10 Genre Films at Sundance 2022 That Could Become Breakout Hits

From haunted houses and grindhouse gore to psychological thrillers and a mysterious egg, these are the midnight movies you need to keep on your radar.

by | February 2, 2022 | Comments

Siiri Solalinna in Hatching

(Photo by IFC Midnight courtesy of Sundance Institute)

For the second year in a row, the Sundance Film Festival took place online, giving fans around the country (and the world, for most of the program) the chance to experience the best indie cinema has to offer. But while the headlines and big-money deals focus on crowd-pleasing comedies and heartfelt dramas, there is another section of the festival that deserves just as much attention — the nightmare-inducing horror films and weird genre fare.

This year you didn’t have to venture out to the high altitudes and freezing cold of Park City, but instead could experience the years-long tradition of being scared out of your mind with Sundance from your own home. As has been the case for the past couple of years, the genre offerings of the festival have extended beyond the Midnight program — where films like Relic, Hereditary, The Babadook, Get Out, and even The Blair Witch Project once premiered — and into other sections of the festival. From tales of flesh-eating monsters and the horrors of academia to revenge flicks, folk horror, and more, there was something in this year’s program for everyone.

We are not here to speculate about the awards potential of some fancy drama, but to round up the scariest, weirdest, best genre films from this year’s program that could make a big impression when they get released.

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Fresh

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

A provocative, upsetting, thought-provoking horror film, Fresh is an impressive directorial debut for Mimi Cave, as it captures the horrors of modern dating in gory fashion. The film follows a young woman who thinks she’s met the man that will finally get her to delete her dating apps off her phone, but when she accepts an invitation to a romantic weekend getaway, things get violent as the audience experiences a very different kind of dinner date.

The Wrap critic William Bibbiani praises Mimi Cave’s debut, saying “Fresh is a breakneck emotional rollercoaster, and like many rollercoasters, it’ll also make your stomach churn.” Critics are already praising Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan’s performances, the latter of which may very well end up joining the great pantheon of horror icons. “Stan steals every scene he is in,” writes Tessa Smith for Mama’s Geeky.

Morten Burien and Sidsel Siem Koch in Speak No Evil

(Photo by Erik Molberg courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Making friends as an adult is not easy, but Speak No Evil depicts it as an outright nightmare. This Danish horror film about a family vacationing in Holland with a Dutch family they met on holiday gradually becomes a nightmare-inducing, gut-wrenching horror film about how we’re so eager to avoid making others feel uncomfortable that we allow them to do exactly that to us, or, in this case, worse.

With hints of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, this is not a feel-good movie, but it is one that will stay with you long after the credits roll.‘s Isaac Feldberg praised the film as it “lulls audiences into a false sense of security before snapping shut with the brute efficiency of a steel-jaw trap.”

Regina Hall in Master

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Part haunted house, part giallo, part J-horror, all haunting exploration of the horrors of racism past and present that permeates the academic system in North America. Mariama Diallo makes her feature directorial debut with a social thriller about being the only person of color in a room, all while still delivering a nail-biting horror film about a freshman college student living in a dorm room supposedly haunted by a witch hung on campus.

Writing for Cup of Soul, Kathia Woods praised the film as a “stellar debut by Mariama Diallo combined with a great performance by Regina Hall.” Marya E. Gates wrote in her review for The Playlist that Master shared DNA with Get Out and even The Shining, but Diallo has “crafted an incisive, intelligent, and stridently political horror film that is distinctly all her own.”

Noomi Rapace in You Won't Be Alone

(Photo by Branko Starcevic courtesy of Sundance Institute)

A new take on the witchy tale, Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone follows a young girl who is kidnapped and later turned into a witch by a spirit in 19th century Macedonia. The film is a moody experience that places more importance on aesthetics than on dialogue. Though the narrative is thin, the film’s otherworldly vibe and meditation on humanity are enough to dig its claws into your mind and crawl into your nightmares. Victor Stiff wrote for That Shelf that “writer-director Goran Stolevski’s blood-soaked Macedonian folk horror tale may be too art-house for mainstream moviegoers, but if you enjoy meditative, existential filmmaking, You Won’t Be Alone delivers a profound experience.”

Siiri Solalinna in Hatching

(Photo by IFC Midnight courtesy of Sundance Institute)

What would you do if you found an egg the size of a small child, and it hatched a bird-human monster? Hatching combines the body horror of a Cronenberg flick with the empathy of early Guillermo del Toro, with the Finnish film featuring eggcellent creature effects and some of the most memorable and bizarre moments in a horror movie this year. Uproxx writer Vince Mancini compared its audacity to James Wan’s Malignant, which should tell you enough about why you need to watch Hatching when it gets released.

If you somehow need even more convincing, Thrillist writer Esther Zuckerman wrote, “An alternately beautiful and disgusting metaphor for the grossness of girlhood, Hatching is somehow a mash-up of Eighth Grade, Gremlins, and E.T.

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson in Something in the Dirt

(Photo by Aaron Moorhead courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Though not strictly a horror movie, the latest mind-bending, genre-mashing film from indie darlings Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Synchronic) has enough weirdness to sit comfortably among the rest of the films on this list. Something in the Dirt follows two neighbors in Los Angeles who discover that one of their apartments is the site of a series of supernatural phenomena, and they decide that they can document it and get rich.

Mixing everything from stoner films to conspiracy theory rabbit holes, paranoid thrillers, and any classic X-Files episode, the film is about how easy the search for truth can lead to dangerous obsession, resulting in one of the best movies about the pandemic era that isn’t really about the pandemic. Chris Evangelista wrote in his review for Slashfilm that Something in the Dirt is a “brilliant blend of surreal, comedic horror and found-footage aesthetics.” Indeed, critics agree this is a movie that warrants multiple watches, as io9′s Germain Lussier called it “a film that will almost certainly reward repeat viewings and, even on a first viewing, will continue to stay with you after it’s ended.”

Film still from Nanny

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Grounded by a fantastic performance by Anna Diop and mixing domestic drama with horror in a way that brings to mind Bong Joon-ho with a splash of West African folklore and spirituality, Nanny is a powerhouse of a feature debut. Nikyatu Jusu paints a painfully accurate portrait of the immigrant experience in America with the story of a Senegalese immigrant plagued by nightmares that begin to enter into the real world.

Critics agree that Jusu’s debut is a mesmerizing and nail-biting effort. Jourdain Searles’ review for The Hollywood Reporter praises the film for its ability to engross the audience, saying “it’s the kind of film where the viewer loses sense of time itself, mesmerized by the beauty and melancholy of each shot.” Meanwhile, Deadline’s Valerie Complex explains that Jusu “understands the horror genre and how to use subtlety, mystery, and color to create atmospheric tension.”

Laura Galán in Piggy

(Photo by Jorge Fuembuena courtesy of Sundance Institute)

An intimate, disturbing morality tale with a relatable premise, Piggy follows a young Spanish girl who witnesses her bullies being abducted by a stranger as they beg for help; does she do something or leave them to suffer for the way they’ve treated her? Carlota Pereda’s grindhouse movie seamlessly walks between blood-drenched horror and tender drama, resulting in a visceral and uncomfortable watch that still provides an essential narrative and message.

Bloody Disgusting writer Megan Navarro praised the central performance of star Laura Galán, saying “Pereda casts an unflinching eye on Sara, making it feel even more personal and impactful through style and restraint.” Indeed, Galán makes the unspeakable horrors that transpire in Piggy impactful and moving, making this a rare horror film in which the emotional beats are as memorable as the bloody scares. In his review for The Playlist, Carlos Aguilar wrote of the main actor, “Galán’s tearful screams for a fraction of compassion resonate with a bone-chilling potency.”

Rebecca Hall in Resurrection

(Photo by Wyatt Garfield courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Rebecca Hall continues to deliver phenomenal performances in Sundance horror films with Resurrection, an edge-of-your-seat story of emotional manipulation. The film follows a single mother who overprotects her child but otherwise seems to live a normal life, until she is reunited with a man from her past, played by the fantastic Tim Roth.

Resurrection completely pulls you into its narrative despite a slow pace, and it never lets go, with the performances carrying the weight of the film, though they are aided by writer-director Andrew Semans’ stylized visuals. In his review for The Atlantic, David Sims said of the film, “The mysteries of their connection have to be seen to be believed, but Hall and Roth’s transfixing work helps ground the rising madness of Resurrection.” Collider’s Therese Lacson similarly wrote that “Semans tells a story that sprinkles in enough daring and experimentation to keep us on our toes, while Hall and Roth swing for the fences with their antagonistic roles.”

Maika Monroe in Watcher

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

A woman moves with her husband to his native Romania when he secures a new job there. Due to a severe language barrier, she suffers uncomfortable glances and mockery when she asks others to speak English, but she also spies someone watching her every move. Unfortunately, no one around her believes her. Chloe Okuno’s thriller plays with the feeling of otherness and gaslighting in fascinating and gripping ways, but it is Maika Monroe’s work in the lead that makes Watcher a film that stays with you long after the credits roll.

Jessica Kiang wrote in her review for Variety that “Watcher is actually pretty damn good. That’s thanks in large part to a terrific Maika Monroe, who gets the mature, psychologically rich showcase she’s fully earned with all the running and bleeding she’s done heretofore as a horror heroine.” Similarly, io9′s Cheryl Eddy praised the film’s atmosphere of dread, writing that the film’s “commitment to building dread never lets up, and it will absolutely inspire you to draw all the shades in your house. Immediately.”

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