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Best of Shudder 2022

It’s been quite another year for all things horror. In fact, I sometimes wonder if genre fans will look back on 2022 the way that they look back on years like 1984 or 1978. Thanks to films like Smile and Halloween Ends, horror had massive box office success this year. But it’s the films with the indie bent that are likely to still find audiences for years to come, movies like Barbarian, Terrifier 2, X, and the stellar Pearl. These ones have the potential to become cult favorites.

It was another strong year for the streaming service Shudder, too. They continue to kill it with original and exclusive content, including groundbreaking documentaries and stellar indie features. Below is a list of our favorite original and exclusive Shudder content from 2022, most of which was covered as part of my Shudder Secrets column.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Shudder kicked off 2022 with an exhaustive documentary on folk horror that clocks in at over three hours. From writer/director/co-producer Kier-La Janisse, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is a mega text about the history of folk horror. It contains clips from over 200 films and interviews with over 50 scholars, authors, and filmmakers. This astounding exploration covers the rural roots, occult creeds, cultural lore, and political and social circumstances of folk horror. Even if you think you already know this subgenre well, I can guarantee that you’ll learn something new and walk away with a list of films to watch. The documentary is one riveting journey.

Mad God

How does one even begin to describe the brilliance that is the stop-motion animation masterpiece Mad God? Phil Tippett’s project was about 30 years in the making. Prior, he’s worked on some of the biggest blockbusters/effects of the last few decades, including Star Wars, Robocop, Jurassic Park, among others. This is the guy who designed the AT-ATs, the Cantina masks, and Jabba the Hutt for George Lucas. He’s credited as “Dinosaur Supervisor” on Jurassic Park. The point is, we’ve all seen his effects.

But Mad God is something totally different. It doesn’t have a straightforward plot, per say. Rather, it’s a depraved descent into hell, complete with creepy monsters, ashy landscapes, and Steampunk-like miners. All I can say is, que this one up, sit back, and just enjoy the twisted visuals.


After making the festival rounds, including Fantasia in 2021, Hellbender found a permanent home this year on Shudder. This feature follows a mother and daughter who live in seclusion in a mountainous area of the U.S. Adolescent Izzy (Zelda Adams) has one friend in the world, her mother, played by her real-life mom, Toby Poser. The two are even bandmates and rock out in all black. However, it turns out Mother has been keeping some secrets pertaining to witchcraft.

This film is a delight for so many reasons. It has gnarly folk horror elements and some striking visuals. It’s also a family affair, created by wife and husband Toby Poser and John Adams and starring their daughters Lulu Adams and Zelda, who’s also credited as co-writer/co-director. Keep an eye on this family. They have a heck of a lot of talent. They can bang out tunes with sludgy and infectious rock riffs, all while crafting one heck of a feature film.

Speak No Evil

After debuting at Sundance at the start of the year, Speak No Evil landed on Shudder. This film has the most shocking and jaw-dropping ending that I’ve seen all year after taking its time to build the suspense. Director Christian Tafdrup’s feature follows a Danish family that visits a Dutch family they met on holiday. The supposedly idyllic weekend slowly unravels as the Dutch family becomes far more than unpleasant company. If you haven’t seen this one yet, go into it as blindly as possible. Avoid any reviews and feel the potency of the bleak ending. I almost feel bad for recommending this one.


I never thought I’d write these words: J.K. Simmons voices a slimy, tentacled demi-god, and it’s wonderful to behold. Thank the universe for Rebekah McKendry’s brilliant and wildly entertaining Lovecraftian feature debut, Glorious. The film also stars Ryan Kwanten, who plays Wes, a down-on-his-luck everyman at a crossroads in his life. He needs to pull it together. After meeting the monster in a bathroom stall, he’s also charged with deciding the fate of the universe.

With such a small cast, this movie really relies on Kwanten and Simmons, and fortunately, both come through. Kwanten gives quite a memorable physical performance here, and Simmons is always a delight. This feature is both funny and otherworldly, but it really goes to great lengths to explore Wes, including all his shortcomings. Despite the threat of a universe-destroying monster, this movie contains a very human story.


Jean Luc Herbulot’s genre-bending film is set in 2003 and follows a trio of mercenaries escaping a coup in Guinea-Bissau. They take refuge in a hidden region on the Saloum River, where something evil from beyond the grave lurks and waits. At under 90 minutes, this is a brisk film that contains elements of horror, action, and even a bit of magical realism. This is also a film very much about revenge. As one character says, “Here, they say that revenge is like a river…and our actions are the dugouts guided by the current.” That quote foreshadows the number of twists and turns that this dazzling West African feature contains. This director has both vision and style, and both are at play in Saloum.


The Hitchcockian Watcher is one of my favorite movies of the year. Period. Director Chloe Okuno’s film follows a young American woman, Julia (Maika Monroe), who moves with her husband to Bucharest. There, she begins to suspect that a stranger keeps watching her from an apartment window across the street. She also fears that he may be a serial killer decapitating women. Yes, this has plenty of Rear Window vibes. But this tale of voyeurism is told from the female’s perspective. Monroe and Burn Gorman, who plays the watcher, give stellar performances. He’s all kinds of creepy while she struggles to be heard and believed.  An unnerving movie with the perfect hair-raising pace, this feature’s conclusion won’t soon be forgotten. I suspect this one will make plenty of year-end lists, and for good reason.


Slash/Back is a movie that I’ve been telling everyone about, a sci-fi creature feature that’s all kinds of fun and stars a breakout cast. Directed and co-written by Nyla Innuksuk, this raucous debut follows a group of Inuit girls that battle an alien force in their small village of Pang. The force can take over animal and human life forms. Yes, it’s like The Thing, and there are plenty of references to Carpenter’s film throughout. This story is familiar but made new through its distinct storytelling and cast. Set and shot in the Inuit hamlet of Pangnirtung in Nunavut, Canada, this feature includes mostly locals. Watching the characters evolve from young women sick of their hometown to badass warriors is all kinds of applause-worthy. Slash/Back marks the arrival of a new voice in the genre, another director to watch.

Queer for Fear

This documentary isn’t quite as lengthy as Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, but its three parts examine queer horror history. The first part details the Gothic writers of the 19th Century, such as Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde and some of the queer subtexts within their most famous works. From there, the series dives into the Universal Monster movies, sci-fi moves of the 1950s and the general fear of Otherness, and an exploration of other famed monsters, including vampires, werewolves, and various frightful beasts. This documentary feels especially necessary right now, considering the shooting at the LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs and the right’s renewed attacks on everything from drag shows to the teaching of queer history.

A Wounded Fawn

After Jakob’s Wife, I couldn’t wait to see what director Travis Stevens had up his sleeve next. His latest, A Wounded Fawn, is a mind trip. It’s one part Greek/Roman mythology, especially the tale of the Furies, and it’s another part surreal, arthouse horror. The feature stars the always entertaining Josh Ruben, who plays Bruce, a charming man who poses as an art collector and then kills women. His latest target is Meredith (Sarah Lind). The only problem is that she fights back, aided by Bruce’s former victims who return as the Furies. With all that said, it’s best to just go into this one with an open mind and watch it. With his third feature, Stevens proves that he’s one of the most exciting indie horror directors working today.


Writers/directors Joseph and Vanessa Winter had a hit on their hands this year with the hilarious, gross-out found footage feature Deadstream. Joseph plays Shawn Ruddy, an influencer desperate for followers, so he spends a night alone in a haunted house and live streams it. Things go horribly wrong, however, after he conjures a spirit, Chrissy, played by Melanie Stone. This movie has all kinds of Evil Dead vibes, from the jokes to the effects. This one has a lot of rewatch value because it’s that entertaining. Make sure also to check out Joseph and Vanessa’s segment in V/H/S 99, another Shudder original.

Shudder continues to release some of the most innovative global horror content around. I’ll be back in the new year to continue my Shudder Secrets column, so readers can stay up to date on the streaming service’s latest releases. Until then, have a very spooky Christmas and a ghoulish new year!