Movie monsters are incredible. The greats of Rick Baker, Phil Tippett, and Greg Nicotero — among many others — have rendered screens both small and large as monstrous gateways to unabashed nightmare fuel. Whether culled from mythology or the classics of the genre, these creations are a tentpole of the enduring monster movie or creature feature. However conceptualized, movie monsters are as much a part of what movies innately are as anything else (and for fans, horror writer Heather Wixson has a remarkable duology of books out about them).
Every year brings new monsters to the table. Some are relegated to indie VOD offerings, some theatrical bows, and some in a weird space between (or, in the case of flicks like 2022's "Croc," somewhere far, far beneath). Here, we'll be taking a look at the 10 scariest movie monsters of 2022. These beasties proved frighteningly fun; some rendered with computer effects, some conceived practically, and all stupendously scary. They're destined to take a bite out of you.
Lion In Beast
"Beast" was the little creature feature that could. Released in August 2022 to little fanfare, the Idris Elba-led survival thriller managed an impressive $59 million at the worldwide box office. While that may not have been enough to make the movie profitable, it's an impressive showing in a year where box office returns were down across the board, saying more about ballooning budgets than horror's financial legs. In "Beast," Idris Elba and his children visit a friend at the Mopani Reserve in South Africa in an effort to honor their late mother who grew up there.
Given the title, it's not long before the titular beast arrives, a rogue lion on the prowl, killing anyone and everyone who gets in his way. While "Beast" makes some effort to be socially conscious, exploring the roots of poaching and the poverty that motivates it, it's principally a big, roaring monster movie, and in that regard, it delivers in spades. The central lion looks fantastic, getting plenty of opportunities to menace Elba and his children. "Beast" additionally proves more brutal than most, with plenty of icky, gooey gore as the lion tears through desperate survivors. Not since "The Ghost and the Darkness" has a killer lion flick been quite so fun.
Killer Tree In The Killing Tree
Rhys Frake-Waterfield's "The Killing Tree" appears at first glance to be nothing more than a bottom-barrel yuletide horror offering. It's high concept meets low budget, and often, that kind of lowbrow horror yields very little beyond passing interest. With "The Killing Tree," Frake-Waterfield of "Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey" fame proves himself a genuine filmmaker. "The Killing Tree" is wonderfully shot, well acted, and genuinely fun. Don't let the wrapping fool you — this is more than just a lump of coal.
Sarah Alexandra Marks plays Faith, the sole survivor of a massacre the year before that claimed her parents' life. That same killer has since been resurrected after a ritual gone awry. Now, his body inhabits a Christmas tree, though that certainly won't stop him from claiming the victim who got away. Said tree tears partygoers in half, wrapping his branches around them in computer-generated, Grand Guignol glory. Sure, the tree is mostly just a performer in a tree suit running around, but it's considerably more convincing than it sounds. With "The Killing Tree," Frake-Waterfield achieves the impossible, crafting a B-movie that transcends its origins. It's simply good.
Ethan In Run Sweetheart Run
"Run Sweetheart Run's" closest contemporary might be Richard Shepard's "The Perfection." Both are digital streaming releases, and both are fiercely feminist, unpredictable tales of revenge. Long delayed before being dropped on Amazon Prime (it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival), it was one of 2022's greatest horror surprises. Despite the conceptually silly premise, "Run Sweetheart Run" is dark, a genuinely terrifying fight for survival as Ella Balinska's Cherie runs through the streets, ceaselessly pursued by Pilou Asbæk's Ethan. Ethan isn't just a suitor who can't take "no" for an answer. He's an actual demon who controls all the men of the world, easily getting them to do his bidding.
Ethan is a terrifying demon. His genuine foil — a fantastic Shohreh Aghdashloo — isn't introduced until late in the film. Until then, it's not just Cherie versus Ethan — it's Cherie versus the entire patriarchy. Asbæk delivers a fantastic performance, elevating his antagonist beyond mere motif. As he rips off heads and tears bodies asunder, he earns his frightening status tenfold.
Predator In Prey
Controversial though it may seem to say, the Predator, first introduced in John McTiernan's "Predator," hasn't had the most remarkable movie track record. While the first is a machismo classic and the second, "Predator 2," has its charms, the Predator has sort of been ambling from clunker to clunker since first conceived. Just consider both 2010's "Predators" and 2018's "The Predator." Does anyone remember anything about them?
Luckily, director Dan Trachtenberg was around to reinvigorate the franchise with "Prey," a quasi-origin story of sorts that sees the titular baddie face off against a Comanche tribe in the 1719 Great Plains. As a bonus, the entire movie is available to stream in dubbed Comanche, arguably the best way to experience it. Amber Midthunder's Naru is the young warrior tasked with stopping the Predator before it wipes her entire tribe away, and her scenes going toe-to-toe with the Predator are some of the best genre beats of the year. Here, the Predator is scarier than ever, ably decapitating French trappers and easily hunting its prey through the vast plains. The Predator is scary again, and in truth, that feels like something akin to a miracle.
Doppelgänger In Hatching
Hanna Bergholm's "Hatching" is one of 2022's breakout indie successes. This Finnish gem is remarkably sneaky, a monster movie posing as a grim family drama. Part fairy tale, part Guillermo del Toro, with a little Ridley Scott thrown in, too, "Hatching" is difficult to conceptualize but impossible to look away from. The central thrust follows Siiri Solalinna's Tinja, a young gymnast whose mother, an online influencer, is surreptitiously nightmarish. She recurrently projects onto Tinja, using her as a springboard for her own long-forgotten dreams.
One evening, Tinja discovers an egg in the woods. Feeling guilty for having presumably killed its mother, she takes it home to incubate. It later hatches into the cutest, yet scariest, skeletal bird creature imaginable. It's a marvel of special effects work, the kind of design and actualization that would make the likes of Rick Baker proud. While the bird soon morphs into a Doppelgänger of Tinja's (acting out her worst impulses), its inceptive, bird-like form is a hallmark of horror this year. It's the best-designed monster in arguably the year's best monster movie.
Men In Men
"Men" certainly proved divisive. Alex Garland's latest genre-hybrid, despite being more explicitly horror than his past work, is a surreal, and at times incomprehensible, foray into grief, misogyny, and the roots of patriarchal evil. While Garland's script is certain to never definitively answer what, exactly, the chief antagonist is, it does outwardly appear to be Rory Kinnear. Or, well, several different iterations of Rory Kinnear. And if nothing else, Kinnear is exceptionally chilling in the role(s).
Jessie Buckley's Harper Marlowe, expectedly wonderful, travels to a remote manor for some time away, still grieving from the tragic death of her husband. As she spends more time in the village, wandering about the woods, the pub, and so forth, the audience is clued in more to what happened with her husband. Additionally, in a viciously sinister move, Garland casts Kinnear in the role of every man around town. It's never clear whether Harper recognizes the similarities or not, though from the vicar to a young child, it's Kinnear all the way. In a gruesome body horror sequence, the true form of this man — this being — is at least somewhat clarified. Whether it's the Green Man of legend or not is up for debate, though no matter what it is, it's one of the year's scariest monsters.
Werewolves In The Cursed
Werewolves aren't exactly new monsters. There's "Twilight" of course, and the underrated "Werewolves Within" from 2021. There's even "Wer," a totally underappreciated 2013 shocker from director William Brent Bell. Yet, they've never been quite as moody, quite as existential and dour, as they were in Sean Ellis' "The Cursed." Remarkable insofar as it got a wide theatrical release, no one may have seen it, but that doesn't render its toothy thrills any less terrifying.
Boyd Holbrook stars as John McBride, a pathologist who arrives to help the townspeople deduce the cause of several alleged animal attacks and deaths (spoilers: it's werewolves). Tethered to a curse placed on the town's militia for a savage, uncomfortably violent first-act massacre, Ellis deliberately makes it difficult to sympathize with all but the most vulnerable of victims. Midway through, McBride captures a creature, and upon cutting into it, reveals the corpse of the person infected — cursed, in other words. It's a gory bit of body horror, one that wonderfully reworks some conventional werewolf mythos in a movie that is historically grounded and historically, well, terrifying.
Alien In Nope
The early goings of "Nope" are as sinister as they are confounding. While it was announced ahead of release that, yes, "Nope" was going to be an alien movie, it was still wildly unclear how Jordan Peele intended to put his own stamp on a well-trod horror subgenre. Well, that stamp proved to be wickedly subversive and grotesquely effective.
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as Otis and Emerald Haywood, respectively, two siblings tending to their late father's Hollywood horse ranch. The appearance of an ostensible spacecraft seems to be their ticket to both fame and wealth — the sheer spectacle of capturing it on film would prove life-changing. Yet, as they both discover, it isn't actually a spacecraft. Rather, it's an amorphous, jellyfish-shaped creature, one that devours organic matter, targeting prey that looks directly at it. It's terrifying, frankly, especially during the film's standout sequence that has the alien spew blood all over their homestead. It sure is spectacular.
Smile Demon In Smile
"Smile" came out of nowhere and somehow, someway, became the biggest original horror movie of 2022. It's not exactly surprising, in part because "Smile" is pretty good. It's genuinely scary, considerably more grounded than its trailers suggested, and the acting, especially from star Sosie Bacon, is really good. Sure, it's not quite the movie marketed to audiences (it's much, much darker), but it struck a chord; what with the popular, Reese's melding of horror and trauma that's all the rage today. It doesn't hurt, either, that it's got a really, really great monster at its core.
Like Samara in "The Ring" or the demon from "It Follows," the demon/entity/creature in "Smile" is a kind of curse, a thing passed from one victim to another. In the denouement, the creature speaks, revealing itself as a kind of traumatic parasite. It feeds on trauma, hence its habit of forcing its victims to die by suicide (an arguably misguided narrative contrivance). It also, like The Mother in "Barbarian," is a giant, naked thing, only this one has mouths nestled within mouths. It's a gnarly reveal in the final reel, all the more remarkable because putting a face to a curse will often neuter its efficacy. Not here. With $216 million at the box office, a sequel is all but inevitable. It'll be a pleasure to see this smiling nightmare fuel back again.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Mother In Barbarian
Zach Cregger's "Barbarian" is 2022's "Malignant." It's a totally unpredictable, absolutely gonzo, outrageously gory horror show, simultaneously intimate and grindhouse. It'll be talked about for years to come, and leading those conversations (with Justin Long and his tape measure coming in a close second) is bound to be Matthew Patrick Davis' Mother. Reportedly inspired by the legend of Grendel's Mother from "Beowulf," Mother is a massive, totally nude woman living in the tunnels beneath a Detroit Airbnb. She has been taking tenants, forcing them to behave like her children, including letting her, well, feed them.
Admittedly, after the shocking reveal of what actually lies in wait, the design of The Mother does feel a little too conventional (fans of 2016's "Blair Witch" might reasonably assume ol' Elly Kedward is in the basement), though the backstory and sheer savagery help to elevate her among several others. So while, yes, naked, tall, lithe women are a horror fixture (see: "Smile"), they're never quite as maternal, quite as ferocious, as The Mother in "Barbarian." She's a bonafide horror icon, and she deserves the honor without appeal.
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The post The 10 Scariest Movie Monsters of 2022 appeared first on /Film.