It’s that time again; we’re halfway through another year. Already.
The first half of 2022 was much lighter on theatrical releases than the heavily stacked back half. Even still, it held no shortage of fantastic horror releases. The genre has proven time and time again that it thrives in every format, and offerings have become downright overwhelming on VOD and streaming platforms. From highly-anticipated theatrical releases to knockout indie debuts and even some massively under-the-radar titles, 2022’s best horrors deliver on variety.
As a refresher and to ensure great movies don’t fall through the cracks, here are the 10 best horror movies of 2022… so far!
Writer/Director Mariama Diallo uses a New England curse to connect the past to the present, blending a variety of terrors, real and imagined, all funneled through the lives of three women. Master casts a bewitching spell of occult and psychological horror, underscoring the true source of fear in a potent way. Diallo’s deft layering of supernatural chills with historical terror and realism makes for a compelling experience that pulls you into the interior lives of these women. The style in capturing the increasingly dense mythology is impeccable. Diallo demonstrates a keen eye for composition and an ability to instill an unsettling atmosphere quickly. Darkness slowly closes around Jasmine, Gail, and Liv, causing them to struggle for air in a claustrophobic and hostile environment. Even if it doesn’t entirely stick its landing, it’s the precise type of intelligent, creepy, and complex horror that makes Diallo one to watch.
The Black Phone
It’s 1978, and children are missing in a North Denver neighborhood. If that’s not enough, Finney (Mason Thames) and younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) spend their home life walking on eggshells around their drunk dad (Jeremy Davies). But not long after one of Finney’s only friends goes missing, he crosses paths with the kidnapper (Ethan Hawke). Finney gets trapped in the kidnapper’s near-empty basement, save for a broken black phone, with no way out. With time of the essence as death looms, Finney gets help from beyond the grave as the kidnapper’s past victims dial in on the black phone. Director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story nestles a tender tale underneath the scares. Its biggest strength lies with its lead performances. Thames brings the heart, but McGraw is a rare exceptional talent. And Hawke is in a league of his own, playing against type in a remarkably unsettling way.
Kill List‘s Neil Maskell stars as the eponymous Bull, a gang enforcer that adores his son Aiden (Henri Charles). But Bull mysteriously went silent for a decade, gone without a trace. Now, he’s back and in search of his old gang, who are surprised to see him. It quickly becomes apparent that Bull is on a rage-fueled mission for payback against an egregious double-cross. At the top of his hit list are father-in-law and local crime boss Norm (David Hayman) and Bull’s drug-addicted wife Gemma (Lois Brabin-Platt), who happens to be Norm’s daughter. More than carve his path through personal justice, Bull wants to find his son. The latest by Paul Andrew Williams (The Cottage, Cherry Tree Lane) reads like a classic, gritty crime thriller turned vengeance quest but plays like a horror movie in many ways. The bloody kills, the creatively staged deaths, and an unrestrained killer marries a crime revenge-thriller with a slasher.
See For Me
Sophie (Skyler Davenport) was once a highly successful and renowned skier, but blindness seems to have cut her career short. The dashed dreams and aspirations bred resentment in Sophie, leading her to push everyone away as she clings tighter to stubborn independence. When Sophie takes on a cat-sitting job at a secluded mansion, she hides her blindness from the owner. Then three thieves break in, not realizing anyone is home. Sophie’s only means of defense and evasion comes from a phone app that allows an army vet and gamer, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), to operate remotely as her eyes. See for Me, directed by Randall Okita and written by Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue, is more interested in exploring the moral complexities of its protagonist. It offers an authentic performance with a visually impaired actor and gives Sophie agency with flawed complexity. It keeps Okita’s stylish thriller fresh and fascinating; even after the home invasion thrills evolve into something else.
The premise, which sees a viral mutation cause the infected to become sadistically violent, reads like a familiar setup in outbreak horror. It quickly becomes apparent that The Sadness refuses to adhere to the average viral horror movie. Director Rob Jabbaz keeps a death grip on the pulse of the current climate, delivering a rage-filled manifesto that aims to tick off every cinematic taboo possible and tests your gag reflex in the process. It’s transgressive horror of the highest, most aggressive order. Heed all of the trigger warnings and then some. The filmmaker delivers his message with blunt force trauma, breaking all the rules along the way. It’s a vicious anthem that keeps you in its grip, forces you to stare into the abyss, and dares you to look away.
Netflix’s stop-motion animated anthology weaves together three creepy tales tethered to one house. The segments span time and tone, telling of a low-income family, an anxious developer, and a fed-up landlady who all become tied to the same mysterious house. Daughter Mabel (Mia Goth) navigates a mounting house of horrors as her parents lose themselves to newly acquired luxury in the first story. The second sees unwanted pests swarming and waylaying a developer’s plans, while the third segment closes the darkly comedic and unsettling anthology on an uplifting note amid an isolated dystopia. The House occasionally unnerves but always taps into deep-seated dread. The animation is breathtaking, and the symbolism bears repeat viewings. Directed by Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, and Paloma Baeza, The House features voice acting by Mia Goth, Claudie Blakley, Matthew Goode, Mark Heap, Miranda Richardson, and Helena Bonham Carter.
It’s been twenty-five years since the original series of murders in Woodsboro and a decade since the events of the last string of slayings. That means scar tissue has long developed over old wounds for both Woodsboro and its legacy players, as well as a semblance of peace. That is until Ghostface reappears and targets a new generation of Woodsboro teens. James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s screenplay evolves the franchise in clever and deeply poignant ways. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett dedicate Scream to Wes Craven, and the horror master’s imprint looms large over their film. As intrinsic to the movie as Craven’s memory is, the filmmakers make it their own.
American Julia (Maika Monroe) uproots her life to accompany her half-Romanian husband Francis (Karl Glusman) to Bucharest for his high-pressure job. She’s left almost entirely on her own to adjust to a new country and culture, and it’s made even harder by the language barrier. Alone all day and increasingly at night, Julia stares out the window and notices an eerie face staring back. That feeling of being watched transforms into full-blown paranoia with the discovery that a killer named Spider has been stalking and decapitating women in the area. But is someone following Julia, or is it a byproduct of loneliness and culture shock? Chloe Okuno’s ability to create eerie unease from an uncomplicated premise impresses. It’s a measured, moody psychodrama that allows Okuno to wear her influences on her sleeves, making them her own, until one bloody and satisfying finale that seals the deal on Watcher being one of 2022’s best horrors.
Writer/Director Eskil Vogt crafts a stunning portrayal of childhood morality with a tale of four children discovering supernatural abilities over a summer. The Innocents is a provocative look at the fine razor line between good and evil and the darker side of innocence. Four compelling performances ground the disturbing horror, adding complex emotions and morality to fuel the tension. Vogt twists the knife further by setting it under the bright Nordic sun; the terror these kids commit happens right under the adults’ noses, often in plain sight, with no one the wiser. The emotional authenticity heightens the horror, creating one of the most viscerally disturbing depictions of childhood in recent memory.
Set in 1979 Texas, a group of aspiring adult filmmakers load up in a van and drive from Houston to the boonies to shoot. Producer Wayne (The Ring‘s Martin Henderson) enlists his girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson (Scott Mescudi) to star. Then he’s rented a boarding house on the cheap from the reclusive elder Howard (Stephen Ure), who warns them to stay out of his wife’s sight. The porn production quickly devolves into a fucked up horror picture when things spiral out of control. The lean, straightforward narrative gets straight to the goods and never wastes time on heavy exposition. It’s all in the little details and the talented cast making these characters feel lived-in with a shared history. X demonstrates why West should be given full reign to go full throttle on deranged, savage, and intense horror comedies more often. It’s a blast, and one of the very best horror movies of 2022… so far.