2022 has been one of the best in memory for horror cinema. From the major-studio offerings to the smallest indies, from quiet and subtle exercises to all-out gorefests, there was high quality all over the fear scene.
Narrowing down a top ten (with the criterion that they received UK theatrical or streaming release in 2022) was a challenge—and is, of course, entirely subjective; there are probably a dozen movies that could tie for 11th place.
Read more: The best movies of 2022
Read more: The best TV shows of 2022
But anyone looking for either a strong, punchy scare or a good, tingly shiver will find a wealth of them among these films - listed in alphabetical order.
All The Moons
In a just world, Spanish filmmaker Igor Legarreta’s variation on vampire themes would by now have garnered a rep similar to Let The Right One In. Saved from mortal injury during a late-19th-century war, a young girl (Haizea Carneros, a revelation) faces a future in which she must subsist on blood and doesn’t age.
As time goes on in this beautifully filmed odyssey, she is exposed to both the best and darkest sides of human nature. This went to Shudder after festival play, and though it begs to be seen on a big screen, its emotional impact comes through in any medium.
All The Moons is streaming on Shudder.
Sorry, Jordan Peele: The year’s best fright feature made by a sketch-comedy veteran was this keep-you-guessing special from Zach Cregger of The Whitest Kids U’ Know troupe. It begins as an update on haunted-house standards for the Airbnb generation, as Tess (Georgina Campbell) discovers her rental already occupied by a guy (IT’s Bill Skarsgård) who may or may not be trustworthy.
And then…well, it would be unfair even now to reveal what happens next, other than to say it goes into seriously creepy and consistently surprising places.
Barbarian is streaming on Disney+ from 14 December.
The Black Phone
Sinister writer/director Scott Derrickson, co-scripter C. Robert Cargill and star Ethan Hawke return to suburbia with horrific corruption festering under its surface, casting Hawke as the malefactor this time. Adapting Joe Hill’s short story, this team introduces us to young siblings Finney and Gwen (Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, both excellent), whose 1978 suburban world feels lived-in and real.
Read more: Ten under-appreciated horror films
That makes the perils they face, thanks to Hawke’s twisted kidnapper The Grabber, all the more impactful, and The Black Phone is less a rock-’em-shock-’em show than a consistently tense story of survival under both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.
The Black Phone is streaming on PVOD.
Bodies Bodies Bodies
A very of-the-moment twist on slasher-film tropes, which manages the not inconsiderable trick of keeping you engaged with a group of would-be victims you’d never want to hang out with in real life.
Director Halina Reijn and scripter Sarah DeLappe’s savagely satirical scenario strands a group of social-media vultures at a remote mansion, where a 'hurricane party' becomes a life-or-death struggle that turns the frenemies violently against each other as the body body body count mounts. Vivid characterisations and deliciously vituperative dialogue make for a scathing and startling good time.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is streaming on PVOD.
The grassroots filmmaking team known as the Adams Family—Toby Poser, John Adams and their daughter Zelda Adams—continue their rise toward mainstream breakout with this rural saga of witchcraft and domestic unrest.
Poser and Zelda Adams play backwoods dwellers Mother and her teen daughter Izzy, whose relationship becomes tested when the latter wants to see more of the world than the former will allow—and begins demonstrating the same supernatural talents as her mom. It’s a truly grim fairy tale (available on Shudder) that’s as knowing about mother/daughter tensions as it is skilled at scaring us.
Hellbender is streaming on Shudder.
The very best of 2022’s horror crop can be seen as both a new high-water mark for scary-children cinema, and an extremely dark variation on the X-Men-esque superhero origin story. In a Norwegian apartment complex, a few of the local kids discover they have psychic abilities; the problem is that they’re not mature enough to deal with the ramifications—or, in some cases, to resist giving in to the temptation to do wrong with these powers.
Writer/director Eskil Vogt (an Oscar nominee for co-scripting Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World) fashions a deeply chilling chronicle of preteens forced to make moral choices they’re not prepared for, and dealing with potentially deadly gifts they’re ill-equipped to handle.
The Innocents is streaming on Viaplay and PVOD.
Rebecca Hall, horror star? Well, it’s impossible to think of an actor who has delivered two more galvanising recent genre turns than Hall in last year’s The Night House and then Andrew Semans’ excruciating psychological nightmare.
Here, she plays Margaret, a pharmaceutical exec in complete control of her life — until her existence is invaded by an old acquaintance (Tim Roth) with whom she evidently shares a truly perverse history. He doesn’t do anything overtly threatening, but his simple presence is enough to send Margaret into a downward spiral that is grippingly performed and impossible to look away from.
Resurrection is available now on PVOD.
Speak No Evil
Another study of largely passive evil, Danish director Christian Tafdrup’s film (scripted with his brother Mads, and another standout Shudder title) is a slow burn that ultimately sears itself into your psyche. A married couple and their daughter accept an invitation to visit the home of another family, whom they met on vacation; after they arrive, their hosts behave in ways that are occasionally awkward, even vaguely threatening…but they wouldn’t want to seem like ungrateful guests, would they?
Read more: The best gut punch movies
The wages of politeness prove to be harrowing indeed in a movie that expertly plays on our expectations of how all its characters will behave.
Speak No Evil is streaming on Shudder.
Lots of movies shoot in Eastern Europe for financial reasons, but Chloe Okuno’s feature debut takes full advantage of its Bucharest setting to elicit stranger-in-a-strange-land unease. As a woman whose husband’s new job has forced her relocation to the unfamiliar city, It Follows’ Maika Monroe is stalked again—or is she just being paranoid, and overreacting to her new surroundings?
That question, Monroe’s performance and Okuno’s considerable directorial gifts generate nerve-jangling tension.
Watcher is coming to PVOD soon.
After several years away in the wilds of television, Ti West (The House of the Devil) returned to features with another homage to ’70s horror that also explores its kinship to adult filmmaking. When a group of wannabe pornsters take up residence on an elderly Texas couple’s property, they find themselves subject to penetrations they never expected, and West finds numerous ways to explore real and reel sexual relations while shocking us hard at the same time.
It’s highlighted by a memorable dual performance by Mia Goth—and just wait till you see the writer/director and star’s prequel Pearl, hitting UK cinemas in early ’23.
X is streaming on Prime Video.
Watch a trailer for X