From whodunnits to cerebral sci-fi: what movie trends will 2022 bring?
The year promises murder mysteries, slashers and fan service sequels hoping to tempt audiences back to the big screen
Now arguably more than ever, it’s hard to predict what will and won’t connect with cinemagoers over the next 12 months, a tumultuous time of uncertainty extending until an unknowable date. While the rough release schedule is more than certain to change (a number of January releases have already moved as a result of Omicron), what it does do is show us what the industry is banking on right now, outside of the bread-and-butter business of superheroes.
Here’s a look at what you’ll be seeing the most of in 2022:
Related: Ye, Diana and TikTok: the top documentaries to watch in 2022
It seems odd that a genre as reliably rewarding as the whodunnit was ever not in fashion but after star-packed murder mysteries dominated the multiplex throughout the 70s and 80s, the years since saw a retreat to the small screen. It took Kenneth Branagh’s lavish, if creatively redundant, remake of Murder on the Orient Express to remind studios of audience interest, making a shock $351m worldwide back in 2017. This year sees the belated follow-up, a redo of Death on the Nile with a slightly less impressively starry cast – Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer replaced with Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Russell Brand and Annette Bening – landing in February. Later this year will also see a Netflix sequel to Rian Johnson’s 2019 hit Knives Out, officially untitled as of now but tentatively called Knives Out 2 because probably, bringing back Daniel Craig and sending him to Greece to find a killer from a cast including Kathryn Hahn, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe and Kate Hudson. The streamer paid over $450m for the rights to the franchise. Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell will also hunt for a murderer in the West End in See How They Run, with a cast of suspects including Ruth Wilson, David Oyelowo and Adrien Brody. A high school reunion ends in murder in the comedy Reunion which stars Jillian Bell and Lil Rel Howery (a set-up that’s almost identical to Apple’s new series The Afterparty with Tiffany Haddish and Ilana Glazer) while Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are currently filming Murder Mystery 2 for Netflix so that could also be a late addition.
Another once-prolific genre that then fell out of favour, the slasher has seen a surprise resurgence in the past few years thanks to the box office success of Happy Death Day and the return of Halloween. Cheaply produced and based on an easily replicated formula, it’s also found its obvious place within the world of streaming with Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy and There’s Someone Inside Your House and Amazon’s I Know What You Did Last Summer remake. This month sees the inevitable return of Ghostface in Scream, a much-anticipated franchise-restarter bringing back the original Campbell-Cox-Arquette trio for more meta mayhem (if it makes as much as analysts predict it could lead to even more slashers in 2023). Next month, Leatherface follows suit in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a tortured production sold to Netflix during the pandemic, another attempt to relaunch the grimy gore-heavy series, with Don’t Breathe’s Fede Alvarez involved as writer-producer and Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher starring. Michael Myers will also be making his “final” stab at killing Laurie Strode, AKA Jamie Lee Curtis, later in the year with Halloween Ends but the mammoth box office for his return might extend the originally envisioned trilogy. There’s also the intriguing prospect of an A24 slasher from Cat Person’s Kristen Roupenian called Bodies, Bodies, Bodies about a game that goes awry starring Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg and Pete Davidson.
While science-fiction that tackles something a little chewier than whether Godzilla or Kong can punch the hardest is never exactly not a thing, the next year provides a steadier stream than usual of options aiming more for mind over matter. After a premiere at Cannes last summer, Columbus director Kogonada’s After Yang will hit cinemas in March, a quiet drama with Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith about a family trying to save their live-in robot from extinction. David Cronenberg returns later this year with Crimes of the Future, a horror-tinged sci-fi tale set in a distant future where people explore “the limitless potential of transhumanism”, said people including Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen. Cronenberg’s son Brandon will also follow his well-received Sundance hit Possessor with Infinity Pool, a thriller starring Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth as a rich couple who discover something unusual beyond the gates of their all-inclusive resort. Yorgos Lanthimos is also reuniting with The Favourite screenwriter Tony McNamara and star Emma Stone for Poor Things, a Victorian era Frankenstein-esque tale of a woman brought back to life by a scientist who replaces her brain with that of her unborn child. One of the most intriguing big bets comes from the Mad Max director George Miller and his epic romance Three Thousand Years of Longing about a lonely scholar whose encounter with a wish-granting djinn leads to unexpected consequences. And while plot details are yet to be revealed, Jordan Peele’s mysterious new film Nope, starring Daniel Kaluuya, has debuted a poster that hints at a sci-fi mind-trip.
Fan favourite sequels
A look ahead at any year in the past five decades would show an unhealthy smattering of 2s, 3s and colons but in 2022, there’s a more specific form of sequel that’s set to dominate. Long-awaited, fan-petitioned follow-ups will be cosying up against the more expected superhero fare, studios betting on nostalgia to drive audiences out to the big screen or to stream. The aforementioned Scream is the first big test, to see if a 90s-born franchise can still pack ’em in, weeks before Paramount also bets on Jackass Forever, the first entry from the team since 2010. The oft-delayed Top Gun: Maverick will also test if audiences still feel the need for both speed and Tom Cruise outside of the Mission: Impossible franchise (his only fruitful endeavour these days). Reese Witherspoon’s belated return as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 3 is allegedly set for a summer release (although recent reports suggest that might not happen) with help from Mindy Kaling scripting. Halloween will see the return of sister witches Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus 2, after much fan speculation, haunting a new generation on Disney+ while the platform will also see Amy Adams returning as a fish-out-of-water princess in Disenchanted. And finally, Kevin Smith will complete his cult comedy trilogy with Clerks III.
It might be a surprise to anyone who doesn’t spend hours scouring the very bottom rows of the streaming underworld but Bruce Willis is working harder than you, I or anyone we know. His admirably consistent brand of cheaply made action thrillers is ever-expanding (he was in nine films in 2021) and in 2022, he will star in another 10 VHS-era films tailored toward the most undemanding of viewers. In the next 12 months, he will be “seen” in Gasoline Alley with Luke Wilson, Fortress 2 with Shannen Doherty, A Day to Die with Frank Grillo, The Wrong Place with Ashley Greene, Vendetta with Mike Tyson, Corrective Measures with Michael Rooker, Die Like Lovers with Dominic Purcell, White Elephant with John Malkovich, Paradise City with John Travolta and Wire Room with Kevin Dillon.