The best 2022 horror movies have provided a range of exciting scares, as proven by the many genre hits that have impressed viewers and critics alike so far. While 2021 was a solid year for horror, 2022 promised to be a great showcase for the genre. New additions to classic franchises like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and the Scream movies were promised, alongside the returns of genre legends like Stephen King and Jordan Peele.
However, not all of 2022’s horror titles turned out to be unequivocal success stories. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 kept the original movie tone and satire elements but lost its scares, while the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter disappointed both critics and general audiences. That said, these wobbles did not stop 2022 from being a stellar year for the horror genre as a whole.
While Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022 might have let down some franchise aficionados, director Ti West’s southern-fried slasher was a sleeper hit that terrified audiences with its story of a killer stalking young antiheroes in the remote badlands. Meanwhile, the success of Scream 2022 proved that long-dormant franchises could still feel fresh, relevant, and scary, while original titles like The Black Phone, Slash/Back, and Fresh all showed that the genre doesn’t need to rely on its familiar faces to conjure up serious scares. On the artier side of the genre outings, A24’s ambitious horror release Men and Jordan Peele’s Nope both showed that even the horror genre’s more thoughtful side could provide gruesome, unforgettable imagery and clever social commentary at the same time.
2022’s horror movie slate started strong with Scream 2022’s release on January 15. Despite the meta-slasher franchise being inactive for over a decade, Scream 2022’s return to Woodsboro didn’t feel one bit tired or played out. Scream 2022’s smart satire of “re-quels” kept the horror deconstruction edge of the slasher franchise alive, but it was the sequel’s sparing use of the original series stars that made Scream 2022’s story so effective. Keeping Courtney Cox’s Gale, David Arquette’s Dewey, and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott offscreen for much of the movie’s opening half was a daring gambit that allowed Scream 2022 to ensure viewers cared about the new generation. While Scream 6 losing Campbell’s Sidney entirely may prove far harder for the franchise to come back from, Scream 2022 has shown that the slasher series remains relevant and as enjoyable as ever.
Fresh was a welcome surprise for horror movie audiences when it arrived on Hulu in March. Newcomer Daisy Edgar-Jones managed to wring real pathos and believable fear out of a somewhat ludicrous premise, while Sebastian Stan proved he could have been a great Patrick Bateman as Fresh’s terrifying, bright-eyed villain. Fresh’s sharp satire of modern dating saw its heroine Noa fall for the seemingly charming Steve before being dragged into a gruesome odyssey that touches on a lot more taboos than any normal rom-com and, while saying any more would give away Fresh’s smartest shocks, suffice to say that this horror satire has real bite.
Director Ti West’s X prequel Pearl may well earn the indie helmer another spot in the roster of the best 2022 horror movies before the year is over. A surprisingly moving, thoughtful look at aging and how society shuns the elderly as they enter their twilight years, X is also a brutally violent, unbearably tense, and often laugh-out-loud-funny thrill ride. Starring a career-best Mia Goth, the plot of X follows a porn production crew as they attempt to shoot an adult movie on a remote ranch overseen by a pair of creepy elderly farmers. Things take a turn for the extremely gross and gruesome late in the game but, until its gory final act, X is remarkably restrained as the movie manages to make viewers truly care for its doomed heroes.
As the stellar reviews for Predator’s prequel Prey prove, audiences are crying out for effective sci-fi horror. Set in Pangnirtung – a small fishing village in the Canadian indigenous territory of Nunavut – Nyla Innuksuk’s feature debut Slash/Back could easily have been a worthy, self-serious attempt at so-called “elevated horror.” However, the alien invasion horror is instead a gory, hilarious, and oddly heartwarming throwback to the gateway horror movies of the 80s. Combining the coming-of-age adventure atmosphere of Gremlins and The Goonies with the splattery gore effects of The Thing, Slash/Back’s tale of a group of indigenous teen girls taking on a shapeshifting alien threat is a disarming, charming delight. While the critical praise heaped on Stranger Things 4 was well earned, those who enjoyed of the Netflix hit should still seek out this underrated tale of lovable teen misfits uniting against a terrifying killer villain.
The A24 movie Men is likely the most divisive title amongst 2022 horror, and for good reason. A gory, unsettling, and somewhat obtuse effort, Men is director Alex Garland’s most ambitiously weird movie so far. Men’s seemingly simple story follows Jessie Buckley’s bereaved heroine as she takes a vacation in a secluded English country house to process the death of her longtime partner. There, she comes across a strange, seemingly dangerous man played by character actor Rory Kinnear, followed by another, and another, and another. Men’s surreal ending explains what is going on (to an extent) but, for much of the movie’s runtime, viewers are forced to endure Buckley running from countless different versions of Rory Kinnear, a hallucinatory nightmare that won’t be to everyone’s tastes. However, the breathtaking body horror of the Men movie’s genuinely surprising ending makes the film compulsory viewing despite its unsubtle, paper-thin social commentary.
The Black Phone
An exercise in effective simplicity, The Black Phone is an adaptation of author Joe Hill’s short story of the same name – something that initially brought concerns from those who suspected the brevity of the written tale wouldn’t translate well to a feature-length film. Directed by Sinister’s Scott Derrickson, The Black Phone traps its 13-year-old hero Finn in the basement of Ethan Hawke’s unhinged masked murderer and leaves him there for almost the entire runtime. Early scenes depict the brutal reality of Finn’s home life before his abduction, while hallucinatory conversations with the killer’s earlier victims enliven Finn’s escape attempts. However, this Joe Hill short story adaptation succeeds primarily because of the extraordinary performances from its stars. Hawke is a revelation as the monstrous Grabber while Jeremy Davies is heartbreaking as Finn’s abusive father, but it is young actors Mason Thames as Finn and Madeleine McGraw as his little sister Gwen who steals the movie. Without the duo, The Black Phone could have been an unbearably bleak, miserable slog – but, thanks to their performances, the Joe Hill adaptation is one of 2022’s best horror movies so far.
Jordan Peele’s first two horror movies were rightfully recognized as instant classics of the genre but, despite this impressive pedigree, the sheer zaniness of Nope’s ambitious premise still gave many fans pause. Could Peele’s take on “Cowboys vs Aliens” really work? The answer proved to be a resounding yes, as Nope took all of the thrills and chills of Peele’s earlier horror movies while adding a touch more sardonic humor than his earlier efforts in the genre. Nope still has more than its fair share of memorably terrifying scenes, but the perfectly paced, thoughtful horror also makes time to establish likable, believable leads before its haunting dénouement. Another stellar effort from Peele, Nope cements the filmmaker’s status as a horror legend while also taking its place as one of the best 2022 horror movies.
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