Here's the Top 10 new films I watched last year, not really representative of all that was released or all I watched as I missed a lot of new titles and watch a lot more older films anyway. Some of these films aren't perfect, like Hellraiser, but they all have something that stuck with me well after the first viewing. And some are just damn entertaining like Glass Onion which had me grinning the entire time.
Mad God I watched Mad God three times, which is very unusual for me. I was absolutely captivated by this wild and surreal descent into a retro-futuristic Boschian hellsacpe. Phil Tippet is the true Mad God and here's hoping it doesn't take another 30 years for his next film to materialise.
X This was the best cinematic experience I had this year. Ti West came back after a break from cinema screens with two of the best films of the year. X felt like a mix between Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Boogie Nights in the best way. Like Tarantino, West takes his influences and builds them into something new. And Mia Goth gave two of the nest performances of the year both in this and the followup.
Halloween Ends What a pleasant surprise this film was. The third in a trilogy that breaks from the format and boldly tried something new, much to the chagrin of horror fans everywhere. But the few of us that got on the movie's wavelength really loved the mournful tone, the examination of trauma on the town of Haddonfield and how it manifests in destructive ways, creating a new threat and awakening an old evil. Thrilling, heartfelt and also had the best of the new John Carpenter scores.
Blonde Another much-maligned film, Andrew Dominik's Blonde was a 167 minute heartbreak, and left me shook by the end. A surreal examination of the exploitation and mistreatment of Norma Jean by Hollywood, the men she married and the world, this eschews all bio-pic tropes and digs into the psyche of the troubled but talented woman who was forced to play a role, not just in the movies but in her day to day life. The sublime score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis hammers home the tragic nature of her all too short life.
Pearl Due to Pearl not getting a local cinema release in New Zealand, I had to watch it at home (thank you American I-Tunes) and while I really liked it on first watch, a second viewing sealed the deal. A prequel to X, we get the origin story of Pearl, the elderly killer, here a kept-at-home farm girl with dreams of stardom. But when those dreams are cruelly dashed, she lashes out violently. West crafts a decidedly different tale than X, touching on Wizard of Oz and the technicolour films of yesteryear. Less a straight horror film than X, but equally hypnotic and affecting.
The Northman Robert Eggers went big with his Viking epic, but it was just as weird and immersive as his previous smaller films. Alexander Skaarsgard was in full beast mode here, but the whole cast was excellent, and the mix of realism and surreal fantasy won me over.
Nope For some reason, I find it hard to quantify why I like Nope so much. It was a big weird blockbuster that was thrilling, funny and also really disturbing in parts. I love that Peele isn't playing by the rules, and his risks are paying off.
Glass Onion Just the most pure fun film of the year. Great mystery, performances, gags - the lot. I watched it with my step dad who said, 'that's not normally the sort of film I watch but it was good fun.'
Barbarian Another fun and fright-filled surprise. I only wish I could have seen it with a packed crowd in the cinema. I can't wait to see what Zach Cregger comes up with next.
Hellraiser Now this one I gave 3.5 stars on Letterboxd after my initial viewing. There was a lot I liked, but the main characters felt out of place, and the dumb boyfriend twist didn't land for me. But like I said up top, it stuck with me, and what it really gets right is a sense of doom that is everlasting and consuming as well as adding a cosmic horror element that's new to the franchise. Not since the first two films has the mythology felt this rich and deep. Despite its flaws, I would love to see David Bruckner do another Hellraiser, maybe with some better characters up front next time.