What’s Watts Watching? The best movies of summer

Steve Watts, Managing Editor

It was an eventful summer for movies with five films grossing over 300 million dollars, a feat that no movie achieved in the summer of 2021. That said, none of the top five highest grossing films were among my favorites from the summer.

From horror to wholesome, here are my top five releases from the summer of 2022.

 

Honorable Mentions: “Men,” “Crimes of the Future,” “The Northman,” “Nope”

 

  1. “Orphan: First Kill”

I was not excited when a prequel to Jaume Collet-Serra’s 2009 film “Orphan” was announced. Though it sported a fantastic performance by 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman, I thought the movie was sloppily made and handled the topics of stillbirth and alcoholism very insensitively. 

The only reason I went to see “Orphan: First Kill” was to laugh at a now 25-year-old Fuhrman reprise her role as someone who is meant to look nine at the time this film takes place. I left the theater surprised and with a smile on my face. 

“Orphan: First Kill” gives the backstory of Leena, a 30-year-old psychopath with hypopituitarism, a disorder that makes her appear as if she’s a child. After escaping a mental institution, Leena poses as missing child Esther Albright and enters a family that has no idea who they’re dealing with.

The prequel manages to capture the disturbing spirit and stellar performances of the first film, while providing more interesting characters and a more well-crafted narrative than the original. I was especially impressed by the direction of William Brent Bell, whose style has made leaps and bounds since his underwhelming work on “The Boy” in 2016.

 

  1. “Brian and Charles”

It’s hard to think of a film that warmed my heart quite as much as “Brian and Charles.” The British mockumentary looks into the life of a lonely inventor, Brian. Determined not to interact with any of the townspeople, Brian creates an AI, Charles, and the two go on a series of cabbage- related adventures. 

Though the film doesn’t have an incredibly engaging plot, the delightfully weird characters and their sense of humor make for a film that’s incredibly fun to watch. I found myself laughing through the entire showing of this wholesome buddy comedy. 

 

  1. “Bodie Bodies Bodies”

I’d been anticipating the release of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” for months before it finally hit theaters in early August. Since then, I’ve seen it three times and enjoyed it more with every watch. 

When a group of teens throw a hurricane-party at their friend’s mansion, the drug-fueled night takes a turn for the worse after the gang finds the body of one of their friends after a power outage.

The A24 produced slasher-comedy stars a number of Gen-Z celebrities with Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg and Pete Davidson, all of whom give incredible performances. The strength of the film lies in the way its characters are written. I feel like I know all of the characters in the film, and I interact with similar people on a day-to-day basis.

Although “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is marketed as a horror film, it acts almost strictly as a comedy. I recommend this film to anyone, whether they’re a fan of scary movies or not.

 

  1. “The Black Phone” 

After eight years, Scott Derrickson, the man who made “Sinister” and “Deliver us from Evil” has returned to the horror genre. Not only did Derrickson return to scary movies, he reunited with Ethan Hawke.

Adapted from the short story of the same name, “The Black Phone” tells the story of Finney Blake, a timid 13-year-old who’s abducted by “The Grabber” and put into a basement with only a mattress, a bathroom and a disconnected black phone. When Finney begins to hear the phone ring, the ghosts of children who’d also been kidnapped try to help him escape.

There are very few directors in Hollywood that have as recognizable and chillingly beautiful of a style as Scott Derrickson. When I watch something directed by Derrickson, I can feel his presence behind the camera in every shot, whether it be a VHS style dream sequence or an excruciatingly slow pan to reveal something horrifying at the other side of the room.

“The Black Phone” was my most viewed film of the summer with four watches. The flawless directing and writing makes the film incredibly fun to revisit after you watch it. 

 

  1. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”

I was invited to an early showing of “Marcel the Shell” at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago early this summer. Much like the characters in the film, Marcel stole my heart. 

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is a reimagination of the three animated short films from 2010 that document the life of a shell as they go about their day-to-day activities. The new film records Marcel’s journey to stardom and their quest to reunite with their family. 

Dean Fleischer-Camp delivered a film that undoubtedly appeals to kids, but also hits home on every emotional beat that it approaches. Marcel deals with grief, loneliness, fear and so many other mature feelings that the film is sure to appeal to adults as well.

My heart was warmed for weeks after watching “Marcel the Shell” and I can’t wait to revisit the film now that it’s available to stream.