It’s been said a lot, but 2022 was an insane year for horror. Picking a top 10 felt futile, but I couldn’t help but join in. With big name directors, massive franchises, and explosive new indie movies it felt like I was finding a new gem every week. I didn’t fret too much over the list but went with the 10 horror movies I enjoyed the most this year. Let’s dig in!
10. Studio 666
On paper, a horror-comedy featuring the members of the Foo Fighters playing themselves shouldn’t work. But this movie is just so much fun that it was one of the biggest surprises of 2022 for me.
Studio 666 is the exact kind of movie genre fans love to say doesn’t exist anymore. I feel if this exact movie was made in the 80s, the same people who found this too silly would say it’s a perfect movie. I hope this one is destined to be a beloved cult classic.
It’s a wonderfully silly throwback to 80s splatstick and rock/metal horror. I thought the music was rad—especially the John Carpenter theme!—and the kills were gloriously over-the-top and bloody. There’s a lot of great practical effects work in this movie, not just the kills but also creatures, ghosts, and more. In addition to the comedy there’s also some genuinely creepy stuff!
There are some notable flaws, the Foo Fighters are clearly not actors and the movie has a couple fake endings that kill the pacing right at the end. I did see criticism that you need to really love the Foo Fighters to enjoy this movie, but I don’t agree with this since prior to seeing Studio 666 I would have been able to pick out Dave Grohl from a line up and that’s it.
Where I think the movie’s mileage will vary with audiences is the recording sequences. I found it fascinating and a really relatable look at the creative process, but I could see it being less engaging for others.
Overall I enjoyed Dave Grohl’s self-deprecating look at being famous and generally endearing presence, and it was just fun to be along for the ride.
Plus, an awesome chainsaw kill!! And Jenna Ortega!!!
9. Something in the Dirt
Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s particular brand of odd and insightful continues to resonate with me with Something in the Dirt. I loved both Spring and The Endless, and while the duo’s 2022 outing is a bit of a different beast it still very much had their unique stamp all over it.
While not actually a movie about COVID, the covid-era paranoia and isolation is all over this movie. The movie feels as lonely and confused as its characters, and it’s anchored by great performances from Moorhead and Benson.
Benson plays down-on-his-luck Levi who moves into an apartment complex and meets Moorhead’s eccentric neighbor John. They discover seemingly supernatural occurrences in Levi’s apartment, which results in the pair trying to solve its mysteries and create a documentary on the phenomenon in the process. Something in the Dirt is a genre-mash that’s hard to describe, less about the plot itself than the increasingly paranoid and confused characters.
But with Moorhead and Benson’s distinct visual and audio style it all just works, resulting in a unique character study and genre-blend that had me excited to see what the duo puts out next!
8. Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion
Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves (2018) was a genuinely scary ghost story with expertly crafted audio and visual scares, and 2022’s sequel builds off of that and delivers another great spookfest.
Following the events of the first film, Rini and her family have moved out of the haunted house and moved into a small apartment in a shoddy apartment building. Rini hopes to move out and go back to college, but before she can a giant storm approaches trapping the residents inside.
Moving the setting from one house to an apartment building makes for a great set up, and I enjoyed the concurrent stories of the different siblings as they unravel the mystery of the building.
There is a particularly harrowing elevator sequence in Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion that uses the Final Destination cringing-in-anticipation approach and is extremely effective. Something I love about Anwar’s films is that he does NOT skimp on the ghosts. These ghosts are numerous, constantly present, and they don’t mess around. I love a horror movie that’s packed with delicious horror goodness instead of teasing and holding off until the end.
Where the sequel falters is the story, it’s not as strong as the first movie. The script in particular holds it back for me, with the end of the movie delivering a deus ex machina and devolving into an exposition machine. But the family drama is effective here—the siblings all feel like genuinely good people and the audience will absolutely root for them to succeed.
Also this is a mild spoiler, but I have to mention that there is an all-time example of horror-movie-character-making-a-stupid-decision in this. A woman is running away from a ghost so she CLIMBS INTO THE TEENY TINY GARBAGE CHUTE ON THE 8TH FLOOR TO GET AWAY. Just amazing.
7. Ox-Head Village
The 3rd and final entry in Takashi Shimizu’s Village trilogy, Ox-Head Village is a strong outing from the legendary J-horror director and a great entry in the Japanese folktale horror genre.
When high-school girl Kino watches a viral spirit video, she discovers the girl in the video looks exactly like her and is now missing. Once she begins to investigate, more supernatural events occur and she discovers her family’s horrifying lineage and traditions.
A movie like this lives or dies by the ghost, and the ghost in Ox-Head Village is genuinely creepy. I found her wails and screams made me extremely uncomfortable and had me squirming in the theater. While she’s a bit less effective in broad daylight, the ghost’s tragic backstory is so disturbing and harrowing that she left an impression on me.
I probably liked Suicide Forest Village a bit more since that one had some more interesting designs and a higher body count, so I’d rank the trilogy Suicide Forest > Ox-Head > Howling.
I wanted to note I saw this at the New York Asian Film Fest with Takashi Shimizu in attendance to receive a Lifetime Achievement award and sat for a Q&A after.
I found it interesting when he spoke about how the movies in the Village trilogy are all inspired by real folktales and town superstitions, and how he approaches sensitive subject material like this. He works closely with the residents and families closest to the stories and gets their approval to move forward. If someone has an issue with something depicted, Shimizu will change it even if he thinks it would have been a better movie with it to be respectful. He was talking about how a movie isn’t as important as something like a real-life tragedy, and I really respect him for that.
6. Mad God
I don’t know, this is just a cool as fuck movie. I felt so lucky to see a Phil Tippet labor of love (and on the big screen no less!) and immerse myself in the world he built.
There are so many incredible designs on display in Mad God, and it was a truly unique experience. Every moment watching The Assassin walking through the world Tippet created felt like a gift.
I did find the movie a bit inconsistent, which is probably inevitable for a movie made over the course of 30 years. So while some of the setpieces didn’t work for me, I still found Mad God to be cooler than anything I’d seen in ages. An absolute must for genre fans and movie lovers.
2022 was full of new movies from directors I love, but perhaps the most delightful surprise was that Ti West was back with a new horror movie…only to put out a surprise second new horror movie just six months later. And the best part? Both movies were excellent.
Pearl ended up more distinct from X than I expected; I expected a similar movie but with an old school Hollywood vibe vs a 70s exploitation vibe. But Pearl is very different–there are very few other characters beyond her and for much of the runtime it’s a slower character study. It’s all shiny, brightly colored sets covering up sickness and rot.
Even more so than X, Pearl is a hell of a showcase for Mia Goth as she absolutely cements herself in a well-deserved icon status. Pearl is such an interesting character here, she’s truly unhinged but also effectively sad and even relatable. People talk a lot about Goth’s performance during Pearl’s sad, 6-minute monologue at the end. It’s well-deserved, she’s fantastic. But the script is so excellent, Pearl feels so real to me because of the writing and I can’t imagine making a character this disturbed feel so relatable is an easy feat.
I also love how horribly low stakes the dance competition is. It’s just a dance troupe for the church traveling to a few cities, and it’s so perfectly sad and fucked up and awful when that’s Pearl’s dream life compared to her reality.
Plus I’m glad we got the origin story of why Pearl hates blondes so much!
I saw someone call Barbarian 2022’s Malignant, and with that I went into the movie completely blind. I hadn’t even seen a trailer! This was the correct way to see Barbarian, which ended up being a total delight and a great movie to see with a crowd.
I don’t want to spoil Barbarian since I absolutely recommend going in as cold as possible, but I also only recommend if you are a sicko. If you are a fellow sicko, you are in for a treat!! I am SO impressed that people mostly did not spoil this movie for others. We all collectively agreed that Barbarian is a great time, and wanted others to have one too.
Talking solely about the first act—which finds Georgina Campbell’s Tess arriving to her Airbnb only to discover Bill Skarsgard’s Keith already staying there and the house is double-booked—Barbarian is amazingly tense. You think you know what the movie is about, but you don’t. A moment that stuck with me is Tess driving into town the morning after she arrived to the rental, and seeing in the daylight how rundown the neighborhood she is in which she couldn’t see when she arrived at night in the rain. From here, I don’t want to spoil.
Barbarian is a movie where I could never, at any point, guess what was going to happen next and that is a thrill rarely found these days. It’s fucked up, it’s funny, it’s cool, it’s gross…genre fans run don’t walk.
That’s right folks, Ti West gets 2 spots in my Top 5 of the year and it is so well-deserved.
As with Pearl, I absolutely loved West’s script for X. It is so clever, genuinely funny, and makes great use of its fun cast. While Mia Goth is a standout here, X is much more of an ensemble piece than Pearl. Brittany Snow’s Bobby-Lynne was my favorite character in the movie, she stole every scene she was in right from the start.
The rest of the cast is spot on as well, featuring 2022’s genre-fav Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell, and Kid Cudi to round out the cast. I saw X opening weekend, and I didn’t realize that Pearl was also played by Mia Goth when I saw the movie. It made perfect sense when I read about it afterwards, and once again further cements how incredible Mia Goth is in these films.
From a technical perspective, X is extremely well-made with a meticulous aesthetic and wonderfully clever editing. But most importantly it’s also fun; a great slasher with gory kills and fun twist on the formula.
I like that this movie really blended that V/H/S Ti West era of horror with modern A24 aesthetic*, it’s my favorite thing Ti West has done so far. The 70s slasher/exploitation aesthetic is much more my speed and has rewatchability for me, which is why X is higher up my list than Pearl.
*Yes I know this isn’t a genre. But you knew exactly what I meant when I said it, so.
2. Scream (2022)
What’s your favorite scary movie?
Mine? Well, mine is Scream. It’s my favorite horror franchise, meaning I was both excited and skeptical about Scream (2022). I’m firmly in the camp of “Scream 4 rules”, but it’s been a decade since Scream 4, the new installment isn’t from Wes Craven, etc etc etc. There was plenty to be skeptical of, but I did like Ready or Not from Radio Silence so I hoped the franchise was in good hands. And it turns out it was!
Creating an opening scene for a Scream movie must be so daunting for a filmmaker, you KNOW you have to make something special all while adhering to—but simultaneously subverting—a formula. The opening scene in Scream (2022) is great! The double-meta of using Stab trivia is fun and clever (and even more appropriate in retrospect), and I love that it pokes fun at “elevated horror”. Sorry Tara, but you were asking to get stabbed with that one!
The new cast of teens is mostly great, and this is now Jenna Ortega’s 3rd call out on this list but I really like her vulnerability as Tara while she tries to recover from the attack and work through her strained relationship with her sister Sam. The twins Chad and Mindy are my favorites of the new cast, with Mindy’s requel rant winning me over and Chad’s “I’m not 100% sure you’re…not…the..kill…er” making me laugh way too hard. Mindy as the new Randy works really well, and Jasmin Savoy-Brown’s performance is so charming and fun. Mason Gooding’s Chad naming his biceps Hobbs and Shaw felt like a joke directly for me, maybe only for me. Jack Quaid is the standout of the whole movie though, and a highlight of the entire Scream franchise.
Enough can’t be said for how incredible Roger Jackson is as the voice of Ghostface in this series. His performance is scary and funny, just dripping with so much petulant menace in every scene. And since Scream is the rare (only?) slasher icon that’s a different killer in every movie, I think he also brings nuance to which character is speaking.
All of this is to say that his line delivery of “It’s an honor” gave me goosebumps in the theater and stuck with me.
While they’re relegated to a much smaller role this time around, this one was another great turn for the legacy characters and Gale Weathers continues to be my #1 scream queen. I think it’s OK to move on from them, but they were also utilized well here.
It’s not a perfect movie—some lackluster characters, low body count, questionable plot points—but it’s so much fun and Radio Silence completely understood the assignment.
“There’s a formula to it! A very simple formula!”
Nope is pretty much everything I love about movies.
Absolutely gorgeous, completely unpredictable, incredible performances, and a script with layers upon layers upon layers. It’s blockbuster filmmaking in a way that I don’t see often anymore—Jordan Peele went big with Nope and I loved every second. Also enough can’t be said about Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography here, the movie is so beautifully shot and the day-for-night filmmaking here feels revolutionary.
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are fantastic in Nope, siblings OJ and Emerald feel so real and I was extremely invested in seeing them succeed and survive. Plus there’s Steven Yuen, Michael Wincott, and Keith David all utilized so well by Jordan Peele.
And I have to talk about the Gordy sequence.
The Gordy sequence is one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen put to film, it had me in disbelief in the theater. Earlier in the movie Steven Yuen’s Jupe notes that he and Gordy had the first example of an exploding fist bump, an innocent and fun handshake between friends. After Gordy’s rampage though? It takes on a whole new meaning. Just one example of the incredible work Peele is doing in Nope.
Jean Jacket is also an all-time monster, it’s a great design and the digestion sequence is top-notch. There’s truly nothing else out there like Nope, and that’s what I love about it. Damn, why am I still writing this? I just want to go watch Nope again.