By Naomi Roper
2022 has been a stellar year for horror films providing us with a raft of delights ranging from big-ticket horror franchises to small independent films that packed a hell of a punch.
Below is a list of The Geek Goddesses’ top twenty favourite horror movies of the year. But before that some honourable mentions:
Watcher – Maika Monroe as an imperilled Hitchcock blonde stalked by a terrifying Burn Gorman. Available on Shudder US
Huesera – moving horror about the terror and alienation of pregnancy.
Matriarch – camp as Christmas British folk horror with some killer lines. Available on Hulu in the US and Disney + in the UK
V/H/S 99 – a mixed bag but Ozzy’s Dungeon is instantly iconic and To Hell and Back is a delight. Available on Shudder.
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies – The theme of “Gen Xers are dopey, self-obsessed narcissists” is a little weak and Lee Pace and Pete Davidson are rather wasted but the delightful Rachel Sennott runs away with the whole shebang without even trying.
Crimes of the Future – loved Viggo (even if his character was a snitch) and whatever Kristin Stewart was doing. The last scene is beautiful – shame the rest of the movie didn’t live up to it.
Violent Night – Die Hard except John McClane is Santa Claus. David Harbour guarantees his place amongst Christmas re-watches forever more as a hot Santa who murders criminals with a hammer.
20 – The Elderly
Sci-fi-tinged horror as the elderly residents of a district in Spain start to behave very strangely during a heat wave. Dread-inducing and suitably gnarly with flashes of unexpected shocking violence. Directors Raul Cezero and Fernando Gonzalez Gomez stoke the tension to boiling point. Unsettling.
We saw The Elderly at Celluloid Screams.
Inuit girls fight off an alien invasion in this joyous movie directed with immense verve by Nyla Innuksuk. The acting is a little variable but the lack of polish makes the movie even more endearing. Fun practical effects and kick-ass girls what more could you want?
Slash/Back is now airing on Shudder and we saw it first at Soho Horror Fest.
18 – The Ghastly Brothers
Delightful family-friendly ghost story as a young girl starting at a new school becomes aware that her school friends are haunted by (cute) demons. Cue ghostbusting duo the bumbling Schimm brothers to the rescue. Michael Van Ostade’s delightful starter horror is incredibly charming and filled with adorable ghost creations like the Grouch- a ghost couch which terrorises a local branch of Ikea and munches on security guards. At 105 minutes it could do with tightening and one of the kids is an extended pee joke but as horror movies for kids go this is right up there with the likes of the Ghostbusters franchise.
We watched The Ghastly Brothers at Soho Horror Fest
17 – The Visitor from the Future
Timey wimey Gallic sci-fi as a man from the future travels back in time to prevent a terrible environmental catastrophe. Has one of the funniest cold opens I’ve ever seen.
Quirky, clever and surprisingly heartfelt Francois Descraques’ sci-fi opus is a delightful surprise.
We watched The Visitor from the Future at Frightfest.
16 – All Eyes
A podcast host falls spectacularly from grace when his podcast about paranormal events causes an enthusiastic listener to harm his girlfriend believing that she’s an evil entity.
Searching for a story to redeem himself he finds a lead in his box of tips which brings him to an eccentric farmer who claims to have a monster living in the woods near his home. Part Lovecraftian horror, part love story as the eccentric Don (Ben Hall) grieves the loss of his wife. Nick Ballard is fun as the douchey host in way over his head. At one point this turns into Home Alone on steroids. A little gem.
We saw All Eyes as part of SoHome Virtual Festival.
15 – Megalomaniac
Megalomaniac usually wouldn’t be my bag at all. It’s slow and impossibly grimy filled with filthy sets and sullied people. The grime is soul deep and so pervasive you want to take a shower after watching. The sexual violence is coarse and deeply unpleasant. (Heed the warnings – it’s grim). And yet despite all that Megalomaniac is mesmerising. Carrying on the tradition of French extremism (although it’s a Belgian movie) Megalomaniac is bleak, nihilistic and shockingly violent. Are monsters born or created? Writer /director Karim Ovelhaj looks at the nature versus nurture question with a dispassionate eye and an air of fatalism. Martha (Eline Schumacher acting her heart out) is the daughter of a serial killer, the sister of a serial killer and a desperately lonely, sad, mentally ill soul who is raped and humiliated by her employer’s brothers while he pretends not to notice. Martha never stood a chance and it is both awful and hypnotic watching her come to terms with who she is. The final 15 minutes is oddly beautiful in a deeply horrible way.
We saw Megalomaniac at Soho Horror Fest and Celluloid Screams. It has been acquired by Dark Star Pictures in the US for North American release in 2023.
14 – Scream
Yes Ghostface’s motivation is abject nonsense (but that’s true of all of the films after the first two) and I’m iffy on ghost Billy but a certain death made me sob and Radio Silence direct with real verve. Jenny Ortega acquits herself well (a banner year for her!) and Melissa Barrera is fantastic. Looking forward to Ghostface takes Manhattan!
Scream is streaming on Paramount Plus.
13 – The Leech
Are you looking for a super horny Christmas movie? Then look no further, my friends. Eric Pennycoff’s dark, sexy. nasty little Christmas number shows that no good deed goes unpunished as a priest (Graham Skipper – excellent and frankly hot as hell) takes in a vagrant Terry (Jeremy Gardner) and his girlfriend Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke) over the holiday season only to watch his life come apart spectacularly. Superb.
12 – Torn Hearts
Brea Grant (of 12 Hour Shift fame) directs another stone-cold banger. Torn Hearts is pure Southern gothic as two wannabe country music stars Jordan (Abbey Quinn) and Leigh (Alexis Lemire)blag their way into the home of legendary country singer and recluse Harper Dutch (Katey Segal – clearly having the time of her life). Harper’s sister and the other half of her country duo tragically died years before leaving Harper to shut herself away like a particularly glam Miss Haversham. Jordan and Leigh have dreams of making it big and hope that recording a track with Harper will kick-start their path to fame. A fine example of Hagsploitation (Harper is batshit from minute one) Torn Hearts is luridly, gloriously camp. The ending (which looks at male exploitation of the creative efforts of women) is infuriating.
We saw Torn Hearts at Frightfest and it is now streaming.
Deeply affecting look at a man coping with the strains of a bipolar mother, a terrible boss and an unusual ailment which results in a breakdown. Zach Villa gives the genre performance of the year as Zach trying to find his way in the midst of a mental health crisis. Features the most beautiful, tender, queer love story. Addison Heimann’s beautiful autobiographical movie deserves a very wide audience.
10 – Smile
Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin) makes a solid debut as a harried psychiatrist whose life falls apart when a patient commits suicide in front of her and it becomes clear that a demon has attached itself to her. Smile is a clever mix of It Follows and Fallen and the way the demon manifests by making everyone beam beatifically is remarkably terrifying. Never quite goes as hard as it needs to and leaves a thread hanging about how past trauma possibly marks the victims for the demon. But the SFX is impressive, Kyle Gallner is great as the cop ex-boyfriend and the ending is suitably gnarly.
Smile is streaming on Paramount Plus in the US and available for streaming in the UK.
9 – Barbarian
Impossible to write about without spoiling (this movie should be watched knowing as little as possible about it) Barbarian is a clever puzzle box of a movie as writer/director Zach Cregger’s fiendishly clever plot constantly subverts expectations. Act 1 is a tense two-hander as Tess (Georgina Campbell) and Keith (Bill Skarsgard) discover they have each booked the same Air BNB in a terrible neighbourhood in Detroit. Act 2…well you’ll have to watch and see. Tess needs to read The Gift of Fear – you will be screaming at her for her actions throughout and raging at the racial profiling she suffers as she tries to seek help from the police. Justin Long is the absolute MVP in a gloriously committed performance. The tape measure scene made me howl.
We first saw Barbarian at Frightfest and Celluloid Screams.
Barbarian is now streaming on Disney + in the UK.
8 – Sissy
Never look back people. A social media influencer, Cecelia (Aisha Dee) finds her carefully constructed life coming apart after she is invited to the bachelorette party of her childhood friend Emma (Hannah Barlow who also writes as well as co-directs with Kane Senes). Emma cruelly abandoned Cecelia’s friendship for the vengeful Alex (Emily De Margheriti) who is not best pleased to see Cecelia (or Sissy as she dismissively calls her). As Cecelia unravels bloody mayhem ensues. Clever, caustic and darkly hilarious Sissy is a delight.
Read our previous review of Sissy here.
Sissy is now streaming on Shudder.
7 – Next Exit
The last time I saw Next Exit my friend and I’s seatmate had to ask us if we were OK we were sobbing so very much. In a world in which the existence of life after death has been proven Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli) are on a cross-country race against time to take part in an experiment that will end their lives. Parker and Kohli are absolutely superb (Kohli especially gives a performance which shows he should be considered for the lead in everything). Mali Elfman’s film is part road movie, part deeply romantic look at life, love and the demons we carry with us.
Read our previous review of Next Exit here.
Next Exit is now available for streaming in the US
6 – Pearl
A glossy, colour-saturated, devilish take on The Wizard of Oz as Pearl (Mia Goth in a powerhouse performance) dreams of making it big in Hollywood while coping with the hell of her day-to-day life on her parent’s farm. Pearl’s mother is dour and disapproving, her father a war-ravaged invalid that needs 24-hour care and her husband is away fighting another war. But Pearl knows it’s going to be fine. She’s going to be a star! Stunningly directed by Ti West, Pearl (the unexpected prequel to X) is a love letter to cinema. Goth is spellbinding whether she’s contemplating feeding her father to her alligator or having a meltdown when her first audition doesn’t go her way. Glossy, brutal and camp Pearl is slasher horror as high art.
Pearl is out in the UK in 2023.
5 – Nope
Jordan Peele returns in style writing and directing this fascinating sci-fi/Western mash-up. Literally Cowboy v Aliens, Nope manages to be both pure popcorn-style blockbuster and a deeper treatise on human exploitation. Daniel Kaluuya is great as the old-school animal handler/cowboy who just wants to make a living with minimal fuss. Keke Palmer is pure charisma as his ever-hustling sister. But while Kaluuya gets the single best hero shot of 2022 with his final entrance in this film it is Steven Yeun’s haunted performance that has stayed with me. The tale of Gordy- the chimp who attacks the actors he’s working with is dark even by Jordan Peele’s standards. Yes, Jean Jacket the alien with a taste for human flesh is horrifying but the tale of Gordy is just overwhelmingly sad. Humans exploit everything that they touch. Gordy is plucked from a life among chimps, thrown in front of the cameras for the amusement of others and then pays the ultimate price when he reacts badly when scared. Yeun’s nonchalant re-telling of this horrendous incident to Kaluuya and Palmer is one of the scenes of the year. Ricky Park – a traumatised former child actor who now exploits his own pain and buries his past by pretending to be an old-timey cowboy in a cheesy Western theme park is an utterly fascinating character. Wonderful.
4- Something in the Dirt
Writer/directors/stars Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson return with this beautiful puzzle box of a film. It’s oddly difficult to explain – a faux documentary about two men who witness an odd phenomenon and then document it via footage both real and fake. The film is a mystic treasure hunt taking in sacred geometry, mystical societies and the power of crystals. But really it’s about the nature of truth itself. And friendship. This is a movie about friendships and how they can turn incredibly toxic. Something in the Dirt is laced with an immense sense of melancholy. It’s a beautiful, fragile thing. Moorhead is charming and achingly vulnerable as John, a man whose life has been shaped by a litany of terrible errors. Benson is evangelical and unsettling as Levi the man who is determined to pursue their quest to its bitter conclusion. What truly happens at the end is for you to decide but it will stay with you for a long time.
3 – Prey
It really shouldn’t work. Resurrect the long-ailing Predator franchise by taking a Predator and dropping them in Comanche Nation territory in 1719. On paper, it sounds really terrible- like the drunken ravings of a madman. Yet Prey was the most exhilarating survival horror of the year. Amber Midhunter gave us an action icon for the ages with Naru, the girl who has to fend off a stranded, pissed-off Predator with only her wiles and rudimentary weapons at her disposal (and the support of a great dog). Dan Trachtenberg directs the best-looking horror of the year with stunning cinematography from Jeff Cutter. So many sequences are stone-cold bangers. It is a complete mystery why Disney decided to bury this on Disney + with zero fanfare and then not even allow cinemas to screen it. Prey deserves to be seen on the biggest of screens. Do watch the Comanche dub if you can – it’s the way it was intended to be watched. It’s hidden under the “Extras” tab on Disney +
Prey is streaming on Disney + in the UK
Impossible to choose between the top two so it’s a tie with Deadstream our horror comedy of the year. Directed and written by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter Deadstream features Joseph Winter (pulling triple duty) as Shawn, a douchey, disgraced YouTuber. Desperate to regain his followers (and sponsors) Shawn mounts a comeback special – live-streaming his night in a haunted house. Only for things to go very, very wrong. A hilarious and loving tribute to The Evil Dead, Deadstream is an absolute riot. Joseph Winter is hilarious as Shawn (I don’t know why but his shrieks of terror make me giggle so much every time) and I have a deep and abiding love for Melanie Stone as Mildred (Stone also crushes it as Mabel in VHS/99). There are so many great jokes here – Shawn’s followers sending him videos to tell him he’s screwed and then immediately fangirling about how much they like him while he’s in mortal danger. Shawn counting his swears so he won’t get de-monetised by his sponsors while being terrorised by the spirits that live in the house. It’s very funny, Winter is a delight as the beleaguered Shawn and the practical effects are ace. Can’t wait to see what they do next. Team Mildred forever!
Deadstream is available to stream on Shudder and you can buy Shawn Merch here
1 The Harbinger
Writer/director Andy Mitton’s pandemic set tale is our scariest horror movie of the year. Despite the wishes of her family, Monique (Gabby Beans) leaves behind her clinically vulnerable father and overprotective brother and responds to a desperate friend’s plea for help. Crystal (Stephanie Roth Haberle) is in crisis. She thinks something terrible is haunting her in her dreams. When Gabby goes to help Crystal her life falls apart with horrifying results. No good deed….
Mitton sustains an atmosphere of overwhelming dread set against the backdrop of the grief and chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic. Beans exudes kindness and warmth, clad in soothing blues that make her look like a nurse. Haberle is heartbreaking as a woman pushed beyond sanity who knows that something truly evil has her in its grasp. This is a movie in which horrible things happen to very good people. Mitton deploys jump scares to nerve-shattering effect. The Harbinger crawls under your skin and stays there -Beans’ last line will haunt you. The Harbinger is hands down the most frightening horror movie of the year.
The Harbinger is available to watch on VOD in the US now and will be available on VOD from Signature Entertainment in the UK from 23 January 2023.