Horror films are the one constant in Cinema. As audiences love to be scared, their popularity endures.
From the terrifying Frankenstein’s monster that was made by the Thomas Edison movie studio in 1910, through the Universal Monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, from the Sci-Fi terrors of the 1950’s and the bloody reign of Hammer studios in the 60’s, to the gruesome mix of sub genres of 70’s creepers through the 80’s heyday of slasher films and low budget video nasties, Horror never dies.
The 90’s were up and down for the genre until Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson revitalized Slasher cinema with the “Scream” films.
The 2000’s and up through today, big studios produce more and more fright flicks each year, mostly to big box office.
This year, there were some major genre releases. Films such as the latest “Scream” and “Halloween Ends” divided audiences. The best films of the year were found in indie productions, artful deviations, and a return from one of Horror Cinema’s masters.
For the year’s genre film acting honors, Jenna Ortega, Regina Hall, Maika Monroe, Georgina Campbell and ESPECIALLY Mia Goth gave a jolt to the Horror of 2022, each one giving standout performances, some in more than one film.
Here are my choices for the best Horror Films of 2022. “This one goes to 11.”
BARBARIAN (Zach Cregger)
A creepy thrill ride that consistently amps up the unexpected through some truly inventive ideas.
This one is driven by a smart screenplay that opens many doors (both actual and metaphorical), leading to a wealth of originality and some effective scares.
Tense, atmospheric, and bizarre, Zach Cregger’s voice is a much needed and most welcome tonic to today’s lackluster Horror fare.
BONES AND ALL (Luca Guadagnino)
An intense, visceral, lyrical, and occasionally beguiling film. Taylor Russell is excellent and Timothée Chalamet is very good, if not a bit too brooding. Beautiful cinematography by Arseni Khachaturan and a good atmosphere.
Hampered just a bit by some undercooked sociopolitical commentaries, a too mannered performance from Mark Rylance, and an unnecessary ending that robs the film of its poetry. Still a fascinating and hypnotic watch for most of its run time.
DARK GLASSES (Dario Argento)
A master returns. While the film will not go down as an Argento classic, the film is still a sharp and well-designed Giallo.
Expertly directed and always entertaining, this one reminds us why Argento’s title as a master of Horror remains strong.
HELLRAISER (David Bruckner)
Expanding on Clive Barker’s visual representations from the 1987 version, this is a better film than every one of underwhelming Hellraiser sequels.
While imperfect to be sure, grotesque pleasures do abound, the Cenobites are fantastic and creative in their design, and director Bruckner assures the film watchable throughout.
MASTER– Mariama Diallo
A unique and unsettling film that is constantly creative and always interesting.
This is a film that tackles systematic racism, class, identity, discrimination, and more, always wrapping everything in a ghostly and disturbing tale with the director in complete control.
Executed with supreme skill, director Mariama Diallo crafted a superior Horror film driven by women in front of and behind the camera.
PEARL– Ti West
West’s first of two appearances on this list. While not the better of the two films he gave us in 2022, this one deserves inclusion for a few reasons.
Visually stunning, West and Cinematographer Elliot Rockett find a symmetry in the look of Hollywood’s golden age and the Southern-set Drive-In Horror of the early to mid-1970’s.
Mia Goth gives a mesmerizing and Oscar-worthy performance. Her work is filled with a sweetness that gives way to an inner evil streak as the character takes the audience through many emotions.
The coup de grâce is a five-plus minute monologue where Pearl reveals to her sister-in-law (and to herself) the true violent desires that guide her life. The moment is jaw-dropping and completely intoxicating.
As a film, this one is not as good as West and Goth’s other entry this year, but between the artful cinematography, a wonderful score from Tyler Bates and Tim Williams, and Goth’s full-on Method performance, “Pearl” is something special.
SIGNIFICANT OTHER– Dan Berk & Robert Olsen
One of the year’s most welcome surprises.
An extremely well-constructed mix of Horror, Sci-Fi, and relationship drama, with each ingredient working very well.
Leads Maika Monroe and Jake Lacey are perfect.
One of the more entertaining and aesthetically pleasing films of 2022.
TERRIFIER 2– Damien Leone
A blood and guts-soaked tribute to those thrilling days of practical gore yesteryear, and then some!
Damien Leone reminds us that low budget creepers continue to have a place in theaters, and that today’s horror films don’t always need to make a statement.
A great old fashioned Slasher movie done with skill and a perverse creativity that is most welcome.
X– Ti West
Filmmaker Ti West’s best film best film since the excellent 2009 throwback Satanic cult horror, “House of the Devil”, making sure viewers are constantly on edge, creeped out, and uncomfortable.
The filmmaker and his cast endear themselves to the audience, which makes the terrors that rain upon them that more shocking.
Incredible atmosphere (enhanced by a moody score from Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe), a solid cast, a smart script, and pure artistic drive and imagination make this one of the best Horror films in a long while.
WATCHER- Chloe Okuno
A threadbare premise that becomes a film of gripping suspense.
Director Okuno keeps a tight hold, giving the aura of constant alienation and unease.
A tense film that comments on the manifestation of fear and anxiety.
A strikingly good picture.
YOU WON’T BE ALONE- Goran Stolevski
Stolevski’s feature film debut was one of the best films of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival; a strikingly artful work that studies what it means to be human, through the life journey of a witch.
The filmmaker’s vision is quite unique and deeper than one would expect from a genre film. This work could rightfully be dubbed Art-Horror, as its beauty in the silence is as strong as the terror in the dark.
Intense, philosophical, horrifying, luminous, and erotic, this is a treasure.