October ’22 // Horror Movie Round-Up! (‘Barbarian’, ‘Pearl’ and ‘Smile’)

2022 continues to become the gift that keeps on giving for horror fans as more movies seemingly pop out of nowhere and become a hit every few weeks at this point. Between ‘Smile‘, ‘Pearl‘ and now ‘Barbarian‘, it was tough picking which one I wanted to review and because I’ve been trying to catch up to the current releases I decided it was too difficult to write a single in-depth review for all three so by grouping them together and reviewing them in short segments, I will have gotten them out of the way. You might be thinking that a certain horror sequel isn’t on here and you would be right, I am not going to watch or review ‘Terrifier 2’. I bet it’s a great movie and all but I’m not interested in watching two hours of straight torture porn. That being said, I’m really happy it seems to be getting a lot of traction and praise seeing how it’s a smaller flick. With that said, here are my thoughts on these three delightfully weird and original, with emphasis on original, horror pictures!

Pearl‘ (dir. Ti West) – A24

Synopsis: A young, disturbed Pearl daydreams her days away longing for Hollywood glamour and fame which she treats as the perfect escape from her hellish life on her family’s farm. Starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright and Matthew Sunderland.

The prequel in a surprise trilogy of films, ‘Pearl‘ shows the X-traordinary origins of the insane horny elderly killer in Ti West’s ‘X‘. Set in 1918, directed by West again and starring new horror icon, Mia Goth, ‘Pearl’ just might be the most unique horror film of the year. There truly is nothing like it. This vibrant technicolour nightmare feels reminiscent of those older antagonist-centric movies that delved deep into their psyche. The performance by Mia Goth is astounding, haunting and perfectly over-the-top, it goes without saying she should be highly considered during Awards Season but we know how that goes. It is also worth mentioning the wonderful score by Tyler Bates and Tim Williams makes the movie what it is, it is so unbelievably integral to capturing the essence of the movie, the innocent yet disturbing nature of Pearl, the glamour of Hollywood, the horrors of murder, it’s all perfectly encapsulated with the score. The movie balances multiple contrasting tones perfectly, there are moments that are hilariously bizarre, emotionally stressful and at times flat-out disturbing. It’s clever in how it makes you feel for Pearl because she does live a rough life but it also perfectly realizes that she is just not mentally sane. The steady shot focusing on Mia Goth as she delivers what must be a five-minute monologue maybe even longer, it’s mesmerizing. This is a classic in the making, I cannot wait to see how this film ages and how it will inevitably gain a cult following over the years. Seeing how much I loved ‘X’, it was surprising to me that I actually enjoyed ‘Pearl’ more, both are fantastic films and I wait with genuine eagerness to see what West has in store for us with ‘MaXXXine‘.

Pearl‘ is now available on demand but for some reason not on Blu-Ray/DVD or 4K, nice going U.K.!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Barbarian‘ (dir. Zach Cregger) – 20th Century Studios

Synopsis: When Tess, a young woman staying in town for a job interview arrives to her Airbnb, she finds that another person is already living there. After spending an entire night drinking wine and sharing stories they figure that they can trust each other. However, something sinister lies beneath them. Starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, Justin Long and Matthew Patrick Davis.

spoilers are included in this review of ‘Barbarian‘.

Now I keep up with movie news, I usually know when a big movie is coming out and hell, I work in a movie theatre but ‘Barbarian‘ seemingly popped out of nowhere and became this huge hit overnight. I found out about it a few weeks before release and I didn’t think we were going to show it but we got the poster and everything and it did quite well actually. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to catch it in theatres so I had to watch it on Disney Plus funnily enough. That being said, even at home, I can safely say that next to ‘NOPE‘, this is the scariest movie of the year. Again, horror is subjective and I am not referring to jumpscares, I am talking about that genuine fear and dread and the first hour or so absolutely delivered. I am not the type to yell at characters in a horror movie for making stupid decisions but I was having an entirely one-sided conversation with this movie. I have to applaud the movie for creating a modern and unique horror concept that feels genuinely scary outside of what happens in the basement. The use of camerawork, lighting and different lenses to emulate the feeling that you are on the ride with these characters was brilliantly effective. The unbelievable dread of exploring that damn basement was so well done and the eventual reveal managed to only elevate the movie. ‘Barbarian‘ is without a doubt, one of the smartest, tightly written horror scripts of the year. Without spoiling too much, the abrupt cut to a new character played by Justin Long took some getting used to but once I realized what they were doing, it became a stronger film. The ending itself felt slightly rushed but it still stuck the landing in my opinion. The performances are fantastic, Georgina Campbell is great as Tess, Bill Skarsgard is perfectly cast as Keith, a nice guy who both Tess and the audience are supposed to be weary of but Justin Long is the standout in my opinion. Such an asshole of a character but so well-written and acted. I also loved how it viewed its characters, it treated Keith like a threat until he wasn’t, it gave AJ the benefit of the doubt until he confessed and it treated The Mother as a monster until we find out her tragic backstory and at the end even shows sympathy, it worked through the lens of the audience’s eyes, it was never through the perspective of a set character and I really liked that approach. Easily one of the best horror movies of the year, loved its originality and inventiveness.

Barbarian‘ is now streaming on HBO Max in the U.S. and on Disney Plus/ On Demand in other territories.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Smile‘ (dir. Parker Finn) – Paramount Pictures

Synopsis: When Rose Cotter, a therapist is a witness to a patient’s suicide, she starts experiencing disturbing events evoked by a horrifying unseen entity that makes its victims smile while committing horrible things. What follows is a two-hour dive into insanity as Rose starts losing the faith and trust of the people she loves after cultivating an obsession with the entity that’s out to get her.

Smile‘ is somehow the highest-grossing horror release of 2022 so going into it, I kept that in mind. What surprised me is just how old this movie felt, in a good way. To me, this gave me major vibes of ‘The X-Files’ and M. Knight Shyamalan in his ‘Signs‘ days. It feels like it came out straight from the nineties. It has a very unique presentation from it’s opening titles to how it uses colour, the shot composition and upside-down shots which reminded me of the 1992 ‘Candyman‘, another nineties project. Needless to say, I loved where this was going. The opening sequence is chilling and memorable but after that, the movie starts showing some of its flaws. Just like a nineties thriller, ‘Smile‘ is full of the same tropes that you’ve seen in a movie like this. No one believes the protagonist, they experience horrible situations and are framed for it, basically, you’ve seen it a million times. Unfortunately, not even some fun presentation can save ‘Smile‘ from an overlong runtime and an ending that feels cheated considering how long you spend with the protagonist. It’s not a bad ending at all but after all of the exhaustion created by the movie, it feels more or less like a cheat but that’s purely my experience. I think if it had a much tighter runtime, it would’ve stuck more. The acting is interesting. Sosie Bacon delivers a somewhat campy performance that does what it needs to do. The supporting cast is actually not that great. Again, it has that nineties acting, I’m sure if this came out in 1995, Bacon would be nominated for a Golden Globe. Other than that, ‘Smile‘ is perfectly entertaining and actually quite scary at times but it’s definitely my least favourite out of these three.

Smile‘ is now available to stream online.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Overall, I haven’t seen a year with such original and mostly successful horror movies in quite a while. It’s safe to say that this is the most horror I’ve seen in a year and I cannot wait to see what 2023 brings, 2022 definitely set the bar high.

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