2022 has been such a gift for fans of the horror genre. It is not just the quantity or even quality of the films that impresses me, so much as the vast range of stories that have been told. This has been a rare year where there is a little something for everyone. As for me, I feel almost overwhelmed at the massive amount of amazing films I’ve seen. It is an honor to be featured on this website that has meant so much to me and the indie horror community, but I am especially grateful to be curating a Top 20 list in a year where I had to fight and argue with myself to get it down to just 20.
‘Top’ is a word that is open to interpretation. For me, and for the list that I am about to present to you, it falls somewhere in between “favorite” and “best.” Some of these, especially as you work your way to my Number 1 slot, are pieces of art that I believe speak for themselves critically. Others, especially near the bottom, are movies whose messiness I can forgive simply because they succeeded in making me feel something, whether that be fear or delight. I have done my best to provide context with each title as to what put it above the others.
Believe me, there were others. 20 seems like a lot of horror movies for one year, but it pales in comparison to the number of amazing titles that have been released over the last twelve months. With all that said, I am so excited to share my pick for the Top 20 Horror Movies of 2022.
20. The Watcher
This was the hardest spot to pick. I had about twelve movies left that I felt needed to go on this list and only one slot remaining. One thing all my other selections had in common was that I was not sure where they fell into the genre. The Watcher stood out because while it may be an agonizingly slow burn, there is no doubt that this is a horror film. The tension here is rivaled only by sympathy for the protagonist in a world where her every concern is called into question.
19. Terrifier 2
On the exact opposite side of that spectrum, we have Terrifier 2. This film lacks any semblance of subtlety. It is gory, self-indulgent, and absolutely over the top. The critic in me hesitated to include this on my list, but to leave it off would be to deny the unbridled joy that watching it brings me. Embracing the gory and eccentric roots of the slasher genre, this is a wild ride. Art the Clown’s success at the box office was a win for indie horror and it’s not hard to see how he got there. Terrifier 2 brought fantastic character design, creative kills, and the sort of practical effects that can only be achieved in a labor of love.
Of all the movies on this list, Nanny may be the hardest to classify. The plot is driven by the amazing cast, and the unease builds from multiple sources. There are supernatural and psychological aspects that are escalated by the isolation faced by the movie’s protagonist. Though the film lacked many outright scares, there is a lingering sense of dread that comes with the story. Often it is the things we don’t know that have a way of haunting us.
17. Mad God
Though Mad God made its festival debut in 2021, the US release came in June of this year. It is an unflinchingly brutal look at what it takes to survive in a world of monsters. Though the experimental narration style leaves much open to interpretation by the audience, the cruelties are hard to watch all the same. The stop-motion animation style is rendered with such attention to detail, and is strangely beautiful to watch in spite of all its horrors.
2022’s Hellraiser is a masterclass in remakes. While it takes thematic inspiration from Clive Barker’s original story, the source material has been reshaped to give us something new and fresh. Everything about this movie makes it feel less like competition to the original, and more like a companion piece. It works beautifully as a stand-alone film, giving us a taste into the reimagined world without rehashing the pieces that have become overfamiliar throughout the long chain of quality diminished sequels. There was something here for fans and critics of the franchise alike.
15. Satan’s Slaves: Communion
Everything that I loved about Satan’s Slaves was present in this sequel. It kept the core cast, added onto the mythology, and kept the same haunting vibes in its new, claustrophobic setting. The tension was ramped up, the stakes felt higher, and the imagery is unforgettable. Even with the abundance of jump scares, which would usually turn me off to a movie, the visuals were strong enough to keep me feeling uneasy in the best way.
Horror comedy is at its best when it the scares still keep pace with the laughs. This brilliant satire strikes a great balance in this regard. The discomfort of the situation continues to ramp up to absurd levels that only a desperate content creator would invite into their lives. While the movie plays best to those familiar with live-streaming culture, there is something so human about the plot that it could play to anyone.
13. The Sadness.
Speaking of humans, we often make the scariest monsters. That concept is pushed to its absolute limits in this Taiwanese horror film. Though it was another one finished in 2021, 2022 saw its US release when it came to Shudder with an advisory warning. Terrifier 2 may have been the bloodiest movie to hit American theaters this year, but it did not hold a candle to The Sadness in terms of gore or violence. If you think your stomach is strong enough to handle the utter depravity of this film, then you are in for a treat. Where many extreme horror films conform entirely to the gross out method, The Sadness offers a human story that is truly terrifying underneath the blood and guts.
As a strong testament to the competition of this list, this January started with me declaring that Scream may well be my movie of the year. While that ended up to not be the case, this was the first hurdle that every subsequent choice had to crawl its way over. Hellraiser set a new high bar for remakes, but Scream set a new standard for the “requels.” As the movie itself will tell you, it has everything; a new core cast, a few legacy characters, and a Ghostface unafraid to raise the stakes with their brutality.
This one lingers just outside my Top 10, but it may well be the only movie on this entire list that I don’t think I’ll be watching again any time soon. Though it starts off as a slow burn, this movie was unafraid to get dark and personal. There are topics touched on too dark to be shown on screen, and they are approached in such a matter of fact, haunting way. Though Resurrection has its “exaggerated” moments and a strange premise, the psychological component serves to make it feel like one of the realest horrors.
10. The Black Phone
Would you believe I was actually disappointed with this movie when I saw it the first time? As a fan of the short story, I felt let down by the way the tale was expanded. It didn’t highlight the psychological aspect that had drawn me in, so much as created a new supernatural element that I hadn’t asked for. The rewatch, however, got me. While it was not the movie I had hoped it would be, it’s hard to argue that it excels at what it is, which is a spine chilling ghost story where not even the children are safe.
It’s hard to even describe this film, which came to the US this February. While there are many recognizable aspects in this familial, isolation horror, they are woven together in a way that feels fresh. It is led by two strong characters who are unafraid to surprise the audience. I also loved the LGBTQ+ themes, which were strong without ever becoming the primary focus, or detracting from the horror.
I was concerned about Pearl. As a prequel that is also the middle part of a trilogy born from what easily could have been a stand-alone film, this had every chance to make me regret its existence. In a wonderful turn of events, it crept right up onto my list of favorites. Though I can see the argument that it didn’t need to be made, I’m very grateful that it was made. Pearl offers great insight into one of the genre’s most complex characters, while also managing to ask more questions than it answers. It was a great addition to the story, and to this year’s horror roster.
7. Speak No Evil
This one nearly flew under my radar. I didn’t see much promotion for it and many critics never seemed to pick it up. Fortunately, I stumbled across a couple of my friends discussing on social media how this movie traumatized them, and I knew I had to check it out. This is a title that is almost too uncomfortable to be considered a slow burn. Whether or not you’re able to sleep after watching it seems to hinge on whether or not you’ve had children, but it’s an unforgettable experience even to us non-parents in the audience.
This was the rare horror film that lived up to the hype surrounding it. It is a Taiwanese found footage film that knows just how to play its audience. Right from the beginning, you have empathy for the characters that only continues to build as we watch their struggle unfold. The visuals were horrifying, and the audience feels almost implicated by the time the credits roll.
This is the sort of movie that, in another year, easily could have been my top pick. It has a little bit of everything; an amazing protagonist, body horror, levity, and a healthy dose of blood. There are even a couple of really terrible puns. Though the premise requires a high suspension of disbelief, the film takes its time with the set up and gets you invested in the characters to help you along. All in all, it was very satisfying.
Cosmic horror is amazing, but it can be difficult to get right. This title perfectly balances its immediate threat with existential dread and perfect comedic timing. There was nothing about this movie that wasn’t perfectly executed.
3. A Wounded Fawn
I had all but entirely finalized this list of 20 movies when this one dropped on Shudder and threw everything into question. This giallo-inspired film is captivating from the moment it starts and kept me guessing through to the very end. It is surreal, and beautiful, and explores all the best and worst of humanity as though it were a mere afterthought.
This is probably the most divisive movie on my list. It seems to be one that audiences love or hate. Either way, I think you have to applaud the chances that it took, and for me every single one of its risks paid off in the best way. There was social commentary, the subversion of some hated tropes, edge-of-the-seat tension, and laugh-out-loud funny moments. If you have not seen this one, you should absolutely get on that.
Ti West cracks into my top 10 once again.
Anyone that knows me or has talked to me since March of this year is not going to be surprised by this top pick. I saw it in theater opening day, and went back to see it about a dozen times after that. I listen to the soundtrack every day at work. It has very possibly unseated the 10-year reigning champion for the title of my favorite film of all time.
It feels like a movie that was made for me. The French inspiration in the editing combined with the perfect throwback to the 70’s grindhouse film hits all my horror sweet spots. It even has my favorite underutilized trope of “dancer who snaps.”
Even putting some of my own biases aside, I believe X to be worthy of the slot. The subtle foreshadowing and well-rounded characters give the title endless re-watchability. There are laughs. There are tears. There is the perfect amount of gore, even as the true horror of the film comes from a deeper, emotional place. It features stunning performances from Jenna Ortega and Mia Goth, two absolute queens of the genre. It encompasses everything that I loved about the horror of 2022, and I have never been so certain of a pick.
Cat Voleur is a published writer of dark, speculative fiction and full time horror journalist. In addition to freelancing scripts and articles on the genre, you can find her co-hosting Slasher Radio and This Horror Life. She currently resides in a house with her army of rescue felines. When she isn’t writing, gaming, or consuming horror content, she will undoubtedly be pursuing her passion for fictional languages.