I know it feels like some of us critics have been saying it was a phenomenal year for horror the last few years, but it really has been an excellent period, and 2022 might be the best of recent memory...
...I struggled mightily to narrow down this list down to just ten favorites. I even had to lock myself in my basement for a couple days just to focus. Trust me when I say you all don't want to know about the terrible horrors I witnessed in a secret room down there. Let's just say I'll never drink milk again.
2022 was magnificent. Have you ever looked back on history at times where your favorite horror icons were slaying and thriving and thought what it would've been like to be alive then? We got that this year, with a long list of good to great (and not so great) entries from iconic villains, with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, Scream, Orphan: First Kill, Halloween Ends and Prey, to name a few. Horror screamed at the box office between everything from Jordan Peele's blockbuster, Nope, to the little killer clown that could, Terrifier 2. Beloved filmmakers such as David Cronenberg and Dario Argento returned with Crimes of the Future and Dark Glasses, respectively. We screamed (thanks for the nightmares, Smile). We laughed (I'm still snorting over Bodies Bodies Bodies). We cried (Rebecca Hall owns one of this year's best performances in Resurrection). We bathed in gore (my god, The Sadness). There was something for everyone.
I'll remember 2022 in particular as the year where our stomachs were tested with an array of food horror and sequels/prequels/reboots reigned supreme. Below is my list of personal favorites, films that I know I'll be revisiting over and over again until I can quote every scene like the dork I am. But remember, these are just my favorites, not necessarily a "best" list, but what I enjoyed the most. All of our lists will be different, so feel free to let me know what was on yours as well! So without further ado, here they are.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
It’s difficult for a sequel/prequel to be as well received as the original. It’s even tougher to top it. Yet that’s what many believe Dan Trachtenberg accomplished with Prey and the Predator franchise. While I’m not quite in that camp—the OG is a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus of a movie--Prey is arguably the first film in the series to match the intensity of McTiernan’s film. This prequel is an animal. Ferocious, pulse-pounding and featuring a performance from Amber Midthunder which cemented her as one of this year’s breakout stars, Prey takes the franchise back to its roots while expanding on the mythology in fun and inventive ways. The badass choreography. Sarah Schachner's uplifting score. Oh yes. There’s blood left to bleed in the Predator series yet.
Directed by: Zach Cregger
Was there a film as wild and utterly bizarre as Zach Cregger’s Barbarian this year? A woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) discovering her AirBNB rental is already occupied by a creepy dude (Bill Skarsgard)—and in a desolate Detroit neighborhood, no less—is just the beginning as she and the audience are pulled through various thresholds into deeper and darker horrors lurking within the house. Mixing a tension-filled first act with an off the rails second half, Cregger’s film is one of the more entertaining horror flicks to come screeching out of the dark in 2022. A criticism I heard for this one was that it was "silly", but that's the point; Barbarian is a horror comedy, and a great one at that. Look no further than Justin Long measuring his newfound basement like the dumb asshole his character is. A bonkers premise and eye-popping gore have cemented it as one we won’t soon forget like the town in which its set, hairy nipple bottle and all.
Bones and All
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Between his Suspiria remake and Bones and All, director Luca Guadagnino has proven to be a master at finding the beauty in the grotesque. A story about a young woman named Maren (Taylor Russell), her unavoidable need to eat human flesh and the boy (Timothee Chalamet) whom she finds companionship in, this strange yet provocative journey is a touching take on the human condition and our craving to be understood. In one moment, we're watching two characters fall for each other, bones and all. In the next, stomach-churning gore is splashing the screen. Bones and All won't be for everyone, but what Guadagnino has done here is deliver a road trip film seasoned with a blend of shocking violence and thoughtful romanticism that sunk its teeth into my heart and never let go. Did I breakdown into tears in my car after leaving the theater? I may have! “Worst of the Year” my juicy butt.
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Perhaps one of the more surprising films of the year was Mark Mylod's The Menu. Even if you expected it to be good, I don't think anyone was prepared for just how many laughs this delectable dish of dark humor serves up. A ruthless skewering of the upper class, this hilarious horror comedy is a six-course meal of delicious entertainment that more than satisfies. Anya Taylor-Joy is as good as ever. Ralph Fiennes is hypnotic. And Nicholas Hoult gives one of the funniest performances of the year. We've seen films like this before, but we've never quite seen them done like this, thanks to exquisite direction from Mylod that you can practically taste. The Menu had me screaming "Yes Chef!" as I left the theater, and I've been craving a second helping ever since.
Directed by: Mimi Cave
On the first of every January, I make a document to keep track of my favorite horror films from that year. Mimi Cave’s Fresh was the first to make that list out of Sundance, and its place there has never been in question since. In this lurid tale, reluctant to date Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) finds herself falling for Steve (Sebastian Stan) after a chance encounter (or was it?) at the grocery store. But when Steve invites Noa on a weekend getaway with him, she’s reminded that if a guy seems too good to be true, he probably is. Taking conventional romantic comedy tropes and molding them into something utterly twisted, Cave’s film is a stylish, shocking tale with a stunner of a reveal that had my jaw all the way on the damn floor. If that weren't enough, the chemistry between Edgar-Jones and Stan sizzles, leading to a full plate of delicious moments.
Directed by: Carlota Pereda
As someone who was bullied a lot as a kid, I’ve always had an odd relationship with “Revenge of the Bullied” horror films. These are movies in which I identify intimately with the tortured protagonist, but always hate seeing them become the monster and ultimately meet a cruel end. Carlota Pereda’s Piggy hits different. Following a bullied young woman named Sara (Laura Galan) who decides to keep quiet when she witnesses a few of her bullies being kidnapped by a killer, Piggy is a film riddled with anguish and horror. A hot and sweaty philosophical exploration of right, wrong and discovering which we prefer, there's a lot to chew on here. Difficult. Personal. Violent. Piggy has that midnight movie vibe yet with a story that offers a profound message to traumatized bullied kids that says we’re more than a piece of meat on the slab. It will forever have a special place in my heart for that.
Directed by: Chloe Okuno
I’ve been a fan of director Chloe Okuno ever since her segment in V/H/S/94 (Hail Raatma). With her feature debut, Watcher, she has proven herself to be a master of suspense. In this tale which sees a woman (Maika Monroe) move to a foreign country with her husband only to discover a strange man watching her from the building across the street, Okuno crafts a tense nightmare which screams for women to be listened to. While the script is good, it's Okuno's filmmaking talents that elevate the film to an edge of your seat experience. Time and again, I caught myself holding my breath as I sensed eyes crawling over my back, Okuno’s direction is just that nail-biting. Throw in a devastating performance from Monroe and Watcher belongs on every "Best of the Year" list. Forget “Hitchcockian”. Okuno is on her way to deserving a term all her own.
Directed by: Ti West
Two words: Mia. Goth. Every year, there is that performance in the horror genre that we just know will be looked over by the Academy but deserves to be recognized with the best of the best. In 2022, that was Mia Goth in Pearl, who absolutely slayed her role. A prequel to X that sees Pearl (Goth) as a young woman in the midst of the 1918 flu pandemic who is determined to be a star by any means necessary, West’s film cuts into a relatable nerve. We’ve all dreamed of something more at one time or another. And we've all gone a little mad during Covid. It’s rare that a filmmaker would make it on this list twice (spoiler), and I even considered combining Pearl and X as one, but to do so would be to discredit the impact each has had on the genre. Pearl is its own unique madness, more psychological descent than fun slasher, with a monologue from Goth that proves she is indeed a star, and we’re all lucky to have her killing it in horror.
Directed by: Ti West
If you’re a Ti West fan like me, you ate well this year, beginning with his masterpiece of exploitation cinema, X. Set in 1979 and surrounding a group of porno filmmakers who fuck around and find out with the old couple they’re renting a farmhouse from, X is by far one of the best slashers of recent memory. It might even be West’s greatest work, which is saying something for the always intriguing director. Sexy. Bloody. And weird as hell, it’s no wonder A24 greenlit two more films in this new franchise before X had even released. This handsomely shot tribute to grindhouse cinema had normies walking out while us weirdos cheered, the true sign of one fucked up horror classic in the making. It also has the honor of featuring two queens who owned the genre this year, Jenna Ortega and of course Mia Goth. May their reign continue.
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Here's a fact for you: Jordan Peele does not miss. Earlier this summer, the new master of horror gave us a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. A story which follows a pair of sibling Hollywood horse trainers (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who discover their ranch may be home to an alien species, Nope is the sort of blockbuster adventure that reminds us why we love films in the first place. A desert whirlwind of terror, thrills and triumph, Peele takes the impossible shot by delivering an exciting piece of entertainment while also pointing a critical finger at the audience and the film industry as a whole. All these month's later, I'm still thinking of this film and that damn shoe. Nope is Peele’s Jaws, a tribute to cinema that assures we will never look to the clouds the same way again.
A Wounded Fawn
By Matt Konopka