24 Movies Like Prey (2022)

Staff & contributors

, 2022

Vortex, Gaspar Noé’s haunting exploration of death and dementia, begins with a dedication: “to all those whose brains will decompose before their hearts.” The statement sets the heartwrenching tone of the film, which follows an elderly couple—one with dementia and the other with a heart ailment—during their last days together. Noé cleverly depicts all this in a split-screen design, which evokes the fractured pattern of old-age thought. 

Noé’s mother struggled with dementia, and Noé’ himself suffered from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him, so Vortex is clearly a personal film. But even without knowing this, Vortex feels effortlessly dear and deeply intimate, like it could've only been done by a person with a first-hand experience of this tragedy. At once personal and universal, Vortex is a haunting and inventive ode to love, death, and everything in between.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Lutz, Corinne Bruand, Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun, Jean-Baptiste Thoret, Nathalie Roubaud, Stephane Derderian

Director: Gaspar Noé

In Playground, we follow seven-year-old Nora as she navigates friends and school. Through her eyes (and often on her eye level), we witness her and her brother trying and often failing to fit in.

The film is an unfiltered account of their formative years, and possibly a reflection of our own. Commercials and kid-friendly media would have us believe that childhood is simple and pure, but the truth is it isn’t exempt from the major pitfalls of humanity. Children will mimic whatever they see, reasonable or otherwise, and the resulting order won’t always be ideal. Case in point: in the schoolyard, free of adult supervision, Nora and her peers push and tease and harass one another. 

It’s painful but relatable, a microcosm of our own complicated world, and though the film doesn’t shy away from the cruelties of bullying, it’s also filled with moments of empathy and warmth.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne-Pascale Clairembourg, Karim Leklou, Laura Verlinden, Sandrine Blancke, Simon Caudry

Director: Laura Wandel

, 2021

In the first few minutes of Mass, hushed tones, solemn movements, and awkwardly averted eyes hint at an unspoken tragedy that haunts everyone in the film. The four main characters discuss it during a sit-down, but even then it remains unspeakable; such is the dedication of first-time full-length director Fran Kranz in depicting the reality of tragic events. Not much is done in the way of plot twists and shocks, but in place of those, Mass makes clever use of close-up shots and unmoving settings to portray the privacy and paralysis of grief. For this reason, Mass often feels like a masterful play brought to life, but also more than that, a brilliant portrait of healing—or at the very least, coping with the everlasting aftermath of loss. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ann Dowd, Breeda Wool, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Michelle N. Carter, Reed Birney

Director: Fran Kranz

Understandably, Mimmi, Rönkkö, and Emma, the teenage girls who lead this Finnish coming-of-age drama, are bursting with emotional urgency. On the cusp of adulthood, they plunge into house parties and romantic affairs in the hope that exploring love, sex, and adventure leads them closer to being self-aware adults. 

Of course, that’s a lifelong process, but they don’t need to know that just yet. For now, they’re explosive and ecstatic and awkward and angry. They’re at a point in their lives where falling head over heels is still an endearingly fresh experience and not a frustratingly repeated mistake. 

The film is intense in this way, but it’s leavened by a beautiful naturalism that’s seen in the young cast’s performances, the setting’s soft lighting, and the camera’s boxy ratio and grainy finish, the latter of which recall a disposable camera capturing the indiscriminate moments shared between teens. Girl Picture is an intimate and authentic portrait of girlhood—see it if you can.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aamu Milonoff, Amos Brotherus, Bruno Baer, Cécile Orblin, Elias Westerberg, Fathi Ahmed, Henrikki Haavisto, Linnea Leino, Mikko Kauppila, Oona Airola, Pietu Wikström, Yasmin Najjar

Director: Alli Haapasalo

A road trip movie with an unknown destination, Hit the Road plays with our expectations by avoiding any obvious questions we might have, and making us focus on the real important things. Informed by the censorship and persecution faced by critics of Iran's government—including director Panah Panahi's own filmmaker father, Jafar—the film places more focus on the very act of escape and what that can take from a family. And most importantly, through Panahi's skillful direction of rural Iran's varied, beautiful landscapes, he creates a conflicted relationship between character and setting, with entire emotional crescendos playing out just through a single shot of the environment. It's one of the most underappreciated movies of the year.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amin Simiar, Hasan Ma'juni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak

Director: Panah Panahi

Widely regarded as one of the finest concert movies of all time, Stop Making Sense depicts musical innovators The Talking Heads at the height of their game. Directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), and starring the eccentric and energetic David Byrne, the show is a marvel of perfectly executed choreography and mid-eighties musicality. Halfway through the set, one might think they've heard all of the hits, but they keep coming and coming. Before Beyonce was Queen, before Bieber was conceived, this film shows what is capable with a camera, a guitar, and some genius.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, Chris Frantz, David Byrne, Ednah Holt, Jerry Harrison, Lynn Mabry, Steven Scales, Tina Weymouth

Director: Jonathan Demme

Rating: PG

, 2022

It's inspiring to see that, even after Jordan Peele made the jump to blockbuster budgets, he hasn't lost the ability to evoke the sheer visceral panic of seeing something that isn't supposed to be there. Nope is that increasingly uncommon kind of film whose dense air of mystery isn't frustrating—and in fact uses to great effect the very human instinct to understand the unknowable, even if we know it'll hurt us. Its characters might not be the most three-dimensional and the development of its themes seems to depend on a lot of extrapolation and educated guessing, but the way Nope transforms from alien invasion, to monster movie, to western adventure, to cosmic horror still makes the film much greater than the sum of its parts.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Alex Hyde-White, Andrew Patrick Ralston, Barbie Ferreira, Brandon Perea, Daniel Kaluuya, Devon Graye, Donna Mills, Eddie Jemison, Evan Shafran, Jennifer Lafleur, Keith David, Keke Palmer, Lincoln Lambert, Liza Treyger, Mark Casimir Dyniewicz Jr., Michael Wincott, Osgood Perkins, Oz Perkins, Pierce Kang, Ryan W. Garcia, Sophia Coto, Steven Yeun, Terry Notary, Wrenn Schmidt

Director: Jordan Peele

Rating: R

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn't waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we've come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it's sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Lisa Tønne, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Morten Svartveit, Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Sam Ashraf

Director: Eskil Vogt

After Jackie and Spencer, the dark satire El Conde is a surprise new entry in Pablo Larraín’s stacked filmography. Already, the film has prominent differences– it’s shot in black and white, starting with narration from an unseen and posh Englishwoman that makes the film’s events feel like entries in Bridgerton’s scandalous newsletter. The subject is far from the beloved wives of presidents and princes– it’s centered around a notorious Chilean dictator who remains unpunished for his crimes. However, as his fictional vampire version deals with his rightfully ruined legacy, El Conde proves to be a witty satiric twist to Larraín’s usual themes. Through familial squabbles over ill-gotten wealth, confessions and exorcism conducted by a nun, and certain foreign interventions, El Conde paints an everlasting greed that continues to haunt Larraín’s homeland.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Aldo Parodi, Alessandra Guerzoni, Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Catalina Guerra, Diego Muñoz, Dindi Jane, Eyal Meyer, Francisca Walker, Gloria Münchmeyer, Jaime McManus, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso, Marcial Tagle, Mateo Iribarren, Patricia Rivadeneira, Paula Luchsinger, Stella Gonet

Director: Pablo Larraín

Rating: R

Rarely do we get horror movies that are as dedicated to toying with audience expectations as Barbarian. Even rarer is a horror movie that pays so much attention to setting, and how men and women approach and interact with physical spaces in different ways. It's a film that's ultimately about entitlement—except it's delivered to us with jet-black humor and manic energy, shifting from romantic to ridiculous to raving mad. But with instantly charming performances from Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård—and Justin Long doing a brilliant job playing an absolute jerk—Barbarian never leaves you grasping in the dark, even if it leads you deeper into hell.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Bill Skarsgård, Brooke Dillman, Derek Morse, Georgina Campbell, J.R. Esposito, Jaymes Butler, Justin Long, Kate Bosworth, Kate Nichols, Kurt Braunohler, Matthew Patrick Davis, Rachel Fowler, Richard Brake, Sara Paxton, Sophie Sörensen, Trevor Van Uden, Will Greenberg, Zach Cregger

Director: Zach Cregger

Warm, enchanting, poetic and delicate, this is an almost silent film about a poor Vietnamese girl who goes to work for a well-off family in Saigon. The film follows her experiences as she grows but is also very focused on the nature around her, and the beautiful little details of this nature, which the young girl seems attuned to and curious about. The feelings in the film come more from the excellent visuals rather than the plot itself.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anh Hoa Nguyen, Hoa Hoi Vuong, Keo Souvannavong, Man San Lu, Ngoc Trung Tran, Thi Loc Truong, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Vantha Talisman

Director: Anh Hung Tran, Tran Anh Hung

Rating: Not Rated

The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jeong-bin, Geum Hae-na, Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Ju Seok-tae, Kim Hae-na, Kwak Min-kyu, Park Jeong-hak, Seo Hyun-woo

Director: Hong Sung-eun

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

Genre: Action, Crime, Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Leonardo Alonso, Mónica Del Carmen, Olivia Lagunas, Raúl Briones

Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Rating: R

This adaptation of a foundational work in Estonian literature is about an idealistic 19th-century farmer who is determined to turn his piece of land into a fruitful homestead. Things don’t go as expected because once confronted with his neighbor’s antagonistic nature he transforms from a loving family man to a bullying patriarch. 

Directed by the talented Tanel Toom and shot by Rein Kotov (the cinematographer behind the war drama 1944), Truth and Justice is a beautifully made adaptation Combining elements like a classic plot, radiant images, with a modern score from Mihkel Zilmer, this film-mirror of the Estonian's soul is not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aarne Soro, Aksel Ojari, Andres Lepik, Andres Mähar, Andres Tabun, Ester Kuntu, Indrek Sammul, Kalju Orro, Karmo Nigula, Külliki Saldre, Liisa Aibel, Maiken Pius, Margus Prangel, Margus Tabor, Maria Ehrenberg, Maria Koff, Marika Vaarik, Marta Riisalu, Mikk Kaasik, Ott Aardam, Ott Raidmets, Priit Loog, Priit Võigemast, Risto Vaidla, Uku Uusberg

Director: Tanel Toom

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!

Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.

This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Chelsea Edmundson, Chris Doubek, Frank Mosley, István Mihály, Jacqueline Doke, Jim Cummings, Jocelyn DeBoer, Jordan Ray Fox, Kendal Farr, Macon Blair, Marshall Allman, Nican Robinson, Tristan Riggs

Director: Jim Cummings

Rating: N/A