By Rotten Tomatoes’ measure, 22 horror films have been reviewed in the first four months of 2022. Doing the math, that comes out to one horror movie every five-and-a-half days. Among those 22 movies are large-budget studio reboots and/or sequels, a few high-profile arthouse releases, a good handful of straight-to-streaming shlock, multiple international imports, and one of the best-reviewed films of the year.
While Rotten Tomatoes scores mustn’t be taken as scientific proof of a film’s quality — the approval rating only reflects the percentage of reviewing critics that elected to give a film a passing grade — they are a fun way to get a bead on how critics generally feel about something, and horror fans can certainly read the following list slowly, attempting to predict what might have ranked high or low. An interesting intellectual exercise is to find a film with an extreme approval rating — either above 90% or below 10% — and read the dissenting reviews. That might give a reader a more complete perspective, and lead one to acknowledge the variety of viewpoints among the horror-loving cineastes among them.
Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes approval rating, here are the best-reviewed horror films of 2022 so far.
The best-reviewed horror film of 2022 is Ti West’s homage to guerilla filmmaking flick “X,” with a 96% approval rating. “X” is about a small crew of aspiring Texan XXX filmmakers who have rented a remote rural cabin to shoot a particularly arty adult feature, all of them refreshingly articulate about their careers in the porn industry and the positive force smut can have in the world. This won’t stop a nearby, and supremely creepy, elderly couple from ogling them suspiciously and lustfully, and it certainly won’t help them when an old woman begins stalking them with bladed objects. “X” is an homage to familiar stalk-and-kill slashers, but West is also authoring a love letter to the can-do spirit of independent filmmaking. A prequel to “X” had already wrapped filming.
The second highest-reviewed was Goran Stolevski’s Macedonian period piece “You Won’t Be Alone” starring Noomi Rapace, rated at 93%. Set in the 19th century, the film is about a young witch who kills a villager in the woods and takes their shape to infiltrate the village. As the witch is not human and has now become curious about a more complete portrait of the human experience, she begins taking the shape of many people in the village. Let the atmospheric examination of identity commence!
In third place was Hanna Bergholm’s Finnish creature feature “Hatching” with a 92% approval rating. From Finland, “Hatching” is about a 12-year-old girl (Siiri Solalinna) whose home and mother are impeccably clean and ordered. Following her mother’s lead, she kills an injured bird in the woods, realizing she left its egg unattended. She takes the egg home to hatch it, only to find the egg itself is growing larger and larger. Once the egg is about three feet in length, out hatches a horrifying half-bird-half-person monstrosity that shrieks, spews viscous drool, and possesses a curious psychic bond with our heroine. The bird soon becomes a symbol of the wilder aspects of her angst and adolescence, and her secret desire to lash out at her mother soon becomes difficult to control.
Number four, with an approval rating of 90%, is Jane Schoenbrun’s “Were All Going to the World’s Fair,” a cyber thriller about a teenage girl (Anna Cobb) who joins the ranks of The World’s Fair, purportedly the scariest online game ever made. It’s so scary, in fact, it’s rumored to drive the player mad and even physically mutate your body. The (positive) /Film review penned during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival indicated that the body horror contained in “World’s Fair” can be read as a metaphor for gender dysmorphia, and early word is that it is also rather terrifying.
At an 88% approval rating is Kate Dolan’s “You Are Not My Mother,” an Irish film about a young woman (Hazel Doupe) who finds her mother (Carolyn Bracken) mysteriously missing one morning. The mother then just as mysteriously reappears, but is now behaving very strangely. Notably: she is upbeat, positive, and optimistic. Previously, mother had been suffering from depression. It’s up to the Doupe character to solve the mystery of her mother’s behavior. Steeped in Irish folklore, “Mother” is a horror film about positivity.
Perhaps the most widely seen of the films on the list so far, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s and Tyler Gillett’s “Scream” came in sixth with a 76% approval rating. It’s the fifth film in the awkwardly extended “Scream” franchise, which first begun as a hipster mid-’90s meta-commentary on the slasher films of the 1980s. By 2022, “Scream” had new horror trends to skewer and send-up, the most notable fad for this film being legacy sequels that pose as reboots. The commentary isn’t quite as clever or strong in this latter-day pile-on, but the scares are effective enough, and “Scream” was successful enough to warrant another sequel.
In seventh place with a 74% approval rating is Mariama Diallo’s examination of systemic racism in academia, the chilling “Master.” In it, Regina Hall plays a professor at a prestigious Ivy League university who finds constant evidence that this school hasn’t ever shaken off a lot of its Civil War-era racist iconography. Her story is paralleled by a young student who moves into a dorm room notorious for a suicide that happened in it years before. Whether or not there is something supernatural happening is second to the condescending way both of the main characters are treated by the mostly-white campus. It’s hardly nuanced, but “Master” has a point to make.
Only the top seven films on Rotten Tomatoes have been Certified Fresh, which means at least five designated Top Critics reviewed the films in question, and they each hold a rating of 75% or higher.
As such, Peter Brunner’s chilling German film “Luzifer,” with an approval rating of 100% is technically eighth on this list with only six reviews total (compared to “Scream,” which had 280). “Luzifer,” produced by filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, is about a secluded mother and son (and pet eagle) who live in a remote hut in the mountains. When a local tourist development moves in, it not only threatens their idyll, but may also be unwittingly releasing Satan from Hell.
With a 74% approval rating is the Irish werewolf flick “The Cursed,” a beautifully photographed film about a group of European colonialists who are infected with a werewolf virus following their ransacking and murder of an entire Romani village. You’ve likely never seen a werewolf that looks quite like the one in “The Cursed,” and there are multiple frightening scenes wherein the monster hides out in the mist, just out of its victim’s visual range.
In Damien Power’s “No Exit” — not based on the play by Jean-Paul Sartre — a young woman (Havana Rose Liu) flees rehab to rejoin her disapproving family when her mother has been rushed to the hospital. Stranded at a snowy roadside rest stop — with no way to constant the outside world — she discovers that another one of the travelers she’s sharing the space with has kidnapped someone. She must determine who it is without rousing suspicion. The slow burn fizzles out pretty quickly, but the setup is solid. It only has a 56% approval rating.
The eleventh through the twenty-second films on the list all have an approval rating under 60%, which, by the Tomato standard, is technically “Rotten.” The less-approved-of movies include such films as “Studio 666,” the horror movie wherein Foo Fighters play themselves, the latest installment in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” series, now overreaching to its ninth installment, a shark movie with Alicia Silverstone called “The Requin,” and the supremely silly video game-based Netflix horror movie “Choose Or Die” about a haunted text-based computer game.
One of the best films of the year came in 12th on the Rotten Tomatoes approval list, and that was Ruth Paxton’s intense starvation drama “A Banquet.” In it, a teen girl — having witnessed the death of her own father a year previous — experiences a strange moment of spiritual ecstasy when she stares up at the moon at a party. Following the incident, she loses her desire to eat. Her mother is understandably concerned, trying to understand her daughter’s aversion to food. Rather than wasting away, however, the daughter stays at the same weight for weeks, then months.
“A Banquet” is an examination of neuroses about food and eating disorders and has a sharp eye turned toward the bizarre fascination — and religious implications — with starvation. It doesn’t bother with psychology, but instead focuses on divine experiences. It’s a weirdly religious film, but also horrifying. “A Banquet” should be much higher on the list.