THE BEST HORROR OF 2022
2022 has been another stellar year for the horror genre. But rather than do the usual 'top 10 best horror movies' list, we thought we'd change it up a little. So here are YGROY choice awards (and runner ups) for a variety of subjects. From best scene, lead performance to the scariest.
The best horror of the year
Director: Parker Finn
It's rare that an original horror film fulfils a perfect trifecta at the cinema. Namely that it is well-reviewed by critics, well-received by the audience, and well-performing at the box office. Smile managed to do all of those whilst delivering a top-notch scary experience to boot. Sure, some of the ideas were borrowed from classic genre fare such as Ringu and Final Destination, but it owned them all in an assured narrative that was genuinely unsettling and frightening. Sosie Bacon grounds the tale with a winning performance, the frights are superbly timed, and the pacing is perfect. Proof that carefully crafted studio horror can still deliver the goods for horror fans and assorted cinemagoers when they're treated like adults.
Director: Ti West
Ti West's triumphant return to the genre scared up a great deal of interest and success on both sides of the Atlantic. Managing to be somehow exploitation-friendly and also mature in tone, this tale of frustrated psychosexuality and a surprisingly wholesome group of dirty filmmakers was a nostalgic slasher treat at the beginning of the year. Mia Goth deserves the gathered praise for her performance and a tiara for being a worthy scream queen. This made the surprise announcement of an X trilogy with Goth (Pearl & Maxxxine) all the more welcome. Oh, and for frustrated UK fans, Pearl is currently due in March 2023 on these shores… No, we don't know why either.
Director: Parker Finn
It was the good word of mouth and the excellent-if-spoiler-prone trailers that assured the success of Smile. And that's simply because it was scary in an old-fashioned way. Like the best versions of J and K-horror, it had unsettling imagery which it incorporated into everyday situations and likeable characters being put in peril through no fault of their own. Couple this with some superb reactional acting from Sosie Bacon and the rest of the cast, some nicely creepy sonics, eerily realistic FX, and well-timed jump-scares, and you've got the total package.
Director: Zach Cregger
Cinemagoers are good at keeping secrets if they want to be and Barbarian is a hugely enjoyable example of that. The fact that you're on your toes for 70% of the film without knowing what the "big bad" is all about and that the narrative perfectly drip-feeds you with the required information makes it unsettling and a great way to build up tension. Is it a slasher, a revenge thriller, a supernatural horror, or something else? By the time we get to THAT scene with the feeding bottle, you're totally engrossed and yet still unprepared for what's coming next. Smart and scary stuff.
WINNER: HALLOWEEN ENDS
Director: David Gordon Green
There was never going to be any other contender for this award. Disappointment is too weak a term for how horror fans felt after seeing the climax of this reboot trilogy. Quite possibly the worst entry in the franchise, with the possible exception of Halloween: Resurrection. It's made all the more annoying by the fact that 2018's Halloween was so good. It should have stopped there. Kills was goofy, but this was just "ugh". This was compounded by the fact that Michael Myers is actually side-lined for the majority of the running time and that the plot seems to be based on Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, of all things! The introduction of the proto-disciple Jeremy is misconceived, mishandled, and unwanted. Let MM rest now, although we still think that the final scene of H20 was the perfect place to stop.
RUNNER UP: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN
Director: William Eubank
It had such a low-key release on streaming and VOD that many horror fans are still unaware it's out there! This "reboot" of the PA franchise really shouldn't have the "P" and "A" words in the title. It only has a tenuous connection in that it is insinuated that the "Tobi" demon is connected with the strange events affecting an Amish community. Other than that, and the fact that it is (of course) a found-footage film from a documentary crew, it has none of the style, tone, or content from the earlier films. It's depressingly predictable, wholly unoriginal, and totally non-scary, with the usual on-the-periphery-of-the-film-frame scare tropes being marched out. So unsuccessful, another reboot was announced for 2023 (Paranormal Activity: The Other Side), which is set in the 1990s and will return to one of the previous franchise locations.
BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE
WINNER: SOSIE BACON (SMILE)
Kevin's daughter gives a spirited and relatable performance as the dedicated therapist Rose Cotter. With fractured relationships and a now-cursed existence, the plot parallels the emotional breakdown of someone who is strong-yet-flawed and is failed by the people around her. Hugely successful on both an emotional and character-level, it's a great turn that grounds the film and makes the final arc much more heartbreaking.
RUNNER-UP: GEORGINA CAMPBELL (BARBARIAN)
We don't know what's happening half the time, and it's the same for poor old blameless Tess Marshall in the film. Campbell imbues the character with believable traits and acts realistically to every bizarre twist in the plot. You can see the gears turning as she tries to figure out if Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård) is a friend or a psycho and what she should do when the shite hits the fan. The UK Black Mirror actor creates such a relatable character that when she makes selfless decisions to save others, you mentally try and restrain her.
BEST YOUNG ACTOR
WINNER: Madelaine McGraw & Mason Thames (THE BLACK PHONE)
It would be churlish to separate the stylings of McGraw and Thames in the cinematic success of The Black Phone. Thames has the "showier" role as the captive youngster communing with the dead victims of "The Grabber" via the titular device, and he absolutely nails it at every stride. However, McGraw is equally brilliant as his wonderfully feisty and psychically gifted sister, who is hellbent on getting back home. People praised Ethan Hawke's presence, but these two actors surely have some great performances ahead of them, genre-related or not.