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Michael Gingold’s Best Horror Films of 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022 | Opinions, Reviews

While some types of features continued to struggle as the box office recovered from the pandemic this year, horror scored repeatedly with theatrical audiences–though several of the movies on my top 10 (actually, 11) list were smaller indie releases, and a couple of them premiered on Shudder following their festival tours. But whether big or small, fear flicks explored all kinds of interesting and intense avenues in 2022, finding new ways to address classic subjects and ranging from quiet to in-your-face. With the usual determiner that the films saw commercial North American release in ’22 (and the caveat that I haven’t seen a few of the year’s significant titles, like NOPE and THE SADNESS), here are my choices, starting with the very best…

THE INNOCENTS: Creepy kids are a mainstay of horror cinema, but writer/director Eskil Vogt’s film excels because none of the little ones here are evil, exactly. They’re a quartet of children living in a Norwegian apartment complex who realize they have assorted psychic gifts–which none of them are mature enough to handle. These abilities bring out both their kind and cruel sides, and sometimes the attempt to do the former leads to the latter, with Vogt surehandedly developing these conflicts in powerfully dramatic and frightening directions. Huge kudos too to the superb young leads: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf and Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim. (Review)

The rest, in alphabetical order:

ALL THE MOONS: Another excellent child performance this year was seen in Spanish filmmaker Igor Legarreta’s sadly undercelebrated vampire variation. With an expansive canvas yet a deeply personal focus, Legarreta and co-scripter Jon Sagalá follow a young girl (Haizea Carneros) who becomes transformed into an immortal blood-drinker during a late-19th-century war. Through her subsequent experiences with both the best and worst sides of humanity, she is determined to recover her own, and it’s all strikingly filmed and movingly well-acted. It’s now on Shudder, and should be viewed on the biggest screen possible. (Reviewed in RM #205)

BARBARIAN: The trailer made you think it was giving away the whole game, but as it turned out, you hadn’t seen nothin’ yet as writer/director Zach Cregger (of comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know) continuously pulls the rug out from under you. That’s almost literal as Tess (Georgina Campbell) discovers the horrifying secrets under the floors of the Airbnb she’s had the misfortune to rent, and which has an awful history that also encompasses characters played by Bill Skarsgård (IT), Justin Long and Rob Zombie regular Richard Brake. Even now, further details should not be discussed, for those who haven’t experienced this seriously twisty and twisted viewing experience for themselves. (Review)

BODIES BODIES BODIES: There’s been some “It’s not a horror film” discussion surrounding this one, yet even though it functions primarily as a savage and scathing black comedy, it’s got the basic form of a slasher film with some notably nasty moments of violence. As a group of social-media frenemies become embroiled in a murder mystery at an isolated mansion, director Halina Reijn and scripter Sarah DeLappe fully engage you with the question of whosdoingit, while they and their terrific cast (led by Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova) make watching and listening to these ladies (and a couple of not-at-all-gentlemen) a whole lot of bitchy fun, on the way to a killer twist ending. (Review)

THE HARBINGER: Don’t let the fact that this is a COVID-era frightfest put you off; writer/director Andy Mitton deals with pandemic concerns honestly and without exploitation, using the fears we all experienced as a springboard for a nightmarish supernatural drama. Emily Davis and Gabby Beans excel as a woman experiencing debilitating visions of the titular phantom during lockdown, and her best friend who leaves her family bubble to try to help her. Mitton, of THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW and YELLOWBRICKROAD, continues his ascent toward genre prominence with this superb blend of the emotional and the otherworldly. (Review)

HELLBENDER: Also on the rise on the independent genre scene, the Adams Family (Toby Poser, John Adams and their daughter Zelda Adams) followed up their well-received THE DEEPER YOU DIG with a fully engrossing study of a mother/daughter relationship steeped in the occult. Teenage Izzy (Zelda Adams) is anxious to break out of the sheltered backwoods life she lives with her mother (Poser)–and when it turns out she shares her mom’s witchy talents, a new and potentially destructive chapter in her life begins. The two leads’ natural chemistry is supported by first-rate craft that makes us anxious to see what this brood comes up with next. (Review)

RESURRECTION: Following up her standout performance in 2021’s THE NIGHT HOUSE, Rebecca Hall goes to even more disturbing and gripping psychological places here. She rivets your attention as Margaret, a pharmaceutical exec whose well-ordered life is upended by the reappearance of a figure from her (clearly quite troubled) past. Tim Roth is equally strong as a man who doesn’t have to do anything but simply show up to send Margaret into a tailspin–one of the most passive yet, as the nature of their backstory and his manipulation become apparent, creepiest villains in years. And hold onto your seat when the tension built by writer/director Andrew Semans finally explodes… (Review)

SPEAK NO EVIL: The villainy in this Danish psychothriller is also beneath the surface, only dropping hints that the protagonists ignore at their peril. They’re a mom, dad and young daughter who travel to visit another family they’ve only been briefly acquainted with, and the parents don’t want to upset their hosts by questioning some dubious behavior on the latter’s part. Director Christian Tafdrup plays out the script he wrote with his brother Mads as a very gradual downward spiral that grips you throughout as it inexorably reveals just how horrible a situation the trio have gotten themselves into. (Review)

WATCHER: IT FOLLOWS’ Maika Monroe gets an equally unnerving showcase in which she may only think she’s being followed, and that question is at the heart of the suspense in Chloe Okuno’s first feature. Joining her husband as he takes a job in Bucharest, Monroe’s Julia is unnerved both in her new apartment (by an apparent peeper across the way) and on the streets, while her concerns are dismissed by the men around her. WATCHER keeps you guessing and on Julia’s side throughout, and takes its story and character study to a shivery conclusion. (Review)

X/PEARL: There’s really no way to favor one of Ti West’s double shot over the other: His jolting and gritty homage to down-and-dirty ’70s horror–and the porn industry that existed alongside it–or the brightly colored yet grisly and galvanizing character study that harks back to older traditions? Mia Goth’s remarkable double act in X, or her fully felt portrait of obsessive aspiration in PEARL? Let’s just take them as halves of a frightening and fascinating whole, and very much look forward to the completion of West and Goth’s trilogy with next year’s MAXXXINE. (X review) (PEARL review)

The top 10 in my long list of runners-up are THE BLACK PHONE, CHUCK STEEL: NIGHT OF THE TRAMPIRES, CRIMES OF THE FUTURE, GLORIOUS, HATCHING, MEN, PIGGY, PREY, SCREAM and SLAPFACE. And if anyone’s wondering about my choice for the worst of 2022, I’ll just direct you here…

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and in addition to his work for RUE MORGUE, he has been a longtime writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. He has also written for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM,, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM, MOVIEMAKER and others. He is the author of the AD NAUSEAM books (1984 Publishing) and THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press), and he has contributed documentaries, featurettes and liner notes to numerous Blu-rays, including the award-winning feature-length doc TWISTED TALE: THE UNMAKING OF "SPOOKIES" (Vinegar Syndrome).