popcorn & jump-scare horror movies of the year. At its core, Smile is a curse movie along the lines of movies like It Follows (2014) and The Ring (2002). Rose Cotter (Bacon) is a therapist who, after witnessing a smiling patient commit suicide right in front of her, is increasingly tormented by an evil force that Rose discovers has affected multiple people in a direct line of succession. A layer of depth is added to the story by equating the curse with deep-seated trauma and guilt, but the ultimate focus of Smile is on fun and frights. Many of the jump-scares are extremely well done, and thy build to a fittingly monstrous finale.
In 2021, Chloe Okuno got the attention of horror fans with the incredibly fun “Storm Drain” segment in V/H/S/94 (hail Raatma). Then in 2022, Okuno made her feature-length directorial debut with the incredibly tense and beautiful psychological horror movie Watcher. The movie is a slow-burn that follows Julia (Maika Monroe) as she deals with the accumulating psychological damage of being watched and stalked by a stranger while most of the people around her, including her husband Francis (Karl Glusman), downplay her emotions. Subtle yet intense, Watcher builds to an agonizingly scary finale.
Made in Taiwan by Canadian filmmaker Rob Jabbaz, The Sadness is a an incredibly violent and gory movie about a couple trying to reunite during an viral outbreak. In a situation somewhat similar to The Crazies (1973 and 2010), a highly infectious virus is causing people to lose their minds and act on their darkest and most vile impulses. The heart of the story resides with Kat (Regina Lei) and her boyfriend Jim (Berant Zhu) as they try to survive long enough to meet up and escape the city after being separated from each other. However, the biggest draws of The Sadness are the practical gore effects and the film’s relentlessly mean and nasty aesthetic.
Ti West, writer and director of X, knows how to create the perfect balance between smart and trashy in a horror movie. X is a slasher movie set in Texas in 1979 about a group of young filmmakers making a porn movie in the guest house of a remote farmhouse. The house is owned by an elderly couple, and after the couple discover what is happening on their property, the film crew is in for a disturbingly violent night. X delivers lurid fun and thrills reminiscent of a 1970s exploitation movie, but it also spends time building all of the characters in smart ways so no one feels expendable. It’s very bloody and violent, but it also has heart and pathos. X really is brilliant horror filmmaking.