This article contains spoilers.
Trending horror movies such as Terrifier 2 and Barbarian prove that 2022 was a great year for horror fans, but most importantly, it offered a range of both original and well-known characters, from good ones to terrifying villains that have the potential to change the current horror scenario.
As usual, horror protagonists often go through extensive character development in the face of brutal atrocities and frightening events. 2022 has plenty of different kinds of protagonists to offer, from unreliable anti-heroes to innocent children, which truly innovates the genre.
10/10 Finney (The Black Phone)
The Black Phone is one of the most popular horror releases of the year, featuring Ethan Hawke as the terrifying “Grabber”, a peculiar serial killer who sees his method begin to crumble after abducting Finney, who’s able to communicate with the ghosts of Grabber’s previous victims.
The Black Phone is one of those horror films where a supporting character steals the show every time they’re onscreen, with Gwen Blake, Finney’s sister, standing out as the moral MVP of the film. However, Finney isn’t so far behind especially when taking into account how much he changes throughout the movie, from a quiet, shy boy to a young man who can stand his ground and fight for his life.
9/10 Pearl (Pearl)
If Pearl wasn’t so special, she wouldn’t have a movie only for her. Arguably one of the most terrifying villains of 2022 with her role in X, she returns as the main character in the sequel Pearl, where viewers can finally witness the violent origin story of how Pearl went from an innocent rural girl to a merciless serial killer.
Different from X, viewers can’t help but root for Pearl regardless of her obsessive craving for success and impulsive motivations for killing. Most importantly, Mia Goth gives her body and soul to this character, which makes Pearl so terrifyingly unique.
8/10 Dr. Rose Cotter (Smile)
Dr. Rose Cotter is one of the easiest horror characters to like in a long time. Even though she’s haunted by traumatic events of her past, she’s a competent doctor and a caring wife but becomes the recipient of an evil curse with devastating consequences. Rose doesn’t waste time denying the entity that torments her, quickly using her sharp wit to understand the curse and find a way to counter it.
After countless victims of the Smile curse, Dr. Rose came the closest to defeating it for good, after an incessant fight against her own mind. Unfortunately, she faces an unavoidable fate in the hands of the terrifying entity of the film.
2022 is a great year for Anya Taylor-Joy, ranging from her mystical role in The Northman to the witty Margot in The Menu, a horror comedy that escalates into barbarian chaos. In the film, a small group of wealthy guests travels to a remote island in order to enjoy a lavish menu at an exclusive restaurant, where a renowned Chef has prepared a few shocking surprises for each guest.
Margot is such an easy character to like because, alongside the movie’s main antagonist, played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes, she seems to be the only person among the guests with the slightest trace of personality. Among the stupidity of the rich, Margot is the first to suspect something is wrong, and the only one able to turn the game against the Chef.
6/10 Maxine (X)
At the beginning of X, Maxine says “I will not accept a life I don’t deserve”, and she totally lives up to those words. An aspiring actress surrounded by amateurs, she stands out as the most talented member of the group.
After all her friends are murdered by the hosts of their shooting location, Maxine is the only one who manages to get the upper hand over the aging couple that threatened them. She takes advantage of not only her wit but also her body, a gift and a curse that ignited in Pearl her unattainable desire to be young again. The protagonist versus antagonist confrontation is priceless, especially when taking into account how they mirror one another.
5/10 Laurie Strode (Halloween Ends)
Laurie Strode is one of the most recurring horror protagonists of all time. Throughout different decades and over 10 movies, she ran away from Michael Myers, eventually killing him in the process, or died trying, then returning, and so on. In Halloween Ends, Laurie Strode returned for a final face-off against her nemesis, played by the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis who gave soul to the character.
After a series of gruesome murders committed by Myers, with one of the victims being her daughter, Laurie finally gets the upper hand over the serial killer, slashing him several times and throwing his body in a metal shredder. Last but not least, it’s also great to see Laurie finally carrying out the peaceful life she deserved, definitely one of the horror MVPs of the year.
4/10 OJ & Emerald (Nope)
Nope has two incredible protagonists and the truth is one can’t live without the other. Emerald and OJ are two close siblings but completely different from each other: Emerald is a high-spirited aspiring artist with energy sufficient to light up a whole town. On the other hand, OJ is a reserved, cautious rancher and the first to notice something wicked is going on in the surroundings of his family gulch.
The two have a unique chemistry and contrasting qualities that put together are vital when fighting Nope‘s terrifying villain, a bloodthirsty alien creature. Emerald is the bold one, always ready to expose herself to danger in direct confrontation, while OJ is the watchful warrior, observing and analyzing the creature’s behavior to understand its weaknesses. Together the two defeat a seemingly invincible, unknown force.
3/10 Noa (Fresh)
Noa is the soul of Fresh, an unexpected thriller guaranteed to make viewers’ stomach drop. She’s painfully relatable; a vulnerable, yet clever young lady in search of a meaningful relationship in an era flooded with pointless dating apps and awkward meet-cutes.
It’s unfair to blame her for falling for the wrong guy because pretty much anyone would’ve fallen for Steve’s enchanting manners, unaware that he’s actually a sadistic cannibal. Noa looks like an innocent, fragile woman on the surface, and she uses that in her favor in order to turn the table against Steve and free other victims from his wicked captivity.
2/10 Tess (Barbarian)
All Tess wanted was a peaceful stay in Detroit while she searched for a job, but instead, she found herself trapped inside an underground maze of dark hallways inhabited by a gigantic woman who took her as her baby.
From beginning to end, Barbarian makes clear to the viewers that Tess isn’t safe in that house, initially hinting at Bill Skarsgård posing a threat but then revealing a much deadlier menace. Tess tries her best to help those around her and ends up being used and discarded like nothing, although her good heart causes her to indirectly develop a bond with the film’s “monster”, and the mutual understanding and respect between them ends up saving Tess’s life.
1/10 Naru (Prey)
Naru is arguably the horror MVP of the year, starting off Prey as an inexperienced hunter and evolving to a deadly woman able to think fast and take advantage of whatever weapons are at her disposal to fight the several enemies that threaten her and her tribe.
In the end, Naru manages to outwit the Predator, an evolved alien creature with a lethal arsenal, turning the game against it by adapting to her predator’s abilities and behavior and proving she’s no longer harmless prey. In the process, she faces the menace of foreign invaders and learns important lessons about family and unison, eventually saving most of her tribe from the dangers that were surrounding them from all sides.