#31HorrorFilms31Days 2022: A Frank Postmortem

Every October I watch at least 31 horror films. I tweet about each film, but here are my more in-depth thoughts on what I watched. I will start with some arbitrary awards and rankings before getting into any spoilers. I will also provide clear warning before getting into anything resembling spoilers since I know a lot of these are newer and a lot of them need to be experienced firsthand because they are so ridiculous.

Here’s what I watched this year in the order that I watched them:

Arbitrary Awards:

Most Liked Tweet: The Lighthouse

Once again, my first tweet of the month was the most popular. The Lighthouse was neck and neck with The Dark and the Wicked (mostly thanks to The Dark and the Wicked‘s official account sharing my tweet). But The Lighthouse garnered one more like overall probably due to the apt movie summary and relatability:

The Boy Award: Men and Orphan: First Kill

The Boy Award is given annually to a movie that shocks me enough to turn me into this gif:

Image result for surprised meme

There were a few contenders for the award this year, but for the winners I present two very big surprises that impacted me in VERY opposite ways: Men and Orphan: First Kill. Nothing could prepare me for what happens in Men. I was rooting for Men. I expected at the most the ending would be vague and unsatisfying. Instead, the ending is SO RIDICULOUS I was in shock. I’m not sure a film ending has ever made me that angry just by being ridiculous. Like you know when someone is so shocked and angry they just kind of sputter out gasps and the starts of different sentences while trying to formulate a response? That was me at the end of Men as I tried to articulate my feelings about what kind of ride the movie nonchalantly thought I’d be in for.

On the other hand, Orphan: First Kill has a delightful twist that manages to equal the twist in the first Orphan which is no small feat. That twist is definitely a make or break moment for this film. But if you like it, you are in for a treat because the rest of the film milks the reveal for all it is worth.

My Wife’s Rankings

My wife moves through each #31HorrorFilms31Days as a captive audience member who is resigned to watching a chunk of horror movies each year. She usually self-selects which movies she wants to watch with me, and I asked her to choose her favorites from this year. She selected six movies this year (seven if she counted a rewatch of Sorority Row). Here are the ones she liked in no particular order:

  • Watcher
  • The Black Phone
  • Prey
  • Sissy
  • Bodies Bodies Bodies
  • The Night House

She noted Barbarian would go on the list if we had watched it in October.

She did not watch Deadstream or Werewolves Within with me, but acknowledged she would like to see them at some point. I think she will like both (Werewolves Within especially even though she got spoiled on the ending) so stay tuned to see if I’m right.

My Rankings

I’m going to give the same warning I always do: this is NOT a ranking of the movies that I think are the best in terms of being quality cinema. This is a ranking of how much I enjoyed these movies at this period of time. Usually I enjoy horror movies that:

1) I can imagine showing others/rewatching which tends to skew towards movies I find consistently entertaining and not too upsetting or mean-spirited

2) They stuck with me either by creeping me out or having an engaging atmosphere/soundtrack and/or

3) They delighted me in that moment so much I want to count them.

I also don’t count rewatches because obviously I liked them enough to rewatch them so the Fear Street movies and Sorority Row aren’t in the running.

I’m not going to rank everything I watched, but here is a rough sort of the ones I really enjoyed this year:

  1. Deadstream
  2. Hellraiser (2022)
  3. Terrifier 2
  4. Halloween Ends
  5. Bodies Bodies Bodies
  6. The Night House
  7. The Dark and the Wicked
  8. The Medium
  9. Sissy
  10. Orphan: First Kill
  11. Watcher
  12. Offseason

Every year there is typically one movie that easily stands out as a clear winner for me, and this year was no exception. Deadstream really knocked my socks off. It made me jump, literally lol, and nearly vomit multiple times (if it isn’t clear in the context of a blog about horror films, that is high praise!). I knew I would likely enjoy it because embarrassingly my wife and I watch a lot of YouTube (and Twitch in my case), so seeing a movie play with the conventions of those platforms really kept me cracking up.

This was honestly a pretty tough ranking aside from that clear winner, but Hellraiser 2022 and Terrifier 2 were pretty locked in. The rest are really tough to compare, and impacted me in different ways. I’m not sure I will ever revisit The Dark and the Wicked, but that film really gave me the heebie jeebies. I went out to dinner afterwards and even though walking around a bustling neighborhood in Chicago is about the furthest you could get from an isolated family farm in Texas, I couldn’t stop shivering from some lingering imagery from the movie.

Incidentally, another movie that made me creeped out walking around the city afterwards was Barbarian. That movie would easily be high on the list if I had watched it in October instead of September.

Some additional non-spoilery impressions from this year’s selections:

A Banner Year for Horror Comedy

I am not usually a fan of horror comedy. Horror comedies often lean too much into comedy for me (thus dissipating the feelings of horror and dread I am seeking with horror), or the comedy is more slapstick and silly than my type of humor. But I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of great horror comedies I watched this year. Movies like Barbarian and Deadstream balanced both genres effectively enough for me to still be creeped out in parts. Same thing with Terrifier 2 – it leans gory horror but contains moments of sick, gleeful humor.

That’s not to mention two similar movies (Bodies Bodies Bodies and Werewolves Within) which lean far more into comedy while still playing with the trappings of horror. Also Sissy, which plays a bit more with goopy gore (some scenes gave serious Terrifier 2 vibes!). There’s another one that was far more horror comedy on this list than I expected, but I will save that commentary for the spoilers section since the movie’s trailers portray it as horror through and through.

Horror Contains Multitudes

I really tried to balance subgenres and tone this year. I realized there have been years where I burned myself out on found footage or slow burn horror about grief and/or trauma (sing it Jamie Lee!). So this year I really tried to do what Rickon should’ve done on Game of Thrones (remember that show or did we all try to collectively forget it as fast as we became obsessed with it?) and zig zagged when I felt I was leaning too much into one thing. With the exception of slashers which I have a seemingly unending appetite for (even then I ended up turning off Sorority House Massacre because I was bored despite this truly amazing title card).

Even though I still heavily favor modern horror and slashers, there was such a delightful variety to watch. Some were very grounded in reality while some were utterly outlandish. Some were totally pessimistic while others featured moments of triumph. There were human killers, supernatural slashers, aliens, demons, and even a Medusa.

I think most people (especially ones who don’t like horror) think of something like if not specifically Friday the 13th when they think of horror, and as a fan of the genre I feel bad they don’t realize how expansive it is (and how much it has evolved past 80s slashers – not that I don’t love them!).

2022 Was A Great Year for Horror and 2023 Is Stuffed with New Releases

James A. Janisse of Dead Meat noted that 2022 is probably the most stacked year of horror releases we’ve experienced in our (if you are in your mid 30s or younger) lifetimes. Just some of the theatrical releases alone included Scream 5, X, Pearl, Nope, Barbarian, Halloween Ends, Terrifier 2, Smile, and The Black Phone, And there were a plethora of straight to streaming hits including The Sadness, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser 2022, Prey, and Orphan: First Kill.

In 2023 just some of the major releases include Scream 6, The Exorcist reboot, Evil Dead Rise, Saw X, Knock at the Cabin, and the evil doll that stole queer souls everywhere M3gan.

It is a good time to be a horror fan.

Without further ado, I’m putting in the spoiler warning now before I talk a little more about some of the films this year:

*****SPOILERS AHEAD*****

1. Deadstream

As I mentioned above, I had a soft spot for this tapping into the YouTube/Twitch livestream presentation style. Even though the main character is ridiculous, it wasn’t until the car scene that I realized “oh this whole movie had taken a hard turn into comedy now.” If I had known going into the movie it would go that hard on the comedy, I might not have watched it. But I’m so glad I went in cold and experienced the bonkers buildup to an equally silly and satisfying conclusion. A particular highlight is when the main character gets into a back and forth verbal altercation with the ghost about who will come to who for their final showdown. And the comedy doesn’t undercut the scares and jumps in the first half. Chrissy is incredibly unnerving and some of the jumps just featuring sound got me good.

This will definitely be one I show to friends whenever the opportunity comes up. So grateful for Shudder for providing excellent and refreshing new content like this. So many excellent horror films have come out on streaming this year, and it seems to really give creators more opportunity to be playful and try new things.

2. Hellraiser 2022

After going through my own hell dimension watching all 10 of the previous Hellraiser movies, I was nervous to see an earnest attempt to capture the kinky Rubik’s Cube magic of the first two movies. Could it really be as good as the trailer? I love Jamie Clayton, but could she pull off a character who has been defined by an iconic performance by a single actor for eight movies? Would it stay true to the poetic elements and metaphors that make Hellraiser so unique?

The answer to all these worries and questions is a resounding yes. This movie has a bit more of a slasher splash (but not in the fairly maligned Hellraiser: Hellworld way), while managing to capture the fantastical, epic story and tone of the first two films. It isn’t here to make light of being ripped apart by hooks and chains for an eternity. There is a particular moment where a character is being transported in a van that just elongates and transforms into a hallway in the Labyrinth to pluck them from our reality, effectively demonstrating there is no escaping the Cenobites once they feel you have been offered up.

It is nice to have such a nuanced final girl as well. Riley struggles with drug addiction, has sex, and makes frustrating mistakes while still being sympathetic and relatable.

But the spoiler I was dying to say when I first saw this was I KNEW any boyfriend named Trevor was going to be trash ass after watching Clive Barker’s OTHER brilliant film Candyman. I have to believe that was an intentional hint of Trevor’s true nature from the screenwriters.

I don’t have much else to say other than I really appreciated this film taking itself seriously and creating a fresh variation of the lore while staying true to the original films. I will have a special place in my heart for some of those oddball sequels (I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who likes Hellraiser: Revelations. I’m including the creative team behind the movie in that assessment), but this is easily my third favorite in the franchise and my second favorite movie from this past October.

3. Terrifier 2

I’m pretty surprised with how high I ranked this given the first Terrifier was my least favorite #31HorrorFilms31Days watch in 2019. To be honest, I want to unequivocally love this movie the same way so many other people seem to, but I still have some criticisms that prevent me from being swept up in the fever. But I wrote so much about this, I moved it to its own post (!).

4. Halloween Ends

I once again wrote so much about this, I moved it to its own post (!).

5. Bodies Bodies Bodies

This is a movie that grows on me the more and more I think about it. I will say it helps that it ends with one of the funniest reveals I have ever seen in a horror movie.

I was curious how this movie would handle its satire of Gen Z and internet behavior, but even being written and directed by a Gen Xer, it never feels like it is being mean-spirited to its characters or an entire generation. The director mentions in a special feature that “she is also on her phone all the time too”, so it is more a commentary on how being on our phones and social media all the time has changed us all.

It might be a stretch to call this a horror movie since it is really more of a Clue-style whodunit murder mystery that just has some of the trappings of a slasher, but I’m not going to argue with IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes classifications.

6. The Night House

I loved a lot of what is going on in this film. I really tried to go in as clueless as possible, so I was riveted when I was served ghosts, unsettling nightmares, seemingly innocuous pictures that are really sinister, occult practices, demons, AND doppelgangers?! I ate it up. Not to mention this has an unexpected early jump scare that got me so good I was tensed up for about 70% of the movie. I’m talking the sound design version of the face in The Ring. You know damn well what I am talking about.

I did wish the movie had given me more satisfaction by the end. The ending felt a bit rushed and not as scary as the buildup leading up to it, otherwise this would be as firm as the top five ended up being.

7. The Dark and the Wicked

I had been wanting to see this one forever, but last year I got so burnt out on family trauma/grief slow burns I decided to save it for this year. I wish this movie had given me a bit more context regarding the supernatural entity (why this family? Why could it make so many horrific things happen but couldn’t just possess the father’s body if it wanted to so badly the whole time? Why go after the neighbor? It seems like a lot of chaotic demon energy that could have just been reserved!). It also could have benefitted from some restraint with some of its jump scares and CGI, but they were damn effective on me nearly every time.

Like I mentioned earlier, this movie really sat hard in my stomach creeping me out for hours afterwards. It may not be one I revisit often, but it is well-crafted and genuinely horrific and scary. I hate when someone in a horror movie seems slightly off, and gradually shifts into revealing they are not who they present themselves to be. This movie has that in abundance. It was also nice to see writer/director Bryan Bertino play with some of the tricks he used so effectively on me in The Strangers. Speaking of which, I tried to scour the internet for interviews with him (wanting him to explain himself on this one because I need more narrative hand-holding than this Bryan!), and found out this was shot on location at a farm his parents own in Texas. I could barely find any trace of Bertino himself online, so I am convinced he is just a recluse that spends his time cooking up terrible nightmares to haunt me.

8. The Medium

Speaking of movies that haunted me, The Medium has the dubious honor of giving me my first #31HorrorFilms31Days-induced nightmare this year. It also knows just how to suck the joy and hope right out of existence.

I loved the conceit of following a documentary crew doing a movie on shamans. It allowed for some natural exposition dumps and led to some neat found footage scares – especially as the third act really picks up.

I think the thing that really got to me was how it kept crushing my hope more and more over the course of the film. Also just an incredible example of how innovative Asian horror movies can be compared to Hollywood. There are a lot of American horror films that play with your perception of who the “safe” character is (Psycho and Scream are often the ones that get mentioned), but this one really got me when Nim dies. Even when the documentary is focusing on other characters, you just assume she is still the main character of the film since after all, the documentary is about her. And being the foolish viewer I am, I still thought, “well…maybe somehow they will figure this out without her!” They play with this a bit more with Mink stealing her uncle’s baby but the baby being recovered safely. So you keep thinking “well maybe…” and then the ritual is disrupted and all hell breaks loose. There’s no hope. There’s no survivors. There’s just a demon roaming the world. Wild.

9. Sissy

This was my last view of the year sort of on a lark after seeing positive reviews for it. I’m usually not one for horror comedies or stories about tense female friendships. Yet I loved this movie. It honestly could be in part from my wife getting such a kick out of it that she laughed out loud a few different times over the course of the film.

This is incredibly similar to one of my favorite gems New Year, New You (A Hulu original from the Into the Dark series I highly, highly recommend checking out). Both involve somewhat estranged groups of friends going away to an isolated house for a weekend. Both involve an influencer who did something terrible to one of the other friends that left them with a facial scar and lingering resentment. From there, the two movies have wildly different tones, perspectives, and levels of horror.

Sissy does not mess around with the gore. I couldn’t believe some of the places it went and the amount of goop and viscera it displayed. It seriously might have been the closest to the goopy gore of Terrifier 2 especially in one particular kill at the end.

I’m a sucker for horror movies that involve influencers – I find it so baffling that there are people who make a living as influencers, so I’m glad that element led me to check this out.

This also features one of the funniest deaths involving a cliff I have ever seen.

10. Orphan: First Kill

SPEAKING of movies I really didn’t have an interest in watching that blew me away! I watched this on a lark when I realized I could stream it on my flight home from a vacation. Even watching on my tiny phone screen, this movie has such a strong presence and confidence in itself, it captivated me from start to finish.

To talk about why this movie is so brilliant, I have to talk about the twist that outdid the original Orphan film. I know I already warned about spoilers earlier, but please stop reading and go watch this if you haven’t seen it. I’m putting a video clip of Esther being iconic for nearly a minute before getting into spoilers:

In my Tweet about this film, I alluded to the fact I had accidently seen a spoiler for it, but didn’t realize it was a spoiler because it seemed so ridiculous I assumed it was a joke. It was a screengrab where it appeared Julia Stiles was saying to Esther, “now if you excuse me, I’m going to go upstairs and fuck my husband.” I thought surely that is not in the movie itself. But no. It is. Because the twist in this film is that Julia Stiles is well aware Leena is posing as her missing daughter Esther. She knows this because her son killed her daughter and she helped cover it up. So now this imposter comes along and Julia Stiles goes along with it to appease her heartbroken husband who doesn’t know the truth. And in that moment, the movie reverses and it is Esther who is trapped by the old money WASP family she intended to con. The rest of the movie we are basically rooting for Esther to do her thing and it is pure camp gold. Very impressive for a prequel to a movie with an infamous twist.

11. Watcher

This movie is one of the best depictions of how unnerving it can be to feel like a man is following you. It is a slow burn, but the final act is an excellent catharsis. The encounter between the Julia and the watcher in the subway is so anxiety-inducing and well-acted it is worth the watch alone. I also enjoy the way this movie plays with Julia watching back – someone is going to write an excellent essay on the way the movie flips who is watching and following who at various points.

But most of all I need an alternate ending where Julia walks out of her neighbor’s apartment covered in blood with a smoking gun, turns to her trash bag boyfriend and just says “Believe. Women.” And then she takes out everyone who didn’t believe her. The end.

12. Offseason

This movie left me wanting a bit more when it comes to a satisfying resolution where everything pieces together perfectly, but I’ll be damned at how much I enjoyed the creepy atmosphere of a dreamlike tropical island. I was obsessed with Silent Hill growing up, and would seek out any book or movie (Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, Jacob’s Ladder, Hellraiser: Inferno) people compared to Silent Hill. Offseason would definitely go on that list. There are parts during the middle act of this movie that are clearly paying homage to the Silent Hill movie.

The movie plays around with Lovecraft mythos, but it also reminded me a lot of Carnival of Souls with the dreamlike state of the protagonist, lingering ghouls, and sense of inevitability to the story. This won’t work for everyone, but if any of that interests you it is worth a shot.

Additional Movies I Wanted to Address

Men


I have to speak my peace on this movie. I was rooting for this so hard. It had one of my favorite trailers of recent memory, yet when it came out I barely heard anything about it which is usually a bad sign. The reviewers who had seen it said ominous things like “I’m not sure what I think. I need to sit with it for a while.” I knew it had mixed reviews, but I still figured at most the end would be vague and unsatisfying but NOTHING could prepare me for how ridiculous the last 10-15 minutes of this film is.

When I sat down and started watching it, I couldn’t understand why it had gotten such a bad reception. It was leisurely-paced, character-driven and atmospheric but it was still engaging and straightforward enough. The whole movie builds up into a chilling final act featuring a home invasion by one of the ubiquitous men of the village (it keeps rotating which one it is, probably as a way of stating it could be any of them at this point). It is disturbing and compelling. There is a chase scene between Harper and Geoffrey. And then the real climax starts which features a prolonged sequence of multiple cisgender men growing vaginas on their taints and giving birth to other cisgender men.

I understand the message, but find another way. The scene is especially ridiculous given the bad CGI. And I truly think it is meant to be taken seriously which made it all the more aggravating to watch. That’s basically how the movie ends too. The prolonged birthing sequence ends with the last man giving birth to Harper’s dead ex-husband who says he only wants her love, and she may or may not kill him off camera before her friend shows up to pick her up.

The ending is a perfect combination of unsatisfying and ridiculous. I felt angry by how letdown I was, which is a shame because the buildup throughout the movie is really well-executed and engaging.

Annabelle Comes Home

You will never believe this, but someone does in fact open the case

I really enjoyed Annabelle Throws a House Party. There is something so delightful in seeing The Conjuring Expanded Universe give in to the same nostalgia-driven, universe-building money grabs as the MCU. This one introduces a plethora of possessed/haunted objects in the Warrens’ basement museum that are ripe for their own sequels. I mentioned this when I tweeted about the movie, but I really expected a studio exec to knock on my door as soon as credits rolled to ask if I would be more excited to see a full-length movie about the demonic bride or the haunted Samurai warrior. These movies might feel a bit on the rails and not crack my top picks of the year, but I enjoy them and the comforting familiarity they bring. I also appreciate the earnest character-development and back stories that a lot of cheaper horror movies skip to get to the jump scares.


And that’s it for this year. Again, a lot of solid movies this year and at least one new favorite to trot out for new viewers from time to time. With Christmas around the corner, I’ll probably be continuing my deep dive into the Silent Night, Deadly Night series and rewatching some if not all three Black Christmas movies. The next time a horror movie really strikes me, I’ll be back to write about it but until then take care.

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