2022 broke me. It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone post Covid but this was the year I stopped watching a movie a day. I don’t know how or why it happened but it broke me. I just couldn’t muster the energy to compile a list, let alone watch a movie. But that’s going to change this year. I’m going to make an effort to watch more movies than I have been. Not a movie a day but I’m going to force myself to get back into a rhythm. I still love movies and there’s a lot I want to see but the desire is gone and I’m going to work on that. I also pledge to finally get back into writing, it’s been too long since I’ve made a top 100, so expect to see more of them in the coming months. 2023 is the year of change (or rabbit or some shit) and it happens to also be one hell of a year for new movies.
These are my five favorite films of 2022 (plus 35 honorable mentions).
40. The Adam Project
Since I’m not a professional film critic, I don’t take notes during movies. My write ups (I hesitate to ever call what I write a “review”) hardly ever touch on the technical aspects such as the score or cinematography, so there’s no need to jot down names of anyone involved outside of the director, writer and the stars. The only thing I bring into my write ups is the feeling I got watching it; I’m not in the habit of dissecting scenes or giving a critical analysis. But there are times I wish I took some notes, just to remind myself what happened in the movie in question. There are movies I saw this year I will never forget because the stank of terrible lingers, so technically, this shouldn’t be dead last because I don’t remember hating it but that’s only because I don’t remember a single thing about it. I know I saw it, I know it involves time travel, Ryan Reynolds and Mark Ruffalo are in it and there’s some dodgy looking de-aging CGI in it. That’s it. That’s all I remember about this and I truly don’t care enough to watch a trailer to spark a memory. It slid off my brain like it was made of Teflon and on the floor it shall remain.
39. Thor: Love and Thunder
Love and Thunder was number 6 on my list of the most anticipated movies of 2022 beating out films by Scorsese, Cronenberg, Chazelle and Aster and now about a year later, it’s the film that made me give up on the MCU entirely. Waititi compared this to Big Trouble in Little China and that’s all I needed to get hyped but just like Jack Burton, I was a fool. This movie is such a mess, I don’t even know where to begin. Since every plotline and character is undercooked or underdeveloped, I don’t think there’s a single thing that works in this film. The main villain had the potential to be one of the best in the MCU but they don’t do anything with him, the Jane Foster subplot could’ve been interesting if they expanded it and the Guardians are in this so little, there was no need for them to be included at all. The only thing I enjoyed was Russell Crowe as Zeus because he’s at least having fun but like everything else in this movie, he’s wasted. And don’t even get me fucking started on those screaming goats. Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? The CGI is awful, the plot is unfocused and there’s more continuity breaking moments than almost any other film in the series. I’m going to watch GOTG Vol. 3 and maybe the Avengers movies but then I’m out. The MCU is officially dead to me and this was the final nail in the coffin.
38. Strange World
Every time a new thing comes out that immediately gets attacked for being too “woke”, something inside me wants to immediately push back on it and defend it even if I haven’t seen it. Since it’s the laziest critique you can have towards any form of art nowadays, calling something woke is ridiculous and since it’s been stripped of all meaning due to overuse, it ultimately doesn’t mean anything anymore. Which is why I know what it really means is that there’s a gay or POC in it. Strange World not only has a gay in it, it also has an interracial couple as one of it is main characters. While I’m glad Disney is finally making strides towards representation, that representation is ultimately meaningless because you know they’re going to cut it for Chinese censors. The gay son character is so barely gay, all they’ll need to do to edit that out, is to change a couple of lines of dialogue. That’s it. And if your representation is that easily cut, it’s not true representation at all. But that’s not my issue with the movie. I know how the corporate overloads over there at the house of mouse operate, so I’ll take what I can get but man, it hurts agreeing with the people who hate this movie because of that because while we’re both agreeing this thing fucking sucks, we’re saying it sucks for two completely different reasons. The biggest issue with this film is that it’s just fucking basic. There’s nothing at all memorable about this film. Neither the characters or the plot will stick with you past the credits. Hell, not even the cute creature who’s sole purpose is to sell toys is good and that’s Disney’s trademark. This is about as bland as Disney as ever gotten.
37. The Black Phone
Even though I’m not the biggest fan of this film, I will forever respect Scott Derrickson for walking away from Dr. Strange 2 to make this. Marvel didn’t let him make his horror movie, so he went out and made his own. Based on the book of the same name by Joe Hill, the film follows a 13 year old boy named Finney who’s been kidnapped by the local Boogeyman named The Grabber, a child killing serial killer who wears the scariest mask imaginable. It’s a premise we’ve all seen before but what separates this from every other kidnapping thriller is the titular black phone that’s hanging on the wall in the basement Finn is stuck in. The first night he’s there, it rings even through it’s clearly disconnected and on the other end are the voices of the dead children who are now haunting the basement. They all help him with their own various escape strategies and while I like that idea in concept, in execution, I think it robs the movie of character agency and scares. Showing the ghosts is far less scary than just having them be creepy voices on a phone and them all having plans makes Finn one of the least capable horror protagonists ever. He’s like the fifth to get kidnapped and every single kid before him got closer to escaping and some of them are way younger than him. They basically hold his hand through the escape. I also think the Grabber is underutilized. I don’t mind that he’s never given a name or backstory but since we never see him actually kill any of the children, i don’t know how much of a threat he actually is. Does he sexually assault them first? I know he slit one of their throats but is that the norm or did he get angry? I don’t know what he does, so I’m not as afraid as I would be if the stakes were better established. The film wants the audience to do the work for it and while I have a rich imagination, it’s still not painting a picture I’m scared of.
36. Wendell & Wild
Henry Selick is a master. He’s made some of the greatest, most beloved stop motion movies ever but as Wendell and Wild proves, no master regardless of their technical expertise can transcend a bad script. All the ingredients are there: a teenage orphan with a sad backstory, two funny demons voiced by comedy legends and a larger plot that will see the two forced to team up together but there’s so much more going on that it starts to collapse in on itself. There’s also a demon hunter, some undead parents, another giant demon, a Trump analog and a couple other supporting players all fighting for screen time. The first rule of burrito making is knowing how much of any one thing to put in it so that you can properly fold it. Even though no individual ingredient is bad, there’s too much of them and now there’s sour creme, beans and salsa on the floor. And that’s before you even take a bite. It’s beautiful to look at but I you’ll check out long before the half way point.
It’s mind boggling how difficult it was for this movie to get made. The studio went through countless different directors and each one of them had a different take on how to approach the story when the text is right there. Why is it so hard to just adapt the story from the games? I understand something like Sonic needing a massive reworking because there’s no story there but the Uncharted games are basically movies already. But just like every other video game, they decided to throw the source material in the trash and do their own thing. And the end result isn’t Uncharted. This isn’t Nathan Drake, it’s Peter Parker cosplaying as Nathan Drake. This isn’t Sully, it’s Mark Wahlberg being Mark Wahlberg. This isn’t a well researched, exciting adventure, it’s a paint by numbers slog that’s as predicable as it is boring. Since it has so little to do with the game it’s based on, it might’ve worked better as its own thing. Because I actually don’t mind Holland and Wahlberg in this. I think they have good chemistry together and I wouldn’t mind them working together in a better movie but Uncharted ain’t it.
34. Mad God
I love passion projects. Even though they almost never work, the stronger the vision, the more interesting the disaster. When an idea lives in someone’s head for so long, only they can see what it is and it’s impossible for them to properly articulate it because by the time they try and make it, it’s less of an idea and more like a vision quest. Phil Tippett lived with Mad God for 30 years, which is an insane amount of time for any idea to gestate. Of course this thing was never going to make sense to anyone other than himself, how could it. I love the fact that these images, that look like a Giger directed Tool video but grosser, were living in that brain of his for three decades. Imagine him trying to pitch this nightmare to Spielberg on the set of Jurassic Park. I love that idea so much, I’d watch a movie about it. But what I wouldn’t watch again, is this movie. Not because it’s too gross or too weird or ugly, but because it’s simply too boring. The visuals are incredible and the unique dystopian future he’s created is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before but there’s nothing keeping me invested scene to scene. There’s an assassin who’s tasked with going to an underground filled with hideous monsters comprised of nothing but meat and teeth to detonate a bomb. He’s quickly detained and then weird shit happens to fill the runtime. It had me for the first ten minutes or so but then it becomes quickly apparent that I’m not going to get a plot, just a collection of weird scenes to add up to nothing. The visuals are so striking, I might give this another shot years down the road and maybe in a different headspace it might work for me but right now, like all passion projects, it doesn’t work.
33. Crimes of the Future
Cronenberg is a God and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that he left retirement. Even though this movie didn’t work for me, the fact that it gave him the juice to keep working, is the best gift of 2022. It also means that Map to the Stars is no longer his last movie because goddamn was that a piece of shit to end a career on. It’s easily the worst thing he’s ever made and one of the only stinkers in his entire oeuvre. While this is also bottom tier, it’s like comparing a broken hammer to shitting yourself while wearing white pants at prom — one of those things just doesn’t work, while the other is an humiliating embarrassment you’ll never live down. There’s nothing that bad in this movie, it’s just a pale imitation of concepts Cronenberg himself perfected decades earlier. Body modification and self mutilation as forms of art which also serves as the new form of sex is a button he created just so he could press it repeatedly in every movie, enough times to eventually break, so seeing him go back to that, feels like a huge step backwards for him. His genius was his insane prescience, he had a superhuman ability to look into the future and depict it with startling clarity, so for him to retread old themes feels bizarre. It’s also weird seeing CGI in one of his films. He’s always been a tactile director who makes things you can literally feel with your eyes, so seeing something obviously fake feels like a betrayal. Again, these are minor quibbles but since there’s not much to this film and because Cronenberg is a master with a near flawless filmography, every misstep feels massive, especially since I know he can easily avoid them.
I love that Shudder now has their own annual horror franchise. It gives horror fans something to look forward to and since it’s an easy to produce anthology, gives directors carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want. Sometimes that can backfire like Viral or 94, or sometimes it can generate gold like the first two. 99 is somewhere in between, with some segments being top tier, while others are dead on arrival. The first segment Shredding has a teenage punk band get attacked by ghosts of a legendary band that died in a electrical fire in a venue. It’s the worst of the bunch with very little in terms of character or scares. Next up is Suicide Bid about a hazing ritual gone wrong that easily could’ve been expanded into a feature. Not because it’s the best but the concept lends itself perfectly to a supernatural revenge where the sorority girls who were responsible are slowly picked off one by one. It’s solid but could potentially be better if turned into a feature. Ozzy’s Dungeon is the second best, which is a shock since Flying Lotus directed it and he made Kuso, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. A former children’s game show host (think Legends of the Hidden Temple) is kidnapped by the family of one of the contestants who lost due to injury even though she was clearly going to win. It’s a wild little ride of crazy that appreciated even if none of it makes sense. The Gawkers is up next and it’s about a group of teens who are spying on a hot chick who has a deadly secret. It’s fine, nothing special. And lastly there’s To Hell and Back, easily the best of the bunch. Directed by the duo that made Deadstream, this segment follows two videographers who accidentally get transported to hell after a coven of witches fuck up a ritual. It’s violent, action packed and funny. Vanessa & Joseph Winter are two to definitely keep an eye on because they’re currently on fire. If each entry is as good as this moving forward, I’ll keep watching em until they stop making em. It’s a fun time waster with just enough good to feel like you got your non-existent monies worth.
31. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
As a huge Guardians of the Galaxy fan, getting an old school Christmas special starring those characters sounded like a great time and it is enjoyable to a certain degree but it feels more like a backdoor pilot for a Drax and Mantis show than a mini adventure with the crew. You can tell they had Pratt and Cooper for a day (the latter of which literally recorded his lines in a car) and the production design looks slightly higher than a CW show. Gunn had one idea — “kidnap Kevin Bacon for Quill” and that’s literally all there is to it. You know exactly what this is going to be before you watch it and yet, it’s still somehow a little worse. The alien set looks straight out of a CW show, the action is bad and Groot is distractingly swole. I guess the revelation that Mantis is Quill’s sister is something but that doesn’t really add anything to this unless it’s setting up Vol. 3 in some way. All in all, it’s fine. It’s the type of special you have playing in the background of a Christmas party, like a Rankin Bass special you don’t have to pay attention to or footage of a yule log. Speaking of…
30. Adult Swim’s Yule Log
Starting off as typical yule log special, the camera slowly pans out to reveal a little bit more of the house the fireplace belongs to. You hear a woman’s voice talking on the phone with someone and then two hillbilly sounding intruders break in and kill her, all while the camera is fixed on the fireplace. If the movie somehow pulled off the gimmick of staying at this angle while telling a horror movie story in periphery that I can’t see, I’d consider genius but the camera pulls back again even further to reveal the living room, so even more is in frame. Two people enter the cabin and we realize it’s an Airbnb. They talk a bit about their futures while the killer hillbillies are seen in reflections of champagne glasses and the like, showing that they’re still in the cabin. Then a sheriff and deputy arrive warning then to put out the fire because the wood they’re burning came from a cursed tree setting up a potential plotline. Shortly after, another group shows up saying that they also booked this cabin and after realizing it’s a case of accidental double booking, they’re also in play. At this point, the camera stops being fixed to one location and the film is shot normally. You find out the second group are podcasters investigating the woods around the cabin that are the site of multiple alien abductions around the years, setting up another plot thread. By the time the third act rolls around, the film is juggling all three plotlines (and a couple others I haven’t mentioned), each getting increasingly more insane. It’s not the best horror movie of the year nor is it the craziest thing Adult Swim has ever done but it was a pleasant surprise that came out of nowhere, and for that, I give it massive points.
29. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
If you’re going to rip off or homage or take inspiration from a writer or director with a signature style, you better get that style correct because if you don’t, you just end up looking like a lazy copy cat. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent desperately wants to be a Charlie Kauffman movie but neither the script nor the direction are up to the task. Making a meta movie about Nicolas Cage playing Nicolas Cage poking fun at how much of a meme Nicolas Cage has become is a fun enough premise but it’s clear the filmmakers didn’t have the time, budget, energy and/or talent to do anything with that premise. It desperately wants to be a weird Kauffman film that explores multiple different themes such as the nature of what it’s like to be celebrity turned ironic internet joke and fan worship but it’s like the film realizes at a certain point it’s not capable of paying off any of those thematic points and just gives up and turns into an action movie because that’s easier than delivering something weird. When Cage and Pascal are on screen, the film is an easy watch. They have fantastic chemistry together but literally every other scene that doesn’t have them in it, is flat out bad.
28. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The only reason I was slightly excited for this was Sam Raimi. I lost my faith in the Marvel machine years ago and I simply find Strange to be dull, so there was really nothing for me to latch onto outside of my trust in the man who made Evil Dead and Spider-Man 2. And while the film was ultimately disappointing, my problems with it are more on the writing side than the directing. Say what you will about it but Raimi showed up. For the first time in a long time, this is a Marvel movie that feels like there’s an actual director behind the camera. But the problem is, that director feels like he’s making this film at gunpoint. You can tell Raimi wants to make this movie darker and scarier and weirder than it is and Marvel clearly won’t let him. There are hints of Raimi sprinkled throughout but every time you feel like he’s going to finally unleash the crazy, the film dials it back. In addition to the whiplash inducing tonal shifts, there’s a dud at the center of it named America Chavez who feels like she stepped out of a CW show and the Scarlet Witch who’s motivations fall apart the second you think about it. There’s a lot to like about this film and with some minor tweaks here and there, it could’ve been great but as it is, it’s merely ok.
27. Halloween Ends
I predict in five years or so, when the furor dies down and we’ve moved on to other cinematic punching bags, this is going to get reevaluated and more and more Halloween rankings will have this around the 5-6 area. While that sounds like faint praise to some, keep in mind, there’s many, many people that consider this to be the absolute worst entry in the franchise and they’re wrong. It’s the first film since Season of the Witch to do anything even remotely new with the series and like that film, everyone immediately hated it. They wanted this ultimate showdown between Michael and Laurie even though we had just gotten that two films previously and because of that, they got pissy. But what made them even more angry is the fact that Michael is barely in it and I could not care less. Carpenter knew this was a one film franchise. There was no more story to tell past the first movie and he was right. Michael only works in that one movie, every other movie tries so fucking hard to justify his inclusion and it never works. Now he’s the brother of Laurie, wait, now he’s a demigod a cult worships or some shit. Nevermind, we’ll just reboot the timeline two more times to make this shit make sense. It’s ridiculous. The best idea this franchise ever had regarding Michael was passing the torch in number 4. Moving the evil from one person to another like a plague is a great concept but they never did anything with it. Halloween Ends picks up that thread and finally does something with it. Is it entirely successful? Not exactly but I’m all for new ideas. And at the end of the day, I watch these fucking things to see gruesome murder set pieces and this film has some of the most violent kills in the series. It took as hard a swing as it could and while it wasn’t a home run, I respect the fact that it didn’t take an easy bunt like most of the other films in the series.
26. Violent Night
Santa Claus meets Die Hard is an elevator pitch so awesome, that sells itself and somehow, the film almost lives up to that premise. The only thing holding it back from being an all time holiday classic is the runtime. There is no reason why this thing is two hours. It should be a lean and mean 90 minute action romp and if it was, it would definitely be in my annual holiday rotation but now every time I think about it, I’m going to think of the length instead of the good parts which is a shame since the good parts are really, really good. David Harbour is the reason to see this. He nails a drunk, disillusioned Santa that gains the Christmas spirit through copious amounts of murder. See, before he was the Santa we all know and love, he used to be a bloody Viking and now that he has to fight for his life, that skill set comes rushing back. There’s plot justification as to why he’s an action badass and it works. As do the action set pieces themselves. There’s a lot of faceless henchman murder and they’re all well staged and most are creative. When he’s dispatching goons, the movie is at its best but every time it goes back to the family that’s being held hostage and we get more of the interpersonal character drama, it becomes less fun. There’s also a Home Alone segment involving a kid taking on thugs with traps and that could’ve been cut out entirely. It’s a fun movie that could’ve been a great movie with 15 minutes cut out.
Ti West is not my guy. I’ve seen every horror movie he’s made (save for Pearl) and not a single one of them was for me. He loves himself a slow burn and my patience isn’t what it used to be. There’s a reason Giallo’s are my least favorite subgenre, I hate being bored during a movie. And that’s even when there’s a payoff, which rarely happens in a West movie. I will say, of all of his films, this was by far the most entertained I’ve been but I still didn’t really care about anything that happened in it. I liked the characters but I also didn’t mind if they died. The only thing that stuck out was Mia Goth who pulls double duty by playing both the lead and the main baddie. It’s a great duo role and makes me want to see the prequel and upcoming sequel. Turning this into a trilogy is wild since there’s barely any story here as is but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Pearl, so I’ll definitely check that one out but if it’s as good as this was, he’s joining Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Kevin Smith in my prestigious group of failures I’m officially done with.
24. Day Shift
This was my discovery of the year. The trailer looked fine but then it came out and I forgot it came out entirely. If I wasn’t bored fucking around on Netflix one day, I guarantee I never would’ve seen this because I know their algorithm has already swallowed it up by now. And that’s a shame because more people should be talking about it. It’s a damn fun vampire flick. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel; you’ve seen this movie before. Every actor is cast basically to play themselves in a movie who’s plot is as predictable as it is contrived but none of that matters. It’s a vampire action movie, so the only two things that matter are: 1) is the action good and 2) are the vampires good and the answer to both is yes. Every action scene is as well shot and as well choreographed as John Wick movie and while the vampires are basically stunt men or bendy Cirque du Soleil performers, they serve their function as a memorable threat. I don’t need a sequel (although I’d watch the hell out of a spin off with the other vampire killers) but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for whatever the director does next.
23. The Northman
The Northman is a perfect example of how powerful expectations are and how they can ruin a movie regardless of its quality. I hate that I judged this for what it is versus what I wanted it to be but because I did, my mind will always focus on that when I think about it, instead of everything else good about it. Because there’s a lot of good shit in this movie. The entire cast especially Alexander Skarsgard is on fire, the cinematography is on another level with some shots permanently etched in my brain and the action is incredible. On a purely technical level, this is one of the most impressive movies I saw last year. Eggers continues to blow me away with his visuals; he’s truly a master at creating images that stick with me and this film is no different. Even though I went in wanting Conan and was disappointed that I got Hamlet, the film was still good enough to stay in my mind. I remember every single thing that happened in it, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but even movies I loved are already getting erased off the hard drive. That should tell you how much of an impact the visuals had on me. If those visuals were attached to the movie I wanted, this would easily be my second favorite film of the year.
22. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Much like The Northman, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a victim of false expectations. I went expecting one of the best horror films of the year and that was the wrong mindset because it’s not really a horror film at all. The closest thing I can compare it to is the game Firewatch that sets you for a horror experience by dropping breadcrumbs of suspense here and there but then in the third act goes in a completely different direction. It’s a great game but as a gamer, you’re getting ready for this big scary reveal and you can’t help but feel cheated by the misdirect. It’s not the game’s fault for giving you blue balls, it’s just not the story they wanted to tell. That’s my biggest problem with We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, it set me up for one thing but then delivered something else. I went in wanting a psychological horror and left with a character study that examines the negative effects of Internet culture on younger people. The internet is a dangerous place, especially if you’re vulnerable. The movie depicts how easy it is to get sucked into one of those trends that seem to pop up every other month or so. What it could do to someone mentally unwell or even lonely to the point of extreme attention seeking. If you go in wanting a horror movie, you will be disappointed but if you lower your expectations and go in looking for a portrait of a young girl slowly losing her grasp on reality, you might enjoy it.
21. The Batman
I cannot think of another movie that nails everything it’s trying to do but is still somehow forgettable. Honestly, the only negatives I can think of is the lack of action and it’s length. I mean I could pick apart it’s lame center mystery, the fact that they don’t do anything with Alfred and the lack of any signature character of the city of Gotham but those are nitpicks. I truly like everything else about this movie. The cast is exceptional with Wright as Gordon and Farrell as the Penguin as true standouts, they make me forget about previous portrayals. The score has been stuck in my head since I’ve seen it and I like the moody Fincher aesthetic going on. It’s a good movie with a lot to like about it but goddamn is it too long. 45 minutes could’ve be cut out and I guarantee you not a single person would notice. I don’t understand why every new movie has to be over 2+ hours. This is like an hour shorter than Snyder’s Justice League and that movie was nothing but subplots. There’s no reason a Batman movie needs to be this long. If this was a manageable length, it would definitely be up there as one of my favorite Batman movies but this bloated mess ranks along the bottom.
20. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
There was two Texas Chainsaw Massacre type movies released last year and since this one is ranked higher than the other, it’s obvious which one I prefer. As I said in that write up, I thought X was perfectly fine. It was a serviceable slasher that did what it did fine enough but I’m never going to rewatch it. I go to slashers for the boobs and the blood and while it certainly delivered on the former, it was lacking in the latter. I’ve seen this movie make many worst of the year lists and I don’t get it. Say what you will about it but it more than delivers on it’s namesake. It takes place in Texas, there’s a chainsaw and there’s most definitely a massacre. The biggest complaints I’ve heard are that the characters are annoying and that the legacy character was useless. First of all, every single one of these movies has an annoying character, even the first one. And secondly, the film knows the legacy character is useless, that’s the point. That’s why she’s killed almost instantly. In fact, almost everyone in this movie is killed. It has one of the highest body counts of any slasher this year and yet people shit on it while defending movies like Terrifier 2 that suffer from the same issues. I don’t get what horror fans want from horror anymore because I had a blast with this movie.
Horror fans and I haven’t seen eye to eye on any major release from last year. If they loved it, I most likely hated it and if they hated it, I had a fucking blast with it. I have seen so many comments about how this one ruined the franchise and I honestly can’t wrap my head around that. Like is this generation obsessed with extreme hyperbole or do they just not remember shit that came out in the franchise in question because if you think this honestly killed a series that has both Scream 3 and 4 in it, buddy, you’re crazy. This is easily the best Scream sequel since 2 and in some ways, I prefer this. The kills are more brutal, there’s far more of them, there are scenes of actual suspense and the legacy characters are used sparingly. I thought it tied into the previous ones well and I liked the new supporting cast. Slashers seem to be having a comeback and I’m here for it.
As much as I like his segments in The Signal, V/H/S and Southbound, if David Bruckner was attached to this five years ago, there’s no way I would’ve given it a shot – I’ve been burned by the series too many times before – but in the wake of The Ritual and Night House, I couldn’t have been more excited and he didn’t let me down. Comparing this to the Barker originals will lead to disappointment. This is a completely different take on the source material. Not a radically different take, more of a reimagining. For one thing, Pinhead in this is a woman, which is a welcome change and gone too is the extreme sexuality of the first couple. This is more about the nature of addiction than exploring unconventional fetishes. It strips away the convoluted mythos and ditches the gimmicks of latter sequels and delivers a down a dirty, back to basics horror story. There’s a puzzle box and if you open it, demons from a torture dimension will show up and reward you with punishments for all eternity. That’s what Hellraiser is and that’s what this film delivers. No more, no less.
Smile is another in a long line of horror movies expanded from a short but unlike those others, the two actually compliment each other instead of just feeling like a pitch to get a feature made. You will learn more about what’s going on with the weird smile virus from watching Laura Hasn’t Slept than just watching the film itself. You don’t need that additional information to enjoy the movie but it’s a nice inclusion. It’s the little touches like this that are peppered throughout Smile that prove the director has real chops and didn’t just get lucky. He knows got to build and maintain suspense in a scene and when to blow it up and get crazy. Both happen frequently throughout and it works every time. There are jump scares aplenty and while they’re all executed well, the scenes that will stick with me the longest are the holy shit moments like the missing cat and the long passages of creeping dread. It’s the closest someone has gotten to capturing the mood of a Junji Ito story without actually ripping him off.
16. Brian and Charles
while I appreciate the fact that filmmakers like The Daniels are pushing cinema in wild directions and auteurs like Cruise and Cameron are keeping the blockbuster alive, sometimes you just need a little warm hug of a movie to be reminded what cinema can do. Because at the end of the day, they’re empathy machines that are designed to generate emotions and by golly did this push the right buttons. It’s just a little movie about an eccentric inventor and the robot he creates. There’s a love story and a bit of melodrama involving some rotten neighbors but the core of the story is the friendship between Brian and Charles. Charles the robot is an utter delight with everything he says being absolutely adorable and Brian (David Earl) is one of my favorite characters of the year. Earl injects him with so much realism, that it almost feels like a documentary at times. Since I’ve never seen any of his collaborations with Gervais, I have no idea how close he is to this character but even if he’s just playing himself, it’s a tremendous performance. It’s the type of film you might not remember in 6 months time but will feel like a nice hug for 90 minutes while you’re watching it.
15. Jackass Forever
For the past twenty years, I’ve been an unashamed, unabashed card carrying member of the Jackass fandom. I fully admit the show was puerile and dangerously stupid at the beginning, but the longer it went on, the closer it got to genuine slapstick. The gags became more elaborate, the stunts became more dynamic and some of the performers were legitimately becoming amazing on screen clowns. Since it was the same crew from movie to movie, and since they all got successful TV and movie deals afterward, it feels like I’ve known them forever, so saying goodbye after all these years feels bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m glad to see my old cinematic buddies up to their old shenanigans but on the other, it’s clear that they’re far too old for a proper send off. Don’t get me wrong, they still put themselves through the ringer but some of that reckless fuck it attitude of their youth is gone. To make up for it, they lean heavily on dick gags (there’s more male nudity in this than every David DeCoteau film combined and he’s been making twink related smut for 20ish years) and a new cast that’s not as good. This is probably the worst of the Jackass films but I’m glad it exists just to see the crew one last time.
14. Top Gun: Maverick
Let’s all collectively take a step back and look at what this movie actually is and not how well it’s doing it for a second. It’s a well made action film no question, but it’s a beat for beat remake of the original. It has the same scenes in the same order but now with legacy character cameos to pull at the heart strings and a wholly unnecessary romantic subplot. It’s the same goddamn movie as the first, so for this to get an Oscar nom for best writing is absurd. Now, having said that, it’s a damn fine piece of entertainment. It might be a retread but it eclipses the first in every way. The flight scenes invoke the same level of pulse pounding excitement as a boxing match in Rocky or a well shot car chase, they make you grip the edge of your seat because you know those actors are doing it for real. Watching them fly these planes, do these stunts, is exhilarating. Everytime the film is in the sky, it soars (pardon the pun) but everytime I’m supposed to care about anything on the ground (the drama), I don’t. I don’t care about the budding love story, I don’t care about Rooster and I certainly don’t care about the mission. Do they ever explicitly state who they’re fighting? The movie takes great pains to not name a specific region. There’s bad guys over there and we gotta a shoot a thing. Ok, fine, I’m with you. Let’s go shoot a thing. They don’t want me to care and I don’t. The filmmakers clearly only wanna razzledazzle me with aerial whizzbang-ery and to ignore everything else and I do.
Like I mentioned in the V/H/S/99 write up, Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter are definitely ones to watch. They knocked it out of the park with their segment and more than delivered in their feature film follow-up. One of two movies that came out last year that had strong Raimi vibes (the other is coming up shortly), Deadstream is a non-stop gag machine that delivers probably more spooks per minute than any other film. This, not Maverick or The Way of Water, I wish I could’ve seen on the big screen. This is a crowd pleaser that never got the crowd. I don’t think it would’ve done Terrifier 2 business but I think it would’ve made decent coin from word of mouth alone. Movies are making money again, people want to go to the theaters but there’s hardly anything worth going to. Horror always does well, so I don’t know why Shudder isn’t rolling some of their exclusives out. Especially the ones that are clearly built for the largest possible audience. This might’ve gone up a couple of slots if I saw this in theaters because that’s what happened with my next film…
12. Terrifier 2
The Way of Water and Maverick might’ve broken box office records in 2022, but the true success story was Terrifier 2. With only word of mouth to help it, the film made over ten times it’s budget back. Which could potentially help other super low budget films get wider releases. The surprise hit of the year was a movie so violent, Mike Flanagan says created an entirely new genre: the MegaSlasher, which means that not only did the people who loved it tell everyone they knew they had to see it because it was crazy gory but because it was great. Because if only gorehounds went to see this, there’s no way it would’ve made as much as it did. It did the business it did because it’s entertaining as fuck and people couldn’t shut up about it. Not since the days of Raimi has something this gleefully grotesque struck a nerve with everyone in the horror loving community but even Raimi didn’t go this far. How this film manages to get people excited for the worst thing they’ve ever seen is a minor miracle. I guess it comes down to the fact that it only grosses them out enough to look away, not leave. It wants you to gasp and laugh along with its horrible over-the-topness, not be offended and sickened. Since Art the Clown feels like a cartoon character, all of his violence, no matter how gruesome or realistic, always feels like Looney Tunes damage. You can’t see an image of him dissecting an arm like it’s sushi and not think that’s a gag straight out of Daffy Duck. It’s these set pieces, along with Art, that’s the reason to see this movie. The pace is off since it’s way too long, the acting is fine and the characters are instantly forgettable. There’s a funny murderous clown and a bunch of great practical kills. That’s what the movie offers, the rest (of you like any of it) is just a bonus.
11. The Menu
The biggest movie twist of 2022 (besides the fact that Cate Blanchett voices the monkey in Pinocchio) has to be the fact that The Menu, a movie about rich assholes going to a private island to eat a mysterious dinner by a works renowned chef is NOT about cannibalism. While this darkly comedic and oftentimes surprisingly goofy satire is a bit too on the nose with some of its themes, it deserves points for aiming for something more than just Eat The Rich: The Movie. The trailers sell it as more of a horror than it actually is which is why I think I liked it more than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some horror but that genre is nothing if not predictable and that’s definitely not something you can say about this film’s plot. It actually goes out of its way to avoid any genre trappings. Ralph Fiennes’ character easily could’ve been a more traditional villain who played sinister games such as killing off random dinner guests each course and making the others fight to survive or even having some contrived motivation such as a personal grudge against them but he doesn’t. Say what you will about the heavy handedness of it’s message but I’ll take that over trite and predictable any day.
10. Turning Red
No Pixar film had been solo directed by a female filmmaker until Turning Red and it truly makes a difference in the storytelling. I am not nor have I ever been a thirteen year old girl of Chinese descent but this movie really puts me in the headspace of one. I felt the emotions of the main character as strong as they were feeling them and again, it’s a thirteen year old girl. So it’s all the emotions, all the time. Just like Inside Out put you into the mindset of an adolescent child by focusing on their emotions, this too puts emotions front and center but in a more metaphorical way. There’s multiple ways to interpret the red panda but the most obvious is that it represents her period. She’s going through changes and they’re being represented physically. It’s a clever and mature conceit that Disney gets major props in greenlighting but gets them taken away due to them pulling this from theaters. It tends to back away from or straight up kill any movie that even slightly deviates from their squeaky clean image. They say it was because of Covid but I’m calling bullshit. I think they got cold feet and we afraid of some sort of backlash because god forbid a cartoon mention tampons. Disney needs to make more of this and less sequels, reboots or remakes.
09. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
I had never heard of the YouTube shorts that this was based on when the first trailer dropped but the second Marcel opened his mouth and started talking, I immediately watched all of them before the film came out. I was immediately obsessed with this little shell and needed more of him in my life. I couldn’t wait to see how they were going to expand his short little interviews into a feature length film but they figured it out. Just make the entire film out of little interviews and that’s when the film works the best. Listening to Marcel’s musings on life and his childlike excitement for everyday things is a delight. I could honestly listen to him talk about whatever he wants for as long as he wanted to talk. It’s like getting assaulted with joy every time he opens his mouth. Everything about that character tickles me pink. It’s when the film starts becoming a road trip adventure searching for his family that I start slowly checking out. It started to lose me a little before the beginning of the third act but then it won me over by the time the credits rolled. This was a damn fine year for stop motion animation and if it wasn’t for Del Toro, this would easily be the best of the bunch.
I’ve been looking forward to the next project from Dan Trachtenberg because his first film 10 Cloverfield Lane showed an immense amount of promise. I knew whatever he made next was going to be at the very least, interesting but I didn’t expect him to come out the gate swinging as hard as he did. He didn’t just want to make the best Predator sequel, he wanted to make the best Predator movie period and it’s impressive how close he gets to achieving that seemingly impossible goal. Much like how Bruckner went back to basics with Hellraiser, Trachtenberg just took what worked about the first one and threw everything else out. The formula shouldn’t be more complicated than a predator vs a badass (or a team of badasses) in a jungle and yet, every sequel wants to shake it up. Stick to what works and improve upon what doesn’t. Setting this in the past and having a Native American woman (Amber Midthunder) as the lead are big changes but the foundational core is still the same. He didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, just put some badass hubcaps and spikes on it. And in doing so, singlehandedly revitalized a dead franchise.
07. The Sadness
There’s many books that have been described as “unfilmable” but few have earned that distinction quite as decisively as the graphic novel Crossed. There’s shit in that comic that would make Mike Diana wince and he’s one of the only people alive to receive a criminal conviction for artistic obscenity. While it’s nowhere near as graphic (nothing is), The Sadness is about as close to an unofficial adaptation as we’re going to get. Now, that’s not to say this is lacking in the gore, it’s just not as gory as the most fucked up comic ever created. It’s so violent, you can almost hear the director of Terrifier 2 taking notes on how to go even further. While its extreme subject matter might turn off even the hardened of movie goer, for the hunters of the ultimate fucked up movie, they just received their new favorite movie to pass along to unsuspecting people. Not since A Serbian Film has a movie immediately turned into a dare. The movie wants you to tap out and punishes you every second you continue to watch it. The Sadness is an apt title because it will make you moan the loss of your innocence but If they ever make a sequel, they should crib from William Blake because if the first made you cry, the second is going to murder your hope in front of you and then toss you straight into Hell.
06. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
I loved Rian Johnson’s updated take on the Agatha Christie murder mystery so much, that I fell down a rabbit hole of similar movies. I watched all the Hercule Poirot movies, the Charlie Chan movies, a handful of Sherlock Holmes movies and rewatched a couple seasons of Monk. I went full on whodunnit crazy and couldn’t get enough, so when Netflix announced they were going to produce multiple sequels for Knives Out, I was crazy excited. And the first sequel didn’t disappoint. It’s not as good as the first, but the cast of characters were about as memorable as that one and the twist that came about the half way point had me hooked. It changes the type of movie you’re watching and makes you look at every character under a different lens. It’s a clever way to slowly reveal a mystery. I wish the guilty party was a bit less obvious but honestly, I’m so into the story, I set aside the mystery entirely, so that’s a minor quibble. Bring on the Blanc.
With his first film, Peele combined The Mephisto Waltz and The Stepford Wives to make something wholly original. With his follow-up, he took everything he ever loved from 80’s, threw it in a bag with every movie about doppelgangers, tossed in the time bending love story Dead Again for some reason and shook ’em all up till he came up with Us but for his third film, he took inspiration mainly from one film: Jaws. While the rest of us were mastering sourdough, Jordan Peele spent the pandemic fusing sci-fi, horror, westerns, sitcoms and family dramas to create a whole new kind of monster movie. The result – with no disrespect to any our baking efforts – was even better: an updated Jaws for the 21st century. He moved the shark into the clouds, replaced the subtle political subtext with a scathing indictment on the various levels of exploitation within the entertainment industry and threw in more humor than the Spielberg original. It’s not a horror in the conventional sense, it operates more like an adventure film. There’s definitely spooks (the Gordy’s Home section is the scariest moment of any film of 2022) but the tone is more of a fun “kill the monster” vibe than a “the monster is actively trying to kill us” vibe. It’s that Goldilocks alchemy: not too scary for general moviegoers but just enough scares to satiate the most hardcore of horror fans.
Since they both expertly transitioned from comedy to horror, Zach Cregger seems to be following in Peele’s footsteps but I think the more accurate comparison would be he’s the next Sam Raimi. I don’t know how either the Whitest Kids U Know or Miss March gave him the skill set to execute a near flawless horror film but whatever it was he learned paid off big time. Of all the movies released last year that rewarded going in blind, this was the best return on your investment. Thankfully the trailers revealed very little but even a sliver or hint at the crazy to come is criminal. Each act feels like it’s own mini movie that has a twist that the next mini movie builds off of. It’s rare to see a movie with the confidence to jerk the audience around enough to give them whiplash and still trust they didn’t get lost. General audience members tend to tune out when a movie suddenly goes in a radically different direction. When Justin Long shows up in this, I could feel the audience I saw it with start to get antsy. They didn’t know what was happening or where the story was going and it takes a good fifteen minutes or so before it reveals how it ties into the plot. That’s a long time to trust your audience and I love that the film doesn’t cater to the impatient viewer. It takes you on a ride and doesn’t care if you can hold on or not.
03. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
If you don’t feel bad for Robert Zemeckis, Henry Selick and/or Phil Tippett while watching this, you haven’t seen their respected Pinocchio or stop motion releases because this movie wipes its ass with them. This is the umpteenth retelling of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi but this one sets itself apart from the various other adaptations by having Guillermo del Toro as a director. That immediately elevates it because you know he’s going to inject it with his signature “eye protein”. That may sound like the latest scam by Alex Jones but it’s, by Del Toro’s definition, eye candy for the brain. In other words, he makes visually stunning movies that are more than just pretty images. Having this take place during the rise of fascism in Italy, is such a good no brainer of an idea, I’m amazed it hadn’t happen sooner. It’s even more brilliant once you connect it to the original Pleasure Island who’s victims were children who were being used as a literal workforce. I’d say about 50% of the film is the story you know but the other half is filled with deviations that run the gamut between everything from something major like that or Death, to the whale and the characterization of Jiminy Cricket. It’s not radically different in terms of personality but this one is surprisingly more slapstick-y. Like he’s always getting crushed or whapped or squished by stuff. Del Toro never aims his films towards children, so it was welcomed to see him doing something just for the youngsters. Because I don’t think the rest of it is for children. Not that they couldn’t see it or even enjoy it but I think this might be a potential kindertrauma film in the future for some of them. And that isn’t a criticism. I love the fact that he made something a touch dangerous for kids. They’ve been soft served pap since the beginning of the 90s. We’re long overdue a resurgence of films like Return to Oz or Something Wicked This Way Comes. That’s what this is — a kid’s film that doesn’t talk down to them, isn’t afraid to show death and the harsh realities of war and isn’t bright and colorful and filled with non-stop pop culture references. While the cast is filled with big name movie stars, the only one that would appeal to children is the kid from Stranger Things but I doubt he’s putting any ass in the seats. It feels like the movie Disney should be making, but is too afraid to.
02. The Banshees of Inisherin
Apologizes to Brendan Fraser but Colin Farrell is without a doubt having the greatest year ever. He had four films and each had a performance that had serious Oscar buzz. After Yang was subdued and contemplative, The Batman was loud and over the top, Thirteen Lives was stoic and grounded and The Banshees of Inisherin was multilayered and nuanced. As fun as he is in In Bruges, I think this is his best work by a country mile. Reteaming him with his costar from that film did a lot to draw out a performance this good since he has a partner that can return serve but the lion’s share of credit belongs to writer/director Martin McDonagh his greatest collaborator. Yorgos Lanthimos and Farrell have done some incredible work together but McDonagh just seems to get him. They click in a way Sam Jackson and Tarantino click or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson do. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite cinematic partnerships. I never thought they’d top In Bruges and this clears that handedly, so if they can somehow top this, they have a top 100 masterpiece on their hands. That’s how good this movie is. It’s a political allegory, a darkly funny fable and a unique spin on the break-up movie all rolled up in one. As impressive as juggling three balls is at once, McDonagh one ups himself by somehow making both characters relatable and sympathetic at the same time. Even as the stakes continue to rise and both men have suffered losses because of the other, you still understand their point of view. Neither character is right nor is he wrong, they’re just doing what’s best for themselves. Is it selfish to end a friendship because of unfulfilled dreams? Is it wrong to be satisfied with a boring yet simple life? The film provides no answers but the way it asks the questions will stick with me for a long time.
01. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Sometimes a movie comes along that wiggles itself inside your brain grooves and you know you’ll think about it forever. Around the half way point, I knew this was going to be my favorite film of the year and by the time it ended, it became one of my favorites of all time. This film feels like it was made just for me. Everything I look for in a movie is here and they all crash face first into each other. I knew the Daniels were going to eventually deliver something spectacular because their first two films were highly entertaining but I never expected something this good. I honestly put this on the same level as The Matrix in terms of perfectly executing a high concept but where this film surpasses it is it’s ultimate message. Even though I love the Wachowskis, they were more interested in stuffing their magnum opus with as much anime and religious iconography as they could, whereas the Daniels wanted to challenge themselves to see if they could make empathy, love and forgiveness just as exciting as their wacky action scenes and they nail it. Every multiversal subplot (except Big Nose which is an oversight they regret making) gets a resolution that’s truly touching. Just like how they made you feel the love story between a man and a farting corpse, this movie makes you genuinely invested in the love lives of two people with hotdog fingers. Even though it’s a ten minute subplot at most, I was rooting for those characters and wanted them to have a happy ending in a way Twilight and its five films could never. As Robert McKee says in his screenwriting bible Story, “wow them in the end and you got a hit” and this is nothing but a series of wow endings, each more touching than the last. But even if the film didn’t pull off everything it wanted to do, the strong performances from its entire cast would keep it from collapsing in on itself. I’m so glad Jackie Chan turned down the movie because I don’t think he’d be able to give a performance as multilayered and nuanced as Michelle Yeoh. She has to bounce between being a Mike Leigh character, a wife going through martial strife who can’t connect to her lesbian daughter, to being an action heroine and about a million other things in between. It would be the performance of the year if Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis weren’t equally as good. Yeoh unfortunately won’t win because Cate Blanchett exists but the other two might win and should win. In fact, this should win everything but I know it won’t. It’s too awesome for the academy.
What do you think of my ranking? Any film you think I was too hard on? Which films from 2022 that I missed should I watch as soon as possible?