My top ten favorite horror films of 2022

2022 was a pretty good year for horror movies, right? There was something for everyone, even for those who still didn’t feel comfortable going into an actual theater, thanks to COVID fatigue. There were many films that went straight to streaming, and were successful at doing so.

I myself did see several horror films on the big screen, but I also seriously loved a handful of the straight-to-streaming flicks. I consider myself a genuine horror fan, who loves all kinds of films, so here is my somewhat eclectic list of favorites from 2022. I am not good at “ranking”, so these are listed in alphabetical order:

Barbarian – This was a film that I knew nothing about when I decided to watch it. I had, of course, heard the talk on the internet about it, but I’m so glad I didn’t dig into the spoilers. Honestly, the less you know about this fun, absolutely insane horror film going into it, the better.

For those who just have to know something about a movie they might decide to see, here goes (no spoilers): Tess is interviewing for a job in Detroit, and has booked an Airbnb in a dicey neighborhood in which to stay. Somehow, she doesn’t notice exactly how dicey the neighborhood is until she sees it the next day in the sunlight, but when she arrives the night before, there is already a man staying there. He claims that he booked the same Airbnb, and after some discussion, they decide to share the place for the night.

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Georgina Campbell as Tess in 20th Century Studios’ BARBARIAN, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

And, you know what? That’s all you’re gonna get from me, watch Barbarian on HBO Max if you want to know more!

What screams ‘horror’ more than a masked creep who kidnaps kids?

The Black Phone – I love Joe Hill, he is one of my favorite writers, so when I heard this film was in the works, I was excited from the start. The first trailer for The Black Phone only intensified my need to see it ASAP, and I ventured out into a theater on opening weekend. I was not disappointed.

The storyline is dark: a serial kidnapper and killer of children known as The Grabber grabs young Finney and locks him up in a basement that contains very little other than an old-fashioned black phone mounted on the wall. Every time the phone rings, Finney picks it up only to find the voices of The Grabber’s past victims on the other end. They want to help Finney escape, but it’s not that easy.

Meanwhile, his sister Gwen is doing whatever she can to find her brother; the two are very close, especially since their dad is a borderline abusive alcoholic. These two young actors (Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw) bring so much heart to what could have otherwise been just another horror film. Their close relationship is so real, and their performances are SO true. I was rooting for them throughout the entire movie.

Deadstream – This Shudder film was one of the year’s biggest horror surprises for me. I knew that it had made a positive debut at SXSW in 2022, and that it was being marketed as a found footage/horror/comedy mashup. When I watched it for the first time, I was blown away by how well writer/director/lead actor Joseph Winter managed to lean into all three of those sub-genres so well. It was so, so funny, but it also gave me the genuine creeps multiple times.

Main character Shawn (played by Winter) was both irritating and funny as a disgraced web series host who decides to win back his followers by self-taping himself investigating a haunted house known as Death Manor. Throughout his experience, he periodically checks out internet chat going on, and interacts with his viewers. Do yourself a favor, read the constant stream of comments whenever you can, they are hilarious.

Halloween Ends – You know what? I actually LIKED what has been billed as the “final” Halloween film (even though I don’t believe it’s really the end). I do have to say that I don’t think it lives up to what started with Halloween 2018, but I love that we got to revisit the traumatized Laurie Strode for three whole films, and I’m not even mad that Michael Myers didn’t play a huge role in the final chapter.

*Slight spoiler: Like many horror films over recent years, this new trilogy focused a lot on the effects of trauma, and that’s at the heart of where Corey goes wrong. It doesn’t make it ok for him to flip and start murdering people, but it does at least make him slightly sympathetic…at least until the final ten minutes or so.

My only issue with Halloween Ends was that it didn’t feel as “fun” as my other favorites in the franchise did, there just weren’t enough light-hearted moments (other than the flirtation between Laurie and Deputy Hawkins, which I loved).

Mad God – Mad God hit Shudder in June, marketed as the film that took Phil Tippett 30 years to complete. Since Tippett is an award-winning visual effects guru, we knew this was going to be a visually interesting flick, but I am apparently not the only one who found it to be visually jaw-dropping. When it became available to stream, it was declared Shudder’s most-watched film of the year.

I do not even feel qualified to tell you what Mad God is actually about, but I can tell you that even with its confusing plotline, I was fully into it for the entirety of its running time. It is positively magical what Tippett and his crew managed to bring to the screen, and I recommend watching it if you haven’t already.

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ELLA BALINSKA stars in RUN SWEETHEART RUN – Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

Run Sweetheart Run – Much as I did with Barbarian, I went into this Amazon film having no idea what it was about, and it’s a better viewing experience that way. I will give you the bare bones of the plotline, but you will have to watch for yourself to find out more.

Cherie is a single working mom, and gets a phone call from her boss claiming that she has double-booked him; it’s the night of his anniversary dinner, but he says she also booked dinner with a very important client. Cherie doesn’t remember booking that, but agrees when he asks her to meet with the client in his place. And, at first, she has a lovely time. Ethan is good-looking, charming, and seems just as attracted to her as she is to him.

He even talks her into coming inside his home after their dinner, and the camera shows the door closing as we are just outside. Just a few moments later, Cherie comes tearing out of the house, running for her life, a terrified expression and smeared makeup on her face. What the heck happened to her?

Most of the film involves the viewer trying to figure out just what Ethan did (or whet he is), as Cherie runs all around town trying to escape him. It’s a mad, frantic, wild ride of a film, violent, fun and action packed. Stop whatever you are doing, and watch it NOW.

The Sadness – This Taiwanese zombie horror flick boasted a very high amount of blood and guts, plus tons of action, and it lived up to its promise. Shudder picked it up, and made it available to stream in May, and horror fans were all over social media talking about it.

There was a lot to talk about. At the heart of The Sadness is a young couple going about their regular daily routine. Jim drops Kat off at the subway station, then goes to a café for a cup of coffee. While he is there, and while Kat is on her subway commute, a virus known as Alvin begins to affect the people who have it in a very bad way. Quite suddenly, an old woman steps into the café, covered in blood and mucus, and begins to attack the innocent bystanders, thus infecting them as well.

On the subway, the same thing is happening all around Kat, and the remainder of the film follows these two as they try to find one another and escape to safety. There is SO much blood and violence in The Sadness, I can’t even imagine what the special effects budget was! But, there is also some heart to go along with the blood, and that combination will win me over every time.

Scream 2022 – While I do count this Scream sequel among my top ten for the year, I did have some issues with it. Primarily, I was disappointed that I didn’t fall in love with the characters as I have with every other film in the franchise, most of them just didn’t grab my attention.

The exceptions to the “meh” characters were our old favorites, Sidney, Gail and Dewey and Jenna Ortega’s character of Tara. I am beginning to think Ortega (who also appeared in X and Wednesday) can do no wrong.

As usual, I will give no spoilers, but I was really sad about one of the deaths, and I definitely enjoyed several of the scenes that involved Ghostface stalking their potential victims. And, in the spirit of the newer Halloween films, there were some pretty great Easter eggs for fans of the horror franchise.

Violent Night – This was a truly great film to end the year with. Is it really horror? No, but it was definitely an action thriller, and thrillers are within the realm of horror in my humble opinion. Plus, the amount of violence and bloodshed has to be taken into account.

David Harbour steals the show as a grumpy, disillusioned Santa Clause, who also knows how kick some serious @$$. But, Leah Brady comes really close to overshadowing him in her scenes as the precocious Trudy, determined to help Santa defeat the bad guys at all costs.

Five minutes into Violent Night, I was thinking that this wasn’t at all the type of movie I was expecting, but then the action and violence kicked into high gear, and I was along for the ride. It’s another fun, action-packed flick, and I see it joining my annual rotation of holiday horror films.

X – Gritty, grungy-looking horror films are among my favorites, and X managed to call back to this type of 70s-style movie in a big way. Unless you have been hiding under a rock all year, you know the basic premise of X: a group of aspiring filmmakers decides to make their own porn film, relying on the “farmer’s daughters” trope. They arrange to rent an old farmhouse from an elderly couple, not letting them know what the place will be used for.

And, then, bloody hell breaks out. X has it all: a clever and unsettling storyline, solid actors (hello again, Jenna Ortega), fun kills and plenty of the wet red stuff. It was a fantastic homage to flicks such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. When the prequel Pearl was released six months later, I bought my ticket for opening weekend. It was very original and stunningly filmed (and Mia Goth was freaking amazing in it), but for me, it didn’t quite hit the horror button hard enough.

So there you have it, my top ten favorites from 2022. How does your list stack up?