Sundance 2022 is drawing to a close which means it’s time to break down the best of this year’s films. Thrills, chills, and kills dominated this year’s festival, which means I had too many excellent features to choose from, so I made my own categories! Each of these films deserves praise – and if you’re brave enough, make sure to watch them when they release on streaming or in a theater near you.
Best Creature: Hatching
My favorite film over all the genres this year was definitely Finnish director Hanna Bergholm’s Hatching. A satirical commentary on puberty, girlhood, and the pressures placed on girls by their family and by society, Hatching tells the story of Tinja – a young girl struggling to live up to her mother’s (a popular mommy blogger) strict expectations. One day Tinja finds an egg in the forest and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges becomes a mirror of her darker, more turbulent emotions and wish-fulfillment. The humor is dark and twisted. The production design is pink, frilly, and hyper-feminine. But most importantly, Alli, the half-bird half-girl that Tinja hatches, is incredible. Horrifying and yet fragile, the design and special effects makeup create a monster that is both repellent and yet easy to love.
Best Performance: Resurrection
This Cronenbergian psychological horror film is surreal, nerve-wracking, and deeply disturbing. Rebecca Hall stars as Margaret: a successful single mom who leads a seemingly ordered, predictable life. However, when her ex David (Tim Roth) comes back into her life her mental health begins to unravel. Margaret becomes increasingly paranoid, and we learn about David’s abusive, cult-like control of her when she was a young woman, and what she is willing to do to get out of this returning nightmare. Hall’s performance as Margaret is extraordinary. Her transition from strong, powerful “boss queen” into a nervous, paranoid wreck who can no longer trust her own mind – or her own ears, is masterful. Especially in the stomach-churning finale where you see her conquer her fears but also lose her grip on reality entirely. Rebecca Hall gives a performance for the ages.
Most Horrific: PIGGY
Part coming of age story, part homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, PIGGY (by Spanish writer/director Carlota Pereda) provides a harrowing look at fatphobia, small-town dynamics, and the cruelty of teenage bullying. Sara, a teenage girl who hides in her parents butcher shop to avoid her peers who relentlessly torture her because of her size, becomes the reluctant witness of a brutal kidnapping. Torn between doing the right thing and protecting the man that saved her from her torturers, Sara becomes entrenched in an ever-increasing bloodbath. Pereda provides an unflinching and brutal look at normalized social violence. The scenes with Sara’s bullies are more horrific and hard to stomach than the bloody carnage of the finale. Laura Galán is terrific as Sara – able to wear Sara’s complex inner journey (from helplessness and fear into rage and then to justice) on her sleeve. The most harrowing film of the festival by far.
Best Monster: Fresh
Dating is hell in this fun horror/thriller from director Mimi Cave and writer Lauryn Kahn. When Noa, a young woman fed up with dating apps, takes a chance on a real-life meeting when she agrees to go on a date with Steve (Sebastian Stan), a handsome plastic surgeon that she meets while grocery shopping. Sparks fly on their first date and she agrees to join him on a weekend getaway, only to find that Steve has been harboring some dark secrets and unusual tastes. A sharp satire and commentary on the modern dating scene, the commodification of women’s bodies, and the ways that we become consumed (literally) by our romantic relationships, Fresh is witty, gory, and cathartic. But no one is having more fun in Fresh than Sebastian Stan as the monstrous (and monstrously charming) Steve. He delivers a delicious, scenery-chewing performance reminiscent of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman. He might look like an angel on the outside, but inside he is all monster. You also won’t have to wait long for Fresh to hit your screens, it’s coming to HULU on March 4.
Stay tuned for more Sundance reviews!