My Top Ten Horror Movies of 2022

'Tis the season for things that go bump in the night. Many people indulge in an all-horror Spooktober. Whether you prefer gory slasher fests or psychological, slow-building dread, October is the perfect month to watch scary movies and TV series. While everyone has their favorite backlist watches, 2022 has proven to be a rich year for new horror releases.

Below is my best of the best for this year. I tend to be drawn to movies that surprise me by bringing horror into new realms or with a new twist I haven't seen before. Often the greatest horror is created by a director taking an ordinary occurrence and building a worst-case scenario. They then boldly play it out to its umpteenth degree. I hope you can find a new favorite on my list.

10. Piggy, directed by Carlota Perdeda 

Gruesome, gory, campy, issue-driven "vengeance is mine tale"

What if the town psychopath had a soft spot for you?

The blood-spattered Piggy takes us into a small Spanish town in the heat of summer. Sara, a teenage girl who is bullied for her weight, has to choose how to proceed when her tormentors are kidnapped by a mysterious predator. Only Laura knows how to find the predator who abducts the mean girls. As the stakes rise, Sara must choose whether to speak or remain silent – to get revenge or do the right thing. Using the cinematic language of 70s horror films, especially Carrie and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Piggy keeps the adrenaline pumping, just like a midnight movie should. Pereda's lovingly crafted horror-morality tale will challenge viewers' to consider where their loyalties lie. In a world of body shaming, bullying, and adults who sideline kids, speaking up means sticking out and risking retribution, so what's a teen girl to do?

To watch it: Piggy is playing at select Alamo Drafthouse theaters and will then be available on streaming.

9. Nope, directed by Jordan Peele  

Atmospheric, funny, open-ended, action-packed, bombastic, sci fi-horror blend

What if aliens just wanted to watch the world burn?

The high priest of social horror, Jordan Peele, pivots to the genre-blending Nope, crafting the most action-packed UFO movie I have ever seen. Usually, this genre is 90% atmosphere and breathtaking night sky images. Nope is loud, intense, and chaotic. The horror lands like a sucker punch to the gut, once you piece together what's been going in the sky. In signature form, Peele tackles society's need for spectacle and a 15 minutes of fame, but there's no one right interpretation. Peele leaves the meaning fuzzy, leaving room for many discussions to come. 

To watch it: Nope is available to rent on VOD channels. Read my full review

8. The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson 

Nostalgic, character-driven, emotionally intense, moody, stranger danger picture

What if you were kept prisoner in a bunker, with a killer's victims your only company?

Scott Derrickson's The Black Phone is a rare gem. This mid-budget horror film from the reputable Blumhouse Productions delivers on all cylinders. It's 1978 in a small town near Denver, Colorado, and children are going missing – specifically teenage boys. When the quiet Finney is kidnapped by The Grabber and locked in a basement with no means of escape, a disconnected landline mysteriously allows him to speak to the voices of the Grabber's previous victims. With a cast mostly made of competent child actors, Derrickson and company build a taut, engaging thriller that builds to a satisfying and surprising climax.

To watch it: The Black Phone is now streaming on Peacock. Read my full review

7. The Cursed, directed by Sean Ellis

Atmospheric, brooding, suspenseful, richly detailed, gothic creature feature

What if daddy's bad deeds came to haunt you?

Supernatural monster movies live again under the competent direction of Sean Ellis with The Cursed. After European land owners commit an unspeakable evil towards a Romani tribe with an original claim to the land, a curse is laid upon the sacred ground and the men responsible for the atrocity that occurred. But their children become the true victims. Atmospheric storytelling had me curled up in the fetal position during this gothic horror. Sean Ellis takes his time building the terror we feel towards the beast. Lighting and costume choices beautifully capture the time period. The Cursed is perfect for those who prefer dread to gore.

To watch it: The Cursed is streaming on Hulu.

6. The Innocents, directed by Eskil Vogt 

Disturbing, strong sense of place, bleak, paranormal bad seed tale

What if the X-Men were once young kids in a high-rise apartment building?

In this exceptionally well-made low budget thriller, four kids come into their supernatural abilities while living in the same apartment complex. Set during Nordic summer, the horror comes out in unexpected ways. The kids begin to test their limits and the force they can exert over others. Each of them feels powerless and isolated for different reasons. And a child in pain with unleashed abilities can be a dangerous thing indeed.

Stories where humans test the limits of their powers are nothing new. The X-Men franchise and the film Chronicle are well-known examples where some choose to do good and evil with the discovery. But it's ten times more uncomfortable seeing children taking on these roles. And it's a testament to the actors that even as we see them doing disgusting things, we can find some empathy when they show vulnerability. Like The Black Phone, this film includes impressive child actors. Unlike The Black Phone, the child characters in The Innocents come close to looking like monsters at moments. Trigger warning: violence towards animals on screen. 

To watch it: The Innocents is available to watch on Shudder and many streaming services

5. Deadstream, directed by Joseph and Vanessa Winter 

Darkly humorous, creepy, unconventional, terrifying haunted house story

What if Jackass visited a haunted house?

This creepylicious found footage horror didn't miss a beat. I laughed and also covered myself with blankets to ward off the terror. After an internet personality falls into disgrace, he sets out to win his supporters back by recording an overnight stay in a haunted house. Inventive and experimental, the filmmaker cleverly films the whole thing as if it's a livestream. As the viewers follow along, Shawn Ruddy accidentally disturbs a vengeful spirit. This genuinely terrifying film gets rolling and just doesn't stop. Perfect for a scary movie night with friends, Deadstream brings back the feeling of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity feeling for the digital age.

To watch it: Deadstream can be streamed on Shudder

4. Fresh, directed by Mimi Cave 

Twisted, quirky, gruesome body horror

What if the best date of your life turned out to be a psychopath?

This cautionary body horror features the most endearing psychopath since Hannibal Lecter. Noa is having zero luck on the dating apps meeting Mr. Right so she takes a chance on Steve, a handsome plastic surgeon who chats her up in the produce aisle. After what seems like a perfect date, Noa ignores her more practical friend's advice and accepts Steve's invitation to a weekend getaway. What could go wrong? Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan have sizzling chemistry in this grisly body horror that pokes fun at modern dating conventions, as well as social media culture. If you are tired of "elevated horror" about grief and trauma, Fresh might be the breath of air you need.

To watch it: Fresh can be streamed on Hulu

3. Sissy, directed by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes 

Action-packed, high-drama, amusing, gory, subversive final girl slasher flick

What if you met your childhood bully face-to-face as an adult?

Endlessly fun and gory, this clever subversion of the final girl story feels like Blubber meets Sleepaway Camp. Cecilia is the presence known as @SincerelyCecilia, a mental health influencer who helps over 2K followers feel seen and special. When Cecilia runs into her childhood friend, Emma, it brings up memories both dear and shameful. Cecilia, formerly known as Sissy in her youth, comes face to face with her past and a childhood bullying incident gone wrong. As the weekend progresses, Sissy's carefully crafted veneer of health and self-love begins to crack, and we realize there might be more to Sissy than we first believed. With creative kills, the girls trip turns into a slasher flick that will keep you surprised from start to finish.

To watch it: Sissy can be streamed on Shudder, Roku, and many other streaming services

2. Something in the Dirt, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead 

Creepy, unconventional, multimedia, found footage film

What if you tried to make a DIY movie with the weird guy next door for quick cash?

Surprising and mesmerizing, this genre-defying film mixes the tropes of science fiction, mockumentary, found footage, and true crime into a delicious rabbit hole inside a puzzle box.

Benson and Moorhead made this film with a spare crew of three, and the results are delightful for fans of X-Files type "truth is out there" stories. The lives of Levi and John become intrinsically linked when they decide to investigate the strange paranormal phenomena happening at their L.A. apartment building. Levi and John meet only because they are temporarily neighbors. The men couldn't be more different, but they both enjoy a good smoke and have a natural curiosity about the world. Their good natured banter comes to a halt when some invisible presence fills the apartment with light and lifts a heavy glass ashtray off the ground. Is it a ghost? Is it gravity? Geological anomalies? They decide to investigate together and film their experiments for posterity. If you like films like Primer, Vast of Night, or found footage hybrids, seek out Something in the Dirt

To watch it: Will release in November of 2022; platform unknown

1. Speak No Evil, directed by Christian Tafdrup 

Disturbing, emotionally intense, intensifying, sinister social horror

What if being polite turned deadly?

This jaw-dropping social horror ends with one of the most shocking and brutal endings of all time. After befriending a Dutch couple during a vacation in Italy, Bjorn and Louise, a Danish couple, accept an invitation to that family's home six months after they meet. "It would be impolite not to accept," Bjorn decides. While Louise feels uncomfortable, she can't exactly explain why. 

For most of the film, viewers feel unsettled, but that is easily eclipsed by the absurd and awkward things Bjorn and Louise do to avoid offending their hosts. On the other hand, the Dutch couple, Patrick and Karin, feel no shame. It's only towards the last quarter of the runtime that we, and Bjorn, realize how dire the situation truly is. By then, it's too late, and we can only howl and beg for the ending to come. This masterful film is accompanied by the operatic and mournful score of Sune Køter Kølster. [link interview]

To watch it: Speak No Evil can be streamed on Shudder