It has been an interesting year for horror films so far. Following the release of massive horror hits like Scream VI and Evil Dead Rise, 2023 international box office has brought remarkable results for this genre, even when it comes to small gems such as Skinamarink. In this regard, Halloween is coming, so what better time to catch up on the latest releases than October?
From well-known slasher franchises to new exciting found footage, these season’s releases demonstrated the capability of consolidating some sub-genres and tossing in some new electrifying concepts into the mix. Therefore, here’s our 10 best horror films of 2023… so far.
We open up with a slasher piece that reproposes the early days of COVID, with a humorous yet frightening tone. The old teens-and-terror-at-a-lake-house tale becomes the setting of this anxiety-fueled narrative, in which quarantine has never been more heinous. As the pandemic brings the world to a halt, two best friends decide to quarantine at the family lake house alone, or so they think. Real-world commentary aside, this is a solid home invasion film, and it promises effective jumps and graphic fun. The film is certified “fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes, with a solid 87% approval rating. And this is only our tenth pick!
This film adheres to the American black comedy slasher tradition as well. The major aspect that shines through this gem is its self-awareness. Many purists might find it less frightening than Sick, but if you go into it expecting nothing more than a hang-out comedy with some thrills, the fewer jump scares are unlikely to be disappointing. The script vigorously subverts racist clichés in slasher scenarios in order to turn into a fun, thoughtful satire. Set on Juneteenth, the story follows a group of Black friends targeted by a masked killer while staying at a cabin in the woods.
What makes this film so entertaining is how it pays homage to its predecessors. Lots of slasher franchises have tried to shake things up and play with new scenarios, but not many of them managed to live up to their origins. Scream VI is that exception. It has much to offer for old-school fans and newcomers alike. Four survivors of the Ghostface murders leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City, only to find out that their safety is not guaranteed in the Big Apple. The film was a box office smash grossing $169 million worldwide, and becoming and the highest-grossing Scream film in the United States. And on top of that, it won Best Movie at the 2023 MTV Awards.
Evil Dead Rise
If you are looking for other outstanding callbacks, Evil Dead Rise lives up to its predecessors as well, packing some inventive gore. A reunion between two estranged sisters gets cut short by the rise of some demonic presence, thrusting them into a battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family. As ruthless as it is exhilarating, this film is not for the faint-hearted but for long-time aficionados and horror nuts. In fact, Evil Dead Rise is the proof that the “Evil Dead” saga has accomplished something miraculous as a horror franchising: There’s no bad movie bearing its name. Moreover, this film became the highest-grossing film in the series, with over $146 million worldwide against a production budget of $15–19 million.
A ruthless tech company, the obsession with profit, the invasion of artificial intelligence, and the erosion of human relationships are the main ingredients of this science fiction horror film. The addiction that we have developed for our devices turns into something savage in this film. M3GAN is a lifelike AI doll that’s programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. Yet, writers Akela Cooper and James Wan did not take too long to turn her into a misleading family member for the protagonists and threatening warning for the entire humankind. Visionary producer Jason Blum’s new business endeavor grossed over $181 million worldwide against a budget of $12 million, and received praise from critics, with a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No One Will Save You
There aren’t many actors around who are expressive enough to carry an entire dialogue-less feat like this. Fortunately for producer-writer-director Brian Duffield, the semi-unknown 26-year-old Kaitlyn Dever was available for his new project. Who can say more with just the slightest facial expression? Probably no one in this list. In Duffield’s capable hands, a journey through self-forgiveness gets transformed into a twisted home invasion horror, which is probably the best sci-fi thriller of 2023, so far.
Seemingly the most divisive film of the year, Skinamarink maintains an intermediate position between an atmospheric narrative and art piece. By tapping into our primal fears, the film is a reflective horror that generates contrasting feelings of disquiet, fear, and melancholy. Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. This film can be more confounding than frightening, but for viewers able, or willing to abandon themselves to this unique stream of darkness, the unsettling sensations that generates will be difficult to shake off. In addition, another plus point is due to its micro-budget and the smart distribution model turned it into a box office success, grossing $2 million over a $15,000 budget.
Huesera: The Bone Woman
Along the lines of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Michelle Garza Cervera’s remarkable debut operates as a parable of post-partum depression and creeping anxiety. Valeria’s delight at becoming a first-time mother is quickly upset when she’s cursed by a sinister entity. The premise is simple yet metaphorically challenging. The Bone Woman is an intense and necessary achievement for pregnancy horror films as a sub-genre, and it manages to be as effectively terrifying as it is intellectually edgy. This Mexican-Peruvian supernatural body horror film holds a remarkable 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Birth/Rebirth is a dark journey into a mother’s soul, and it touches upon universal hopes and fears associate with parenthood. In this respect, what if we had the chance to bring our loved ones back to life? It is just that quandary that makes Judy Reyes’s and Marin Ireland’s performances standout – respectively a grieving mother and an insane hospital pathologist – taking us to terrifying places connected to parental grief and ethics in science. With her take on a modern-day Frankenstein, Laura Moss accompanies us into an amoral territory, in which she teases at fundamental fears from a very relatable angle, reminding us that horror stories have been human stories all along.
Talk to Me
YouTube stars Danny and Michael Philippou’s directorial debut was the talk of the town for horror fans over this summer, and it’s no surprise at all. Talk to Me was significantly effective in terms of delivering an unprecedented concept, incredibly curated visual work, and effective turning points throughout the plotline. When a supernatural party trick aimed to communicate with the dead gets viral, Mia tries to connect with her late mother, and the results are terrifying. The film plays with the idea of hyperconnectivity and its dark side, and alters that concept in a brilliant fashion. Talk to Me distances itself from superficial teen horror, which usually relies on a shallow succession of jump scares, opting for a more mature formula where nothing can be taken for granted, where social criticism is ferocious, where the camera moves elegantly.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.