It’s tough to narrow down a year-end Best Of film list below 30 because every year there are so, so many great pieces of work from filmmakers all around the world. There is never a bad year for film, in spite of what other critics will try to sell you, and particularly if you’re a fan of films from any country in any language. 2022 has brought us a lot of cinematic beauty and terror and weirdness.
I’ve done my best to whittle the number of films on this list down to 28. Every film on here has touched me in a big way, otherwise I wouldn’t bother mentioning the titles at all. While named a Best of 2022 list, it’s really C.H. Newell’s FAVOURITES OF 2022 list; BEST OF just sounds more assertive, so we’re going with that.
FYI: The following list goes by North American release dates. Also, this list is in no particular order until it hits the top 5, after which they’ll lead up to my number one pick of 2022. Please remember that lists, like art itself, are subjective, and this one is mine; if you don’t like my list, you can always make your own.
Now, let’s venture through the past 365 days in film together!
You Won’t Be Alone
Directed & Written by Goran Stolevski
You Won’t Be Alone immerses the audience and the protagonist, Nevena (Sara Klimoska), into a witch’s existence, but in such a way that it directly parallels the existence of a woman under the thumb of 1800s patriarchy. The film’s title itself is a subtle reference to a sad sense of community among women, the recognition and understanding of the misogyny they all face together as a collective gender. Nevena is shown the truth of women’s lives by Maria (Anamaria Marinca), a witch whose own painful backstory reveals exactly why she acts so callously to show Nevena such truth. The difference between Nevena and the witch is their opposite perspectives on having to become a monster to survive a patriarchal world.
You Won’t Be Alone is so unique in the field of horror films about witchcraft and misogyny because while it uses the powers of witchcraft for a purpose and it’s the plot’s main engine, the story is ultimately about the power already within women without the need for any supernatural powers.
Directed & Written by Zach Cregger
Zach Cregger’s Barbarian is a uniquely twisted piece of contemporary horror about Tess (Georgina Campbell), who arrives in Detroit for a job interview and goes to her Airbnb rental but discovers a guy named Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there. As Tess and Keith attempt to figure things out, they reluctantly share the place since all the hotels in town are booked up for a convention. The house starts to feel strange the next day when Tess discovers a tunnel in the basement, along with an unsettling room that creeps her out. And that’s only the beginning of the horrors Tess runs into within the house on Barbary Street in Brightmoor.
Cregger’s screenplay is structured in such a way that we get several different perspectives within a single story, all of which play into themes concerning gender and racial dynamics, as well as urban decay. Barbarian is also a subtle horror genre exploration of dying empires, from the American Empire and its many troubles in Detroit, to the empires of individual bad men, whose inability to see the violence of their errors, or the ramifications of it later, creates monstrous conditions in which others are forced to live.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Directed & Written by Jane Schoenbrun
For those of us old enough to remember a time before the internet it’s always interesting to look back at when personal computers became more common in the household, and people were grappling with how the world wide web started creeping into our daily lives. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair isn’t set back then, yet there’s an unsettling nostalgic quality to Jane Schoenbrun’s film that pulls the viewer back to that sometimes unnerving era and place of uncertainty, partly due to its protagonist, Casey (Anna Cobb), a young person drawn into an online phenomenon called “The World‘s Fair Challenge.”
Part of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is about the internet itself, and the collective stories with which many of us engage, while another part of it is about how our identity can be affected by our internet experiences. Then there’s a kind of warning in Schoenbrun’s film about the real dangers of the internet: those dangers are not the internet itself, the danger remains very human, depending on who may be sitting on the opposite end of an online communication and what their intentions are in communicating.
Directed by Nico van den Brink
Written by Nico van den Brink & Daan Bakker
Folk horror is so great because folklore, which usually plays a huge part in the subgenre, carries with it the traditions of a culture—whether innocuous, positive, or toxic—even when wrapped up in strange, fantastical, and horrifying tales. Aili Nenola writes: “Folklore, like written expression, can be used to either maintain or challenge the status quo prevailing within a community . . . it can be used to express and reinforce acceptance of the dominant norms, concepts and power structures.” One of the oldest, most dominant power structures across many cultures—unfortunately enduring today—is patriarchy. Nico van den Brink’s Moloch is a Gothic horror story about the endurance of violent patriarchy across generations. It’s also a story about communities who can’t face their actual histories, nor how the contemporary world judges those histories, so they retreat into harmful, mythic stories to prop up ideologies that often violently oppress others.
Directed by Tony Stone
Written by Gaddy Davis, John Rosenthal, & Tony Stone
Tony Stone’s Ted K doesn’t need much intro on its plot because it follows the infamous story of Ted Kaczynski (played by Sharlto Copley), a tale most people alive over the age of 20 know about already. The film portrays Kaczynski in a somewhat different light than how many have seen him over the years, diving deeper into his personal life and relationships, as well as his deeply solitary time living in his small cabin in the Montana mountains.
What Ted K does better than any other film, or media in general, concerning a domestic male terrorist is hone in on the quality that runs through them all without fail: deep-seated misogyny. Beneath so much of what Ted was doing there was always his underlying hatred of women. The film offers psychological insight into Kaczynski, rather than simply retreading his crimes, as well as his ideology. There’s a genuine sense in Stone’s film that we walk away with some degree of new understanding about The Unabomber and what made him, pardon the pun, tick.
Directed & Written by Carlota Pereda
At least in Western society, we find it tough to talk about issues where not everything is cut and dry morally, especially when it comes to talking about victimhood, doubly so when it involves physical violence. Carlota Pereda’s Piggy sits in that uncomfortable space, deftly navigating complex issues surrounding bullying and taking no prisoners when it comes to portraying the many aspects of being a victim. Her film tells the story of a fat teen, Sara (Laura Galán), being bullied by her peers. One day when Sara’s forced to walk home humiliated in her bathing suit from the pool, she comes upon a psychopath kidnapping her bullies. The man lets Sara go and gives her a towel to cover up. Later, when the whole town starts searching for the missing young people, Sara doesn’t tell anybody what she saw.
Then, things get much more complicated, and very violent.
Directed by Rebekah McKendry
Written by Joshua Hull & David Ian McKendry
Glorious places Wes (Ryan Kwanten)—a man going through a rough breakup—in a rest stop bathroom where he suddenly hears a strange voice (J.K. Simmons) in the next stall. Wes and whoever it is next to him start to converse, occasionally through the gloryhole, and he realises this person knows a lot about him, including all of his deepest, darkest secrets.
Often the use of cosmic horror goes big by portraying the whole world, or universe, as being in danger from an existential threat. Rebekah McKendry’s Glorious does go big, but places the individual first and foremost within the context of cosmic horror, focusing existentialism on a single man and his life’s choices. Wes’s very intimate, personal encounter with the cosmos is about the ways in which patriarchy poisons the world, and how bad men may not always face legal justice but, someplace, some time, the universe’s cosmic karma will catch up with them, and it will be glorious.
Directed & Written by Kyle Edward Ball
Skinamarink is a slow, nightmarish walk through a vivid sensation of nostalgia, reminding adults what it felt like to be afraid of the dark, even in the comfort of one’s own home. It’s a tale told mostly relying on visuals, peppered with bits of dialogue here and there, along with other audio, to create a strange yet interesting experience that feels like watching a memory on a worn out VHS tape. The supernatural invades the everyday in Ball’s film while two little kids try to navigate their home after it falls under literal and metaphoric darkness. Skinamarink is, in some sense, difficult to describe, just as it’s very, very difficult to forget.
Directed & Written by Andrew Semans
Resurrection stars Rebecca Hall as a woman called Margaret whose normal life completely unravels when David, a man from her past (played by Tim Roth), shows up out of the blue. This is a cautionary tale wrapped up in a disturbing—and, in the finale, surreal—plot about a woman trying to escape an awful trauma from when she was young, only for that part of her past to catch up with her and come back to life like a ghost of flesh and blood. The cautionary aspect of Margaret’s story is about confronting one’s trauma and dealing with it instead of hiding it from oneself and others. Her decision to isolate herself within past trauma and keep it a secret, especially from her daughter, amplifies the trauma’s effects when, in the form of David, it finally catches up to her. Resurrection is an allegory about how destructive buried trauma is when it inevitably bubbles up to the surface, though you’ll just never be able to predict where this one goes by the end.
Directed & Written by Alex Garland
In Alex Garland’s Men, Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) takes a vacation by herself after the tragic death of her almost-ex-husband, heading into the English countryside where she rents a lavish house for the stay. When she arrives she’s greeted by the house’s caretaker, Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), an eccentric but very courteous man. After Harper’s alone at the house a while, she sees a naked man stalking around the property and calls the police. This is only the tip of an odd, unsettling iceberg. The rest of Harper’s vacation gets more terrifying with each passing hour.
Easily Garland’s weirdest film yet, which is saying something. While some may only see the surreal madness and weird visuals of Men, others will find all sorts of ways to dig out allegories and metaphors concerning the way women are forced to exist in a sickeningly male world. Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear are both powerhouses here: Buckley manages to portray a woman descending into a world of utter insanity with such realism, and Kinnear deserves a standing ovation for the way he was able to play several different characters in a twisted Peter Sellers-like performance. Atop it all is the Gothic, grotesque surrealism of Garland, truly taking us into a whole other realm for 100 minutes.
Crimes of the Future
Directed & Written by David Cronenberg
Crimes of the Future is set in the future when biotechnology has advanced significantly, as has human evolution to the point where many people feel no pain anymore. The plot follows a performance artist couple, Saul (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux), who have a unique act: Caprice removes Saul’s organs for a live show. It’s because Saul suffers from a contemporary affliction that causes him to produce new, weird organs constantly. Eventually, Saul finds himself in league with a shadowy group of evolutionists after being recruited, due to his unique bodily situation, to go undercover for the authorities. This changes everything for Saul.
Even though we have wonderful filmmakers taking up the sub-genre in their own unique ways today, Cronenberg will forever remain King of Body Horror in film, and Crimes of the Future is one of his great works, an amalgamation of many themes he’s taken on in his films (and even literary fiction) over the years. Something that stands out in this film, as opposed to some of his others, is a yearning for bodily autonomy. While many Cronenberg works have, in some way or another, questioned the way technology is altering the human body, Crimes of the Future is decidedly about people who simply want control over their own body, technology or otherwise, in a society that seeks to commodify bodies to an even greater extent than even now. As always, the Cronenberg future is bleak, but there are forever people fighting back against the bleakness.
Directed by Luis Javier Henaine
Written by Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes
Luis Javier Henaine’s Disappear Completely is a horror version of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal, swapping the career consequences of being a money-hungry stringer for the terrors of witchcraft. In Disappear Completely, Santiago (Harold Torres) is a stringer who snaps lurid photographs at crime scenes to sell to a National Enquirer-like tabloid bent on delivering the nastiest true crime reporting to their readers. After leaving a high-profile crime scene, he’s attacked in the street by an unseen person. He loses his wallet, but soon he starts to lose his sense of taste and smell, too. As things get progressively scarier for Santiago he comes to understand that someone with a grudge has put a curse upon him.
Disappear Completely is a traditional folklore tale brought into the contemporary world bridging the ancient worlds of witchcraft and Indigenous Mexican magic with the new worlds of twenty-four-seven news media and true crime reporting. An unnerving supernatural horror story that brings the morality of our everyday world into question when it comes to the pop culture obsession with true crime. The story doesn’t only point a finger in the direction of the filmmakers and creators of true crime, it just as much calls into question our roles as viewers. Genuinely haunting.
Directed by Raúl Cerezo & Fernando González Gómez
Written by Cerezo, Rubén Sánchez Trigos, & Javier Trigales
The Elderly is a terrifying tale about an old man, Manuel (Zorion Eguileor), who starts acting increasingly odd following the suicide of his wife. Manuel goes to live with his son Mario (Gustavo Salmerón) and his daughter-in-law Lena (Irene Anula), as well as his granddaughter Naia (Paula Gallego). Nobody, apart from Naia, listens to Manuel. They all see his behaviour as crazy, indicative of a man who’s gone off the deep end in the wake of his longtime wife’s death. While Madrid’s high temperatures continue to rise, so does Manuel’s erratic behaviour get more worrisome. And all the other elderly around Madrid are affected, too. They seem to understand what’s coming while Mario and his family, as well as anybody else not yet a senior citizen, are left in the midst of a gruesome chaos.
The story of The Elderly parallels how we treat the elderly with how we treat the Earth, as old folks become entranced by an otherworldly force while climate change bears down brutally upon Spain. An additional layer to The Elderly firmly places the blame for the havoc of climate change in the hands of the right wing, using shadows of Spain’s fascist history to paint a vividly horrific picture of what happens when we ignore the cries of the Earth and our elders.
Ti West’s X
Directed & Written by Ti West
Pearl is also a fun horror film, but, for me, X is the better of the two because of how it synthesises all sorts of elements that were once criticised about slasher films (i.e. that slashers have often, even if inadvertently, perpetuated conservative/right-wing values by killing off young people who have sex, do drugs, etc) into a compelling story about sex (as well as the adult entertainment industry), death, and ageing. Not your average slasher. I’ve been a fan of Ti West since first seeing his 2005 debut feature, The Roost, and X may just be his masterpiece. No shortage of blood, dark laughs, and sexuality in this near pitch perfect slasher.
Directed & Written by Jordan Peele
Although Jordan Peele may never top the sociopolitical terror of Us, at least for me, his mind does not stop producing absolute magic, as evidenced by Nope, another profound story with implications that spread wider than just genre filmmaking. Nope is about how we, as human beings, exploit everything around us, from the natural world to people, and how that exploitation can (and should) haunt us. The film is more science fiction than horror. It’s still Peele bringing all kinds of compelling human themes to the forefront like all the best genre films have done. The characters are so full and vibrant, as are the performances. Ultimately Peele’s perspective on humanity shines through most of all in Nope, and it’s in this that the film also sets itself apart from Peele’s previous works (in an exciting way).
Directed & Written by Eskil Vogt
The Innocents takes place in the summertime, as a group of children become friends while school is out. And the kids start to realise they all have hidden supernatural powers, as well as the fact that they all feel connected through a kind of emotional telepathy. But not all the kids want to use their powers for fun, or for good. One of them has issues, and those issues turn their powers dark, which doesn’t sit well with the other kids. When the one child’s powers turn deadly, the others are left to figure out how to put a stop to the violence.
An unnerving and endlessly tense piece of work that verges on taboo for many because it focuses on children. Precisely what makes The Innocents so profound, for me, is that it shows us the inner lives of the children and how often, even at such young ages, children will deal with serious issues in their own ways when they can’t confide in their own families. [SPOILER ALERT]: The end of the film is a testament to this, as two sisters not only join forces but their powers seem to call upon other previously unknown children with similar powers to try stopping the negative, fatally destructive power of another child. Brilliant, albeit disturbing film.
Directed by Shinzô Katayama
Written by Shinzô Katayama, Kazuhisa Kotera, & Ryô Takada
Missing is the story of Kaede (Aoi Itô), whose father, Santoshi (Jirô Satô), has suddenly gone missing after mentioning to her that he’d seen a wanted serial killer on the bus recently and wanted to track the man down to get the reward money. Dark, depressing, and yet somehow beautiful, Shinzô Katayama’s Missing is a tour-de-force in emotion after the initial setup of the film works itself through. The story starts out as a missing person drama with the daughter attempting to find her father, then pivots into something far more disturbing, as a serial killer story emerges alongside the father’s emotional journey.
Do not miss this one! Just prepare your head and your heart first.
A Wounded Fawn
Directed by Travis Stevens
Written by Nathan Faudree & Travis Stevens
The latest film from Travis Stevens, A Wounded Fawn, is a surreal tale about a serial killer who has a new victim in mind but things don’t go as planned and he winds up confronting the evil of his ways. While this may seem like a very basic plot description, Stevens fills his film with a mix of 1970s horror film vibes and surrealist imagery, using Greek mythology—specifically Aeschylus’s Eumenides—as a contemporary psychological metaphor about one man’s violent misogyny and him finally having to reckon with it.
To say anything further at all would ruin the fun, and the insanity. Drop into this one without knowing any more.
Directed by Charlotte Colbert
Written by Charlotte Colbert & Kitty Percy
Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige), a film star, has recently undergone a double mastectomy and heads to rural Scotland to do her healing. She’s accompanied by a young nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt). Once the pair arrive at their destination it’s a bit busier than Veronica hoped, wanting to spend time in solitude while she recovers. Nevertheless, she tries her best to rest and recuperate. All the while she’s surrounded by the vivid history of the Scottish witch trials in the area. Even the land itself seems to still bear the wounds of those women who were killed and burned, which somehow starts affecting Veronica.
A beautiful-looking, dark piece of art that digs into the past and present of how women are treated in society via Veronica’s current bodily and psychological state following her double mastectomy. There are great horror films which use historical misogyny as a way to examine the current state of women’s rights, and She Will adds to that canon, using a somewhat surreal approach at times to tell the story of an ageing woman fighting back against her body, time, and the gendered terrors of society. This film flew under many radars; time to correct that grave mistake, my friends.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Directed by Edward Berger
Written by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, & Ian Stokell
It’s tough to remake a film and have it be as good or better than the original. The original All Quiet on the Western Front was a harrowing piece of cinema, and it’s safe to say that the 2022 remake is on the same level, never shying away from the realism of war. Although the world isn’t experiencing a World War, there’s war going on in various parts of the world, so the themes in All Quiet on the Western Front are still relevant to an extreme(/saddening) degree because of how human and ugly war is, no matter the decade or century. The machines and methods of war have changed since the original film was made, though at the core of war remains hatred and violence; that’s perhaps why All Quiet on the Western Front needed to be remade. If humanity continues not to learn from its warring mistakes, we’ll need the film remade once a century.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Directed & Written by Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin is the story of Pádraic (Colin Farrell), whose best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) starts ignoring him one day. Pádraic’s troubled by this and tries to get to the bottom of it, but Colm is happy to play his music and spend time by himself or in the company of other musicians. The more Pádraic pushes, the more Colm resists until the latter gives an ultimatum: Pádraic must leave Colm alone, or Colm will start cutting off his fingers. Thus begins a strange and violent odyssey on the little Irish island of Inisherin.
A stunning work filled to the brim with McDonagh’s trademark wit. Farrell and Gleeson are, once again, fantastic together. The film is a darkly comic and also tragic tale that turns the sudden inexplicable conflict between two previous best friends into an allegory about the Irish Civil War. The open-ended nature of the film’s conclusion may leave some puzzled, or maybe even a little pissed off and wondering about the point of the plot, yet therein lies the allegory about the Irish Civil War: the war ended in 1923, only a month or so after the events of the film, but the conflict never actually ended then, and, to some extent, it still hasn’t even today.
Directed by Hanna Bergholm
Written by Ilja Rautsi
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is a 12-year-old gymnast, whose mother (Sophia Heikkilä) is a popular blogger. She lives the life her mother wants; more specifically, the life her mother wants to show to the world. One strange day, she finds an egg in the woods and decides to nurture it at home. When the egg shatters it reveals a terrifying creature. The creature eventually starts to become a mirror of Tina—a very dark mirror.
Certain cinematic metaphors don’t work out so well, but Hatching isn’t among those because its premise so perfectly encapsulates everything it’s trying to accomplish by portraying a young, confused girl ‘birthing’ something into the world she doesn’t fully understand, nor can she control it. Bergholm’s film is a fairy tale, though its themes are very real; raw, even. The way Tinja’s repressed feelings are acted upon by the thing that hatches from the egg is the stuff of nightmares, yet so perfect in a horror movie sense. The way everything plays out once that repression is unleashed is the premium stuff of which compelling horror movies are made.
Directed by Ali Abbasi
Written by Ali Abbasi & Afshin Kamran Bahrami
Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider is a devastating, powerful piece of cinema, based on the true story of Iranian serial killer Saeed Hanaei. The screenplay digs into Iran’s crushing patriarchy, specifically in Mashhad, of which Saeed’s crimes (and the response to them) were a symptom. Some critics have said the film is exploitative; I disagree entirely.
There are graphic murder scenes, though only graphic insofar as we see them occur. There is little, if any, exploitation by Abbasi, who’s more interested in the investigative thriller-like feel to the other half of the film, as a female journalist searches the underbelly of Mashhad for answers about the so-called ‘Spider Killer.’ Holy Spider is a tragic, real story about societies infested by the violent virus of misogyny, and how those societies create serial killers like Hanaei. And it’s not a virus contained to Iran, it’s one that’s travelled to every corner of the globe.
Father Son Holy Gore‘s
Top 5 Films of 2022:
5) Riotsville, U.S.A.
Directed by Sierra Pettengill
Written by Tobi Haslett
After the social uprisings of the 1960s in Newark, Watts, and Detroit, the American Armed Forces built two fake towns (where once stood former slave plantations) to use as grounds to train troops in dealing with future civil disobedience. The towns were called “Riotsville” and helped usher in a new age of an increasingly militarised U.S. police force that has yet to slow down over the past handful of decades. Sierra Pettengill uses broadcast news footage, government film archives, and footage of the “Riotsville” training sessions to interrogate the militarisation of police.
Pettengill’s documentary is not just informative, as well as intense, it’s often poetic. She juxtaposes a lot of footage with the “Riotsville” towns and training, creating a web of interconnected social and political moments that helped grow the U.S. police force into a literal army. There’s one great scene early on that features footage of a group of people having just watched Lyndon B. Johnson give an address from the White House about “unity,” and the disparate perspectives between the Black and white folks present gives us a lot to think about when it comes to how Black people experience America v. how white people do.
Pettengill does fascinating work to flesh out the origins, and symptoms, of how/why police forces across the United States were militarised. This documentary isn’t just a look into the past, it’s a rather firm perspective on the present and the future of America; nothing ever really changes, at least not in America.
4) A Banquet
Directed by Ruth Paxton
Written by Justin Bull
The story of A Banquet begins following the death of Holly Hughes’s (Sienna Guillory) husband. Her daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) goes out drinking one night and in the woods has what she believes is a supernatural experience. After this, Betsey starts to change, but not for the better. As her health deteriorates rapidly, her mother has to figure out the best way to help, regardless of whether it’s a supernatural problem or a terrifyingly real psychological one.
I could not get enough of this film, even if it’s full of dread and psychological horror. A Banquet contains shades of Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc crossed with the body-focused horror of something like Marina de Van’s In My Skin (without all the blood and gore). Not an easy viewing, and definitely difficult for anyone who has issues with food, especially an eating disorder; caution, if so! A Banquet is ambiguous in its ending, to a degree, but I believe it ends that way to accentuate the psychological devastation at hand.
3) The Batman
Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Peter Craig & Matt Reeves
Matt Reeves’s The Batman fits with my own perspective on Batman and the Gotham surrounding him, merging Gothic horror, crime thrillers, and camp comic book villains into a hardboiled noir with action elements and slivers of serial killer films. Robert Pattinson does well as Bruce Wayne/Batman, bringing a unique gloom to the World’s Greatest Detective, and the screenplay itself presents the character in a way we haven’t quite seen before. The entire cast is great. Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman was so refreshing and fun. Paul Dano gave us a delightfully disturbed vision of The Riddler, and Barry Keoghan’s brief appearance as The Joker gave us glimpses of an unsettling new take on the character that we’ll hopefully see more of sooner than later.
Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig’s screenplay is dark (as a proper Batman story should be), tinged with political and social issues (that fit perfectly in Gotham, as they always have), and the plot comes off somewhere between Se7en and Chinatown. Truly feels of a gloomy Batman comic, and it’s my favourite Batman film to date.
2) Speak No Evil
Directed by Christian Tafdrup
Written by Christian & Mads Tafdrup
Speak No Evil begins like a family vacation film you’d expect to veer into comedy, except for an ominous shot of a vehicle traveling down a dark dirt road and a swelling horror score. The story involves two families—one Danish (Bjorn, Louise, and Agnes), one Dutch (Patrick, Karin, and Abel)—who meet in Tuscany while on vacation; they have dinner and spend a little time together. Months and months later, the Dutch family suddenly invite the Danes to the countryside in the Netherlands. Although neither family knows each other that well, the Danish family accept. What starts off as an interesting trip quickly becomes awkward, then things take a sinister turn
On its face, Speak No Evil is already a fantastically depraved dramatic thriller that gradually works the audience’s nerves down to the bone until its shocking climax and finale. Beneath the surface story is a contemporary fable—that raises Danish and Dutch history surrounding WWII/the Nazis from the dead—about Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance, as Christian Tafdrup depicts a worst case scenario envisioning what happens when our urge to be polite plays into a dangerous ignorance about evil that, eventually, destroys everything we love. Saying anything else would only spoil the slow-burning unease and eventual shock of Speak No Evil. Prepare to be fucking shattered.
Directed & Written by Gaspar Noé
The most ‘normal’ film from Gaspar Noé and the most deeply, hauntingly human, Vortex depicts an elderly couple (played by Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun) as they struggle with the husband’s ailing health and the wife’s gradual slide into dementia. There’s a whole lot more going on underneath. Noé dives into memory, the past, and film itself by using a split-screen technique that gives us double perspectives on everything happening, right down to the tiniest, most innocuous details. It’s all for a purpose; every last intricate piece.
The way Noé plays with form here is reminiscent of things he was doing in Irréversible two decades prior, except a lot less brutal. That doesn’t mean Vortex isn’t haunting. Here, Noé works slowly to get beneath the viewer’s skin, though it isn’t merely to unsettle us, it’s to paint a vivid portrait of real life and the ever-present Gothic in our lives as we all head towards the same inevitable conclusion, albeit in different ways. The hope is, even for Noé at Vortex‘s most depressing, that we head towards that conclusion with someone, or several someones, by our side.