Following two calendar years that were marred by production issues due to worldwide pandemics, 2022 came in strong and remains one of the best years for horror films in the last two decades. The sheer number of iconic and well-received movies is absolutely mind boggling, with every subgenre being represented.
We got the return of franchise favorites, as well as new and original terrors, both from studios and independent filmmakers. So as the year comes to a close, we wanted to look back and honor the many amazing horror content as we count down our top 10 favorite horror movies of 2022!
Because this was such a stacked year, it was honestly difficult to even narrow down the list to just 10. So in order to pay tribute to the sheer volume of great horror movies, here are four honorable mentions, each of which were great in their own way, they just didn’t quite make the final list.
Bodies Bodies Bodies – Arguably the first “Gen Z Horror Film” that captures the spirit of the generation, but with well-written characters, witty banter, and a creative shooting style with minimal lighting.
Hellbender – Released to Shudder, this movie was incredibly weird, trippy, and bizarre. And the fact that it was co-written and co-directed by two parents and their teenage daughter is really cool!
Hellraiser – In a series that has long been relegated to direct-to-video sequels lacking in quality, it was very refreshing to get a reboot of this property that went back to the BDSM roots of the original and made the Cenobites creepy again!
Prey – Another legacy franchise returned but took things back to basics with a simple story of a hunter and the Predator facing off in the wilderness. Hopefully it gives way to more iterations set in different locations and time periods.
Now on to our Top 10
10. Halloween Ends
Without a doubt the most divisive and controversial film on this list, many will probably be critical of its mere inclusion on this list. As far as third entries to trilogies go, as far as accurate marketing and trailers ago, and as far as conclusions to 40 year franchises go, Halloween Ends left a lot to be desired.
But if we’re judging the movie itself on its own merits, it’s a fascinating, character-driven drama that touches upon the nature of evil in a way the franchise hasn’t since the original. The opening scene set the tone for a movie that subverted expectations, and the final disposal of Michael Myers was admittedly epic and iconic.
All the criticisms of how the previous films should have set up Corey are true, but it doesn’t take away from what this movie did and we’ll defend it to the death!
Speaking of subverting expectations, Barbarian was a film that came out of absolute nowhere, and it’s a rare example of a movie where you really have no idea what’s going to happen next. Its entire opening sequence is a masterclass in making the audience tense and uncomfortable, and that tension and suspense never lets up.
Just when the audience thinks they know what’s happening, there’s a complete plot shift to another detail, all of which culminate together by the end. And it’s all held together with stylish directing, and some amazing practical makeup effects. Justin Long especially shines as a character that’s a terrible human being, but he’s just so much fun to hate.
8. The Sadness
Imported from Taiwan and brought to the US via Shudder, The Sadness is one of the best zombie films of the last decade. None of us were prepared for just how brutal and devastating it was, completed with practical gore that was equally grotesque and creative.
As its title suggests, the zombie outbreak and its brutality serve as metaphors for the inherent tragedy that is our civilization. It’s hardly the first zombie movie to explore this theme, but it does so in a more thematic and subtle way than many of the others.
Not since From Dusk Till Dawn has a movie so successfully pulled off a complete genre shift. Fresh begins as a romantic comedy, but takes a hard turn at the end of the first act into cannibal horror. It even has the guts to play its opening credits a full 20+ minutes into the movie.
The jarring shift in tone and genre is fitting because it puts us the audience in the same shoes as the protagonist. Both leads, Daisy Edgar Jones and Sebastian Stan really hold the whole thing together. They have amazing chemistry, even after the horror begins, and it’s just as fun as it is disturbing.
6. The Menu
Featuring an amazing ensemble cast including the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and John Leguizamo, The Menu is more of a dark comedy but with a horror twist. There’s not much to say about the plot without giving away spoilers.
That said, it satirizes both snobby culinary culture as well as rich people. Anya Taylor-Joy makes for a great audience surrogate that you really root for the entire time. And Ralph Fiennes is a villain that you really understand and also kind of root for in a strange way as well. It’s a hilarious movie that will definitely make you hungry while watching it!
Smile definitely wins the award for best marketing campaign ever. The studio hired actors to go to baseball games to stare directly into the cameras and creepily smile while wearing t-shirts bearing the movie’s title. The movie itself is simple in plot, yet incredibly effective.
Many rightfully pointed out its tonal similarities to movies like The Ring or It Follows, but it’s genuinely creepy and disturbing in its own ways. Based on a terrifying short film, the feature length version captures the fear and terror that made the short film so effective.
What easily could have been another forgettable movie like Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, Smile was way better than anyone expected.
4. Terrifier 2
The little indie movie that could, this film took the world by storm in October, when it was only supposed to play for one weekend, but played for over a month due to popular demand. Grossing over $12 million on a $250,000 budget, it’s a massive success story with the quality to back it up. Art the Clown was already popular from the first film, but after this he’s become an absolute horror icon.
And to think that it was released in theaters unrated to unsuspecting audiences is kind of hilarious, given how gory it was. Seriously, there’s no way to overstate just how violent, bloody, and disgusting these kills are, and they’re all done via practical makeup thanks to an absolutely amazing crew behind the scenes.
There honestly wasn’t much to the first film plot wise, but this one adds a rich mythology to the series that will hopefully pay off in a promised third installment!
Following the death of Wes Craven in 2015, and the fact that the Scream series had already covered remakes in 2011’s Scream 4, this movie had pretty huge shoes to fill and a lot to prove. But against all odds, it managed to bring back legacy characters, introduce new ones that were actually interesting, and provide a meta deconstruction of “requels” that are so popular in Hollywood today.
Amidst all this, it gave us bold and interesting kills that were as creative as they were gut-wrenching. It was everything that a requel should be, all while satirizing them at the same time. It works perfectly as an ending to the franchise, but with Scream VI due out in March 2023, we’ll see how this series holds up going forward.
Perhaps it’s a cop out to include both of these movies together, but it was honestly impossible to try and rank them separately. They are two sides of a brilliant coin (with a third on the way) that we didn’t even know we wanted this year. X felt like a vintage 70’s slasher that boasted great characters and great kills, but it also captured the spirit of the American Dream, as well as our inherent fear of aging.
And after watching Pearl, it makes X even better in retrospect. Mia Goth absolutely killed it (literally) in that prequel as a young Pearl filled with dreams. Her portrayal felt like Lizzie Borden meets a Disney Princess, all with a Wizard of Oz spin put on it.
Both films feature relatable characters with dreams that do horrible things, but we kind of understand why they do. And the fact that both were done simultaneously with Pearl’s teaser being dropped as a post credit surprise in X is nothing short of amazing!
1. The Black Phone
Many horror fans were understandably bummed when Scott Derrickson left Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, however everything happens for a reason, because after leaving that project Derrickson went on to direct our #1 pick for the greatest horror movie of 2022!
Based on the Joe Hill short story, The Black Phone deals with incredibly dark subject matter including child abductions and murder. It goes to some very bleak places, but at its core it winds up being an incredibly inspiring story with heart and a theme about standing up for yourself.
Plus it features one of the greatest, and definitely most terrifying performances of Ethan Hawke’s career. Previously working with Derrickson on 2012’s Sinister, Ethan Hawke goes to places you never realized he could. And it takes true courage to give yourself that much to a character that despicable.
What were your favorite horror movies of 2022? Let us know in the comments!
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