This year brought the return of Ghostface, Predator, Pinhead, Michael Myers, and Leatherface. Beyond the franchises, 2022 unleashed an onslaught of new releases that introduced new voices and horror icons to the genre. The indie scene continued to thrive, but horror surprised audiences at the box office more than once.
In other words, horror continues to dominate while it stretches its boundaries and flexes its creative muscles. The best horror movies of 2022 induced thrills, chills, delightfully gory kills, and even a few tears. If there’s one thing this past year made clear, it’s that horror-loving audiences are ready for a return to crowd-pleasing, fun horror that doesn’t skimp on scares.
Because it was such a strong year for horror, here are the top 15 best horror movies of 2022.
The arbiters of pain and suffering are back in the Hellraiser franchise’s eleventh feature, this time with a reimagining by The Night House director David Bruckner and screenwriters Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins. A cold open introduces debauched billionaire Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic) and his experimentation with the iconic puzzle box. Six months later, recovering addict Riley (Odessa A’zion) laments to her lover Trevor (Drew Starkey) that she’s strapped for cash after the latest blowout fight with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn). Matt’s skepticism about Trevor and his concerns that Riley will relapse seem accurate when Trevor offers Riley a get-rich gig that entails breaking into Voight’s mansion. It’s there that Riley finds the mysterious puzzle box, unwittingly summoning sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.
Piotrowski and Collins opt for straightforward simplicity here that lets Bruckner’s imagery do the heavy lifting. There’s a deep well of mythology without any handholding. Jamie Clayton’s inspired performance as the Hell Priest, the Cenobite leader, impresses most of all.
14. The House
Netflix’s stop-motion animated anthology weaves together three creepy tales tethered to one house. The segments span time and tone, telling of a low-income family, an anxious developer, and a fed-up landlady who all become tied to the same mysterious house. Daughter Mabel (Mia Goth) navigates a mounting house of horrors as her parents lose themselves to newly acquired luxury in the first story. The second sees unwanted pests swarming and waylaying a developer’s plans, while the third segment closes the darkly comedic and unsettling anthology on an uplifting note amid an isolated dystopia. The House occasionally unnerves but always taps into deep-seated dread. The animation is breathtaking, and the symbolism bears repeat viewings.
Directed by Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, and Paloma Baeza, The House features voice acting by Mia Goth, Claudie Blakley, Matthew Goode, Mark Heap, Miranda Richardson, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Kill List‘s Neil Maskell stars as the eponymous Bull, a gang enforcer that adores his son Aiden (Henri Charles). But Bull mysteriously went silent for a decade, gone without a trace. Now, he’s back and searching for his old gang, who are surprised to see him. It quickly becomes apparent that Bull is on a rage-fueled mission for payback against an egregious double-cross. At the top of his hit list are father-in-law and local crime boss Norm (David Hayman) and Bull’s drug-addicted wife Gemma (Lois Brabin-Platt), who happens to be Norm’s daughter. More than carving his path through personal justice, Bull wants to find his son.
The latest by Paul Andrew Williams (The Cottage, Cherry Tree Lane) reads like a classic, gritty crime thriller turned vengeance quest but plays like a horror movie in many ways. The bloody kills, the creatively staged deaths, and an unrestrained killer marries a crime revenge-thriller with a slasher.
Writer/Director Nikyatu Jusu establishes herself as a rising voice in horror straightaway with her feature debut, Nanny. Anna Diop stars as Aisha, a woman who recently emigrated from Senegal and currently works as the nanny for the daughter of a wealthy couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) living in New York City. Aisha’s trying to save enough money to bring her son overseas but struggles with remorse over leaving him behind and her employers’ increasingly volatile home life. It coincides with a haunting presence that invades her dreams and waking life, threatening to shatter the American dream she’s working so hard to achieve.
Nikyatu Jusu blends magical realism with horror and drama, creating a distinct fable that slowly works its way under your skin and culminates in heart-shattering devastation.
11. Bones and All
Leave it to Suspiria director Luca Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich to spin an achingly tender and thoughtful coming-of-age romance between a pair of cannibals with an insatiable need to devour flesh. Bones and All, an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis‘s novel, uses the road trip format set in Reagan-era America as a provocative and macabre means of exploring the monstrous need for survival and human connection. The cannibalism is grisly; Guadagnino never shies away from flesh-ripping acts of feeding. And the filmmaker doesn’t ease viewers into it; it’s a headfirst plunge meant to shock. It’s a clever, macabre means of isolating its lead characters in their Otherness, slowly succumbing to their human desire for connection and understanding.
But beneath the viscera and grue is a tender and affecting tale of first love and discovery. It’s as elegant as carnal and carnivorous, and it’ll take a bite out of your heart if you let it.
Writer/Director Ti West nestled his ode to independent, exploitation filmmaking into the ‘70s set slasher X. For its prequel, West rewinds the clock much further to pay tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Mia Goth reprises her role as the repressed killer Pearl, this time exploring a much different, younger side. Pearl makes for a vastly different viewing experience thanks to its drastic shifts in style, tone, and cinematic influences, but with enough connective tissue to enrich its predecessor. West and Goth play by their rules here, stylistically and narratively. West uses his cinematic influences to create something unique and audacious, and Goth cuts loose with an unrestrained performance.
This prequel is less about the body count – though there are plenty of bloody, violent deaths – and more about a slow unraveling of a mind that was broken from the start.
Prey takes its cues from 1987’s Predator in terms of simplicity and bloody action-horror. Its cultural specificity and period setting lend a sweeping period epic feel and introduce emotional stakes through its memorable characters. Set in the Great Plains in 1719, Prey introduces Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman uninterested in fulfilling the domestic role her tribe expects of her. Naru wants to hunt, like her brother and respected hunter Taabe (Dakota Beavers). She sets out to test her mettle and protect her tribe when an unknown threat emerges across the ridge.
Prey may take place three centuries before Predator, but it’s not a prequel so much as it is a film in conversation with the original. It’s a return to the simplicity that made the original so thrilling, led by an outstanding heroine in Naru and director Dan Trachtenberg’s talent for injecting fresh ideas into beloved sci-fi horror franchises.
It’s been twenty-five years since the original series of murders in Woodsboro and a decade since the events of the last string of slayings. That means scar tissue has long developed over old wounds for both Woodsboro and its legacy players, as well as a semblance of peace. That is until Ghostface reappears and targets a new generation of Woodsboro teens.
James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s screenplay evolves the franchise in clever and poignant ways. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett dedicate Scream to Wes Craven, and the horror master’s imprint looms large over their film. As intrinsic to the movie as Craven’s memory is, the filmmakers make one of the best horror movies of 2022 their own.
7. The Sadness
The premise, which sees a viral mutation cause the infected to become sadistically violent, reads like a familiar setup in outbreak horror. It quickly becomes apparent that The Sadness refuses to adhere to the average viral horror movie. Director Rob Jabbaz keeps a death grip on the pulse of the current climate, delivering a rage-filled manifesto that aims to tick off every cinematic taboo possible and tests your gag reflex in the process. It’s transgressive horror of the highest, most aggressive order.
Heed all of the trigger warnings and then some. The filmmaker delivers his message with blunt force trauma, breaking all the rules along the way. The Sadness is a vicious anthem that keeps you in its grip, forces you to stare into the abyss, and dares you to look away.
The feature directorial debut from husband-and-wife filmmaking couple Vanessa and Joseph Winter follows a disgraced internet personality who attempts to win back his followers by livestreaming one night alone in a haunted house. It spirals into a gonzo horror-comedy full of bodily fluids, gore, and ghostly creatures that would make Sam Raimi proud. Every bit of the humor lands, too, making for a triumphant crowd-pleaser that hooks you from start to finish.
Deadstream is a DIY labor of love, and the filmmakers somehow make wearing so many hats seem effortless. The small-scaled story feels larger than life through its characters, human and otherwise. The story beats may not always surprise, but the clever progression, balance of physical horror and comedy, and the go-for-broke gags ensure that it doesn’t matter.
American Julia (Maika Monroe) uproots her life to accompany her half-Romanian husband Francis (Karl Glusman) to Bucharest for his high-pressure job. She’s left almost entirely on her own to adjust to a new country and culture, and it’s made even harder by the language barrier. Alone all day and increasingly at night, Julia stares out the window and notices an eerie face staring back. That feeling of being watched transforms into full-blown paranoia with the discovery that a killer named Spider has been stalking and decapitating women in the area. But is someone following Julia, or is it a byproduct of loneliness and culture shock?
Chloe Okuno’s ability to create eerie unease from an uncomplicated premise impresses. It’s a measured, moody psychodrama that allows Okuno to wear her influences on her sleeves, making them her own, until one bloody and satisfying finale that seals the deal on Watcher being one of the very best horror movies of 2022.
OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) struggles to keep his recently passed father’s horse ranch afloat. The arrival of OJ’s lively sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) adds to his stress as he tries to maintain faithful responsibility toward the family ranch. But then, an eerie phenomenon begins swooping over their valley; the siblings become determined to capture it on camera. On the surface, Nope is an accessible, straightforward sci-fi horror movie that nails its humor as much as it elicits gasps. Below is a darker examination of media and those it devoured and left behind.
Jordan Peele effectively captures the scope and spectacle of a summer blockbuster, packing it with chill-inducing moments, gasp-worthy thrills, and endless endearing characters. The filmmaker also continues his streak of layering scathing critiques within a horror crowd-pleaser that keeps you guessing.
3. The Innocents
The Innocents is a provocative look at the fine razor line between good and evil and the darker side of innocence. Four compelling performances ground the disturbing horror, adding complex emotions and morality to fuel the tension. Writer/Director Eskil Vogt crafts a stunning portrayal of childhood morality with a tale of four children discovering supernatural abilities over a summer. Vogt twists the knife further by setting it under the bright Nordic sun; the terror these kids commit happens right under the adults’ noses, often in plain sight, with no one the wiser.
The emotional authenticity found in The Innocents heightens the horror, creating one of the most viscerally disturbing depictions of childhood in recent memory.
Set in 1979, Texas, a group of aspiring adult filmmakers load up in a van and drive from Houston to the boonies to shoot. Producer Wayne (The Ring‘s Martin Henderson) enlists his girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), along with Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Scott Mescudi) to star. Then he rents a boarding house on the cheap from the reclusive elder Howard (Stephen Ure), who warns them to stay out of his wife’s sight. The porn production quickly devolves into a fucked up horror picture when things spiral out of control.
The lean, straightforward narrative gets straight to the goods and never wastes time on heavy exposition. It’s all in the little details and the talented cast making these characters feel lived-in with a shared history. X demonstrates why Ti West should be given full reign to go full throttle on deranged, savage, and intense horror comedies more often.
After all, West directed not one but TWO of the best horror movies of 2022.
Writer/Director Zach Cregger (“The Whitest Kids U’ Know”) eschews conventions in Barbarian to keep audiences on edge, making for one of the most delightfully unhinged viewing experiences in recent memory and the year’s biggest horror surprise. A simple rental nightmare sets up an intense pressure cooker scenario with no limits to the midnight madness. At its core, Barbarian presents two sides of the same coin reacting to one hellish scenario. From it, it unleashes one sadistic and gruesome horror thriller unafraid to be as biting with its pitch-black humor as its horror.
All rules get tossed out the window in Barbarian, including its unconventional narrative structure, resulting in a confrontational and chilling feature that leaves you breathless.