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The Best Horror Films of 2022

by Nicolás Delgadillo
A collage of the very best horror movies of 2022 so far including Jordan Peele's NOPE, Ti West's PEARL, Zach Cregger's BARBARIAN, and Phil Tippett's MAD GOD.

Halloween is upon us once again, the time of year when horror movies are given their biggest spotlight. It’s a tradition for millions to test their mettle with a favorite scary movie every Halloween night. For hardcore horror fans, the entire month of October is dedicated to a different movie every day. The horror genre has been enjoying something akin to a renaissance these past few years, from the rise of elevated horror to the revival of the slasher subgenre to the ongoing success of horror-exclusive streaming service Shudder.

2022 has proved to be no exception when it comes to delivering exceptional horror. There have been some solid new additions to old franchises, outstanding debuts from new filmmakers, surprise box office hits, and masterworks from industry legends. Putting together a list of ten favorites is more difficult than usual this year. All of these deserve to be new yearly traditions and certainly stand as a testament to the originality and creativity that’s still going strong in the horror community. Check out our list and let us know which scary flicks have scared you the most this past year!

The 10 Best Horror Films of 2022 So Far

X Directed by Ti West

Mia Goth stars Maxine in X directed by Ti West which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Taking the right kind of inspiration from films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and mashing it together with Boogie Nights, Ti West returned to the world of filmmaking after a six-year absence in a big way. X is a true modern classic that takes notes from the greats yet still feels uniquely its own, acting as one of those genuinely perfect blends of terror, humor, emotion, suspense, and most importantly, surprise.

Ti West’s tale of young and unlucky entrepreneurs on a quest to make the world’s best adult film is a horror showcase that’s firing on all cylinders, delivered with plenty of skill and style that’s all held together by an outstanding cast. Being one of the earlier horror releases of the year alongside the solid reboot of the Scream franchise, X helped kick off the genre’s 2022 dominance and set the bar. 

X is available to rent or buy digitally!

Smile Directed by Parker Finn

Sosie Bacon stars in the box office hit SMILE which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Smile has been supported by a refreshingly fun marketing campaign that involved a successfully creepy, attention-grabbing trailer and the studio planting actors at various events on live television to grin at the cameras. It’s worked out very well for writer and director Parker Finn’s stunning debut, now grossing over $180 million on a $17 million budget.

It helps that the film itself is pretty excellent; packed with the usual expected jump scares and fakeouts, but each one is done so proficiently that it makes the old art of spooking unsuspecting viewers feel almost new again. Each individual scare is a wonderful collision of creepy atmosphere, methodical, tension-building camerawork and impeccable sound design. Smile is one of the best big screen experiences of the whole year, one that earns every scream and jump in the theater.

Smile is currently playing in theaters!

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair Directed by Jane Schoenbrun

This chilling and captivating debut from Jane Schoenbrun almost feels designed to be viewed late at night on a laptop or tablet so as to set the right mood. Inspired by the worlds of creepypastas and internet rabbit holes, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is an extremely unnerving and effective bit of horror that feeds on the anxieties of modern life, loneliness, and dysphoria.

Taking notes from the likes of Paranormal Activity and similar films, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is told predominantly through one lonely girl’s webcam, making the scares more intimate and leaving you unable to look away. It’s certainly a creepy film, but also one that’s strangely beautiful in the way it captures the desolate feelings of adolescence. This is a coming-of-age story for a generation raised on the dark corners of the internet, who only had themselves and those other online lonely strangers hiding behind the screen.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is currently streaming on HBO Max!

Bodies Bodies Bodies Directed by Halina Reijn

Speaking of the always-online generation, this modern slasher from Halina Reijn has a definite bite when it comes to that exact topic. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a searing indictment of the social media age, one that goes beyond the obvious observations of ourselves (how it makes us shallow, self-absorbed, and unhappy) and chooses to focus on the ways it makes us view and relate to others – and, more importantly, who we are without it.

Bodies Bodies Bodies carries a sobering message but brilliantly delivers it in a clever and wickedly fun way, in the form of a slasher whodunnit black comedy filled with style and personality. Far more entertaining than preachy and far smarter than it may appear to some on the surface, Bodies Bodies Bodies is like a Gen Z Lord of the Flies that constantly keeps you guessing. Razor sharp wit, hilarious and engaging performances, and a surprisingly bleak tone make this A24 release one that truly speaks to the moment.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is available on Blu-ray or to rent and buy digitally!

Mad God Directed by Phil Tibbett

The stop motion animated masterwork from Hollywood legend Phil Tippett MAD GOD which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

A painstaking work of masterful stop-motion animation, Mad God comes from the mind and hands of Hollywood legend Phil Tippett. The special effects artist/stop-motion master’s work in creature design and animation has been instrumental in the world-changing and culture-dominating films he’s been involved with, from the original Star Wars trilogy to Jurassic Park to RoboCop to Starship Troopers.

After decades of work, the terrifying stream of conscious (and unconscious) thoughts and images in Mad God feel like a genuine purging of monsters and demons for its creator. A silent and nameless protagonist stumbles upon nightmarish scene after nightmarish scene in a cruel, desolate, and insane world filled with terrors beyond imagination and comprehension. The film’s abstract structure and moments of jaw-dropping ghoulishness may test viewers, yet something in this film’s dense tapestry of hand-crafted horror always manages to pull you back down to its depths.

Mad God is currently streaming on Shudder!

Nope Directed by Jordan Peele

Keke Palmer stars in Jordan Peele's NOPE which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Combining the tight plotting and sharp-wittedness of Get Out with the higher ambition and intensity of Us, Jordan Peele delivers chills, thrills, and action on a Biblical scale in Nope; literally opening the film with an ominous Bible verse before reigning down holy terror. Shot with IMAX cameras to appropriately convey the film’s awe-inspiring spectacle, Nope is a truly inspired and original take on the classic wonder and terror of UFO stories and movies. It just may be this filmmaker’s most inspired movie yet.

Jordan Peele conjures up feelings of dread and excitement in equal amounts, constantly ramping up the tension and the action until the film’s finale becomes a white-knuckle thrill ride that’s equal parts jaw-dropping terror and out-of-your-seat exhilaration. As always with Peele, there are much more complex themes at play, allowing for an even richer experience upon one rewatch after the other. Jordan Peele is bringing big ideas and cinematic adventures on a scale that very few original storytellers are today, and Nope is further proof that the sky’s the limit for him.

Nope is available on Blu-ray or to rent and buy digitally!

Crimes of the Future Directed by David Cronenberg

Viggo Mortensen stars in David Cronenberg's CRIMES OF THE FUTURE which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Body horror mastermind David Cronenberg makes a triumphant return to his roots of making thought-provoking sci-fi originals with Crimes of the Future, which proves to be one of the most engaging and deeply ponderous scripts he’s ever put to screen. The setting feels like one of his more fully realized worlds, one imbued with an almost surrealist, satirical wit and as always, an eerily prescient view of humanity’s not-so-distant future.

Deep conversations about art and meaning blend with a story about evolution and humanity, while at the same time the film can be viewed as an autobiographical piece about an aging artist going through physical and mental changes. A tale of governments regulating bodies, finding meaning in the desolation of our natural world, and having the courage to evolve beyond societal limitations, Crimes of the Future is quietly bold, consistently sharp with its wit and graphic content, and as personal as a Cronenberg film has ever been.

Crimes of the Future is available on Blu-ray or to rent and buy digitally!

Watcher Directed by Chloe Okuno

Maika Monroe stars in WATCHER which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Horror movies have always found ways to scare us by evoking that feeling of being watched; the constant fear of someone having their eyes on you. Watcher ramps this up to an extreme degree, proving itself to be one of the simplest yet scariest films in recent memory thanks to masterful tension and a powerful lead performance from Maika Monroe. There are moments in this film that can make you feel like all of the air has been sucked out of the room.

Watcher may be familiar territory in a certain sense, even with its more modern themes of microaggressions and gaslighting, but every aspect of it is done with such a quiet, anxiety-inducing intensity that it becomes rather hard to shake. The film’s seat-gripping final moments earn every bit of shock it goes for, establishing writer and director Chloe Okuno as a new filmmaking voice to be reckoned with.

Watcher is currently streaming on Shudder!

Pearl Directed by Ti West

In a seemingly prescient move, Ti West understood that he had struck gold with X and thus went straight to work on a follow-up. Pearl, a prequel centered around one-half of Mia Goth’s standout dual-performance from X, was announced on the spot and released only months later. West’s prequel trades the gritty grindhouse exploitations of X for a technicolor sorta-melodrama filled with both wonder and terror.

Pearl pays tribute to a number of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood like The Wizard of Oz and others, filling the screen with dazzling hues both gorgeous and sinister. It pulls from modern-day anxieties of isolation, loneliness, and existential dread in numerous inspired ways while taking full advantage of its late 1910s setting. It’s shocking that West has delivered not just one but two of the best films of the year, both connected to the same overarching story though notably different – and able to stand alone – in their own unique ways. Excitement is ripe for his upcoming third film, MaXXXine, which surely promises to be more gruesome fun.

Pearl is now available to rent or buy digitally!

Barbarian Directed by Zach Cregger

Justin Long stars in the box office hit BARBARIAN which is one of the best horror films of 2022.

Barbarian is a worthy spiritual successor to the unhinged WTF vibes of last year’s Malignant. There are twists and turns and images so insanely unexpected throughout the film that it’s impossible to not walk away with some kind of strong reaction to Zach Cregger’s wild debut. Things veer far more towards absurd B-movie exploitation than anything else, delivering on gory shlock and hilarious “is-this-really-happening?” moments of insanity that very few in the audience will probably be prepared for.

Barbarian truly and undeniably just goes for it. A masterfully tense first half goes off the rails in the best of ways and the film becomes a certified horror roller coaster, one that has to be admired for its sheer gall. It’s one of the most unexpected and inspired box office success stories as well – proof that horror is still thriving in a market that’s as turbulent as it’s ever been. Long May it reign.

Barbarian is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max!

Follow Senior Film Critic Nicolás Delgadillo on Twitter: @NickyD715

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