We’ve reached the end of 2022 and it’s time to crown our favorites of the year. If you read the first iteration of this list as a summer check-in on the best horror flicks of 2022 so far, you’ll notice some titles have held strong — but plenty of newcomers have instigated quite the title shuffle. Ghostface has been slashing away competition from Cenobites to hapless serial killers in training, only to be leapfrogged by a maniac restaurateur’s diabolical dinner service. It’s been a tremendous year for horror prior to and since we last reported, so let’s jump right to the spooky-scary final roundup below.
Don’t worry. These have all been released and are publicly available either theatrically or digitally. So, if something sounds interesting, seek it out as quickly as you’d like!
How many directors can brag about having two separate films in massive consideration for “Best of the Year” horror roundups? X is the winner in my opinion (spoiler alert), but Mia Goth makes Pearl unmissable. With Wizard of Oz whimsy at the core of an unstable hopeful actor’s breakdown, I described Pearl elsewhere as “an ax-swinging slice of bad-vibes hoedown kookiness.” Goth takes to her almost famous farmgirl character with unmeasurable psychosis — charming, ruthless, delightful and deranged. Pearl is Goth’s technicolor showcase and she doesn’t waste any potential in a screenplay she co-wrote with Ti West during the 14-day quarantine before shooting on X could begin (which ’s reviewer thought a better idea than actual production).
“The Sadness is one of the ickiest, most sadistic outbursts of unbridled horror aggression I’ve beheld in a spell,” I wrote elsewhere in a review for Shudder’s most delinquent release of the year. It’s a blend of 28 Days Later and The Purge, as infected Chinese citizens start savagely attacking everyone everywhere all at once. Even worse, these feral monstrosities act on heightened immorality levels, explicitly sexual and violent. Intensity and sadism mock civil obedience as bodies are flayed, deep-fried, and defiled (here’s your trigger warning). There are acts in The Sadness that will cause even more veteran gorehounds to cringe in what’s easily the meanest horror flick of 2022.
Mickey Keating’s Offseason — available on Shudder — is the filmmaker’s ode to coastal Lovecraftian horror with essences of soggy thrillers like The Fog. Think along the lines of The Block Island Sound (on Netflix) meets Silent Hill as ominous mist rolls over a vacation town that’s been vacated by most. Keating loves honoring his idols throughout his films, each feeling like a student wants to make his teachers proud. Offseason is his championing of waterlogged themes and unexplained mysteries, feeling almost like a radio drama you’d expect to hear read aloud by hosts through adjustable static.
If your horror flick has outstanding practical creature effects, you immediately have my attention. Hatching goes further to blend coming-of-age awkwardness with an aviary monster that hatches from a discovered egg. As ’s official review acknowledges, “With delightful practical effects, and a spectacular child performance at its center, Finnish body-horror movie Hatching works despite itself.” We’ve seen protector flicks like this before, but Hatching drills into the core horrors of stage moms, expensive facades, and broken homes that try to appear as anything else. At barely 90 minutes and loaded with full-on shots of a spectacularly grim bird-beast, you’re in good hands.
Joseph and Vanessa Winter approach Deadstream with the same enthusiasm and resourcefulness as Sam Raimi once did on Evil Dead. It’s down and dirty, homegrown filmmaking that laughs in the face of low budgets and cobbles together a hilariously thrilling livestream from Hell. Joseph’s portrayal of a disgraced YouTube personality who thinks spending the night in a haunted location will win back his community and sponsors is a prime example of protagonists we love to hate. The selfish streamer’s moronic decisions lead to invigorated scares, plenty of humble yet hellacious demonic effects, and a proper horror-comedy balance that roasts online obsessions up there with the year’s best Instafamous satires.
I liked The Watcher a tad more than ’s Amelia Emberwing, whose 7 out of 10 review says, “The story will linger too long for some, but anyone willing to stick with it is in for a treat.” Chloe Okuno’s feature debut needs nothing more than a woman abroad and the man whose eyes are always locked on said woman’s figure. It’s highlighting horrors of the outside world, as society repeatedly tells women they’re perfectly safe and to stop overreacting, right before another innocent life is taken by some dude who stalked another target home late one night. Maika Monroe and Burn Gorman do their best on the respective sides of an invasive, grossly vulnerable stalker scenario that uses reality as the utmost impetus for horror cinema. Why create imaginary monsters when our lives are filled with real ones?
Something in the Dirt
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have struck continual successes by challenging their audiences with the horrors of existentialism. Their latest, Something in the Dirt, rises to the top of pandemic-filmed projects through a chatty sci-fi investigation into the unknown between apartment complex buddies. It’s punk-as-heck indie goodness on Benson and Moorhead’s minimal yet elaborate terms; the duo at their most confidently unfiltered. Something in the Dirt is very much in tune with all our lockdown sadness, loneliness, impatience — every rabbit hole and spiral — and I dig it as much as ’s official review. Benson and Moorhead are out here making movies with their friends and proving that budgets don’t maketh the film, as long as you’re as observantly sharp and passionately creative as these two (with a shout out to their Rustic Films partner and frequent producer David Lawson Jr.).
Addison Heimann’s Hypochondriac is a powerhouse Donnie Darko riff about mental health that’s full of vim and vigor. Zach Villa delivers a stripped-naked performance as an unwell worker, lover, and son who’s trying to battle the voices in his head — or the lurker in a wolf costume. It’s one of those now scoffed-at horror movies about trauma that entertains, informs, and terrorizes with equal attention (never forgetting to be a horror movie first). Heimann’s feature debut is confident and commanding, confronting the darkness in our minds with a hopeful light throughout it all. The kind of indie that makes you pay immediate attention to a filmmaker, excitedly waiting for what comes next.
Speak No Evil
“Speak No Evil draws its terror from basic societal themes of mistrust, midlife anxiousness, and blind faith in the nobility of others.” Christian Tafdrup’s bleak slice of vacation despicableness is one of the grimmest films of 2022. My review here on gets into the deeper troubles of putting your faith in strangers who’ve not yet proven themselves anything but smiling facades. It’s a story of red flags, social awkwardness and wolves in sheep’s clothing who can’t wait to flash their fangs. If you’re looking for the next feel-bad hit of the summer, search no further — not much more to say.
My official review for David Bruckner’s Hellraiser reboot gets right to the point with plenty of praise. Writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski find a clever entryway into the Cenobite’s temptations through addiction — hardly as sadomasochistic, but reinvigorated as a reimagining of Clive Barker’s ideas. Jamie Clayton is such an alluring sight as “The Priest” (Hulu’s new Pinhead), covered in fantastic prosthetic costume details thanks to Josh and Sierra Russell’s fully redesigned Cenobite fashions. It’s glibly dreadful and becomes a relative of Thir13en Ghosts in structure, using the Cenobites as monsters giving chase. “Bruckner never attempts to retrace what Barker’s already colored outside typical horror lines — Hellraiser 2022 thematically raises hell on his newly renovated terms.” Not trying to recreate Barker is the film’s greatest asset.
When the Screaming Starts
Conor Boru’s When the Screaming Starts is one of the year’s pleasant little horror surprises. It’s a mockumentary about a bumbling loser who wants to be the next Charles Manson, so he hires a documentarian to record his building of the next serial killer family. It’s every bit Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and Man Bites Dog that it sounds like, with a little What We Do in the Shadows for good measure. Expect a horror comedy that plays on the goofier elements of the concept, still with the mean streak necessary to engage horror fans.
There’s a hefty helping of media commentary about the way tragedies become marketable. “Serial killers don’t get forgotten — no one remembers the victims.” You’ll have plenty of laughs as a yogi who doesn’t speak English follows along by accident, but there’s also legitimate commentary about how news programs and true crime podcasts platform vile murderers as celebrities. My review gets into the balance between laughs and contemplation, not to make this sound like a stern condemnation of cultural trends. When the Screaming Starts is a blast that just so happens to come with a side serving of storytelling significance.
Andy Mitton sets the bar for COVID-19 horror storytelling with The Harbinger. It’s never cheaply exploiting our lockdown anxieties, nor is the COVID-19 nostalgia overbearing. Mitton takes viewers back to the earlier memories of quarantine bubbles when we still wiped down groceries and take-out burritos, then injects deadly demonic horror. Expect shadowy plague doctor imagery because what else would haunt isolated folks during a pandemic?
Gabby Beans and Emily Davis star as besties keeping each other sane in a Queens apartment with COVID-19 spreading rapidly around New York City. Tension is dictated by the tiniest noise like a child coughing upstairs, or a neighbor who refuses to mask — but The Harbinger isn’t just outbreak horror. Enter Mitton’s Harbinger, a disciple of Freddy Krueger who preys upon victims while they sleep. There’s a tremendous sense of dread as isolated individuals battle their stir-crazy paranoias, while the Harbinger invades dreamlands where we escape from daily four-walls monotony. It’s all so fantastical, and yet still so recognizably real in terms of terror — Mitton generates relatable horrors as a communal release after lockdown conditions.
In my review for The Innocents, I conclude, “The Innocents is a slow-burner that stars a majority small-fry cast and yet is far more poised and impactful than those descriptions suggest.” What’s so stunning about this dark Norwegian take on children with superpowers is how mature the film treats its subjects. There’s never a desire to water-down dire consequences because wee younglings are in charge. If anything, the screenplay amplifies concepts around children not understanding the harm they can cause and how quickly some are forced to grow up.
It’s a playground metaphor for unchecked aggression and the corruption of unlimited powers. Kids start levitating rocks and realizing they’re far more special than their parents ever imagined — both a blessing and a curse. Horror elements interfere when one child uses his abilities in hurtful ways, as the other powered children wonder how to stop his reign of terror. It’s an impactful film about choices and how quickly humans succumb to their worst impulses, made immensely more impactful given the age of all players involved.
Radio Silence’s Scream sequel does right by franchise creators Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. It’s a requel that plays into all the tropes and decades-later revamps that have tried tirelessly to revive franchises gasping for air. ’s Amelia Emberwing gave the film a 9 out of 10, saying, “All of the performances are pitch-perfect, the kills are gnarly, and no version of toxic fandom is left unmocked.” I agree with those words, since the film so lovingly pays homage to multiple threads from Williamson’s original script with all the sharp genre commentary Craven loved to exploit.
The year of “Jenna Ortega: Our Scream Queen” continues since she stars alongside Melissa Barrera as slasher surviving sisters, meeting franchise favorites like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox. There’s no chip on the shoulders of Radio Silence as they direct through another massacre that’s the most violent and relentless to date, yet comedy thrives as Jasmin Savoy Brown becomes the Meeks we deserve. Scream (2022) channels Craven, guts “Horror Twitter” with scathing commentary against gatekeepers, and feels comfortably at home in the franchise. That’s all Scream fans can ask for, shake-ups and all.
Zach Cregger’s first foray into horror is one of the year’s most talked about genre films. “WTF Horror” just isn’t as prevalent in the mainstream these days, especially with the boundaries that Cregger pushes. It’s part Airbnb thriller, part creature feature, part Pleasantville serial killer scenario – you just don’t know where Barbarian dares venture next. Cregger keeps audiences guessing until their brains explode from sheer disbelief much like [redacted, you’ll just have to watch].
Barbarian has it all. Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård bring to light modern anxieties about rental shares gone wrong. Justin Long enters as a hotshot Hollywood type at the center of a scandal, which Cregger uses for furious “cancel culture” satire. Then the psychological torment swaps for gory B-Movie bliss, including some sensationally intense basement horror in a catacombs-like connection of tunnels. Long’s tape measure bit? One of the most entertaining horror sequences of the year — and it’s not even the crowning moment in Barbarian.
Jordan Peele’s no stranger to “Best of” horror lists between Get Out and Us — and Nope is no different. It’s Peele having a blast with Twilight Zone influences on a Spielbergian sci-fi scale. We don’t toss around the term “Event Horror” anymore (used to describe blockbuster horror flicks that devour the screen) but Peele has become a champion for such spectacle filmmaking now for a third time with Nope. Audiences will find an immensely entertaining UFO mystery with laughs and chills — but that’s just on the surface.
Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun explore the nasty histories of minorities being tossed aside and forgotten by Hollywood. Our ugly relationship with spectacles is put on display while Peele still manages to keep us in awe of the overarching alien threat. Peele operates outside the more overt social commentaries of Get Out and Us, without ditching a directorial voice that’s arguably the most unique in contemporary horror cinema. In Peele we trust, and there’s a reason gave the film a 9 out of 10 in our official review.
Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion
Is it really an end of year horror list without Joko Anwar? Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion is the sequel to Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves, a loose remake of an older-school Indonesian horror classic. We reconvene with a cursed family living in Northern Jakarta who can’t seem to escape their nightmarish past (the events of Satan’s Slaves). The surviving family’s relocation from countryside to apartment complex doesn’t stave off paranormal and occultist frights, now with more collateral damage around the complex.
There are few modern horror filmmakers keeping up with the James Wans and Mike Flanagans of the Horrorsphere, but Anwar is one of them. Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion understands the comforts of a properly orchestrated scare and manipulates shadows so well as the power drops during a rainstorm. Anwar’s style and approach heightens the cravings all horror fans get, drenching atmospheres in dread while going above and beyond not to be just another haunted house flick. Anyone can copy Wan’s templates, but few are in the same weight class. Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion proves Anwar one of the few “Modern Horror Master” contenders.
The Black Phone
Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill strike horror gold again with The Black Phone. ’s official review dials in a 9 out of 10, as Amelia concludes, “The Black Phone mixes the supernatural with relatable horrors in ways that will leave you both terrified and hopeful.” It’s that hopefulness that I wasn’t expecting because Ethan Hawke’s child kidnapper “The Grabber” sure is a nasty son-of-a-gun. Child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw play their parts so tremendously well, that it’s impossible not to leave thinking the kids will be alright.
Direction goes a long way for The Black Phone because Derrickson shows a confident and transformative command of The Grabber’s basement. It feels massive when Thames’ victim searches around for escape clues and claustrophobic when The Grabber comes downstairs to enhance sensations of chilly isolation. Add in a few paranormal scares and killer mask designs by Tom Savini, and you’ve got a definitive crowd-pleasing horror film worth acclaim. Not like that’s anything new for the team behind Sinister.
Mark Mylod’s delicious commentary on the toxic relationship between art, artist and consumer makes The Menu such a razor-sharp “creator” satire. Ralph Fiennes gives an impenetrable performance as celebrity psycho chef Julian Slowik, who runs the private island restaurant Hawthorne. Guests played by Nicholas Hoult, Anya Taylor-Joy, John Leguizamo and more think they’re getting a one-of-a-kind restaurant experience — what they get is a tasting menu filled with pretension, sacrifice, and pain. Fine dining consultants from food designer Dominique Crenn to Chef’s Table filmmaker David Gelb help ensure each extravagant dish is shot more exquisitely than the last, keeping sophistication on high.
That’s all a facade for Slowik’s master plan, which predetermines the fate of him, his employees, and his diners. Fiennes and Taylor-Joy correctly received Golden Globes nods for their performances, with Fiennes dazzling as the militant Michelin star chef who’s lost the passion for his grueling profession. Writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy roast the wannabes, the masochistic makers, the snooty tastemakers — Slowik’s Hawthorne becomes a stand-in for all creative industries. It’s not exactly subtle, but maybe I’m just done with subtle. The Menu heats tension to a boil and is savagely hilarious, easily a contender for best of the year in most categories.
Ti West’s X is as glorious and malevolent a return to horror features that anyone could ask for from the indie filmmaker turned prolific television director. ’s official review gave X an 8 out of 10, which I come in a little higher on myself. West’s incorporation of countless influences from Giallo to 70s sleazeploitation makes for an artfully chaotic brand of contemporary slasher. It’s handily one of A24’s better horror films, filled with gratuitous but oh-so-slick gore and all the sweltery southern terrorization in films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Performances across the board help make X so memorable. It’s Jenna Ortega’s year in horror without any question, but she’s only one piece to X’s blood-splattered puzzle. Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, and more play above-and-beyond parts as pornographers trying to elevate their medium. West has loads of fun comparing horror to pornography in terms of public perception, while characters are granted agency beyond easy stereotypes. What’s not to like about a sex-positive slasher that swings a big ego and delivers as promised?
Looking for more horror? Take a look at our guides to the best horror movies of all time and the best horror on Netflix.