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Friday, December 22, 2023

Bloody Disgusting’s Top 10 Best Horror Movies of 2023

To say it’s been a strange, turbulent year might be a bit of an understatement. Historically, 2023 marks the year of the dual strikes by WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the first time in over 60 years that Hollywood writers and actors went on strike at the same time. While both fought for better working conditions and deservedly won, the work stoppage no doubt plays a large role in the theatrical slate both this year and at least into the next. Through it all, horror continues to thrive. Box office records were shattered and indie darlings and international gems continue to surprise audiences. Of course, it’s in the most turbulent times where horror thrives most; audiences turn to horror for catharsis or release from real world anxieties and fears.

That reflects in 2023’s horror offerings, which has given everything from unexpected lo-fi indie hits like Skinamarink and SCREAMBOX’s can’t-miss The Outwaters to larger-scaled period epics like The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Slashers continue to surge in popularity, as evidenced by the year’s best, but possession horror also demonstrates its mean streak through brutal gems like When Evil Lurks. Even gateway horror pulled audiences into crowded theaters, judging by the impressively popular Five Nights at Freddy’s. In other words, horror’s diversity continues to contribute to its success, while simultaneously making it difficult to narrow down the field to the best of the best.

Without further ado, here are the top ten best horror movies of 2023.

10. Suitable Flesh

Suitable Flesh Shudder

This adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep,” written by Dennis Paoli (Re-AnimatorFrom BeyondDagon), and produced by Brian Yuzna and Barbara Crampton, seamlessly inserts itself into the late Stuart Gordon’s cinematic Lovecraft universe. Director Joe Lynch captures the humorous, oft-sexy tone of Gordon’s ‘80s/’90s Lovecraftian horror output while putting his own stamp on it. There’s painstaking attention to detail from the opening frame. It’s not just settings or characters that call back to the late Gordon’s memorable horror films, but aesthetics, tropes, and everything in between. But for all its ties to late ’80s and early ’90s horror, it’s the way Suitable Flesh flips the script on some outdated tropes that brings Gordon’s realm of horror firmly into the present. More importantly, Lynch assembled a talented cast for his raucous, sexy body-swap horror movie that impresses. Any horror movie that gives Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton so much scenery to chew in delightfully funny and violent ways is a win.

9. The Blackening

Grace Byers in The Blackening

Directed by Tim Story and co-written by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Harlem) and Dewayne Perkins (“The Amber Ruffin Show,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), The Blackening skewers genre tropes to an infectiously entertaining degree. It follows a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer. The slasher setup and skewering of tropes lay the foundation for a crowd-pleasing horror comedy. It’s not the kills or the horror that makes this so compelling, but the natural chemistry among the cast that instantly endears their characters to the audience. This cast makes the group dynamics feel authentic and with built-in history, and the humor soars as a result. The Blackening made for one of the best theatrical experiences of the year, too, if you were lucky to see it with a rowdy crowd.

8. Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Eli Roth - killer pov

After 16 years, Eli Roth finally expands his faux Grindhouse trailer into feature form. Instead of building his quintessential slasher around the grainy Grindhouse anesthetic, however, he brings the classic-style slasher into the modern world. That simplicity is refreshing in a current landscape of high concept slashers that constantly seek to stay ahead of savvy horror audiences. Roth, along with co-writer Jeff Rendell, instead seeks to make a meal of the revenge slasher format with a holiday twist through humor and memorable kills. Each death brings pain and bloodletting in delightfully mean-spirited, suspenseful ways. The gore effects heighten the creativity of the kills and the gleefulness of John Carver committing them. It results in a holiday horror effort that captures the lean, mean, and gory spirit of early aughts horror but set in the present. It’s a solid, entertaining reminder that sometimes simplicity is best.

7. Birth/Rebirth


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein inspired a streak of genre releases this year, but Birth/Rebirth packs the biggest emotional wallop of them all. Marin Ireland (The Dark and the Wicked) and Judy Reyes (Smile) deliver captivating performances in this dramatic tale by director Laura Moss about reanimating the dead. Moss’ feature leans more into drama, but the foreboding dread and compelling central performances ensure this bleak doozy maximizes its emotional impact. It’s the push and pull between the two leads that captivates, embodiments of science versus heart at odds over the ethics of reviving the dead. It’s far more complex than its simple setup suggests, made all the more thornier and engaging by its powerhouse leads.

6. Talk to Me

Talk to Me horror

Talk to Me delivered one hell of a feature debut by twin filmmaking duo Danny and Michael Philippou, the creative minds behind YouTube channel RackaRacka. The title refers to the latest viral party craze, which sees teens gather around a volunteer who grabs a mysterious embalmed hand while uttering the phrase “talk to me.” But the energy and visceral violence quickly sets Talk to Me apart from standard teen horror. The filmmakers demonstrate a knack for stretching out the suspense as long as possible, only to release it through unexpected scares, gross-out gags, or visceral, wince-inducing violence. It’s not just the brutality that surprises but the filmmakers’ audacious visual interpretation of ghosts and the ghostly realm. The filmmakers create an exhilarating, chilling dichotomy between irreverent youth and the ghastly, surreal dead. The tonal shift from high energy horror into brooding melancholy may ultimately polarize, but it’s that bold confidence and daring outcome that makes it such a high mark for 2023.

5. Saw X

Saw X Director Kevin Greutert

The franchise that began in 2004 hit a major milestone this year with its tenth installment, and what an unexpected rush. Director/Editor Kevin Greutert, working from Pete Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg’s screenplay, wields his enduring franchise experience like a lethal Jigsaw trap, ensnaring fans in a thrilling, triumphant sequel. Greutert, Goldfinger & Stolberg approach this tenth entry with a reverence for the franchise’s history while making it accessible for newcomers. Setting it so early in the timeline allows for fan favorites to return, with Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith picking up as if they’d never left. There’s a comfortable sense of awareness and humor found in a sequel that utilizes its pared-back simplicity to showcase the characters and gore- strong emphasis on both. It’s not just the gruesome and inventive new traps that make Saw X so winsome, but the return of Kramer and Amanda, along with one of the most vile new villains to come along in a long while.

4. Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool - June streaming

Writer/Director Brandon Cronenberg once again delivers mind-bending, warped horror in the resort-set Infinity Pool. Straightaway, Cronenberg instills an off-kilter, satirical vibe with his fictional setting, and that unravels into deranged madness thanks the fearless, committed performances by Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth. Together, the pair take their characters to places that never fail to leave your jaw on the floor- again and again. More than just a horror-tinged repeating cycle of violence and debauchery, Infinity Pool is funny. There’s a gleeful sense of humor on display that makes this insane voyage more accessible and complex. It’s unpredictable, compelling, audacious, and extremely violent in the best way.

3. No One Will Save You

No One WIll Save You Review

Writer/Director Brian Duffield (SpontaneousLove and Monsters) has an uncanny ability to deliver thrilling genre features with an affecting emotional center that often leave your heart on the floor. For his latest, an alienated woman, Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever), finds herself contending with highly intelligent, hostile aliens from another planet. What transpires is a breathless journey through self-forgiveness that gets transformed into a propulsive, nerve-fraying sci-fi twist on home invasion horror. There’s not an ounce of fat in this nearly 90-minute genre actioner. Duffield spends roughly eight minutes introducing Brynn and her place within this world before plummeting into a series of escalating chases, encounters, and terrifying reveals about the invaders. The sound design is impeccable, heightening the intensity to a nerve-fraying degree. Perhaps most impressive is that Brynn’s transformative arc gets relayed almost entirely without dialogue or tidy conclusions; Brynn is a complex character and so, too, is her fate.

2. Scream VI

Scream VI cameos

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, working from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, build upon last year’s Scream most satisfyingly, perfecting the “requel” formula with a more intense sequel. Scream VI operates in conversation with Scream 2, thematically and beyond, shifting the slasher fun to the big city. The filmmakers up the ante, delivering inventive, edge-of-your-seat set pieces that showcase the urban setting and how savage Ghostface is this round. Scream VI demonstrates keen understanding of what makes a slasher so thrilling; highly suspenseful cat-and-mouse chases and fully-realized characters with rooting interest. This sequel nails both. The breathless set pieces leave you on the edge of your seat, and the Core Four make a triumphant transition from new class to seasoned survivors in infectious ways, led by a fierce Melissa Barrera. Who knows where this franchise goes from here, but Scream VI set the bar dauntingly high.

1. Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla Minus One

Toho’s latest entry in their enduring Godzilla franchise has cut through the noise of a crowded film cycle, moved beyond its devout fanbase, and, through director/writer Takashi Yamazaki, found a way to resonate with mainstream audiences. Every bit of the attention is deserved. Godzilla Minus One marries a WWII drama with an old-fashioned creature feature. The former deals with complex themes of honor and war as the film’s human characters struggle to pick up the pieces of their war torn city. The latter delivers unparalleled kaiju horror and spectacle. There’s no shortage of suspenseful chases or confrontations with a vast, seemingly indestructible threat. Moreover, Godzilla Minus One does what bombastic action horror movies of this ilk often don’t; it drives home the devastating reality that Godzilla‘s rampaging wreaks upon civilization. Here, the destruction is devastating to a palpable degree. Even at sea, far from land, Godzilla is a looming presence to be feared as Takashi Yamazaki borrows a page or three from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. It’s a rare feature to effortlessly toe the line between crowd-pleaser and award-contender, in the most thrilling, cinematic way possible.

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