2022 has been an outrageously good year for horror cinema.
The variety, complexity and volume of horror movies released this year is truly staggering; a true embarrassment of blood-soaked riches. The crop so impressive that it was tough to leave off a few really great movies (like “The Menu,” opening in November, or David Cronenberg’s guttural “Crimes of the Future”). And we’ve just dipped our toe into October. You know there are going to be a few more gems that will come out in time for Halloween and beyond (including, of course, “Halloween Ends,” the formal conclusion of Jamie Lee Curtis’ time with the franchise). Don’t worry, we’ll be adjusting the list accordingly.
But for now, here are 15 great horror movies from this year (and where you can currently watch them). These movies are so good you’ll want to scream.
10 years after Wes Craven’s underwhelming “Scream 4” (a film that would ultimately be Craven’s last), the iconic slasher franchise returned. It’s true that without Craven, this new “Scream” (reportedly titled, at one point, “Scream Forever”) does feel a little listless. But the filmmaking team of Radio Silence clearly adore the franchise and utilize the legacy characters (played by Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette) well, nimbly mixing them into a narrative full of new, young characters (played by Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega and Jack Quaid, among others) that are being targeted by a fresh Ghostface. It’s a fun ride, with some clever twists, but it also made you miss the visual flourishes Craven brought to the originals. Still, this new “Scream” left an impression; there’ll be a sixth entry coming next year.
“Scream” is streaming on Paramount+.
14. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”
Marketed as Marvel Studios’ first scary movie, which wasn’t entirely true (see below), “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was still enjoyable nonetheless. Under the watchful eye of genre legend Sam Raimi, the MCU sequel did deliver some of the year’s most unforgettably creepy imagery – flying eyeballs, candlelit seances, witches crawling through mirrors, a fight scene where musical notes are thrown like daggers and, best of all, a moment when Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has to possess his own dead body. Once reincarnated, this zombified version of the beloved Sorcerer Supreme wrangles a new cape made of demonic souls. It’s a moment so ludicrous, so absurd, so wonderfully fun that it could have only come from the cracked genius of Sam Raimi. It cast a spell.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is streaming on Disney+.
Dopey trailer aside, “Smile” is smart and effective and occasionally quite scary. A young doctor (Sosie Bacon) has a patient who kills themself in front of her, the patient wearing a very creepy grin on their face. After doing some digging, the young doctor starts to understand that the suicide is part of a larger pattern, connected to that eerie smile. Yes, this is totally a scare-kids-at-the-mall-on-a-Friday-night movie but as such it really does succeed, thanks largely to its grim tone, which channels everything from “The Ring” to “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Smile is now playing exclusively in theaters.
12. “Bodies Bodies Bodies”
We nearly put “Men,” A24’s other buzzy low-budget horror movie on the list. But “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is much more fun, more clever and more now. Essentially a Zoomer whodunnit, with a bunch of oversexed, under-worked young people (among them: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott and Pete Davidson) trapped in a house without electricity during a hurricane. As they get offed, one by one, the tension and the hilarity continue to mount. It’s both a cutting critique and a sly celebration of the current cultural moment, where victims become survivors and generational trauma gets downright deadly. Watch it with the lights off.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is now available to rent on PVOD and will be available to purchase on Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray on Oct. 18
11. “Werewolf by Night”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets spooky. “Werewolf by Night,” a mini-movie/TV special that clocks in just under an hour, follows the title character (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), as he’s drawn to an eerie estate to hunt down a terrifying monster. What do the other hunters want with the creature? And how is he going to get out of this thing alive without them discovering his monstrous secret? Part locked-door mystery, part rousing Marvel adventure, it’s a monster mash that turns into a graveyard smash (obviously). Director Michael Giacchino, filming in black-and-white and amping up the terror considerably, makes the MCU’s first true foray into horror a blood-soaked good time. It’s enough to make you want several more specials starring Werewolf by Night and any other Marvel monster Giacchino wants to throw his way.
“Werewolf by Night” will be streaming exclusively on Disney+ on Oct. 7.
10. “Orphan: First Kill”
What an unexpected hoot. The original “Orphan,” produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by future Hollywood heavyweight Jaume Collet-Serra, was released by Warner Bros. way back in 2009. Now, more than a decade later and in partnership with a new studio (Paramount), the prequel is finally here. For a while “Orphan: First Kill” hums along as you’d imagine. But there’s a twist a little before the halfway mark that is so bonkers that it sends the entire movie veering wildly off-course and turns the movie into a new, utterly outrageous outré horror classic. (Honestly, I prefer this to the similarly gonzo “Malignant.”) Released so inauspiciously that it was easy to miss, if you haven’t seen “Orphan: First Kill,” it’s essential Halloween viewing.
“Orphan: First Kill” is streaming on Paramount+.
Various studios have attempted a “Hellraiser” remake since at least 2006, both with and without the blessing or involvement of original director (and author) Clive Barker. Finally, a new entry in the beloved horror franchise is here. And it was very much worth the wait. Instead of a straight remake of the 1987 original (which spawned more than a half-dozen follow-ups of varying quality), “Hellraiser” is a new story set within the world Barker established. The puzzle box is there, as are the Cenobites (some are new, some are familiar). And of course, Pinhead, the interdimensional ghoul with an addiction to pain, lords over all of it. (This time the character is played by the great Jamie Clayton from the Wachowskis’ “Sense8.”) Directed by David Bruckner and written by his “Night House” collaborators Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, this new “Hellraiser” follows the themes laid out by Barker (addiction, pain, trauma from the past) while contemporizing the setting. The result feels like a welcome addition to the franchise and hopefully the start of an entirely new, blood-soaked saga.
“Hellraiser” is streaming on Hulu on Oct. 7.
Yes, most reboots are generally terrible; cynical and devoid of original ideas. But every once in a while there is one like “Prey” that is so good, so full of imagination and excitement, that it’s impossible to write off the exercise of the Hollywood reboot as totally unworthy. “Prey” is a prequel to the mainline “Predator” franchise, this time set in 1719 and following a young Comanche (Amber Midthunder) as she faces off against an early version of the Predator we know and love. Director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) combines gorgeously choreographed, genuinely frightening, very bloody set pieces with a lovely coming-of-age story of a young girl who wants to prove herself … and save her entire village. (Watch as the Predator massacres a group of vile fur traders.) This is easily the best “Predator” movie since the original, one that, after years of halfhearted spin-offs and sequels, makes you excited about the franchise once again.
“Prey” is streaming on Hulu.
One of the breakouts of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Resurrection” stars Rebecca Hall as a hardworking single mother who one day is confronted by a very literal ghost from her past. That ghost is Tim Roth, who plays a controlling older man that she had an affair with years before and who committed an unspeakably gruesome act. His return into her life leads to the rest of her existence crumbling; her relationship with her daughter becomes frayed and her work suffers. But how much of the story of their relationship is true? And how much of it is just a grim fairy tale? The movie, which was happy to exist in the more psychological horror space (thanks largely to the note-perfect performance from Hall), explodes into body horror with its unforgettable, very gooey climax. What was real? What was imagined? And what does it all mean? These are just a few of the questions you’ll be pondering after the provocative “Resurrection” wraps up.
“Resurrection” is streaming on Shudder starting Oct. 28.
6. “You Won’t Be Alone”
Another Sundance breakout, this one is somehow even odder than “Resurrection.” “You Won’t Be Alone,” from Macedonian Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski, concerns a young woman in 19th century Macedonia who is turned into a shapeshifting creature by a witch. The young girl assumes different forms and inhabits various peoples’ lives. (The movie takes on the sensation and shape of an anthology film sometimes as opposed to a straight linear narrative.) And as the movie trudges along, it casts a spell all its own on you. The movie is ultimately about what it means to be human and how hard that existence is. With a naturalistic style and cameo from genre legend Noomi Rapace, it is indelible and singular (its closest relative is probably Robert Eggers’ “The Witch”). If you’re looking for something this Halloween that is as scary as it is heartfelt, then this is the movie for you.
“You Won’t Be Alone” is available to rent or own on PVOD.
And yet another Sundance Film Festival favorite! “Watcher,” written and directed by Chloe Okuno (who, fun fact, was the original filmmaker chosen for “Bodies Bodies Bodies”) follows a young American girl named Julia (modern day scream queen Maika Monroe) who moves to Bucharest with her husband (Karl Glusman). While staying in their new apartment, she becomes convinced that a man across the way (Burn Gorman) is responsible for a string of violent murders across the city. Surprise surprise, nobody believes her. As Julia’s quest intensifies, Okuno ratches up the tension to an almost unbearable degree, until it reaches its frenzied conclusion. Expertly directed, “Watcher” feels like a throwback to Brian De Palma’s 1980s output, but with a decidedly feminist bent. If that sounds like the best movie ever, you’re in luck, because “Watcher” really is that good.
“Watcher” is streaming on Shudder and AMC+.
This one is a little bit of a cheat, because “Sick” has yet to secure distribution. (It’s a Miramax production.) But it’s one of the best horror movies of the year and it needs to get out there in the world, so we’re putting it here to try and raise some awareness. “Sick” is a COVID slasher movie. That’s pretty much the long and the short of it. In April 2020, college students Parker (Gideon Adlon, who has sisters who have appeared in “Hellraiser” and “Scream”) and Miri (Bethlehem Million) quarantine in Parker’s parents’ lake house. While there, they are stalked by a sadistic masked killer. That’s it! (Also to say anything else would be criminal.) Co-written by Kevin Williamson, the man who wrote the original “Scream,” and directed by John Hyams, whose skills as an action filmmaker cannot be overstated, “Sick” is a whole lot of fun. Maybe it’s the proximity to the pandemic that are making potential buyers squeamish but really, it doesn’t get much better than “Sick.”
3. “X” / “Pearl”
When “X” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival this spring, it was presented with a bonus: a preview for “Pearl,” an already-shot follow-up movie, filmed in secret and revealed, for the first time, to the Austin audience. Whereas “X” took its cues from exploitation movies of the 1970s, following a group of plucky pornographers (including Kid Cudi, Brittany Snow and Mia Goth) as they are offed, one by one, by an embittered old woman named Pearl (also Mia Goth), “Pearl” was a sweeping Technicolor melodrama that investigated Pearl’s murderous origins (Goth was back, short the old lady make-up). It was a gambit but one that paid off. Independently, these movies are terrific, with writer/director Ti West showing just how skilled a filmmaker he had become and offering sympathetic portrayals of what could have been cartoonish villains. (Also the idea that each movie takes a look at a sea change for film gives it another wonderful layer.) But taken together, the two films improve and deepen each other. It’s less about spotting the Easter eggs than it is about wholly giving into this world. Bring on part three (“MaXXXine”), coming next year.
“Pearl” is now playing in theaters and “X” is available to rent on PVOD.
2. “Bones and All”
“Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino returns to horror after his painterly 2018 remake of “Suspiria.” This time, instead of witches, he’s focusing his attention on two star-crossed lovers (Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet) who embark on an odyssey across Reagan-era America. The twist is that they’re both “eaters;” cannibals that crave human flesh. That turns what could have been a picaresque coming-of-age story into a kind of slow burn, killers-on-the-run narrative with supernatural flourishes, equal parts “Badlands” and “Near Dark.” It’s an utterly spellbinding, deeply emotional experience and the young stars carry so much of the movie’s elemental power – deep down they’re just screwed up kids with something very wrong with them. (Guadagnino, coming off of his HBO series “We Are Who We Are,” is keenly observant.) “Bones and All” will not be for everyone – some will find it sluggish, while others, sensitive to the extreme violence, will deem it stomach-churning – but for me it’s a towering achievement, full of life and vitality. (Also the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the perfectly-picked ‘80s needle drops are just outstanding.) At one point a character says, “There’s life before bones and all and there’s life after.” I agree.
“Bones and All” opens in theaters on Nov. 23.
With “Nope,” writer/director Jordan Peele set out to make “the great American UFO movie.” He did that – and then some. Ostensibly the story of a brother and sister (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, flawless) who inherit their family’s horse ranch following their father’s mysterious death and become terrorized by something lurking in the sky, “Nope” is so much more. It’s a movie about the cost of indulging in spectacle; about mankind’s relationship with animals and other marginalized, exploited groups; a classic movie-about-moviemaking; a revisionist western; a commentary on our incessant need to document our daily lives (including what lurks above); and a large-scale sci-fi extravaganza, splitting the difference between “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” And that’s only part of what makes “Nope” so special. In the way that Peele stages sequences, whether it’s the way a UFO eerily hovers above a farmhouse or the murderous attack by a killer chimp, he has upped his game as a director and, just three movies in, cemented his place as one of the most accomplished and exciting filmmakers working today. (This is to say nothing of how well he works with the actors and how great their performances are as a result.) There are mysteries that “Nope” still linger (including many sequences alluded to in early marketing materials) but that’s part of the gift of his movies – you can discuss and dissect them long after you’ve left the theater (or turned off the app). “Nope” rules.
“Nope” is still playing in some theaters, is available to rent on PVOD and will be released on Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray on Oct. 25.