When I was a child I had a toy bear that when you pulled the string on its back said “I will protect you and keep you safe from harm”. Looking back the tone and timbre of his voice would not be out of place in any of these mechanical horror films of today. He didn’t have a name, maybe Brown Bear and he didn’t walk or talk but in 2023 we now have M3gan. She can walk, talk and actually protect………by any means. The timing of this film couldn’t be more apt coming in the shadow of OpenAI’s bursting forth onto the mainstream stage at the end of 2022 into 2023.
It’s a tale as old as tech or as the ChatGPT version of Public Enemy might call it Fear of a Tech Planet. New technology, change, fear, embracing and relying on new technologies and worst case scenarios are rife for dramatisation and what better way to update the Chucky/Annabelle crossed with Ex Machina than for Blumhouse to bring us M3gan (Model 3 Generative Android), the latest in toy manufacturing.
When Gemma’s (Allison Williams) sister and brother in law are killed in a freak traffic accident she is left as guardian to their only child, Cady (Violet McGraw) . Gemma works at Funki, a toy company, and is developing a lifesize doll that has artificial intelligence and is designed to look after the child it is assigned to/paired with and provides companionship to said child. M3gan is paired with Cady in its beta state as it is still being worked on and in development, one of its remits is to protect Cady and being equipped to self-improve and adapt to new situations, M3gan starts to act independently. Anything or anyone who appears to be a threat to Cady, M3Gan deals with, the neighbours dog for starters.
There is an uncanny valley effect here, the facial design of M3gan seems to be a combination of CGI and makeup and as such looks very creepy, unsettling and unreal. The actress playing M3gan (Amie Donald) does a great physical job as does the voice artist (Jenna Davis).
One of the things that make great horror films is the amount of investment in the telling the story as truthfully as possible that the actors can and Allison Williams and Violet McGraw commit fully. Their relationship feels grounded in reality as they face the challenges of their situation.
This is a fun ride that is not as high brow as Alex Garland’s brilliant Ex Machina nor as B movie as Tom Holland’s (not Spidey) Child’s Play so it sits somewhere in the entertainment middle and is a welcome addition to the ‘horror’ genre. New Zealander Gerard Johnstone directs this film to box office success and he is currently in talks to direct the sequel M3gan 2.0. If you wanna know how successful the film has been check out the M3gan sketch from Saturday Night Live starring Aubrey Plaza and the viral TikTok dances. M3gan has arrived.
Blumhouse released one of my favourite horrors last year with The Black Phone and the first ‘horror film’ I have seen in 2023 is also one of theirs, may they all be as fun as this one.
Here are my favourite films of 2022. There were many this year, more than usual. I have mostly put them in the order that I saw them except for my number 1 (which is last). It was cemented at top spot the moment I saw it……..
Let me know what you enjoyed this year in the comments below.
This was the first film I saw this year that really impressed me. Enough to buy the book with the short story that the film was based on: Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein which contained the short ‘Saying Goodbye to Yang’. This was a delicate treatise on life, death and love and was directed with heart and deftness by Kogonada who also directed 4 episodes of one of my favourite tv series based on my favourite book of 2022, Pachinko. The first of Colin Farrell’s great performances that I saw this year and beautifully supported by Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Hayley Lu Richardson (who appeared later on in the year in The White Lotus season 2) and Justin H Min imbuing Yang with so much humanity and life. Intelligent with something to say. Huzzah.
DRIVE MY CAR
I love Haruki Murakami’s writing. He may even be my favourite author. I hadn’t read the short that the film was based on but I read it before I saw this. It was based on 2 stories from his collection Men Without Women (Scheherezade and Kino). I think this may have been released in 2021 but I saw it in 2022 so……. Ryusuke Hamaguchi deservedly won the Academy Award for this lovely film that didn’t feel like its 3 hour running time as the performances were interesting and the story was paced really well. Lovely.
This Swedish horror film directed by Eskil Vogt was so well put together with a seemingly limited budget and the tension, cinematography and performances from the kids elevated it to land on this list. With a nice title nod to the 1961 classic horror film The Innocents based on Henry James’ short story ‘The Turn of the Screw’. This supernatural thriller is intelligent, scary and brilliant. Let’s see how long it takes for Hollycould or Hollydud to remake this brilliant horror film. Ignore the remake if it ever comes and check out this great piece of cinema.
THE BLACK PHONE
This was a good one. Ethan Hawke manages to pull off some great acting mostly hidden by a mask. The younger actors were all very good, Mason Thames plays the lead and is supported tremendously by Madeleine McGraw who plays his sister and gives the stand-out performance of the film. Written by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King and directed by Scott Derrickson, this horror introduces a very creepy bad guy, the Grabber, who is the stuff of nightmares, kidnapping children throughout the years. The tension is palpable and here we have one of many top horror films of 2022.
The best Predator film ever???? Don’t shoot me. I saw this three times and enjoyed it every time. The pace, the structure, the callbacks, the references, the performances, the action were all grade A, spot on. I have only seen the original Predator and revisited it again after seeing this 35 years after I originally saw it. It is a fun film that was better than I remembered but the testosterone was uncontrollably flying out of the screen in that classic patriarchal ’80’s style. It was fun though. Prey is a massively enjoyable action film that puts a female front and centre and an America Indian/Native American at that. Amber Midthunder has arrived and I’m sure we’ll see more of her.
MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON
This might have been the sweetest film I saw this year. Based on a short animated film by comedian, Jenny Slate (who also appears in my number one film of the year….) this is about a mollusc whose family has disappeared, apart from his Grandmother, exceptionally voiced by Isabella Rossellini, and his day to day life living in an AirBnB. His journey is documented by the current AirBnB guest, played by director Dean Fleischer Camp.
It is moving, gentle, charming and above all funny.
Ti West’s double whammy is a welcome addition to the horror genre that in 2022 had a great injection of imagination and re-invention. Horror has always been looked down on as a less than worthy genre and now it seems to be getting its flowers. X is about an adult film shoot on a farm that goes left pretty quickly and Pearl is about the lady of the farm as a young girl. Mia Goth plays Pearl and also the heroine of X!!!! She is so so good. Nominate her for an Oscar for both films please. Her performances in both are astounding. X is like a traditional slasher film with a twist, Chainsaw Massacre style and Pearl is like a mash-up of horror and an old hollywood film. Fantastically twisted and brilliant.
DECISION TO LEAVE
Park Chan Wook is back delivering class and style for days. Here, he gives us a romantic thriller, which is a weird genre mash-up if you think about it. A detective investigating a man’s death meets the man’s wife whilst trying to solve the case. This feels like a classic thriller with touches of Hitchcock thrown in for good measure. The cinematography is stunning as we would expect from Park Chan Wook and the cast is tremendous led by Park Hae Il as the detective and Chinese actress Tang Wei as the dead man’s wife. The style oozes out of this brilliant film.
BODIES BODIES BODIES
A24 does it again. This is whip-smart. Euphoria meets Halloween. Female led, funny as fuck and with a soundtrack that rocks this horror-comedy about a group of friends staying together in a big house owned by the parents of Pete Davidson’s character for a weekend that turns pretty sour pretty quickly. Friendships dissolve, tensions mount and people die.
I saw this on a plane earlier in the year and was really impressed. A man is in jail for a debt he was unable to pay and is released for a two day leave. He sort of tries to do a good deed and gets caught up in his own lie and complicates his life further. This is an intelligent film about the idea of ‘doing good’ and the agendas behind the deed. Directed by Iranian Academy Award winning director, Asghar Farhadi, this is a film that takes you on a journey about an unlucky soul and his efforts to make amends.
THE QUIET GIRL
Another one that surprised me. It was on at the Sydney Film Festival and was quite rightly lauded with praise. Set in rural Ireland in 1981 this is a story of a young girl who is sent to a distant cousins for the summer as her dysfunctional parents can’t afford to keep her and don’t seem to have the love to give her. She gets to experience what its like to be properly looked after and cared for. It is heart-breaking and very touching in an implied way rather than overly sentimental. The film is mostly in Gaelic and thus allows the viewer to be placed in the thick of the story. First time feature director Colm Bairéad delivers a touching film about family and a special mention must go to the lead actress Catherine Clinch who imbues Cáit with such humanity and honest energy I would be surprised if we didn’t see her cropping up again and again in the near future.
This was probably the most surprising movie of the year. It came along with a publicity trail that for once was deserved. The trailer was brilliantly mysterious and didn’t give away any of the fucked up plot. It was scary, surprising and paced along nicely. Best for you to go in as blind as possible and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
Stealing babies and selling them on sounds like a horror film, right? How Kore-eda Hirokazu manages to make this warm, funny, moving film is a feat indeed. He is helped along by the immense talent of Song Kang Ho and the rest of the cast who manage to form a functionally dysfunctional slap shoddy family of sorts. Read my review HERE.
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
This was so so good and deservedly the recipient of the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year. A scathing indictment of the spoilt wealthy tier of society, this is satire at its finest. Director Ruben Östlund is landing classic after classic and this is no exception. Check out my review HERE.
The action film of the year delivers on all levels. It is a lesson on how to make a film with all the elements. The characters are built up with proper foundation so that when jeopardy arrives the audience is invested. The second film starring Song Kang Ho of this year here, he plays a cop who is trying to thwart a potential airline disaster. Also starring another South Korean superstar actor, Lee Byung Hun this was my favourite actioner of the year.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
A late contender as I only saw it a couple of days ago but thoroughly enjoyed it. This intimate, witty, commentary on war, both personal and societal is written and directed beautifully by Martin McDonough coming off the back of Three Billboards and reuniting the mighty Colin Farrell and the brilliant Brendan Gleeson and co-starring the always interesting Barry Keoghan and the always great Kerry Condon this tale of a friendship gone sour shows that nothing lasts forever.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
I have gushed about this to most everyone I know. Give it all the awards. This is my number one favourite film of the year 2022. Heart warming, surprising, beautiful, funny, daring, out-there, imaginative, inventive, hot dog fingers, the music, the choreography, the acting, the direction, everything, everything everything…..all at once. An absolute gem of a film. My review from earlier in the year is HERE.
Actor of the year-Colin Farrell. He was subtle and gentle in After Yang, rough as guts in The North Water, funny and massively watchable as the Penguin in The Batman and slow and again funny in The Banshees of Inershin. He wins 2022.
Fun Fact: The film company, A24 had 6 films in the above list (After Yang, Marcel, X, Pearl, Bodies Bodies Bodies and Everything Everywhere) so A24 wins 2022 for distribution and inventiveness.
The list in full: After Yang Drive My Car The Innocents The Black Phone Prey Marcel the Shell With Shoes On X Pearl Decision to Leave Bodies Bodies Bodies A Hero The Quiet Girl Barbarian Broker Triangle of Sadness Emergency Declaration The Banshees of Inershin Everything Everywhere All at Once
I hope you enjoyed my list. Art is after all totally subjective so there are no wrong answers (for the most part ;O))
Let me know what your faves were in the comments below. I appreciate y’all. Merry new year.