This was an incredible year for horror. I’m preaching to the choir at this point, but it still bears repeating. We’ve entered a golden age for the genre, with both new and original takes on fear to refreshing takes on old favorites. We’ve also seen a better balance between higher concept analyses of grief and trauma and just all-out bananas horror films that exist purely to entertain. Filmmakers are truly embracing the weird and I’ve never been more excited to see what the future holds for not just horror, but for cinema in general.
Marginalized filmmakers are also slowly being granted a bigger platform. Films such as Nanny, Slash/Back, and Saloum (just to name a few) have gotten support from streaming services and given more of a chance to grab the spotlight, even just for a moment. While the genre is still dominated by cis, straight, white male voices (you will find a few of those on this list), 2022 has been an important year for watching that paradigm start to make a shift.
After too many hours spent agonizing over what films qualify for my top ten and staring at Letterboxd mumbling like a madman, I’ve finally whittled down my list to the top ten films that stole my heart in 2022.
10. When I Consume You
Perry Blackshear knows emotional horror storytelling. Existing in a similar vein to the directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Blackshear makes movies about intimate connections between friends and family that are disrupted by the horrific. His latest film When I Consume You is perhaps his best work yet. It follows a brother-sister (Evan Dumouchel and Lizzy Ewing, respectively) duo just trying to survive. But, when a stalker from their past reappears, they must fight to get revenge against the sinister figure.
Dumouchel and Ewing’s performances are the core of the film, their chemistry both intimate and devastating. They feel like actual siblings who have been through decades of trauma, with Ewing as the caretaking older sister and Dumouchel as the unsure younger brother who needs guidance through his interactions with the world. From their performances to Blackshear’s directing, writing, and lensing of the film, When I Consume You delivers one of the year’s most deeply affecting horror experiences.
Keeping in theme with horror movies that will also make you very sad, Addison Heimann’s Hypochondriac hit me in places that I’ve kept hidden for my entire life. The film, inspired by Heimann’s very real mental breakdown, follows Will (Zach Villa), an artist in LA who, overall, seems to have a decent life with a cute boyfriend in a nice apartment. But when his estranged mother comes back into his life after ten years, Will begins experiencing strange hallucinations of a man in a strange wolf costume.
From there, Will spirals into a terrifying mental breakdown where he can’t discern fiction from reality. As a person who struggles with mental illness, has a parent with a mental illness, and is queer, this movie hit me in more ways than one. But even in the depiction of the horrors of inheriting the mental illness that keeps you from your parent, Heimann is still hopeful. Hypochondriac isn’t about queer pain; it’s about queer resilience in the face of horror. And what’s more hopeful than that?
8. Orphan: First Kill
Admittedly a good number of my horror favorites of 2022 are pretty dark and emotionally devastating. But while 2022 felt like a year-long depressive episode, films like Orphan: First Kill breathed a little life and fun into the year. At the beginning of the year, I would never have guessed a prequel to the 2009 camp masterpiece Orphan would have made this list. Yet, William Brent Bell, director of films like the too-often-maligned Stay Alive, proved me, and much of the horror community, wrong. And I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.
Isabelle Fuhrman returns as Esther, which was admittedly a challenge due to the fact that she’s now an adult. But Bell and team faced that challenge head-on, utilizing in-camera tricks and some stylish platform boots to make Fuhrman appear to still be the height of a nine-year-old girl. Plus, we get queen Julia Stiles turning out the performance of the year. This was one of the most fun, and surprising, experiences watching horror that I had in 2022.
7. Flux Gourmet
Director Peter Strickland has a very particular aesthetic. From Berberian Sound Studio to In Fabric, Strickland’s films are gorgeous to experience and difficult to comprehend. It’s the perfect union of horror with high art. His latest film Flux Gourmet is no exception. And somehow, even though the film follows rock stars who play food instead of instruments, Strickland has made one of his most grounded films to date, combining gastrointestinal distress with the pretension and cruelty of the art world.
A trio of musicians, who, again, make sonic landscapes with food instead of instruments, take up a residency at a prestigious institution. Documenting their experience is Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), a journalist who discovers his body can’t handle gluten. On paper, the film sounds ludicrous, and to a degree it is. But in true Strickland fashion, he is able to both construct a world of absurdity but make it just relatable enough to feel almost real. In a year of culinary horror, Flux Gourmet rose to the top.
Jordan Peele kicked down the door of 2022 and said, “are you ready for a spectacle?” And we all silently and aggressively nodded our heads because any year we get a new film from Peele is a good year. But we weren’t expecting just how much of a spectacle the director was going to deliver with his third feature film Nope. Part summer blockbuster, part alien invasion tale, part indictment of the Hollywood system, Nope proves yet again that Peele is a contemporary horror master.
I will not entertain conversations about this not being a horror movie. For one, “horror” is a subjective term, a fluid label that means different things to different people. And two, did you see that abduction scene? That’s one of the scariest things I saw committed to celluloid this year. Both infinitely entertaining and sneakily profound, Peele’s Nope is a shining achievement not just of 2022 horror, but of 2022 cinema as a whole.
Zach Cregger’s Barbarian was the biggest surprise of the year, full stop. With marketing that told us next to nothing except it starred Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, and Bill Skarsgard. It was a film that many approached with apprehension and skepticism. But what we got was a gonzo and absolutely bizarre take on the “something is wrong with this house” trope. From Justin Long getting breastfed by the internet’s new mother to a man getting beaten with his own arm, Barbarian really said, “Surprise, bitch.”
Often likened to Malignant in terms of its balls-to-the-wall attitude, Barbarianstands on its own as a horror film that needs to be experienced to be truly understood. Also, it marks the return of Scream King Justin Long. For that, I know many of us are thankful.
4. The Long Walk
Lao director Mattie Do’s The Long Walk is a sci-fi horror about serial killers, ghosts, and time travel. Yes, it does sound like a lot to fit into one movie, but never fear, because Do is a master of her craft. Starting off as a slower meditation on grief and memory, Do’s fourth feature film morphs into something absolutely horrifying.
In a way, the title itself is self-referential. The film’s structure emulates a, well, long walk. We move through The Old Man’s (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy) life alongside him, observing and learning. But as we walk in step with him, we also walk into tragedy. Do and writer Christopher Larsen weave a story that is equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking. And if this list has told you anything so far, that’s my favorite kind of horror movie.
3. Bones And All
When I first saw Luca Guadagnino’s Bones And All, I cried from the end until I got home 45 minutes later. This coming-of-age tale about finding love and acceptance just so happens to also be about cannibalism. But the blood and guts exist in the background, gory reminders of who Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothee Chalamet) really are. It’s intimate and quiet, but full of danger. Every second of Bones And All feels dangerous. Maren can never relax, she is always on the move, trying to find a place where she feels safe. But even when she thinks she’s found safety, it’s only fleeting.
The connection I had with Bones And All is hard to describe. Both terrifying and sweet, Guadagnino hit the sweet spot of horror and tenderness in a way that only he can.
2. Something In The Dirt
I mentioned Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead earlier in this list and now we’ve come almost full circle with their latest film Something In The Dirt taking the number two spot. After working on big Marvel projects like Moon Knight, the directing duo came back to their indie horror routes with a film about tentative new friendships, cosmic horror, and an apartment that seems to exist at an intersection of dimensions. Plus, it’s framed as a pseudo-documentary, and to this found footage lover, that was the cherry on top of this beautifully weird cake.
Benson and Moorhead also star in the film, truly making this a COVID indie horror affair. With a crew of 12 and Benson’s own apartment as the set, Something In The Dirt stands as a testament to the directors’ own love and respect of the genre.
1. We’re All Going To The World’s Fair
Ever since I saw Jane Schoenbraun’s We’re All Going To The World’s Fair at Sundance in 2021, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Never has a film so perfectly captured what it means to exist online as a lonely and isolated teenager trying to understand themselves. Internet horror so often veers into the outright horrific and abject, but here, Schoenbraun takes a more complex approach. Horror here isn’t an otherwordly monster or a ghost in the machine. Instead, it’s predatory men and dysphoria, an inability to conceptualize how you’re feeling and why. All you know is that something feels wrong inside of your body. And you’ll do anything to try and fix it.
As a found footage freak, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is the perfect example of hybrid found footage, films that use first-person POV techniques but marry them with more traditional filmmaking methods to create a new form of horror. It exists in a new space, straddling perspectives and how we’re meant to perceive the world. It’s destabilizing. It’s queer. And it’s what horror should strive to be.
Making this list felt impossible, so I still want to include some other favorites that didn’t quite make the list. Obviously, I was a huge fan of Ti West’s X. Other titles that took my breath away this year were:
- The Innocents
- Two Witches
- Soft & Quiet