Richie’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2022

Written by Richie Corelli

It’s February. It feels a little too late for an article listing my “Top Horror Movies of 2022.” I wanted this to be published sooner. I started writing this piece in October with the intent of having it finished by the end of December. But I had to abandon it for a while. Sometimes, real life gets in the way.

In life, we experience pain in its truest form. It’s ugly and raw. With a horror film, we experience hardship through the filter of a camera’s lens. There’s safety in that. A scary movie might cause our muscles to tense up. It might make our stomachs churn. A jump-scare might make us feel like we’re in danger, but we aren’t. And that’s what makes it exciting.

Movies also serve as a pause button. When life gets too heavy, we go to the theater. When stress seems insurmountable, we stream a movie. And when the film ends, the credits finish their roll, and the screen goes black, we return to the concrete world and look back on our favorite films and appreciate what they gave us; a respite, an escape, and a brief moment of joy.

When I put my list together for 2021, I commented that my view of horror was far-reaching. This is still true. I love a fast-paced, traditional scary movie as much as I enjoy an experimental, slow work of dread. Whether a shriek or a shudder, if a movie broaches fear, I see it as horror.

2022 saw multi-million dollar, Hollywood blockbusters screaming into theaters alongside low-budget, independent productions. It saw classic characters return for more blood and new franchises brandish their blades for the first time. My favorite movies of the year include measured character studies, fraught romances, classic tragedies, sharp comedies, nuanced terror, and straightforward scares.

But before we get into the list, here are a few that just missed the cut.

Honorable mentions:
Zach Cregger’s dark and funny, twisty and unpredictable, Barbarian.
David Cronenberg’s cold, sci-fi body-horror, Crimes of the Future.
Hanna Bergholm’s avian creature-feature, Hatching.
Eskil Vogt’s cruel, prepubescent horror, The Innocents.
Mark Mylod’s biting, satyrical, The Menu.
Andrew Semans’ psychological, traumatic, Resurrection.
Rob Jabbaz’s high-octane zombie action flick, The Sadness.
Joko Anwar’s atmospheric, supernatural sequel, Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion.
Jean Luc Herbulot’s genre-shifting surprise, Saloum.
Vincent Grashaw’s Southern Gothic, family-drama thriller, What Josiah Saw.
Goran Stolevski’s stoic, folk-horror, You Won’t Be Alone.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 10) Speak No Evil (Directed by Christian Tafdrup)

Politeness could be a killer. In recent years, films like Creep (2014), The Invitation (2015), Get Out (2017), and Midsommar (2019) all found different ways to put people in danger simply because the victims were well-mannered. Speak No Evil continues this tradition. While on vacation, a Dutch family befriends a Danish family. A few months later, they reunite at the Danish family’s remote house in the woods. What starts as a fun weekend gathering, slowly becomes more and more uncomfortable… and possibly dangerous. The unforgettable third act reveals all. Speak No Evil plays to the pressures set by social niceties. Throughout the movie, the Dutch family has plenty of opportunities to leave. But they wonder if they're blowing things out of proportion. Maybe they’re just being paranoid. They don’t want to be rude.

Buy from Amazon 9) Hellbender (Directed by John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser)

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, a small family in the Catskill mountains produced, directed, scored, and stared-in a folk-horror triumph; Hellbender. The movie is a patient, coming-of-age story augmented by themes of witchcraft and mysticism. It follows a young woman named Izzy (Zelda Adams) and explores her relationship with her overprotective mother (Toby Poser). Izzy’s natural teen rebelliousness leads her to question her genetics and, upon exploration, discovers horrifying answers. Hellbender is a fictional family drama created by an actual family. This gives it an impressive level of intimacy and realism, despite the narrative being underlined by supernatural elements. The movie is well-shot and well-acted. And as a low-budget film that feels inexpensive without feeling cheap, Hellbender should be an inspiration to indie filmmakers everywhere.

Buy from Amazon 8) Watcher (Directed by Chloe Alexandra Okuno)

Watcher is an example of how a film doesn’t need a revolutionary plot to tell a good story. The movie feels like a classic Hitchcock thriller. It takes inspiration from Roman Polanski films like Tenant (1976) and Repulsion (1965). And still, Watcher is its own thing. Julia (Maika Monroe) and her husband, Francis (Karl Glusman), recently relocated from the U.S. to Bucharest. Francis works long hours while Julia tries to settle into her new life. Struggling with loneliness and language barriers, she spends a lot of solitary time in their apartment, looking out a large picture window. One night, she notices a man in a neighboring building. He may or may not be spying on her. She’s unnerved. Francis is unsupportive. Watcher plays on stress and paranoia while showing how gaslighting can amplify anxiety. It toys with its viewers by playing up the psychological elements. Audiences see through Julia’s eyes and it’s not always clear if she’s just imagining this peeping Tom, or if she’s actually being stalked by a stranger.

Buy from Amazon 7) Deadstream (Directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter)

Deadstream is one of the rare “horror comedies” that finds the perfect balance between the scares and the laughs. The plot revolves around Shawn (Joseph Winter), a social media personality who lost sponsors and fans after a vile publicity stunt backfired. In an attempt to restart his career, Shawn agrees to spend a night locked in a dilapidated haunted house. Shawn explores the house and narrates its ghostly backstory. As the story goes on, it becomes clear that Shawn might be in over his head. Deadstream is shot in real-time, mimicking a livestream online broadcast with a script that feels like a cross between Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) and WNUF Halloween Special (2013). There’s a little bit of Evil Dead 2 (1987) thrown in the mix as well. Like Sam Raimi’s classic flick, Deadstream is self-aware enough to make subtle jabs at genre clichés without fully crossing the line into parody. On some level, the movie is making a commentary on the lengths people will go to for exposure. But mostly, Deadstream isn’t that heavy. It’s fun. Definitely hit the like button and subscribe.

Buy from Amazon 6) Nope (Directed by Jordan Peele)

Jordan Peele makes smart movies. His 2017 directorial film debut, Get Out, is one of the most culturally significant horror films of the 21st century so far. That movie, along with Peele’s sophomore picture, 2019’s Us, played with allegory to tell a larger story, connecting horror tropes to messages of social injustice. Nope does the same, but here, Peele buries the symbolism beneath the narrative. If you dig for it, you’ll find it. The movie is loaded with layers of abstract metaphors, examining the exploitative nature of Hollywood and cinema. But even without that depth, Nope works as surface storytelling. The movie tells the tale of siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (KeKe Palmer), who are struggling to keep the family business afloat. One night, they discover a UFO floating over the property. From here, their problems get much worse. Nope juggles sci-fi-horror, family drama, and comedy with mood, carefully paced tension, and strong performances from both lead actors. Its Jaws (1975), except instead of horror beneath the sea, its terror behind the clouds.

Buy from Amazon 5) X (Directed by Ti West)

After nearly ten years, Ti West made his return to feature-length horror. It’s like he never left. During the pornography boom of the 1970s, a group of young filmmakers rents a small cabin in rural Texas as a location for shooting sex scenes. But the landowners have different ideas. X plays to West’s strengths. The first two acts are focused on character-building and plot set-up. The third unleashes cataclysmic horror. The characters are shallow but somehow amount to more than the sleazy stereotypes they represent. They are shadowed by a sense of tragedy and desperation. X explores the marketability of sex, gender, and age. It looks at the romanticism of youth and the resentment of the elderly. Visually, the movie calls back to classic exploitation films like The Last House on the Left (1972) and, more overtly, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). But despite embracing the look of those movies with cinematic stylization, the X feels contemporary. With a good story, great camerawork, and an outstanding cast, X proves to be excellent.

Buy from Amazon 4) The Tragedy of Macbeth (Directed by Joel Coen)

William Shakespeare isn’t traditionally thought of as a horror writer. Yet his plays and poems are filled with terror. Hamlet, Richard III, and Julius Caesar all evoke the supernatural. Titus Andronicus is a violently brutal tale of revenge. But no Shakespeare tale is as dark as The Tragedy of Macbeth. And director Joel Cohen taps into that darkness with a harrowing elegance. Shot entirely on a sound stage in stunning high-contrast black and white, this bleak and minimal representation of Shakespeare’s classic play is absolutely gorgeous. This is the best looking film of the year. It’s backed by an outstanding score by Carter Burwell and dialogue taken directly from Shakespeare’s original text. Witches and magic propel the story as we follow Macbeth (Denzel Washington) and Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand) on their dangerous path of political aspiration. Washington and McDormand are committed to their respective roles, but the film’s standout performance goes to Kathryn Hunter’s stirring portrayal of the three witches. Her voice and mannerisms stay with the audience long after the end credits finish rolling. Indeed, with The Tragedy of Macbeth, something wicked this way comes.

Buy from Amazon 3) Mad God (Directed by Phil Tippet)

Phil Tippet is a veteran of the film industry. He worked on visual effects for the original Star Wars trilogy, Robocop, Willow, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, and four Twilight movies. But Mad God is his first feature directorial debut. And while it shares in the technical expertise demonstrated in his earlier work, Mad God is like nothing he’s done before. Forgoing a traditional narrative in favor of opaque thematic patterning, the film develops a nightmarish world built on macabre imagery. It’s like a Hieronymus Bosch or Pieter Huys painting come to life. Backed by an industrial, neofolk, dark ambient film score by Dan Wool, the movie blends stop-motion animation, puppetry, and short segments of live-action into a hellscape of horror. It directly references The Bible (Leviticus and Genesis) and Fedrico Fellini’s Satyricon while sharing aesthetics with Brothers Quay and David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Loaded with symbolism and metaphor, Mad God is a story of nihilism with details open to interpretation; an experience set to evoke emotions of fear, disgust, and cynicism.

Buy from Amazon 2) Bones and All (Directed by Luca Guadagnino)

At its heart, Bones and All is a coming-of-age romance. The movie follows Maren (Taylor Russell), who has spent her entire young life struggling with an unusual addiction. On the lam after a horrific incident early in the film, Maren sets out to find her estranged mother. She meets a drifter named Lee (Tomothée Chalamet) along the way. The two bond over a peculiar set of circumstances and become traveling companions. Together, they explore love, regret, otherness, and acceptance. Bones and All is a slow-moving, atmospheric triumph. It intercuts long stretches of the Midwestern Gothic aesthetic of 1980s America with shorter bursts of brutality and carnage. And yet, despite the graphic, visceral violence, the movie manages to unfold with a sense of tenderness. That sweet-yet-repulsive dichotomy of love and gore deepens this road-trip movie and steers it into its own lane. One of the best things about horror is its ability to spread beyond genre lines. Bones and All is a tribute to the fact that fear can be found anywhere.

Buy from Amazon 1) Pearl (directed by Ti West)

Ti West gave us two masterpieces in 2022. During the production of X, West and Mia Goth fleshed out the backstory for one of that movie’s more interesting characters, Pearl. Their notes evolved from page to screen and Pearl was given her own film. In the movie, we see Pearl (Mia Goth) in 1918 as an aspiring young actress determined to overcome the odds stacked against her. The film calls to the thematic elements introduced in X—both movies deal with the pursuit of stardom—but where X explores these ideas as a slasher, Pearl digs in as a character study. This gives each film its own signature while still establishing a through-line to bring them together. Pearl is brilliantly shot with a bright, Technicolor-esque color pallet. The cinematography makes the picture feel like a tale of yesteryear. It has the same sort of whimsy as Singin’ in the Rain (1952) or The Wizard of Oz (1939) (there’s even a scene where Peal befriends a scarecrow) and the same kind of naïve joy. But that tone is offset by the titular character’s increasingly disturbing behavior. Conveyed through a metaphor of a decomposing pig, the audience watches as Pearl’s mind slowly unravels and deteriorates. It’s a tricky endeavor that could have gone sideways if not for the outstanding performance of Mia Goth. Her balance of lustfulness and innocence, her tortured brutality, and her forced, hollow grin, elevate this movie beyond goodness and into greatness. With one monologue, Goth cements her place in horror history.

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Richie Corelli
Staff Reviewer
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it. Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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