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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Best of 2023: 10 Best Horror Adjacent Movies of the Year

It’s been a robust year for genre film. Horror’s continued dominance at the box office has effectively spilled over into fantasy, thrillers, and sci-fi in ways that defy easy classification. So much so that it’s difficult to overlook the 2023 genre movies that employ horror techniques, draw inspiration from our favorite genre, or simply dabble in it.

These horror adjacent movies may not fully plunge into the genre, but they’re also not afraid to wear their horror influences on their sleeves, whether through style or bloodletting.

Here are the top ten best horror adjacent movies of 2023.

10. A Haunting in Venice

A Haunting in Venice Kenneth Branagh

Director and star Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot gets reeled into another whodunnit, but this time Branagh leans into the Halloween setting with stunning style to infuse this murder mystery with atmospheric mood. A Haunting in Venice looks and feels like a vintage ghost story, complete with nods to Edgar Allan Poe. The Venice location offers the perfect setting, and the tone fully embraces the Baroque moodiness of a vintage Halloween. It’s Branagh’s style and form here that makes A Haunting in Venice stand out; don’t expect this murder mystery to go full throttle on the horror. At all. While A Haunting in Venice does tease the supernatural, it’s more a fascinating, ethereal and welcome departure for the Hercule Poirot film series.

9. Your Lucky Day

Your Lucky Day Jessica Garza

A convenience store at Christmastime transforms into a harrowing battleground when a winning lotto ticket emerges, creating an intense thriller filled with surprise escalations and propulsive action in writer/director Dan Brown’s feature debut. It’s not just the narrative turns and bleak authenticity that make Your Lucky Day winsome, but the Christmas caper’s daring commitment to nihilism. The violence hits hard, and the thrills come fast and steady. Brown removes any sense of safety straight away by communicating that no one is safe here, ensuring this thriller delivers on tangible tension made even more breathless by how inherently relatable the premise and its characters are rendered. That it comes complete with biting commentary on the American dream ensures it’s one of the year’s highlights.

8. Smoking Causes Coughing

Smoking Causes Coughing clip

John Waters raved that Smoking Causes Coughing is a “superhero movie for idiots,” and it’s a compliment of the highest order. Written/Directed by Quentin Dupieux (RubberDeerskin, Mandibles), the gory comedy follows a team of five superheroes as they’re sent on a retreat to repair their crumbling team cohesion. The Tokusatsu riff offers up everything you could hope for with big rubber suited monsters, heroes in spandex, gore, and Dupieux’s absurdist sense of humor. The filmmaker employs a portmanteau style narrative structure to parody contemporary superhero fare to great gory, laugh-out-loud effect.

7. Unicorn Wars

Unicorn Wars

Goya and Annecy Cristal-winning director Alberto Vásquez (Birdboy: The Forgotten Children) is back with another genre-bending animated feature for adults, emphasis on “for adults.” The deceptively cute animation style and cuddly characters belie its grim theme. Of course, that’s by design. Described as “Bambi meets Apocalypse Now,” Unicorn Wars explores the nihilistic horrors of war as the adorable protagonists get subjected to sociopathy, bodily fluids, and bleak terror. Vásquez is intentionally provocative here, and makes it clear that there’s a lot of sorrowful depth behind the shock value.

6. Falcon Lake

Falcon Lake

Director Charlotte Le Bon plays around with horror concepts and the supernatural for a unique, haunting spin on the coming-of-age first love tale. A shy teen, Bastien (Joseph Engel), finds himself enchanted and coaxed out of his shell by the slightly older Chloé (Sara Montpetit) while on summer holiday with family. Le Bon takes a meditative, poetic approach to this dreamy period, even as Chloé introduces Bastien to a world of vices. Chloé also happens to be obsessed with horror movies and the local legend of the haunted Falcon Lake. How that shapes this melancholic story leaves a lingering mark, instilling a haunting portrait of the strangeness of life’s milestone transitions.

5. The Artifice Girl

The Artifice Girl

Multi-hyphenate writer, director, and star Franklin Ritch introduces a science fiction chamber piece in The Artifice Girl, a heady thriller centered around advanced tech. What begins as a contained crime thriller set in an interrogation room eventually gives way to something far more poignant and existential centered around the ethics of A.I. Ritch lays out this complex sci-fi story of humans using and potentially abusing artificial intelligence with economic efficiency that relies on telling over showing. It’s up to the performers to carry the weight; luckily, this small but mighty cast is up to the task. Ritch smartly forgoes easy resolution and instead lets the viewer chew on the underlying (and not so subtextual) examination of humanity’s relationship with A.I.

4. The Five Devils

The Five Devils

Director Léa Mysius weaves a beguiling fantasy drama through magical realism and complicated character dynamics in The Five Devils. The time hopping story begins when eight-year-old Vicky (Sally Dramé) discovers a powerful olfactory ability to recreate any scent. It manifests in surprising ways when her estranged aunt comes to town, reopening old wounds from the past. The character driven mysteries are bolstered by an endearing, empathetic performance from young Dramé. But it’s the way that Mysius wields magical realism and stunning shot composition that creates a bewitching story of enduring bonds.

3. Beau is Afraid

Beau is Afraid

“Nightmare comedy” is the perfect phrase to describe Ari Aster’s latest, a darkly funny Kafkaesque odyssey that defies easy categorization. While horror is present, Beau is Afraid isn’t beholden to it in the slightest; it dabbles in a variety of genres at once. Aster crafts his most personal film yet, weaving his cinematic influences into a surreal, emotionally tumultuous journey that’ll prove divisive for its cryptic, unhurried storytelling. The sprawling tale is a showcase of talent, both on screen and behind the scenes. Aster creates depth both in story and form; look to the background for an endless slew of sight gags that seem to tell a story of their own. It’s not just the quirky performances by the cast, led by Joaquin Phoenix, that makes Beau so singular, but the variation is style- Aster impressively layers in animation and practical effects in mesmerizing fashion. It makes for a profoundly imaginative and audacious artistic experience as dementedly funny as it is often horrifying.

2. Sisu


Writer/Director Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale) reteams with some familiar Rare Exports faces for another crowd-pleasing genre-bender, this time an R-rated journey through Lapland near the end of World War II. The period action adventure goes hard on hyper-violence and has a sense of humor to match. When you think you’ve reached a showstopper action sequence or gory kill, expect another to come along to top it. It’s that style and imaginative visual storytelling that keeps Sisu so thrilling. It’s also in the playful tone; Helander’s having a blast dispatching evil men in fitting and over-the-top ways. Sisu is a thrilling period actioner that plays like a slasher, only this time the hero is doing the slashing. That Helander makes full use of the R-rating, spilling buckets of blood along the way, makes Sisu a must for horror fans.

1. Poor Things

Poor Things Willem Dafoe

Yorgos Lanthimos’ comedic and fantastical film, an adaptation of Alisdair Gray’s novel, borrows a page from Frankenstein but alters its course. A mad scientist lets his resurrected creation out into the world, but instead of fear and death, she finds wonder and discovery. That small but seismic shift veers the Frankenstein-inspired story away from horror and firmly into fantasy, but the results are just as spectacular. Through bold form and old school techniques, Poor Things celebrates a world made richer by curiosity. But it’s the tremendous cast, led by a fearless Emma Stone, that sends the film to soaring levels of greatness. Its dedication to bluntly exploring the weirdest quirks of humanity, from infancy to adulthood, is the precise type of strange cinema that purveyors of genre and all things weird will warmly embrace. 

The post Best of 2023: 10 Best Horror Adjacent Movies of the Year appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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