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Joel's Top Ten or Eleven (okay, maybe 12) Horror Films of 2022

Written by Joel Harley

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In typical end-of-year paragraphing, here I reflect on what a good time 2022 was for horror, and also throw in a few honourable mentions which didn't quite make the cut on this list. A year that was good for franchises, but not quite good enough to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I originally hated but came around on, with subsequent re-watches), Scream or Hellraiser make the top 10. A year in which I attended FrightFest - a line-up so strong this list could have consisted entirely of FrightFest films, had I wanted it to. To make things more difficult on myself, I didn't do that, so had to exclude such favourites as New Religion, Sissy, Follow Her and Stalker.

So, what did get added to the list? Just ten of my favourite films of 2022 (some of which will be released in 2023, to further confuse matters)... and then some.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 10. Smile

True story: While mulling about in the supermarket (okay, buying baked beans) following my viewing of Parker Finn's Smile, a woman randomly smiled at me in the asiles. Reader, I was so unsettled by what I had seen in that supernatural horror film less than half an hour previously, I nearly threw that can of beans at that poor woman.

A chilling take on the supernatural curse film (see also: The Ring/It Follows), the off-kilter, queasy scares of Smile had me squirming in my seat throughout, and brimming with paranoid energy for hours afterwards (hence the baked beans). If they hadn't spoiled the parked car head snap scare in the trailer, it may have placed even higher on this list. 

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9. Prey

Aliens vs Predator? With no disrespect to the former, I'll take a Predator movie any day of the week. That said, the poor Yautja has floundered ever since the magnificent Predator 2, struggling through a series of middling-to-terrible sequels and crossover films, and hitting its nadir in 2018.

Picture the massive grin on this Predator fan's face throughout Dan Trachtenberg's Prey - hitting the reset button and plunging the franchise back into 18th Century America. Amber Midthunder is revelatory as Comanche warrior Naru; the Predator has rarely been as intimidating nor relentless. A thrilling comeback for one of my favourite cinematic monsters, and a great sci-fi action thriller in its own right.

Full review here.

Buy from Amazon
small-coverBuy from Amazon 8. X / Pearl

In joint eighth place, Ti West's homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and, then, his technicolour prequel/companion piece, Pearl.

Shooting a dirty movie on the property of an old veteran and his highly-strung wife, a crew of filmmakers re-awaken something in old Pearl (Mia Goth), who grows jealous of star Maxine (Mia Goth) and embarks on a bloody killing spree, shades of which haven't been seen since Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive. Amidst all of this, Brittany Snow steals the show with a rendition of Landslide which might well be my film moment of the year.

And, if West hadn't been good enough to us already, he dropped prequel Pearl later in the year (or did in the States, anyway). Following a young Pearl (Mia Goth), this period piece is a disturbing depiction of a descent into madness, culminating in one of the most impressive monologues ever seen in a horror film. And then, just to show off, West and Goth do it all over again as the end credits roll.

Pearl is set for a UK release later this year, with another sequel (Maxxine) set to follow.

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7. Piggy

I slept on it when writing my FrightFest Top 10 earlier this year, but haven't been able to stop thinking about Carlota Pereda's Piggy in the months since. Featuring the most upsetting depictions of bullying since Carrie, this revenge thriller follows young Sara (Laura Galán) as she deals with small town bullies and the advances of a local serial killer. 

Offering no respite in blinding hot sunlight nor inky black darkness, Piggy never lets up, be it in the torment Sara gets from her peers or her own conflicted emotions.

Piggy is out in the UK from January 6th.  Full review here.

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6. Soft & Quiet

Neither soft nor quiet, Beth de Araújo's home invasion thriller (an oversimplification, but not an inaccurate one) is the most upsetting film of the year, edging out Piggy with the sheer awfulness of the grown women doing these horrible things.

A middle-aged soccer mom version of James Cullen Bressack's Hate Crime, the events of Soft & Quiet play out in real time, unfolding with horrifying inevitability. Kicking off with a swastika pie in the church hall, there's little subtlety to be found here. As the tension ratchets and the volume goes up, Soft & Quiet becomes an almost unbearable experience. For a stretch of about ten minutes, I almost even considered turning the movie off.

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5. A Wounded Fawn

Shot on film, Travis Stevens' stylistic cabin in the woods feature infuses The Evil Dead with Greek mythology deep cuts. Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben are well-matched as the serial killer and his would-be victim - I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the other boot to drop. When it does, A Wounded Fawn goes truly off the chain. A work of vividly depicted, dizzying madness.

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 4. Bull

Part blood-drenched gangster thriller, part kitchen sink slasher film, Paul Andrew Williams's latest is a ferocious depiction of bloody vengeance on a very British scale.

Plopping on a pair of dead man's shoes to stomp around a series of rural village estates, Kill List star Neil Maskell channels his inner Jason Voorhees to take on his sinister father-in-law and family of gangsters, sparing no-one in his quest for bloody vengeance. An incendiary work of bleak, horrible ferocity.

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small-coverBuy from Amazon

3. Barbarian / Deadstream

A cop-out, but for the best time I had with a horror film on the big screen this year, I simply could not choose between Zach Cregger's Barbarian or Josephn and Vanessa Winter's Deadstream. And why should I? My list, my rules.

"Can a movie be so funny you'll be pissing your pants and also so scary you'll be shitting yourself at the same time?" I asked, on Twitter. That movie is Joseph and Vanessa Winter's found footage horror comedy Deadstream. In a year of films about influencers (Sissy/Follow Her), Deadstream delights in tormenting its screeching antihero all through the (haunted) house. Walking out of Deadstream's FightFest premiere, I felt confident that my cinema experience of the year would not be beaten.

Then, mere days later, the Airbnb horror story Barbarian. A different flavour of horror and comedy, sure, but no less riotously entertaining. The scares hit big, the laughs even bigger. Or is that the other way around? Either way, I was on the edge of my seat.

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2. The Leech

Two things I love: Christmas horror movies, and Eric Pennycoff's Sadistic Intentions. The director returns with The Leech - one of the darkest, weirdest and most surprising films of FrightFest, following well-intentioned priest Father David (Graham Skipper) in a very different kind of home invasion movie.

With The Leech, a new Christmas viewing tradition is born. I look forward to adding this one to the yearly rotation.

Full review here.

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1. The Harbinger

Set during the early days of the pandemic (come on, you know which one), this supernatural horror film examines the toll that isolation and paranoia takes on the scared and the lonely. Horror mythmaking for the COVID age, its boogeyman should be up there with the Freddy Kruegers and the Babadooks of the world. Its jump scares were so intense that I nearly fell out of my chair.

Having been unable to get this one out of my head since viewing it at FrightFest, The Harbinger has stuck with me all the way to first place on this list. It is out in the UK later this year, and will probably be my favourite film of 2023 too.

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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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