Best of 2022: The Year of Unforgettable Horror Monologues

A subtle pattern emerged when reflecting upon the year’s standout horror moments and performances: it’s been one hell of a year for knockout monologues. A monologue relays vital information about the story or the character relaying it and supports its central themes, but there’s an art form to its delivery. Some of the most unforgettable performances of 2022 belonged to actors that delivered uncanny, showstopping monologues that glued us to our seats and left us in rapturous awe.

Writer/Director Andrew Semans’s Resurrection explored the psychological toll of abuse via dread-soaked horror. Rebecca Hall stars as Margaret, a savvy career woman with a sturdy head on her shoulders. She’s single-handedly raised an independent teen, Abbie (Grace Kaufman), on the cusp of leaving the nest for college. But Margaret’s carefully assembled life begins to untangle from her grasp when David (Tim Roth), a menacing man from her distant past, shows up out of the blue to reclaim her.

Margaret might be two decades removed from her toxic relationship with David, but his sudden arrival erases that time with ease. Margaret’s unmooring, from calculated control to frantic paranoia and fear, provides fertile ground for Hall as a performer, and she more than rises to the occasion.

Resurrection 2022

Of particular note, Hall commands the screen in a roughly seven-minute-long monologue as her character delivers harrowing exposition on her past relationship with David to an unsuspecting intern in her office. Semans lets the background fall into the darkness around her, giving his actor the deserved spotlight to wrap the audience around her fingers. It’s a steady escalation as Margaret unloads the trauma she endured with David piecemeal, bringing those long-buried emotions to the surface. It’s a jaw-dropping scene showing how dangerous David is for her and how shallow his afflicted wounds have lived in her psyche since Margaret left him. It informs us as much about David as Margaret and how it shaped her in the present.

X star Mia Goth, meanwhile, reteamed with director Ti West to co-write and star in Pearl, a prequel set in 1918 that explored X’s killer in her youth. In the prequel, young Pearl longs to escape her family’s farm. Her husband is away at war. She lives with her strict German mother (Tandi Wright) and is forced to care for her sickly father (Matthew Sunderland). Pearl is a dreamer; she spends her time shirking responsibilities, sneaking off to the movies, or dancing around the barn and at home. She wants to break free from her small town and the family farm. But Pearl is a bit broken inside, and her killer instincts take over when things don’t go her way.

The last straw for Pearl comes when she fails to impress at a local dance audition; the rejection slams the door shut on her planned escape. Sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) takes the inconsolable Pearl home and offers to lend an ear in the hopes of soothing her friend.

Enter the film’s climax.

The camera focuses on Pearl’s tear-streaked face for ten minutes as she relays a single-take speech that extensively lays out Pearl’s fragile state of mind, her shattered hopes, dreams, and the horrific mistakes she made along the way. Goth commands attention on screen the entire time as she effortlessly shifts through a gamut of emotions, from sorrow to remorse to envy. Because this is Pearl’s final breaking point and a less showy climax, so much hinges on this moment, and Goth makes it seem so effortless. That it’s done in a single shot highlights how tricky it is to perform on a technical level.

If there’s a reigning champion of the monologue in horror, it would be Mike Flanagan and frequent collaborator Robert Longstreet. Longstreet already established his uncanny talent for delivering deeply affecting monologues in “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Midnight Mass,” and “The Midnight Club” continues that streak.

Longstreet’s appearances as the Janitor of Brightcliffe Hospice in the Netflix series are brief but purposeful. Natsuki (Aya Furukawa) encounters him in episode three, “The Wicked Heart,” when she inquires about his cleaning of a recently deceased patient’s room. The Janitor imparts a short but comforting monologue on the transition to death. Death, the Janitor says in a calm, soothing tone, is a release from pain. It’s less an enemy than feared and more of a friend. The Janitor again shares similar reassuring words of wisdom in episode seven, “Anya.” The character’s brief appearances hint toward something more profound in mind for Flanagan had the series continued, but even still, Longstreet’s incredible performances stand out.

No matter the length, each powerful speech elevates its respective feature or series. For Resurrection, Hall conveys the death grip David’s hold still has on her character as if no time had passed. Pearl sees its central character lay her desires, motivations, and abnormal psychology bare as she shifts from distraught to acceptance of her fate in real-time. And “The Midnight Club” gives us a warm, cozy hug in response to death’s frequent heartbreak in the form of another impactful portrayal by Robert Longstreet.

In all three standout scenes, the world goes quiet as the camera focuses solely on the performer, letting them breathe life into their words in a compelling way. The intricacies and effectiveness of the monologue are beautifully captured by all three incredible performances.

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