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From Nope to Terrifier 2, 2022 Is Having a Horror Renaissance

While 2022 is not over, Halloween is a great time to reflect on how this year has been one of the best for horror, whether it’s with the box office and critical darling Nope or with one of several unexpected hits, like Barbarian. Along with that, several established IPs have some form of reboot or sequel. Meanwhile, original horror content is in demand, as seen with Bodies Bodies Bodies, Fresh and X. There is not just a lot of horror out in 2022; there is a lot of good horror out there.

Nope Kills the Notion That Only Franchises Can Be Successful

For years, there have been debates about how mainstream cinema relies too much on established IPs. In fact, the top 10 films at the domestic box office this year are part of a larger franchise based on an established IP or inspired by a pop culture icon. However, in that sea of established properties is Nope, the eleventh film at the domestic box office. Following the Haywood siblings, as they pursue an extraterrestrial threat, Nope delivers a fresh take on aliens. Nope is also one of the most financially successful original films of 2022, and there are several other horror movies that prove there’s a demand for original films.

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Barbarian, for instance, is a sleeper hit. The film has minimal marketing, with the trailer for it keeping a majority of the plot close to its chest. Because of this, many viewers have no clue what they are signing up for. Despite having a mysterious marketing campaign and not relying on an established IP, Barbarian is in the top 40 films domestically, topping franchises like Kingsman, Dragon Ball Z, Jujitsu Kaisen and Bob’s Burgers.

Original independent films also are well received this year, especially when looking at A24’s releases. Along with Everything Everywhere All at Once winning the hearts of countless critics, A24’s horror catalog for 2022 highlights how original content has an audience. X, for instance, is well received by critics and audiences, and it even pulls off something difficult for original ideas — starting a franchise.

X and Terrifier Deliver Unexpected FranchisesTerrifier 2 Art the Clown

In record time, X kicks off its own franchise in under a year. Prior to X’s release, its prequel — Pearl — was made, demonstrating how much faith the filmmakers and distributors have in this franchise. Their faith pays off, with Pearl receiving high praise and a third film with MaXXXine. Any franchise confirming new entries at this rate is remarkable, but for an original franchise to pull off this feat is even more impressive.

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Along with X, Terrifier 2 gives Art the Clown a franchise, something many did not expect. Despite the first film’s flaws and limited audience, viewers saw potential in Art the Clown, as Terrifier 2 was made possible by a crowdfunding campaign. This highlights that moviegoers want more of what’s new, even if that means creating more franchises.

From Prey to Hellraiser, 2022 Breathes Fresh Air Into Older IPs

With that in mind, there is an audience for older IPs, particularly horror ones. While not all of them are well received, they can be financial successes. Case in point, Halloween Ends is one of the top 30 films this year based on domestic box office, and it has only been out for a little over a week. Meanwhile, Scream performed better critically and financially, earning another sequel down the line.

Streaming has also embraced revisiting classics this year, with Hulu finding success in how it handles fan-favorite properties. Prey is the number one premiere on Hulu, and — based on Rotten Tomatoes — it has a better critical and audience reception than Predators and The Predator, which were both attempts to revamp the franchise in the 2010s. Along with Prey, Hulu revisits Hellraiser, and while it does not have the impact Prey has had, it’s proof that streaming platforms are embracing horror IPs this year.

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Barbarian and Bodies Bodies Bodies Bury Elevated Horror

Along with so many solid horror films, one cannot deny that 2022 pushes away from the concept of “elevated” horror. A controversial term applied to art-horror movies, “elevated” horror is also a term used to talk down to horror films that embrace camp, violence and gore. There’s nothing wrong with these art horror films, but due to their success, for years, it seemed the most celebrated horror movies had to fall into this category.

2022 is done with that notion, with films like Terrifier 2 embracing gore and delivering kills that are disgusting yet fun. Art the Clown chews the scenery as he brutally murders characters, putting villains like Pennywise and Leatherface to shame. Meanwhile, Barbarian embraces the comedic and over-the-top nature of horror to deliver a movie that shocks viewers in the best way. It also has a complex message about the men women fear encountering throughout their lives.

This connects to another fault of the term “elevated” horror, as it implies art horror films are above other scary movies because they tackle important issues; however, almost every horror movie does this. Fresh, for instance, uses cannibalism to highlight how women are exploited and objectified. Meanwhile, Nope, one of the more mainstream original horror movies of 2022, tackles numerous societal issues — exploitation, tokenism, trauma — and it does so in a way that sparks conversations while feeling like a blockbuster.

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2022 horror films that have been avoiding the “elevated” horror subgenre have also highlighted marginalized voices. Nope is directed and written by Jordan Peele, who has been making waves since Get Out in regard to representation on screen, and the film is led by a pair of Black siblings, with one being a queer woman. Meanwhile, X and Pearl center the female experience with beauty, sex and fame in this slasher franchise. Bodies Bodies Bodies also embraces a femme gaze, critiquing liberal elitism while centering the movie on a queer couple. On top of that, Bodies Bodies Bodies is not an art horror film; it is a satire created by women — director Halina Reijn, writer Sarah DeLappe and writer Kristen Roupenian — that isn’t afraid to use comedy as a tool to get its themes across.

2022 is a fun and important year for horror. New franchises have been born, while unique ideas remind audiences that originality can thrive in a world of existing IPs. Established properties also were brought into the modern day, and horror celebrated underrepresented voices while delivering strong yet entertaining commentaries on society, cementing 2022 as a landmark year for the genre.

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