The Top Horror Franchise Films of 2022, Ranked
During the time of the streaming wars, recognizable brands and popular film characters with a proven track record of success became more important than ever before. Powerful corporate entities began infiltrating our hearts and minds to evoke nostalgia and exploit our fandom.
In this new age, the horror genre was finally acknowledged as a consistent money maker. Horror had respect, but at what cost? The beloved franchises of our childhood, from Halloween to Predator, were brought back with mixed results this year. More titles, referred to as Intellectual Property (IP), followed: Stephen King and killer dolls, haunted houses and laboratory dinosaurs, chainsaw-wielding sickos, and Ghostface copycats.
The evil entity, sometimes referred to as the House of Mouse, also entered the fray with comic book horror offerings like Morbius (eek!), zombie Dr. Strange (applause), and Werewolf By Night (growl).
Then, there were new school attempts to become a lasting brand. One new contestant in the ring happened organically with a surprise indie hit featuring a freaky clown with a penchant for gratuitous, torturous violence.
In a myriad of ways, horror in 2022 reached new levels and the O.G. horror franchises stood their ground to remind audiences that franchise horror isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Some of these titles did prove, however, that there can still be instances of original thinking smuggled into a known formula.
Let’s start the list with the outlander, shall we?
10. Terrifier 2
After the surprise success of Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2, Art the Clown is officially a brand. He’s probably the most requested horror tattoo since Elvira. A gory mega-slasher to the core, Terrifier 2 was never trying to create its own franchise. But with the anthology All Hallow’s Eve, the original Terrifier, and its lengthy follow-up, expect the Terrifier franchise to stay relevant for years to come. If you’ve seen Terrifier 2 (of course you have), the ending even seems inspired by Joker, the billion-dollar box office sensation. So, it’s no wonder that this X-rated comic book come to life is proving to show some real staying power.
9. Halloween Ends
Admittedly, David Gordon Green’s last entry in the saga of Michael Myers definitely takes a big swing. Apologists will probably reconcile and justify the existence of a Halloween film that barely features The Shape. Instead, the town of Haddonfield is the star here, carrying over the trauma of the survivors from Halloween Kills. Treating evil like a contagious virus is an interesting concept that doesn’t quite fit inside the mythology that John Carpenter originally envisioned, however.
It’s a left turn that the most beloved franchise in horror cannot afford to make. There are certain expectations involved. Turning Halloween into something that feels like the pilot to a Riverdale spinoff called Haddonfield is just not satisfying. The long catharsis is over, for now, to the tune of $105 million at the box office.
8. V/H/S 99
Pop in the V/H/S franchise into the tape player and, I promise, you will find something to like. V/H/S 99 represents the fifth installment of the throwback anthology series. Featuring segments from Johannes Roberts, Vanessa & Joseph Winter, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, and Flying Lotus, each entry serves as a calling card for established and up-and-coming filmmakers. Thankfully, the anthology formula shows no signs of slowing down.
7. Hocus Pocus 2
Ever since the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus happened back in 2018, people can’t stop talking about the original every, single Halloween. Inevitably, the new world of streaming ushered in a sequel to bring back the characters from Mick Garris’ original script. The result was a much more kid-friendly entry with a new generation of tweens that accidentally resurrect the horrid Sanderson sisters (Bette Middler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively). Hocus Pocus 2 broke streaming records for Disney+, so don’t be surprised when it’s announced that Hocus Pocus Ends is on the way.
David Bruckner (Southbound, The Ritual) and company scored the highest-reviewed Hellraiser movie ever with their reimagined continuation of Clive Barker’s original vision. With most of the franchise being relegated to increasingly watered-down versions of a once iconic horror property, Hulu’s Hellraiser treated the Cenobites with some respect.
The lament configuration box is now more puzzling than ever before. Expanding the mythology and connecting the plight of addiction with the obsessive quest for power, no matter what the cost, added a lot more depth to Barker’s hellish landscape. The additions to the lore are even more appreciated after a second viewing.
5. Jurassic World: Dominion
People love dinosaurs. After billions at the box office, Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park has shown that a classic adventure 65 million years in the making can keep on making money for another 65 million years. With Jurassic World: Dominion, director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) has somehow made a horror-adjacent action movie that taps into other huge IP franchises like James Bond and Jason Bourne.
A worldwide dinosaur assault was what we had all been waiting for. Now that our dreams have finally come true, it’s a totally ridiculous scenario. Somehow, this absolute assault on the senses beats you into submission. Jurassic World: Dominion is way more fun than it should be, and it brings back the cast from Jurassic Park, a tried and true tactic of franchise horror.
4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Chainsaw Massacre on a bus! Netflix couldn’t exactly recapture the magic that the Platinum Dunes remake did back in 2003. But bringing back Leatherface (Mark Burnham) and Sally (Olwen Fouéré) to face off in a Halloween-inspired showdown was long overdue. The original chainsaw Sally, Marilyn Burns, sadly passed away before she could cash in. Still, the Netflix-backed story about Leatherface going up against gentrification was pretty inspired.
It also proved that the saw is still family. Expect many more sequels, requels, reimaginings, and reboots. Unlike Giallo films that got a little tired of using a razor blade, the chainsaw will always be the weapon of choice here.
Oh, this is cheating because it’s a television series? I vehemently disagree. In fact, Syfy’s prestige (ok not really) series about the continued adventures of our favorite Good Guy doll is actually a prime example of how to make an old property work for modern audiences. No one watches movies anymore. Chucky understands this. Bring in Jennifer Tilly who helped reinvigorate the film franchise, and you can bet Chucky will be around for a long time to come.
Jenna Ortega just jumped over to another IP franchise on Netflix’s Wednesday series inspired by The Addams Family. But Scream (5) had her first! The return of Ghostface and the meta mystery structure that Kevin Williamson originated was sorely missed. Ranking this entry from Radio Silence so high may annoy some people. I loved that this was a worthy sequel that set up the next one. And, most importantly, it brought horror fans back into theaters.
Hulu’s Predator prequel will be on a lot of Top Ten lists at the end of this year. Yes, it only premiered on streaming. Then, everyone started talking about it and it suddenly became a new media social phenomenon. If there was any doubt that John McTiernan’s original Predator was finally showing its age, returning the alien hunter to its Old World roots proved there’s a lot more material to mine.
In 2023, franchise horror properties will have a hard time topping the output this year. With Scream VI, Evil Dead Rise, Insidious: Fear the Dark and The Nun 2, Saw 10, and The Exorcist on the way, there is definitely some stiff competition brewing on the horizon.