Emily Gagne’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2022
Was this one of the best years in modern horror history? It’s hard to say just yet. But I do think 2022 brought us a healthy mix of major releases and indie gems that are destined to be immortalized by rewatches and retrospectives sure to come.
Here are the ten horror movies that moved me (former Newsletter Editor and current columnist for Dread Central) the most over the past 12 months. If haven’t seen them already, I hope you’ll give them a try. And if you have and didn’t care for them, let’s respectfully agree to disagree, okay?
10. The Munsters
I can’t believe Rob Zombie’s latest made my final cut after how underwhelmed I was watching the first teaser trailer. But I was taken aback by how joyful this film is, Zombie’s unbridled passion for the source material oozing through every scene.
Anchored by loving homages and purposefully over-the-top performances, The Munsters serves as a reminder of the importance of production design and practical effects (seriously, if I have to watch another desaturated snooze fest full of bad CGI, I will sob). The cheeky tone and puns may not be for everyone, but they absolutely were for me.
On the other end of the stylized spectrum is Nanny. Written and directed by Nikyatu Jusu, this film debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival last January, making history as the first horror film to win the Grand Jury Prize before getting picked up by Blumhouse. Based on this buzz alone, I had to check it out when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in early September. And, boy, am I glad I got the chance to see this visual feast on the big screen.
While some have found its dreamlike atmosphere challenging, I was taken aback by how Jusu refuses to hold the audience’s hand in telling this story of a Senegalese immigrant battling microaggressions and homesickness while working as a caregiver for a white child in New York City. Cinematographer Rina Yang is a perfect partner in this pursuit, bringing the same ethereal-meets-real aesthetic to this piece that she brought to Euphoria and music videos for FKA Twigs, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, and Charli XCX.
Long story short: watch it now that it’s streaming on Prime Video.
After reading Managing Editor Josh Korngut’s 3.5 star review out of Sundance, I was desperate to see Piggy for myself. And after finally watching it recently, I totally understand what he meant when he called it “brutally beautiful.”
Following a bullied teen whose wilful ignorance leaves her scrambling to cover up her tracks, Piggy serves up a welcome twist on the mean girl narrative previously perfected by Brian De Palma in Carrie. I suspect that Spanish writer/director Carlota Pereda has many more sights to show us and I’ll be first in line when she’s ready to share them.
7. The Menu
I first saw Mark Mylod’s The Menu at TIFF, reviewing it for Dread Central.
When you’re at a major film festival, it’s easy to get caught up in the overexcitement of the moment and file reviews that feel hyperbolic upon reflection. Luckily, I think I can safely stand by what I said about this delicious satire back in September:
Its dark and dank production design provides an ideal canvas for the blood and body parts lost. In a similar style to many overrated Michelin-starred restaurants and shows like Chef’s Table, director Mylod (Game of Thrones, Succession) approaches the material with purposeful pretension. And yet, The Menu’s core messages come across very simply and clearly, going down the hatch as easily as a cold Coke and a side of fresh-cut fries.– Emily Gagne, Dread Central
6. The Eternal Daughter
There’s nothing I love more than a spooky movie. I’m not just talking about a movie about ghosts, but a movie that is steeped in supernatural dread. And no movie did this subgenre better this year than Joanna Hogg’s quietly affecting The Eternal Daughter.
Like Saint Maud, which made my list last year, The Eternal Daughter is a British film that is just as concerned with the doldrums of life as it is death. Gothic in story and setting, it filled my heart with the same dark joy that Shirley Jackson’s stories always do. It helps that Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast in her dual roles, playing a mother and a daughter whose celebratory stay at a foggy inn is rudely disrupted by the unwanted specters of their pasts.
Who would have thought that Barbarian would be one of the best films—horror or otherwise—of 2022?
Maybe I am overstating its success a little bit (hey, it’s not No. 1). But I can’t say I had more fun watching a movie with an audience this year. Just when you think it’s going one way, it takes another unbelievable turn, daring you to descend further and further into its disgusting depths. If you haven’t seen this cult hit yet, I’m going to urge you to drink the Kool-Aid this weekend, preferably with an unsuspecting family member.
4. Bones and All
I have quite an appetite for cannibal films. From Julia Ducournau’s Raw to Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, I simply cannot get enough of movies where the protagonists long to eat their own kind, finding strange satisfaction in these types of films as a woman and a queer person. And Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All is no exception.
With a tender lead performance by Taylor Russell (the Escape Room franchise) and sweeping cinematography from Arseni Khatchaturan, Bones and All is like Terrence Malick’s Badlands if its doomed duo killed to live, not lived to kill. To paraphrase the Kiss song that plays a brief part in the film, I couldn’t help but lick it up.
Ti West’s first entry in what we now know to be a horror trilogy absolutely rocked my world when I saw an early screening last February. Sexy and swampy, this sleazy ode to the grindhouse era isn’t afraid to go there, daring you to ask yourself why you are so grossed out at the thought of an elderly couple making love while supple starlets do much dirtier deeds in broad daylight. And don’t even get me started on Mia Goth’s performance(s) in both this and Pearl—what a fuckin’ star!
Having mixed feelings about Us, I came into Jordan Peele’s Nope with a trepidatious curiosity, hoping that it would hit as hard as Get Out did back in 2017. I was delighted to discover that Nope is not only as good as Get Out, but maybe even better.
With a stacked cast (including a more-than-game Keke Palmer and priceless Steven Yeun) and one of the most imaginative monsters of this millennium, Nope is the blockbuster horror flick we have been waiting for. Fun and scary in equal measure, it challenges expectations at every single turn while also making you nostalgic for other family-friendly sci-fi horror fare like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If this is the kind of spectacle we can expect from Peele going forward, our future looks extremely bright (cue Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night”).
1. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
No film haunted me more this year than We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. Surely too slow for some, Jane Schoenbrun’s narrative feature debut hit all my horror buttons, its mysterious mythology drawing me in almost immediately and staying with me for weeks after.
An intoxicating mixture of found footage and real-time drama, I liken this film to the most femme entries in David Lynch’s filmography, with eerie echoes of the loss of self explored in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive. I hope that Schoenbrun gets a career as long as his, with composer Alex G following the filmmaker around like Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti (RIP) did.