By Jessica Lee
A subtle suggestion that demands a treat – preferably candy – or else a trick will fall upon that individual. A simple, iconic phrase that is said that one special time of the year. Halloween. It’s almost that time of the year where people dress up in diverse costumes, devour candy, and watch scary movies. However, how do you know which movie is truly the most terrifying: the clown that lives in the sewers or the boy who is possessed by an unknown demon?
As fanatic of the horror and thriller movie genres, I have composed an updated top three scariest 2022 movies for you, friends, or family to get spooked beyond the mainstream titles that you’ve probably already heard of.
- Smile (2022)
Released on September 29, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 6.8, this film will take you on a journey of frightening jump scares and emotions contradictory to its innocent title. It revolves around Dr. Rose Cotter, who starts seeing unexplainable yet terrifying images after she witnesses a traumatic incident involving her patient. To face this trauma, she must reopen her past wounds and accept her new fate. This terrifying masterpiece directed and written by Parker Finn is by far the scariest, most unsettling horror/psychological thriller film that keeps your heart racing with thrill and excitement. I highly recommend this for those seeking a film that is cinematically alluring yet also filled with sudden jump-scares, but I would also recommend watching it in theaters or with a great stereo system as this film heavily relies on its sound design to keep you on your toes.
- Incantation (2022)
Released on March 18, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 6.2, this film is one of the most horrifying Taiwanese movies of all time. Perhaps it’s the incorporation of shaky, hand-held camera movements and unsettling vlog elements or maybe it’s the eerie incantation that is repeated throughout the film, but it is by far the most unpredictable and psychologically unnerving film I have ever seen. It follows the perspective of Li Ronan, a mother who is cursed after breaking a religious taboo. After being cursed, she must save her daughter from the same fate. Unlike the traditional horror film, Incantation is shot predominantly in found footage (FF), which is a cinematic technique where footage is presented through video recordings or discovered by the characters. By doing so, director Kevin Ko cleverly hides yet slowly reveals varied motifs and details for audiences to ultimately fully digest and reflect upon in their sleep. Furthermore, unlike Smile, this film does not rely on jump scares or sound design to haunt you. Rather, this film has a continued sense of fear beyond the screen. This film is available on Netflix in various languages and subtitles for you to conveniently enjoy at home.
- The Black Phone (2022)
Released on June 24, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 7, this film is based on “The Black Phone” by Joe Hill. While this story is not based on an actual occurrence, the fact that it is inspired from a combination of real serial killers during the late ‘70s is quite disturbing. The premise of this film involves a child killer who abducts and locks children in his soundproof basement. However, Finney Blake – a 13-year-old-boy – receives help from the voices of past victims through a disconnected black phone on the wall, ultimately determined to help him to break free. Director Scott Derrickson presents an emotionally riveting film that includes great character development and acting to the extent that makes you disgusted by such a sadistic, evil, and monstrous being. The Black Phone makes you wonder why such cruel beings exist and makes you empathize with the young victims. While this film follows more of a traditional horror film concept, it contains a solid premise around a black phone that is intense and creepy. I strongly recommend this film for those who enjoy performative and emotionally intense horror films.
2022 has been a solid year in the genres of thriller and horror with other honorable mentions such as Nope (2022) by Jordan Peele and Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) by Halina Reijn. While this list is subjective to my personal tastes and limited to the year of 2022, I strongly recommend these three films for those who seek a terrifying and heart-racing thrill in celebration of Halloween.
Jessica is a third-year student pursuing a double major in Cinema and Media Studies and Public Policy. As an aspiring filmmaker, writer, music producer, and director, she has been exploring her passion for the entertainment industry as a producer’s assistant for Palette Pictures and a member of Delta Kappa Alpha’s Professional Cinema Fraternity. At USC, she is the President of Taekwondo Club and Vice President of Public Relations of Trojan Steel. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with sound design, filmmaking, playing the piano, drinking boba, writing, listening to music, and playing tennis.