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Monday, January 1, 2024

Best of 2023: The Year’s 10 Most Unforgettable Moments in Horror

The end of the year always brings about reflection, so it felt appropriate to recall the moments that helped define 2023 in horror. As in, the unforgettable moments that shaped the conversation whether through watercooler discussions or going viral on social media. Consider this a fun trip down memory lane before 2024 ushers in its own new wave of horrors.

These ten memorable horror moments stood out, and catapulted their respective movies, video games, or TV series into the public conversation.

M3GAN – A Viral Killer Doll 


Technically, one of the buzziest horror moments of the year began in 2022. From the very first look at the dancing queen in the trailer that debuted in October 2022, audiences were smitten. So much so that M3GAN went viral, and Blumhouse leaned into it in a way that ensured this early January release was a not-so-sleeper hit. We’d expect nothing less from the mind of writer Akela Cooper and director Gerard Johnstone. Thanks to M3GAN’s fashion sense and style, October 2023’s in vogue costume seemed a foregone conclusion. You can shoot her down, but she won’t fall. She is titanium.

Skinamarink/The Outwaters – The Liminal Horror Invasion


Less obvious or marketable than a killer dancing queen is the abstract, lo-fi horror vibes of Skinamarink, a divisive found footage effort from Kyle Edward Ball. The film went viral on social media last year, prompting an early theatrical release this year that horror fans are still talking about. Skinamarink wasn’t the only one, either; SCREAMBOX’s The Outwaters from Robbie Banfitch also got people buzzing for its experimental take on found footage horror. Both pioneered wielding the art of liminal horror to strike visceral terror on those willing to ride these movies’ wavelength in 2023.

The Pope’s Exorcist – Russell Crowe on a Vespa

Popes Exorcist on a scooter

Overlord director Julius Avery was back this year with exorcism horror movie The Pope’s Exorcist, starring Russell Crowe. Crowe played Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s leading exorcist, as he investigates a new possession case that uncovers long-buried Vatican secrets. Crowe’s version of Amorth asks for espresso when being scolded by Church members or cavalierly tosses found skulls at colleagues while the soundtrack plays on the nose bops from The Cult, The Saints, and Violent Femmes. The veteran actor leaned into scene-chewing for this raucous horror movie, and the marketing ran with it. Horror movie marketing was in a whole different league this year, as evidenced by Crowe plugging the film during the broadcast of WWE WrestleMania 39. But that came after the film had already captured the zeitgeist after images of Crowe’s Father Amorth on a Vespa went viral.

Insidious: The Red Door – Patrick Wilson’s Surprise Duet with Ghost

The highly anticipated fifth entry in this franchise assembled the original cast, reuniting the Lambert family once more to contend with the terrors of the Further. The sequel also marked the feature debut by Patrick Wilson. It wasn’t the denizens of the Further or the Lambert’s story that surprised the most here, however, but Wilson pulling triple duty in this sequel as actor, director, and singer. The filmmaker collaborated with the band Ghost, singing a duet for the end title track “Stay,” a cover of Shakespears Sister’s 1992 hit song. Wilson detailed to Bloody Disgusting how the surprise track release came together.

Meet the Feebles – “The Muppets Mayhem” Cameo That Made Peter Jackson’s Movie Disney Canon

The Muppets Mayhem Peter Jackson cameo

Pictured: Meet the Feebles

Disney+ series “The Muppets Mayhem” sent beloved Muppet band, The Electric Mayhem, on a musical journey to record their first album. In true Muppet style, it came with a slew of notable cameos, which happened to include filmmaker Peter Jackson. Thanks to horror fan and series creator Adam F. Goldberg, Jackson’s cameo came with the interesting reveal that the characters of Meet the Feebles exists firmly within the Muppets world. While this may not have been a massive watercooler moment, it feels worth celebrating this sly move by Goldberg, creating one of the most twisted crossovers ever. Does this make Heidi a Disney princess?

Five Nights at Freddy’s – Recording Breaking Gateway Horror

Five Nights at Freddy's Review

Gateway horror movie Five Nights at Freddy’s defied expectations and stumped box office pundits, surprising all by its massive success. Well, all except for its devout and robust fanbase that contributed to those huge box office numbers. The horror film directed by Emma Tammi, based on the video game series created by Scott Cawthon, scared up an incredible $289.3 million at the worldwide box office – the film’s current domestic total is $137.2 million – which officially makes it the highest grossing movie in Blumhouse history. Those numbers marks Five Nights at Freddy’s as a potentially defining horror movie of a new generation, and at the very least marks it as the top grossing horror movie of the year.

Alan Wake II – “We Sing”

Not all watercooler moments came from movies. Remedy’s long-awaited sequel to 2010’s Alan Wake finally saw release this year, and quickly established itself as the best horror game of the year. While the winding meta narrative that sees its eponymous protagonist attempt to write his way out of the Dark Place delivered no shortage of surprises thanks to a taut, smartly written story, it was Chapter Four’s “We Sing” that transcended beyond the gaming audience into the mainstream conversation. This chapter introduces a live-action musical that players must navigate as the in-game characters sing and dance to “Herald of Darkness” from Poets of the Fall, playing the fictional band “The Old Gods of Asgard.” The earworm tune and dazzling visuals make this an easy 2023 highlight.

The Last of Us – “Long, Long Time”

The Last of Us Nick Offerman

One of the best horror series of the year also presented a strong argument for the “bottle episode.” Craig Mazin helms the incredibly poignant and affecting third ep, “Long, Long Time,” that detoured from Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) journey to tell the tender story of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). With just one single episode, so early in the season, “The Last of Us” quickly established a high bar for video game adaptations. Nick Offerman makes his brief appearance as Bill stand out among the series’ best performances. His portrayal of Bill transcends the source material with emotional resonance that highlights our need for connection in such a thoughtful way while serving as one of the optimistic peaks in Joel and Ellie’s journey. 

Godzilla Minus One – A Kaiju-Sized Sleeper Hit

Godzilla Minus One review

Driving the point home that it’s audiences that shape the box office, Toho’s Godzilla Minus One quietly released stateside in limited release, just in time for the holidays. Word of mouth quickly spread, prompting not only an expansion in theater numbers but an extension of its initial planned run. That’s no small feat at all in this crowded landscape. While its box office run would be impressive on its own merit, Godzilla Minus One continues to dominate with critics too; the film has earned a spot on the Academy Awards “short list” and a nomination from the Critics Choice Association. Toho raised the bar on Godzilla yet again, and they’ll next be lobbing the ball back to Legendary for next year’s MonsterVerse sequel.

Evil Dead Rise – the Cheese Grater

Evil Dead Rise cheese grater

If there’s one recurring theme this list highlights, it’s that the buzziest moments happen organically. Such is the case with Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise; the first trailer sent fans into a frenzy thanks to one notable tease involving a cheese grater. It captured horror fans’ imagination so thoroughly that it became part of the marketing. Of course, the cheese grater was but a small piece of the inspired array of weapons that Cronin concocted for these devious Deadites, with Staffany running away with the “Best Forged Weapon” prize of the film. None of that comes close to the true centerpiece of the film: Cronin’s masterful hallway massacre, captured from the apartment peephole.

The post Best of 2023: The Year’s 10 Most Unforgettable Moments in Horror appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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