It’s part two of Stew’s look back at the 72 new release movies he saw in 2022. Look, I didn’t want to take up your whole life and rank all SEVENTY-TWO of them, but I did want to shout out the ones I can unquestionably recommend. So I decided to do this Top 30 list! We reviewed #30-21 last time. Now we are onto the middle chunk.
(Also, if you want to know about the opposite end of this list–the WORST movies of 2022–check out the SWO Productions Patreon where, for just $3.50, you can see my video where I discuss the Bottom 14. Why fourteen? Because the 15th worst movie wasn’t THAT bad, I guess. Also, all Patreon are getting free gifts in 2023!)
Let’s get into it!
20. The Black Phone
God, there were so many good horror movies in the last year. I think the 2010’s and 2020’s have been a real renaissance for the genre after the 90’s and 2000’s were something of a disappointment to me.
The Black Phone itself felt like a real throwback in terms of more than just quality. I was not surprised at all to see Joe Hill’s name attached in the credits because this feels quite a bit like a tamed-down Stephen King story. Stephen King with a dash of Stephen Spielberg, perhaps. Even aside from the age in which it is set, this felt very late 70’s / early 80’s in its quality and mood.
Ethan Hawke had one of the creepiest performances of the year, and I really enjoyed the way all of the details came together in the end to give Finney a chance to escape where all those who came before him failed.
19. Werewolf By Night
The sheer joy of seeing a Disney/MCU production fully embrace the aesthetics and conventions of the classic Universal horror movies really worked for me. I know so much of the criticism is that everything in the MCU is the same, and while I don’t personally agree with that, I like that they still take those complaints to heart and add their own spin to other types of stories.
At the same time… we are deep enough into Marvel lore that we are introducing characters like Man-Thing and Elsa Bloodstone (on top of the titular Werewolf By Night). It’s mind-blowing to me. Will these characters bear much fruit in future outings for the franchise? Unlikely. But just the fact that we are getting them is cause enough for celebration for a lifelong Marvel Zombie like myself!
18. See For Me
The first of a few indie horror projects from 2022 that make my list–most of them Shudder originals or exclusives–we have the surprising See For Me, which can be boiled down to Home Invasion Thriller With A Blind Protagonist.
There’s even more to it than that, though! Skyler Davenport’s Sophie is a layered, nuanced character who is not quite the victim nor the innocent that you might suspect! There is also Jessica Parker Kennedy in a major role, and seeing her always reminds me of Deep Murder, which I LOVE.
I guess she is also in The Flash. But… Deep Murder!
I saw See For Me early in 2022. and it hung around the higher end of my list all year. It’s a film I definitely try to get folks to seek out.
17. The Adam Project
Look, this movie has problems. No question. The third act is a generic sci-fi nightmare. And the strong female characters are written out before we even get to that point.
But if we leave the third act out of the equation, I was pleasantly surprised by the first two, most notably by a scene between Reynolds and Garner in a bar just… having a conversation. It’s a sneaky powerful moment seeing these two characters interact, and it stuck with me all year.
Walker Scobell also does a ludicrously good job acting like “Young Ryan Reynolds”. You can tell this kid worked closely with Ryan and studied a lot of his idiosyncrasies. It’s worth watching just for that.
I’m not a Predator fan. Like… I enjoy the original Schwarzenegger flick, but after that? I’ve seen… some of them? The one with Topher Grace and Adrian Brody. The Alien Vs Predator thing (the first one). That’s it!
So I went into Prey without a lot of baggage or expectations. And it really worked for me! I dug how Naru really wanted to be a warrior, but frankly sucked at it. For the first hour-plus, EVERYTHING kicks her ass. She survives either by luck or by getting saved. And then she manages to put together all of her experiences into allowing herself to thwart The Predator. She was a character who truly changed from the first act to the third. We see her grow as a hunter and a survivor.
Amazing action sequences, too, and all of the various encounters we get are all done well.
15. Violent Night
Violent Night is the rare movie I wish had been a bit longer. We see some of Santa’s pre-Santa life, but we don’t even get a hint on how he became the spirit of Christmas. I suspect they are leaving that for a prequel, but I’d have liked to have had it included here.
Violent Night is very “Mainstream Gory” (as it were) for an action flick, with a particularly notable final death which got a great reaction from everyone in the theater when I saw it. It’s BRUTAL. But there is an actual holiday season sentiment, too. This isn’t JUST about Santa murdering assassins; we get a story about what’s really important about family.
David Harbour is perfect as this version of Claus, too. You can tell this was written for him and to maximize his talents.
14. The Whale
I spent months awaiting this one amidst all the rumors of Brendan Frasier giving an Academy Award favorite level performance.
Turns out, he does not disappoint. Does much happen here? No. It’s the story of a man trying to reconnect with his daughter. The stakes are about as low as humanly possible. But everyone just puts all their emotion and talent into it. Is Frasier the star here? Obviously. But Sadie Sink and Hong Chau are right up there acting at his level.
This ended up being well worth the wait. God damn do you feel for Frasier’s character, and when he starts fucking up, you just want to reach through the screen and get him to come to his senses. He’s so lovable… but also infuriating.
Can we please get what we were cruelly denied in the late 2000’s and the 2010’s? Hollywood, put Brendan Frasier in EVERYTHING from now on, okay?
Sissy takes a mid-movie turn that I remember watching and getting deflated over. I had been enjoying the story of a young woman ostracized from her friend group as a child and then being invited to a weekend away by her former best friend. So when The Moment happened here, I thought “Oh man, they are going to ruin this one”.
And then a funny thing happened: Sissy actually got BETTER the rest of the way.
Aisha Dee is a supernova here, man. I want her to be co-starring with Brendan Frasier in everything going forward, haha! She carries Sissy as the titular protagonist trying to come to terms with her past and what those who knew her then think of her vs who she is in her present.
I adore the ending to Sissy, too. Not sure I’m supposed to, but… it gave me what I wanted!
12. Christmas Bloody Christmas
More indie horror! And more Christmas violence. What can I say? I’m predictable.
Violent Night gave us a Santa out to wreak havoc in the name of goodness. Christmas Bloody Christmas is about a Santa causing mayhem for badness’ sake.
Actually, the Santa here is a military grade robot who goes against his cheerful reprogramming and starts MurderDeathKilling the citizens of a small town. Record store owner Tori and her employee Robbie stand against the death machine, and Riley Dandy (that has to be a stage name) and Sam Delich are terrific as those leads. Their dialogue is so fast-paced and natural that I can’t help but imagine vast swaths of it were improv. We as the audience spend a lot of time with Tori and Robbie, so we get very invested in their survival.
Also, if I may visit the Ghost Of Internet Memes Past? There is a very hot sex scene juxtaposed with a scene of Santa Bot massacring a family, and it gave me a very confused erection.
11. Dr. Stange In The Multiverse Of Madness
I am sure I have this a lot higher than many others, and I’m fine with that. I actually thought this was a more than satisfactory entry into the MCU catalogue.
It’s the MCU’s first official foray into horror, with Sam Raimi really being allowed to run somewhat loose (for both the good and for the bad that that entails). The imagery and some of the more startling moments were well done in my opinion, especially Wanda’s tearing through of The Illuminati.
I was also a big fan of Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, and I hope we see a lot more of her going forward.
If this wasn’t for you, I get it! A lot of folks are MCU’ed out, and they wanted this movie to play with the multiverse more than it did. But for me? It gave me just about everything I wanted. I was happy with it.
But was Multiverse of Madness the BEST offering from the MCU in 2022? Stay tuned to the final ten of this list to see if any other entries beat it out for a higher spot.
Until next time… take care!