EJ Moreno looks at 2023’s best horror movies…
When we look at the horror genre, there are a few things fans want out each year. The demands aren’t wild but vital to a good genre year.
Most horror lovers want great scares, a few mainstream outings worth touting, and the new indie cult classic. Surprisingly, 2023 has given us all of these things and even more.
We’ve collected ten (and a few honorable mentions) of the best horror films from the year. This list may not match yours, but that proves the year’s strength. Now, prepare for the chills & thrills as we look at the best the genre has had to offer in 2023 so far…
– A Haunting in Venice
– Knock At The Cabin
– When Evil Lurks
What could easily be described as the most divisive horror film of the year, Skinamarink earned its spot for the sheer buzz this micro-budget film created. Most indies would kill for the reaction this got early in 2023.
Skinamarink goes for style and mood over any traditional narrative structure, playing more like an arthouse ASMR video than your typical paranormal experience. The trippy visuals and “what’s even happening right now” vibes could only last so long, so some viewers (like myself) were a bit tougher on the project. There’s no denying that Kyle Edward Ball can conjure up a scare, but what lies beyond experimental WTFs?
The film is still highly unique, feeling like a must-watch to see if you can vibe with its distinct stylings. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try.
WHERE TO WATCH: Shudder
Franchise horror didn’t dominate the year as previous years had seen. There are a few sequels here, but it takes something more edgy to edge out this year’s horror competition. Enter: Scream VI
There are six Scream movies now; somehow, the latest adventure with Ghostface felt like the freshest installment ever. We are out of Woodsboro and entering the big city, following the newer characters we meet in Scream 5 and allowing the legacy characters time to support rather than distract. It’s also nice to see Radio Silence play with Scream tropes like the opening scene to give longtime fans something new.
For some, it’s still more of the same meta-slasher we’ve had, but others saw Scream VI as a fresh start for Ghostface.
WHERE TO WATCH: Paramount+
New and old slashers still have their place in horror these days. The dated concept usually needs something to spice up the formula, and Totally Killer found a way to do that.
A time travel-fueled romp sees Kiernan Shipka return to the 80s to save her family. This leads to plenty of solid laughs; the film enjoys the comedy just as much as the horror. But that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t filled with great slasher sequences, including a few memorable kills. The premise isn’t groundbreaking, but it was handled in a way that allowed for one of the better horror comedies we’ve had recently.
Easily the most digestible entry on this list, Totally Killer is a safe bet to enjoy your night and not get too shocked.
WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime
We are over a decade into V/H/S movies, and somehow, the long-running found footage anthology keeps finding ways to evolve. Their latest installment, V/H/S/85, is a killer good time.
There are five 80s-inspired horror stories to dive into, including a sci-fi wraparound storyline, each feeling perfectly fit for the time but doesn’t aim for cheap nostalgia. These are warm and cozy familiar tales; some of these entries are the most brutal films you’ll experience all year. It’s also refreshing to see some big names step back into the franchise, with Scott Derrickson and David Bruckner sharing their twisted visions.
With a seventh installment already on the way, there’s no better time to get into one of the year’s overlooked treats.
WHERE TO WATCH: Shudder
Evil Dead Rise
It is another IP-based film, but what helps Evil Dead Rise stand above the rest is its forward moment for its franchise. Evil Dead saw another evolution, and it was a delight.
Changing the setting, the characters, and how our Deadites come to be somehow didn’t piss off long-term fans and even invited some newcomers to rejoice in the gory goodness. And boy, Evil Dead Rise delivered in the gore department with some of the year’s most memorable gore effects. A cheese grater has never felt so terrifying as it did here. Who knew taking Evil Dead out of the woods would make it even wilder?
It’s not the iconic cult classic of the original, but it stands alongside the 2013 entry as a fair argument for why this franchise is so important.
WHERE TO WATCH: MAX
A good thriller is hard to come by these days, especially one that effectively uses its horror side to full use. Thankfully, Influencer proved there are still solid thrillers out there.
In what feels like a modern update to The Talented Mr. Ripley, the film plays out in quite a fun fashion, using the most out of its premise. What helps the film, besides some solid direction from Kurtis David Harder, are our two leads. Emily Tennant and Cassandra Naud eat up every moment offered to them, giving us a glimpse at the power of the two actresses. By the end, you want more of what these two can do in horror.
In what could’ve been another “Single White Female rip-off,” we get plenty of clever commentary within an intense horror tale.
We’ll see the topic of parenthood in a few projects this year, but Sleep gave us a fresh perspective on this horror theme and gave South Korea another horror hit.
Being a new parent is incredibly challenging for anyone, but what happens when you can’t trust your partner during the precious sleeping time? Sleep explores that as Soo-jin notices her husband Hyeon-soo sleepwalking with the strangest behaviors, fearing what he could do during his next episode. What director/writer Jason Yu does with blending tones, genres, and styles needs to be seen to be believed.
When cinema icon Bong Joon-Ho praises your film as “the most unique horror film” in ten years, you know it will be good.
WHERE TO WATCH: TBD
Huesera: The Bone Woman
No film has depicted motherhood and childbirth like Huesera: The Bone Woman. It took a tired sub-genre and gave it something so much more personal. You can feel that heaviness throughout its runtime.
The Mexican-Peruvian supernatural film explores Valeria going from the joy of being a mom to fearing for her own life when a dark curse is put on her. Not to spoil anything, but the film asks many very introspective questions and offers a challenging lead character, making the film more of a think-piece than expected. Given the fact there are minimal jump scares, too, and you feel the dread leading the shocks.
Michelle Garza Cervera gives one of the best debut films of the year, giving fans a lot to look forward to as she enters the genre.
WHERE TO WATCH: Available Digitally
Talk To Me
No film has sat in my soul as much as Talk To Me did this year. It’s like an evil entity is following you around the way the scares in this film linger with you for days and weeks after.
We follow a group of teens who contact spirits using a mysterious embalmed hand, leading to Mia (played to perfection by Sophie Wilde) becoming addicted to the feeling of talking to the other side. The misadventures we go on feel like a classic tragedy story; you’re watching this sad story unfold and can’t do anything to stop it. It’s heartbreaking as much as it is haunting.
Another solid debut film, this time from a group of Australian filmmakers, and you’re starting to see the future of horror is in good hands.
WHERE TO WATCH: Available Digitally
While we often look to who or what will handle the genre next, you can still rely on some old favorites to win us over. But no one knew Saw X would be as good as it was, indeed the year’s surprise.
It’s safe to say that many expected the tenth Saw movie to be more of the same, and while it does come with plenty of gore traps, the film is handled much differently this time. One of the most significant changes is finally focusing on Tobin Bell’s John Kramer, giving one of horror’s shining killers more time in the spotlight…and he soaks in that time.
Saw X provided great gore, a career-best from Bell, and one of the strongest Saw movies yet.
WHERE TO WATCH: In Cinemas Now