January 2022 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
Kickstarting 2022, this January I spent a lot of time watching horror. Thanks to the weather and a wonderful case of COVID-19, I was practically chained to my screen. Needless to say it was a bit rough and unfortunately I did pick quite a few bad movies to watch. Thankfully, there are plenty of gems worth recommending and I hope you seek them out. My New Year’s horror resolution is to re-watch more movies and I’m excited that I have started strong. After watching 49 first time watches and re-watched 7 movies. Here are the three best and worst first-time watches in the month of January!
WORST #3) Fatal Exam (1990); Director: Jack Snyder; United States
Offered as a bonus trip of lifetime, a group of parapsychology students assist their professor with his latest research on a local haunted house for the weekend. The group sets up shop in the barren home and wander throughout its vast corridors. As the weekend persists, the students find themselves falling victim to a mysterious force that is killing them in brutal ways. Unaware of the sinister fate that awaits them, the dwindling group attributes the disappearances to their friends bailing or playing a prank on them. Eventually, they will find that schoolwork is the least of their worries that weekend. This early nineties’ supernatural slasher sleepwalks into its mundane and hackneyed plot with the enthusiasm of a college student spending their weekend working on a school project. Telegraphed action sequences and confounding twists sour the viewing experience while simultaneously showcasing the lack of vision and budget the project has. Fans of more ridiculous horror films might get a kick out of the hammy performances and gags that abound here, but for those hoping for a fun and/or invigorating experience will be sorely disappointed. Hopefully, this exam is fatal, so you’ll never face the displeasure of watching this movie or any others like it.
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #3) As the Gods Will (2014); Director: Takashi Miike; Japan
Shun Takahata longs for his life to be less boring and today at school he gets his wish. Instead of his usual lessons, he and his classmates find themselves in a bizarre series of games conducted by supernatural creatures that hold deadly consequences for losing. After winning the first game, he is reunited with his friend Ichika Akimoto and the pair vows to work together to save as many people as they can. As the games progress, they understand that not all of the players have the same motivations in mind. A shocking and incredibly fun movie, As the Gods Will provides a great balance of the bizarre, the fantastic, the gory, and the reflective. What works as a metaphor for innocence lost in a life focused on competition and anxieties about navigating complex systems, As the Gods Will doubles as a coming-of-age nightmare while still working as a cartoonishly violent horror flick. The actors give solid performances, the production design is immersive and captivating to watch, and overall the film is excellently paced despite its lengthy runtime. With a little creativity and luck, should you find this Japanese gem, be sure to give it a go and press play.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #2) Winterbeast (1992); Director: Christopher Ties; United States
The seasons come and go for the swanky mountain lodge resort and so do its visitors. After a bizarre dream sequence that sets the stage for the rest of the film, one park ranger awakens and makes it his mission to investigate a series of bizarre vanishings throughout the mountain scape after his partner adds to the tally of the missing. He pleads with the resort owner to shut down operations but is ignored and driven away. Eventually, he learns that the source of the violence stems from ancient spirits appearing in the form of mythological creatures, aliens, and possessed Totems. Winterbeast starts off strong with a bizarre dream sequence that is as messy as it is bold. This sets the tone for this hilariously awful fever dream of an early nineties’ movie. I have much respect for DIY filmmakers and understand that making a movie takes time, passion, and undying energy to create. This is also true for Winterbeast. It started filming in 1986 but took nearly six years to complete, despite most of the footage being shot in 2 days. It shows. The plot is nonsensical, the acting is awful, and the creatures are confounding to say the least. If you love so-bad-it’s-good, then this is for you, otherwise it’s best to avoid booking a mountain vacation with this turkey of a movie.
Overall Score? 2/10
BEST #2) The Last Matinee (2020); Director: Maximiliano Contenti; Uruguay
A quaint theater is showing a gruesome horror flick as their final showing for the day. Before the showing, a concerned daughter begs her projectionist father to go home and rest so she can take the job from there. Reluctantly he agrees, and soon enough only two staff members remain to keep the operation going. Both the pouring rain and the obscure splatter flick are likely keeping the majority of the public away. Alas, a hodgepodge group of people wander in after paying for the experience of a midnight movie. Their loud conversations, sexual activities, and endless candy consumption will be cut short by one particularly mysterious patron in their presence. One by one, the moviegoers will meet a terrible fate, and with no way out of the theater, this may be the last film they watch. The Last Matinee is a deliciously gory and relentlessly tense neo-giallo slasher hybrid. Strong set pieces and bold visual choices abound in this Urugayan schlock fest making its production values match the boastful kills that pepper the tight script. Horror fans will delight in the gleeful mayhem that takes place within the walls of the wonderfully designed metroplex. What you see is what you get with The Last Matinee, thankfully you get more than enough of an eyeful of this indie gem.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #1) Howling: New Moon Rising (1995); Director: Clive Turner, Roger Nall; United Kingdom
A mysterious Australian man arrives in a small western town amidst a rash of local animal attacks. As he ingratiates himself into the tight-knit community, he records his interactions for his secret uses. Meanwhile, a detective joins forces with a priest to get to investigate the killings, the latter of which is sure that a werewolf is responsible for the slayings. Converging into one storyline, the events of this seventh entry in the Howling franchise attempts to connect the events from the fourth, fifth, and sixth film in this entry. If you’ve seen one sequel to The Howling, you’ve pretty much seen them all. This point hits extra hard with this iteration considering it just replays footage from the three previous entries when splicing between line dancing routines and drinking montages. Devoid of both substance and style, Howling: New Moon Rising brings bad movies an even worse name with a distinct absence of plot, credible acting, and generally competent filmmaking. The series had been done to death at this point and thankfully this 1995 film put a silver bullet in it that took it off the direct to VHS market for at least 16 years. I can’t end with a clever quip here, there’s absolutely no reason to watch this film unless you are a diehard fan of the series or a masochist.
Overall Score? 1.5/10
BEST #1) Scream (2022); Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet; United States
Please check out the full review here.
Overall Score? 8.5/10