Horror flourished in 2022, both on streaming services (including the expertly curated Shudder, an invaluable resource) and on the big screen, with several unexpected box-office hits. The best horror movies of 2022 often nod to the genre’s past while looking to its future. They come from veteran filmmakers and promising newcomers alike, all working together to showcase the breadth and artistry of a genre that’s still full of surprises.
Director Ti West released two of this year’s best horror movies, starting with this homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and other 1970s grindhouse classics. Set in 1979, X follows a scrappy group of filmmakers as they shoot an adult film at a rural Texas farmhouse. The elderly couple who own the property don’t exactly approve, though, and soon the cast and crew members are getting picked off. West perfectly captures the style of old-school slasher movies, aided by a masterful lead performance from Mia Goth as both an aspiring porn starlet and an old woman with murderous impulses. If you like this movie, read this book.
Crimes of the Future
David Cronenberg’s long-awaited return to body horror fits right in with his early work, even reusing the title of one of his first films. In a future where “surgery is the new sex,” as one character puts it, people grow strange new organs and harvest them as a sort of performance art. Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux play a pair of these cutting-edge artists, with Kristen Stewart giving a gloriously weird performance as an investigator who becomes fixated on them. Cronenberg delivers haunting, ornately gross visuals along with a meditation on the nature of art and the future of human evolution. If you like this movie, read this book.
Bones and All
A swooning romance about a pair of cannibals may sound ridiculous, but director Luca Guadagnino makes it beautiful and even sweet in this adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel. Taylor Russell stars as outcast teenager Maren, who discovers that she’s not the only person with an insatiable urge for human flesh. She falls in love with fellow “eater” Lee (Timothée Chalamet) as they travel the backroads of the 1980s Midwest to search for Maren’s mother. Guadagnino conveys the intensity of young love, mixing it with moments of gruesome brutality that hint at the inevitable heartbreak to come. If you like this movie, read this book.
Mia Goth returns in Ti West’s prequel to X, playing the younger version of the elderly serial killer Pearl, in a movie set in 1918. Young Pearl lives on the same farm from the previous movie, along with her stern German mother and her invalid father. She’ll do absolutely anything to escape her small Texas town and become a movie star, including kill anyone who gets in her way. Pearl is a gorgeous, colorful throwback to 1950s melodrama and Technicolor film noir, with a delightful mean streak. Goth is mesmerizing as the title character, making her both monstrous and tragic. If you like this movie, read this book.
Writer-director Ben Steiner’s debut feature features an unsettling performance from horror favorite Kate Dickie as the title character, who’s been estranged from her daughter for the past 20 years. Jemima Rooper plays the self-destructive daughter who reluctantly returns home after recovering from a drug overdose, only to discover that something is seriously wrong with everyone in the small village where she grew up, and her mother seems to somehow be responsible. Steiner draws on a variety of classic and modern horror influences, weaving together arthouse ambition and dark folklore to create an atmospheric and enjoyably nasty experience. If you like this movie, read this book.
This disturbing Norwegian horror movie is anchored by four fantastic child performances. Those young actors play four friends who discover mysterious powers that they can activate together. The movie chillingly explores the idea of what happens when children without a fully formed sense of right and wrong come into extraordinary abilities, with sometimes deadly consequences. It’s not graphic, but it is highly unnerving, and the filmmakers don’t hold back in portraying the horrific acts that children are capable of. It’s a far cry from the depiction of superpowers in mainstream Hollywood movies, and it leaves a much stronger impression. If you like this movie, read this book.
For a little while, Mimi Cave’s directorial debut seems like a pleasant romantic dramedy, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noa, a jaded single woman who meets a charming, handsome man and finds herself quickly falling for him. But Steve (Sebastian Stan) has much more sinister motives when he invites Noa for a weekend getaway, and soon after they arrive at his secluded hideout, the story takes a dangerous turn. Fresh is a sharp satire about modern dating and gender relations, and it’s also a viscerally upsetting horror movie about the terrible things that powerful men will do to vulnerable women. If you like this movie, read this book.
Filmmakers Joseph and Vanessa Winter find a fun new angle on the found footage format in this horror comedy, with an obnoxious online influencer livestreaming his night in a haunted house. Obviously he’s going to encounter some real ghosts, but the Winters deliver the expected scares in clever ways, making use of different aspects of livestreaming content. Joseph Winter also stars as the desperate vlogger who’ll do anything to retain his audience, even if it means risking his own life. It’s a funny takedown of influencer culture, as well as an effective horror movie with striking ghoulish makeup. If you like this movie, read this book.
Werewolf by Night
The Marvel Cinematic Universe embraces horror in this self-contained “special presentation” that pays tribute to vintage monster movies. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the title character, who’s participating in a monster-hunting competition to secure a mystical artifact. He teams up with Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), the heiress to a monster-hunting dynasty. Director Michael Giacchino emulates classic creature features with black and white cinematography and an emphasis on practical effects over CGI. The story is creepy and silly in equal measure, with a great supporting performance from Harriet Sansom Harris as the devious woman in charge of the hunt. If you like this movie, read this book.
Writer-director Zach Cregger makes the transition from sketch comedy to horror filmmaking with a movie that starts as one kind of horror story before shifting into something different. Georgina Campbell plays a woman who discovers that her AirBnb has been double-booked, with a seemingly friendly man (Bill Skarsgard) already staying there. The initial set-up leads into a series of unlikely twists, including a switch in main characters and detours through several different types of horror movie. It’s often intense and scary, with a decent amount of humor and an impressive level of ambition and creativity. If you like this movie, read this book.
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Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He’s the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies, TV, and pop culture for Vulture, Polygon, CBR, Inverse, Crooked Marquee, and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.