Horror actors who killed it in 2022 (part one)

2022 was a pretty good year for horror, on the big screen, through streaming platforms and on demand. Although my favorite acting performances and my favorite films sometimes intersected, that wasn’t always the case. There were some films I didn’t love that I still felt contained some great acting.

*Please note that some of the following breakdowns do contain spoilers, so decide if you want to skip any of these for now.

As always, these are not ranked in “best to worst” order (or vice-versa), since I can’t usually do it that way. Instead, these actors are listed in alphabetical order. So, let’s check out the actors that I personally felt gave the best horror performances of 2022!

Ella Balinska (Run Sweetheart Run) – I don’t know that I had even heard of Balinska before I watched Run Sweetheart Run, one of my 2022 horror favorites. Sure, the film has a crazy premise, and lots of over-the-top action and gore, but she was what made this movie so good. The role of Cherie is a demanding one, and Balinska was up to the challenge, running as if her very life depended on it (it did). The look of terror on her face as she fled Ethan’s house was so intense!

One of the things that drove Cherie, even when her flight seemed futile, was the thought of her baby daughter, and that gave Run Sweetheart Run a lot of heart. And, let’s not forget what a ferocious fighter she was! A lesser woman would have eventually given up, and resigned herself to the fact that Ethan was going to feed on her, but Cherie took him down.

2022 saw the return of Orphan’s Esther

Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan: First Kill) – When Orphan was filmed back in 2009, Isabelle Fuhrman was only 12 years old, but her character was actually supposed to be an adult who suffered from a disorder that caused her to appear as a child. Astoundingly, she pulled off the big (and shocking) reveal extremely well in the film, proving that she had mad acting chops even then.

Thirteen years later, she was asked to reprise the role of Esther. There was a twist to this new film however, since it was a prequel rather than the expected sequel. That meant the actress, now in her twenties, would have to play an even younger version of Esther.

Aided by CGI and special effects, Orphan: First Kill was a surprisingly enjoyable film, and Fuhrman sold fans again on Esther’s manipulate abilities and murderous skills. Without her at the helm, I don’t think the film would have amounted to much.

2022

Jenna Ortega (“Tara”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream.” Photo by Brownie Harris.

Jenna Ortega (Scream) – I love the Scream films as a whole. But the 2022 sequel would not have been one of my favorites without the always-likeable Jenna Ortega on board. Her character of Tara wasn’t really the female lead, that crown belongs to Melissa Barrera as her sister Sam. But, to be honest, I found Sam to be a bit annoying. On the other hand, Tara was exactly who I wanted to see survive to the end of the movie.

Ortega also gave a great performance in X and in Netflix series Wednesday, but she redeemed Scream in my eyes. I would have been happier had Sidney, Gale and Dewey had more screen time, but Ortega at least gave me someone to root for.

Joseph Winter (Deadstream) – This film literally would not exist without Winter. He wrote, directed, produced and edited it with his wife Vanessa, and then he took on the lead role as well! As Shawn, a “cancelled” YouTuber, Winter was definitely not afraid to be stupid (and stupidly funny). Shawn revels in doing stunts that terrify him (navigating rapids in a basket, exploring a haunted house all alone), screaming like a little girl every time something spooks him.

He keeps checking out the comments on his livestream, most of which ridicule him, but he remains undaunted in his quest to win back his subscribers. Winter dared to do something hilariously different with the found footage genre, and managed to make it both funny and scary.

Justin Long (Barbarian) – Justin Long is a pretty diverse actor, and he has proven that he can play very likeable characters (Jeepers Creepers, Drag Me to Hell), as well as scumbags…you know, like the creep he played in Barbarian. AJ was a popular television actor, and we find out at the beginning of the film that he has been accused of rape by a co-star. Is he repentant? Absolutely not. He drives to Detroit to check out a rental property that he owns, in hopes of selling it to pay his legal fees.

In a truly repugnant moment, he discovers the mysterious underground tunnels and greedily calculates how much the added square footage can get him. Despite the creepy cell he finds, complete with a makeshift toilet, a camera and a cot, it never occurs to him that someone may have been held captive there. Instead, he busts out a tape measure.

Then he pushes Tess from the tower they have escaped to in order to save himself, causing “Mother” to leap off to cushion her fall. He fully deserves his fate: Mother rips out his eyes and crushes his skull.

We’re not done yet! I will be returning with more of my favorite 2022 horror acting performances very soon. In the meantime, let me know some of your favorites.