11 February 2023
Now that it’s mid-February, why not get around to talking about my favorite horror films from the last year. I’ve had this list complete since the beginning of January, but because I like to expound the slightest bit on these choices, because horror films tend to be my favorite films, it’s taken a while to finish up the full, expounded-upon list. But here it is.
This one snuck up on me. I'm a fan of director Ti West, and I thought X was fun, but I went into Pearl with slightly lower expectations. Where I expected something silly, I got exquisite melodrama swirled around the thoughtful, bloody creation of an antiheroine. The more I thought about it, the more I loved it. It ended up as my favorite film of last year.
I'm not a part of the generation raised on internet mythology, but if I had been born twenty years later, I would have been. I'm fascinated by the potential it opens up for lonely young people to explore. That's what this film is made of. It's hypnotic and strange and full of mysterious subtext. Just the way I like 'em.
I wasn't a huge fan of Nope at first. I thought it was beautiful and entertaining and I could sense the themes poking up from underneath the surface but couldn't excavate them enough to get a clear picture of the entire framework—and, without that, it felt like a miss. But my mind kept working on it, and at some point the whole thing snapped into focus and I decided I liked it. Would it be better if I could have got the whole picture from the beginning? I don't know. Possibly. But it's hard for me to remain against something that intrigued me for so long.
Resurrection takes on very heavy subject matter and spirals through it with disturbing obliqueness. There is many a psychological horror film that makes you question the reality its protagonist inhabits, but few do it with such profound visceral sensation or unsettling consequences. Rebecca Hall is becoming our new psychological horror queen.
I half expected, and feared, a paradoxical thematic twist at the end of this one, because it seems like a lot of contemporary films like to rely on that mechanism. Fortunately, Watcher resisted. It's just a solid, nuanced, well-crafted film that does justice to the perspective it began with, which mirrors the real lived experiences of many women.
Picking up, inspirationally speaking, where the classic film Black Girl left off, Nanny is a beautiful weaving of personal, political, and mythic grief. Its horror swims beneath the surface, not only of the film but the world we live in with its characters. This film is special.
There's a surprising and refreshing ambiguity in this film. It dances back and forth between folklore as metaphor for mental illness and mental illness as symptom of folkloric energy, and it never lands firmly on either side. Instead, it's a complex enmeshing of generations of women, their shared private battles, and their decisions about which side they must stand on.
I have never seen a Predator movie. Which in no way impacted my enjoyment of Prey. A lean, well-formed action horror with a unique setting and a fantastic heroine. Bonus: You can watch it with a dubbed Comanche audio track.
What an easy movie for me to love. Sweet and funny with a quiet, solid style that serves the tone well, plus Near Dark vibes and themes. It doesn't seem to be getting the attention I think it deserves, but I believe Noah Segan nailed the directorial debut. This is how you make a modern vampire film: You make it personal, unique, and sincere. With sparse but shockingly good kills.
Is this my favorite David Cronenberg film? Not by a long shot. But it's Cronenberg, which means it's head and shoulders above everything else out there. It's a slow, quiet meditation on many of his favorite themes of art, progress, and the body. I love the final scene, which crystallizes all the themes and more. I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. Which is exactly the kind of fascination that leads to evolution.
I also put all these films into a Letterboxd list, if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you’d like to read last year’s horror film favorites, please do so.