It is that time of year when we look back at how quickly time’s gone by and wallow in our existential sorrow. Do not fret, though; I’m here to help you sort out your distractions. As a self-proclaimed horror aficionado, I have come to you with a humble list of my top 10 horror movies of the year 2023. This year has seen many genre-bending horror movies that have swept us off our feet with their staggering uniqueness and well-thought-out plots. We could also call this the year of reboots, as we got sequels/requels/remakes of some of our favorite franchises (mostly of the last three decades). While some of them were fantastic new entries, others left us screaming “no more” at our screens. This year hasn’t been without its highlights and Barbenheimer definitely topped this list for many. Frankly, these are moments from the films, and that’s what we’re here to discuss. So, you absolute freaks, if you’re here for some gore, violence, deranged madness, or simply a scream fest with your pals, then call me postwoman because I am delivering today!
10. Cocaine Bear
The first entry on this list is a cheeky one because it’s got its shoddy moments, yet it’s a film to have so much fun with! Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the film is very loosely based on a real-life incident when a bear ingested a substantial amount of cocaine in the forests of Tennessee. The real bear was found dead, but the movie puts a twist on the tale and sends the coked-up bear on a killing rampage that is hilariously entertaining. Now, I’m not a big fan of comedy, but I suppose I’m biased toward Banks’ brand of slapstick comedy. Or it’s the absurdity of the whole thing that simply makes it work (I suppose watching it in 4D added to the feeling of it all). This is a combination of gore, ironic social commentary, and a killer bear that’s quite impressive.
9. The Exorcist: Believer
Okay! Controversial opinion, yes, but I found this movie rather emotional, which made me give it an extra brownie point. Now, of course, there’s no point in comparing this film to its predecessor, the original Exorcist. As a stand-alone, on the other hand, I feel like The Exorcist: Believer is a strangely melancholic film about family relationships. The sinister undertones are great, and overall, it makes for a good horror film. I especially liked the new cultural take, despite it being a less explored path. I think there’s potential there, and with more installments, there can be improvements!
Starting with some kooky, campy fun, M3GAN was 2023’s biggest surprise, and it came out in January! Not only was it terribly entertaining, but it also had its horrifying moments, making the younglings freak out! I was sad about the PG-13 rating because the potential for some insane gore existed; however, I’m not complaining because it delivered exactly what it was meant to. This is definitely a “leave your brain at home” kind of film that is a perfect product of its time and is insanely self-aware. The film revolves around a genius roboticist who develops a life-like AI doll. When her niece loses her parents in an accident and has trouble dealing with her grief, M3GAN comes to her rescue, but what follows is an unexpected twist that the roboticist could’ve never seen coming. Oh, and it has some great social commentary on parenting, the new generation, and death (capitalism, everybody, #iykyk).
7. Knock at the Cabin
I was debating whether Knock at the Cabin should make the list or not, but at the end of the day, it’s a film that provokes the mind and keeps you thinking when it’s done. Plus, it has some great performances and marks the return of M Night after some disasters (I will pretend Old never happened). The film is based on a book that revolves around a gay couple and their daughter on vacation. They are unexpectedly taken hostage by four strangers, who pose a question to them about saving the world from an impending apocalypse. The true horrors of life and reflecting on one’s own past are the reasons this film is on this list. It’s an intense thriller that will keep you questioning what is to come. If you’re the kind who likes a bit of an existential moment, then this is the one for you.
6. Infinity Pool
Now, this one is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Infinity Pool is a strange sci-fi horror film that, to me, is mainly a character study of a struggling man. The juxtaposition of Mia Goth’s cherubic voice and her character in this film is mind-boggling, and her “Jamesy” will forever be etched in my brain—a true nightmare. Of course, she’s an iconic scream queen of today. Brandon Cronenberg makes a unique body-horror film that is both intriguing and disgusting to watch. There’s more than one moment that will remain in your mind, and it’s a psychological film that has a way of seeping into your mind. The unique cinematography will really have you intrigued with this one, adding to the horrifying imagery and the feelings within James, the protagonist. It revolves around a couple who are out vacationing on a remote fictional island. A mysterious woman grabs their attention, and as they get to know her, things get really messed up, leaving them in a life-or-death situation. I suppose at present, social commentary is a must in the horror genre, no?
5. Evil Dead Rise
The biggest surprise of 2023, part 2. No, this movie had no right to be this much of a hoot. Also, watching this in a packed cinema really added to the joy of it all. Bringing back the bloody gore of the early 2000s, Evil Dead Rise may simply be another entry in the Evil Dead franchise, but it’s a memorable film as a whole. It’ll have you squealing, laughing, crying, and screaming in quick succession. Despite the weird-looking LA set-up, the performances keep you hooked. If you haven’t seen it, this is one to watch with your friends to just have an absolute blast yelling at the screen together. Evil Dead Rise follows three siblings after they find “The Book of the Dead” and unleash blood-thirsty evil in their LA apartment building, showing them a new side of family like they’ve never seen before.
4. Scream VI
It’s unfortunate what’s happening with the franchise now, but Scream VI might well be the best “requel” of the year. An ode to the originals, the film is simply fan service before all else. The film masterfully combines the old with the new and gives us a gore fest that is chilling and vastly amusing. If you’re a fan of the originals, you will be smiling at least a little bit while watching this one. If not, then it’s a great way to interest you in the franchise, unlike the lackluster fifth part that came out last year. Scream VI follows the Carpenter sisters after they decide to leave Woodsboro and start afresh in New York City. But Ghostface has other plans for them.
3. Beau Is Afraid.
The king of “elevated horror” returns with the most A24-like movie of the year with his highly anticipated Beau Is Afraid. A disappointment for many, Beau Is Afraid is an anxiety-inducing nightmare that will have you squirming a lot more than you’d like. This film is strangely comedic for what it is, and Joaquin Phoenix carries it with an ease that is petrifying. This is another journey film, one that is filled with paranoia and fear. It is described as a story about a “man who embarks on an odyssey to get home to his mother,” and there’s no better way to put it. The film uses marvelous techniques to complicate a simple story that is darkly twisted. If peculiarity intrigues you, then I’d recommend this movie, but if you’re looking for something like Aster’s previous work, then this might not be up your alley.
2. When Evil Lurks
If Beau Is Afraid was a planet of anxiety, When Evil Lurks is the big bang. When it comes to viewing, I’m a very stoic person, usually not making a sound or moving a muscle unless I’m bored and yawning. When Evil Lurks had me screaming, throwing pillows, and yelping. Picture The Last of Us, but without zombies, only an entity that is taking over a small superstitious town. The Argentinian film comes from the director of Terrified, another very popular film amongst avid fans of the genre. When Evil Lurks is gorey, vile, and absolutely repulsive. This would also make for a fantastic group viewing. Bring in the New Year with an invisible demon and lots of blood (huehue).
1. Talk To Me
This may not come as a surprise to many, but I haven’t seen anything else that has impressed me as much since Talk to Me. An impeccable representation of the new generation, this film is sure to become a cult classic in the near future. Directed by the YouTuber duo Philippous, the Australian film follows a group of friends who discover a new way to “talk to” spirits before one of them unleashes something really sinister into the world. The film does an incredible job of comparing the thrill of possession with that of drug abuse, making it both emotional and thrilling simultaneously. More importantly, though, it’s newcomer Sophie Wilde, who impresses beyond imagination, carrying the entire film on her young shoulders. Of course, A24 takes two of the top three spots.
Which were your favorite horror movies of the year, and why? Let us know in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll be checking out some more as I wait to waste away another year watching movies and feeling hollow.