What scares you? As the world grows seemingly more horrific and confounding, horror movies have to shift and adjust. This has always been the case with the genre — the best horror often reflects the time period in which it was created. But how can horror possibly react to our ever-shifting, off-kilter, lie-heavy, highly deranged current era? By trying various things, of course. Variety is the name of the game when looking at the best horror movies of 2022, perhaps because it's impossible to reflect just one element in the here and now. Trauma has become a kind of buzzword for the genre, with certain films growing lazy in how they try to explain scary elements away as reflections of traumatic experiences. That's still prevalent in the horror films of 2022, and indeed, a few films that follow that format are on this list. 

But an almost interceptable shift feels as if it's taken place, with horror moving forward in exciting new ways — while recalling the past, of course. 2022 brought back the splatter flick. It gave us an out-of-left-field franchise sequel. It dealt with identity, and memory, and regret. Mind games, insanity, ghosts, creatures from outer worlds, and just plain old horrific human beings populate this landscape. The results leave us haunted, and thrilled, and, yes, horrified. Horror is perhaps the most fluid genre because what scares you might not scare someone else — and vice versa. That's the beauty of it all. What works for one person need not have to work for another. There's enough room in this haunted house for everyone. Our fears are always growing and shrinking. They expand, they contract, they leave us restless. When the night comes rolling in, and the darkness takes hold, you're always left with one question: what scares you? 

These are the best horror movies of 2022. 

25. Speak No Evil

As the saying goes, hell is other people, and that's certainly true for the ghastly "Speak No Evil." I love the horror genre with my whole heart, but sometimes a film comes along that I never, ever want to see again. That's the case with "Speak No Evil," a movie so bleak and cruel that it's bound to infuriate some. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everyone, especially someone looking for a cheap, quick scare. But if you're thirsting for something existentially dreadful, look no further. 

While on vacation, Danish couple Bjørn and Louise meet Patrick and Karin, a Dutch couple, who are outwardly friendly. Maybe too friendly. So friendly, in fact, that they invite Bjørn and Louise and the couple's daughter, Agnes, to spend the weekend with them. Now, the social reject that I am, I would quickly say "Thanks, but no thanks!" to this entire idea. Spend the weekend with people I barely know? Not my cup of tea. But Bjørn and Louise go along with the idea. Almost immediately things grow awkward and the vibe grows increasingly threatening, and yet Bjørn and Louise don't want to offend their hosts and keep putting up with Patrick and Karin's strange behavior. To say more would ruin the gut-punch that is the film's final minutes, but just know that "Speak No Evil" is not for the squeamish. It's not even that the finale is particularly gory. It's just so relentlessly cruel and nasty that those unprepared for it are in for quite a shock. 

24. Men

Alex Garland's "Men" is an eerie, confounding experiment; a journey into the horrors of nature, loss, abuse, and memory. Jessie Buckley plays a recently widowed woman who heads out to the countryside for some R&R. As it so happens, every man in the town where she's staying (and there appear to only be men in town) looks strangely similar. That's because they're all played by Rory Kinnear, who turns in a series of ominous performances as the various, titular men. Every male figure seems ready to completely gaslight Buckley's character, or at the very least look down on her, to the point where she begins to grow both frustrated and slightly mad — before growing terrified. Can she tell all the men she encounters are the same? Garland's script deliberately doesn't say — is it all in her head, or ours? Is the terror real, or the product of guilt, grief, and a warped mental state? There are no real answers here, just scenes that induce dread as much as they raise questions. 

23. Orphan: First Kill

A prequel to "Orphan" shouldn't work. Especially since Isabelle Fuhrman, who was a child when the first film was made, is back playing a child again even though she's now 25. And yet ... "Orphan: First Kill" works, and works well. Part of that is because of Fuhrman, who is once again all-in on playing Esther, a homicidal adult who happens to look like a kid. It would've been pretty easy for this prequel to follow the same format as the original: Esther gets adopted by a family who thinks she's a child, and then she wreaks havoc. And indeed, at first blush, that's what "First Kill" seems like it's going to be. And then the film pulls the rug out from under you and reveals that Esther isn't the only homicidal character lurking around this time. While never as deliriously stylish as the original film, "First Kill" takes a seemingly silly idea and spins it into gold. 

22. The Black Phone

"The Black Phone" has some major inconsistencies — the "rules" for the supernatural events within are never clearly established and seem to change from scene to scene in order to suit the plot. But if you can get beyond that, Scott Derrickson's Joe Hill adaptation boasts some great tense moments and a highly memorable performance from Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays the Grabber, a masked murderer who abducts children and locks them in his creepy basement. When the kidnapper's latest victim (Mason Thames) begins to receive messages from the ghosts of the Grabber's victims, he begins planning an escape. While the film is never as scary as it should be, Hawke's performance is suitably creepy, creating a memorable horror movie villain complete with a spooky mask. 

21. The Innocents

I'm not very fond of children. I know that's the type of statement that usually gets the side-eye, but I must be honest: kids bug me. And "The Innocents" is the type of film that makes me feel justified because it's about one very bad kid. The film follows a group of kids, specifically Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) and Ben (Sam Ashraf) as they discover they have supernatural powers. Unfortunately, Ben, an abused kid, has a less-than-happy outlook on life and uses his powers in terrible ways. The overall atmosphere, with creepy kids and their supernatural abilities, makes "The Innocents" feel like a Nordic Stephen King tale, where the innocence of childhood is corrupted by forces of malevolence. Like "Speak No Evil," this is not an easy watch or something for a casual moviegoer looking for something simple and scary. But those willing to get on the film's ominous wavelength will be treated to a tale of unnatural children unleashed. 

20. Scream

The first "Scream" film without the late, great Wes Craven could've gone very wrong. But Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's sequel/reboot/revival takes what made Craven's series so special and runs with it. Once again, Ghost Face is stalking the hapless folks of Woodsboro. And while there are a group of fresh-faced victims to fall under the knife, O.G. players Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette are back, too. Since pop culture is ingrained into the series, this latest entry tackles toxic fandom, with the "fandom" being devoted to the real-life killings that exist within the world of the franchise. What if the type of toxic fanboy who won't shut up about "The Last Jedi" ruining his childhood suddenly donned a mask and took up a weapon? Terrifying, right? 

19. Pearl

Two words: Mia Goth. Goth had quite a year in horror, pulling double duty in "X" and its prequel "Pearl." And while "X" is the far superior film (more on that later), "Pearl" sings almost entirely due to Goth's wildly committed performance. In other words, if she wasn't in the movie it would not really be worth talking about. But Goth is so good here that it raises the film to a whole other level. She plays Pearl, a lonely young woman living in America during World War I. All she dreams about is being a star — and finding love. But she can't seem to have either, and that means people are bound to incur her bloody wrath. There's a moment late in the film where Goth gives a lengthy monologue, with the camera never cutting away as she delves into how lonely and confused her character is. It's a tour de force performance that has to be seen to be believed. 

18. Hellbender

Written, directed, and starring the trio of John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser, "Hellbender" is the type of DIY horror flick that again proves you don't need a massive budget or even major studio backing to create something special. Zelda Adams is Izzy, a teenager who lives a secluded existence in the woods with her mother (Toby Poser). But when Izzy meets another teen and tries to form a friendship, the witchy nature of her family is slowly revealed. It's a simple setup rendered with style and grit and grace, created with scenes full of improvisation, and ultimately a wonderful showcase for the filmmaking collective/family at the center of it all. 

17. Resurrection

Rebecca Hall is one of the best actors working right now, and she gives another jaw-dropping performance in "Resurrection," Andrew Semans' immensely uncomfortable slow-burn about a woman pushed to the brink. Hall plays a successful woman who lives with her college-bound daughter. She's cold and collected, seemingly in control of herself. And then one day she spots a man, played by Tim Roth. The very sight of this man fills her with dread, and we soon learn why: they were once in an extremely abusive relationship, and now he's returned. Hall wants nothing more than for Roth's character to go away, but that doesn't seem likely, and so the two enter into a deranged mind game, with Hall's character growing more desperate with each passing day. Where's this all going? Somewhere completely unexpected and highly disturbing. 

16. A Wounded Fawn

Hallucinations, murder, and ancient Greek art combine to form "A Wounded Fawn," Travis Stevens' horror film about female rage channeled into the supernatural. A museum curator (Sarah Lind) goes away for the weekend with her new boyfriend, a seemingly nice guy played by Josh Ruben. The audience, however, knows that Ruben is a serial killer, and as the weekend begins, there are early signs that something is very wrong here. But this isn't a simple serial killer thriller, oh no. Instead, Stevens and company craft something stranger, where Ruben's character is tormented by furies and visions of masked, abstract beings that lurk in the dark before making themselves known. 

15. We're All Going to the World's Fair

Loneliness and isolation are the horrors that lurk in "We're All Going to the World's Fair," Jane Schoenbrun's unique low-key, slow-burn dream-nightmare. Anna Cobb is Casey, a teen who plays something called the "World's Fair Challenge," which is a kind of creepypasta game. Soon, Casey begins chatting with a stranger online who warns her she's in danger — specifically because the game has "changed" her in some way. None of this forms your typical horror movie, but "We're All Going to the World's Fair" sticks with you; haunts you, even. It plays like a kind of strange, shapeless dream, and the sense of cosmic loneliness that comes from being so consistently online has rarely been represented as accurately as it is here. 

14. Terrifier 2

Gore, gore, and more gore! That's the name of the game for "Terrifier 2," a surprisingly fun splatter sequel that improves on the first film in every single way. The original "Terrifier" is, in my humble opinion, almost unwatchable. So I wasn't exactly eager for a sequel, but, surprise, surprise — the sequel is a blast. Once again, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) is up to his old tricks — namely, horribly murdering people. But now he's got an adversary, a teen girl (Lauren LaVera) with some sort of mental connection with the killer clown. "Terrifier 2" is still rough around the edges, featuring some admittedly poor acting. But the film has such a zest for its over-the-top splatter-punk vibe that it's easy to get swept up in it all, even as the film clocks in at well over two hours. 

13. Saloum

The Senegalese film "Saloum" is cool from the jump, loaded with style and confidence on a minimum budget. The story concerns a group of mercenaries hired to transport a drug lord. But nothing goes according to plan, and the group is forced to land their leaking plane in a remote region — where something supernatural awaits. Slick as hell and featuring more life and energy than most modern stuff regurgitated by Hollywood, "Saloum" is probably the coolest movie on this list, and a great showcase for the talents of director Jean Luc Herbulot (who also co-wrote, along with producer Pamela Diop). 

12. Smile

"Smile" is a surprisingly nasty studio horror pic, one filled with shocking gore and a frequently nihilistic tone. And it was also a huge hit, which means audiences are clamoring for mean, original horror. Although "original" might not be the best word to use for "Smile" since it borrows heavily from films that came before it, especially "The Ring." Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin) plays a doctor who witnesses one of her patients die — violently — by suicide. Now she's being haunted by visions of people grinning at her — is it all in her head, triggered by trauma? Or is it a malevolent supernatural force? Thankfully, "Smile" doesn't try to cheat not give us an answer — we know there's a supernatural force at work here, and we know that our lead is all but doomed unless she can work something out, fast. This gives the film a ticking-clock atmosphere — time is running out, and evil is getting closer with every tick of the second hand. 

11. Prey

The "Predator" series has had its ups and downs, but Dan Trachtenberg's "Prey" gets things back to basics. Jumping back in time to the 1700s, "Prey" pits one of those hunt-loving Predator aliens against Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche who wants to prove she's just as tough a warrior as her more beloved brother. Rather than clutter things up with more mythology, Trachtenberg's approach (with screenwriter Patrick Aison) is lean and mean. The Predator comes to earth, starts killing, and then butts up against a fighter who gives it a run for its alien money (or spacebucks, if you will). What elevates that simple set-up is Midthunder's instantly likable performance as our lead, coupled with some neat ways the film shows us how a Predator would operate in the past. 

10. Something in the Dirt

Wherever Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead go, I follow. The filmmaking duo is responsible for indie curiosities like "Spring" and "The Endless," movies that a major studio would likely shun even though they're pretty damn great. The latest from the pair is "Something In the Dirt," a funny, strange story about guys who are obsessed with conspiracy theories and doing "research" on Wikipedia and YouTube. Two guys (played by Benson and Moorhead) who live in the same apartment building notice strange phenomena occurring in one of their apartments. Their solution: capture it on film and sell the footage to someone like Netflix. But just what is going on here? What is real, and what is fabricated? And what's causing any of this? The majority of "Something in the Dirt" revolves around Benson and Moorhead's characters sitting around, talking about what sounds like nonsense, and the fact that the filmmaking team makes it all so compelling is more proof of their talents.

9. Crimes of the Future

Surgery is the new sex in "Crimes of the Future," David Cronenberg's hilariously twisted return to feature filmmaking. In the future, pain is all but an afterthought. As a result, people are able to disfigure and modify their bodies without blinking. Meanwhile, a performance artist named Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is growing new, seemingly useless organs in his body — perfect objects to be surgically removed during performance art. Throw in sex, murder, mayhem, children eating plastic, Kristen Stewart acting like a scared, horny rabbit, and a guy named Earman and you have yourself a wild and wacky extravaganza. Lots of critics were cold on this one, but I had an absolute blast — Cronenberg is trying to be funny here, and he succeeds. 

8. Mad God

Phil Tippett's "Mad God" is almost impossible to describe, and I'm not just saying that so I can get out of writing this blurb. The stop-motion nightmare took the legendary FX artist 30 years to complete, and the results are stunning. I don't know if you could accurately say the film has a story, but it follows a character through a hellish underworld where giants are strapped to electric chairs and unnecessary surgeries are abundant. Disgusting, revolting, hypnotic, and oddly beautiful, "Mad God" is artistry at both its finest and most repulsive. 

7. Deadstream

Horror comedy is a very tricky genre, usually because filmmakers lean too heavily into the comedy side of things and forget the scares. Thankfully, "Deadstream" is a reminder of how fun the subgenre can be when done right. Shawn (Joseph Winter), a very annoying YouTuber, has returned after a scandal and plans on spending the night in a supposedly haunted house. You can guess where this is going, right? The house turns out to really be haunted, and Shawn is in deep trouble. It's a very simple setup executed to perfection as Shawn encounters "Evil Dead II"–like mayhem from the supernatural forces that dwell within the house — and beyond. Winter really leans into how annoying his character is, and that can admittedly get a little tiresome. But stick with "Deadstream" and you're in for something special.

6. The Sadness

The splatterpunk mayhem of Rob Jabbaz's "The Sadness" is not going to be for everyone. Indeed, it feels tailor-made to infuriate and disgust people. And it succeeds! Look, I won't sit here and pretend this is some deep work of high art. But there is a deliberate, unique style on display here, as a mysterious illness turns people into crazed homicidal maniacs. This is a film made for gore-hounds; people who grew up consuming the pages of Fangoria and Gorezone; people who love to watch practical make-up effects create traumatic wounds and geysers of gushing blood. The film is also darkly (very darkly) funny in its own way, as it grows increasingly unhinged and disgusting and the considerable body count piles up, and up, and up. 

5. Bones and All

"Bones and All," Luca Guadagnino's film about fine young cannibals, may not seem like a horror movie to the uninitiated. But there's enough blood and guts here to change that opinion. Taylor Russell is a young girl who can't help wanting to eat people — it's a compulsion, and she's not alone. There are "eaters" all over the country, and Russell's character Maren sets out on the road, Jack Kerouac-style, and soon finds Lee (Timothée Chalamet), who is just as hungry as she is. The two fall in love, moving from one location to the next and encountering other cannibals along the way, including Sully (Mark Rylance), a strange man who seems helpful at first ... but eventually shows his true colors. Romantic, swooning, and unapologetically gruesome, "Bones and All" is heartbreaking and beautiful in its own gory way. 

4. X

Ti West's "X" is a sexy, bloody, highly enjoyable slasher. The story follows a crew of amateur filmmakers who head to a secluded farm to shoot a porno film. Unfortunately for them, the old woman who lives on the farm has other ideas. Once again, Mia Goth reigns supreme. Not only does she play Maxine, one of the porn stars, but she's also Pearl, the old woman who starts brutally bumping off the horny visitors. What's so refreshing about "X" is that it's fun. Yes, it's violent and nasty, but it's entertaining in ways a lot of modern horror avoids. There's no talk of trauma here; there's no slow-burn build-up. It's just a fun, old-school horror flick, and highly rewatchable, to boot. Put Mia Goth in all the movies. 

3. Halloween Ends

David Gordon Green's "Halloween" reboot trilogy could've ended with the same old, same old — Michael Myers stalking people through Haddonfield. Indeed, it seems like that's exactly what people wanted. But here's the thing: we already have a ton of movies with that exact plot. Wouldn't it be nice to try something ... different? And that's what Green does here in "Halloween Ends," crafting a film where evil is contagious, spreading like a sickness. Yes, Michael Myers is still around, but the film focuses on a new character — a lonely, shunned guy named Corey (Rohan Campbell) who essentially becomes the Shape's apprentice. And then there's Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), still in search of closure after all these years. And Green gives it to her, while also leaning into the idea that the people of Haddonfield are just as bad as the monster they hate, willing to give in to mob justice because they think they're morally right. All of this swirls about to create a shockingly complex entry in the franchise, and the most interesting "Halloween" sequel since "Halloween III: Season of the Witch." More established horror franchises should be willing to take big swings like this. 

2. Nope

Jordan Peele's absolute spectacle "Nope" is also a tribute to the crew members who work on movies. Not just the obvious people, but the grips, the gofers, the people who set things up and rarely get any credit. Daniel Kaluuya is OJ, the owner of a horse ranch that rents horses out to the movies. OJ becomes aware of something in the skies over his ranch, and his sister Emerald (a movie-stealing Keke Palmer) gets the idea that they should try to capture, on film, whatever it is. But that won't be easy, and the siblings get more than they bargained for, because this isn't some flying saucer. Throw in a storyline about a killer chimp (Gordy innocent) and a dying cinematographer (Michael Wincott) who wants to get the perfect shot of something beyond belief, and you've got one of the best films of the year, horror or otherwise. This is Peele in Spielberg mode, staging a big blockbuster-type scare show full of big laughs and big chills, including one of the scariest scenes of the year — a scene involving an unlucky audience being slowly digested as they hopelessly scream for their lives. 

1. Barbarian

Let me be clear: I think "Nope" is a better movie than "Barbarian." However, I also think "Barbarian" is a better horror movie than "Nope." Get it? Got it? Good. 

A film that felt like it came from nowhere, "Barbarian" is one of the best surprises of the year: A funny, scary, shout-at-the-screen kind of horror pic the likes of which we don't get much of these days (let's change that, shall we?). Writer-director Zach Cregger plays with our expectations and assumptions from the jump, dropping Tess (Georgina Campbell) at an Airbnb that's already been rented. The other renter is Keith (Bill Skarsgård), and everything inside Tess (and probably the audience) tells her that she should get the hell out of there. Instead, she accepts Keith's invitation into the house. "Barbarian" is one of those "the less you know, the better it is" movies, but by now I'm sure you know the deal. Keith isn't a problem — but the basement of the house is. There's someone or something down there, and just when the horror ramps up, Cregger cuts to what feels like an entirely different movie — the story of an actor (Justin Long) who has his career ruined by a rape allegation. What does that have to do with the rented house? Wait and see. "Barbarian" starts off promising and never lets up, unleashing humor and horror while shocking and thrilling us every step of the way. It's the type of horror movie that reminds you why you love horror movies. 

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