A comprehensive ranking of the 10 best horror movies of 2023, including Infinity Pool, Evil Dead Rise, Scream 6, and more
2023 may not have resonated with the deafening screams of its recent predecessors when it comes to horror movies. In the wake of 2022’s auteur-driven chills and breakout indie hits, this year presented a more subdued set of films. While the landscape and industry lacked the blockbuster blasts and independent darlings of past years, it still yielded a couple of thoughtful reimaginings, genre-bending experiments, and intimations of fresh nightmares waiting to take flight.
This list dives particularly deep into the masterful revivals of established franchises, a reflection on where the best horror movies ultimately came from in 2023. Beloved icons were thoughtfully recontextualized for modern anxieties in exciting ways for a few longstanding franchises, but it often felt empty beyond that. Four of the top five horror movies on this list were legacy sequels – a trend that certainly suggests they’ll keep making these at the expense of new, original ideas.
And 2023 did not offer the kind of earth-shattering masterpieces like Jordan Peele’s Nope or Ti West’s X and Pearl double-feature from a year ago. The genre was desperate for someone new to emerge in a big way, and I suppose a few did, but not in the way, of say, Zach Cregger with Barbarian. There were a lot of middling entries without a couple that rose to the top.
One big glaring weakness this year was Shudder and their offering as a horror genre streaming service. I thought it was a remarkably weak year for that platform, one I usually praise year after year because they keep churning out great new movies every year. A24 also had a particularly rough horror year, although I might be in the minority on that considering how well Talk to Me did in theaters (it’s going to show up on my list though. A reflection on the mediocre depth of horror movies this year). I suppose M. Night Shyamalan and Brandon Cronenberg came back in 2023, but they felt like lesser entries in their respective careers (also showing up on this list though).
Regardless, ten movies have to make the list. Here’s how I’d rank the 10 best horror movies of 2023:
Eli Roth, a significant figure in gnarly genre filmmaking, takes a stab at the holiday horror subgenre with Thanksgiving, a movie that successfully balances gore, satire, and a twisted sense of humor. Roth, known for his unapologetically brutal style, delivers a horror-thriller that not only embraces the conventions of the genre but also winks at them, creating an entertaining if not entirely groundbreaking Thanksgiving slasher. Thanksgiving review
9. Infinity Pool
Brandon Cronenberg is in a completely unique position with Infinity Pool. Few movies about nepotism have even been tried by those given a relatively easier path to cracking into the industry. It may be unfair to say that Brandon unilaterally and unequivocally capitalized on his family name (his father David Cronenberg being one of the arguable Mount Rushmore figures of the horror genre) because while he’s offered more opportunity partially due to this factor, there’s also a hefty amount of anticipation and expectation that comes along with it. And he makes good on those expectations *most* of the time. Infinity Pool review
8. Knock at the Cabin
The concept behind Knock at the Cabin is fairly simple, as many of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are. A couple and their daughter are at a remote cabin when a set of strangers sets upon their location. It’s made known to them that they must choose a sacrifice from their own family to prevent the apocalypse. Despite the well-mannered and caring demeanors of the intruders, they insist that this sacrifice must be made in order to save the world. Knock at the Cabin review
7. Talk to Me
Talk to Me juxtaposes the ineffable highs of knowing you’re doing something dangerous that you shouldn’t be, with the realization that at some point the house – or in this case, the embalmed hand – is bound to win. There’s a brilliantly flashy montage incorporated in which each of the members of the friend group take center stage of the séance, each being able to understand the feeling of touching death while still being able to pull away. Talk to Me review
6. When Evil Lurks
V/H/S/85 is the strangest installment since its move to Shudder as the structure feels as loose as ever. The wraparound story is told by David Bruckner, who uses the runway to tell fragments of a story about an entity named Rory that watches too much TV. It’s unclear whether the following short films occupy the minutes of Rory watching television, but it’s not hard to infer the possibility given the outlandish and absurd contents of each entry. V/H/S/85 review
4. Evil Dead Rise
There aren’t many horror franchises able to reinvent themselves as often as Evil Dead does while still maintaining relevancy and quality. Maybe it’s because Sam Raimi holds his creation so close to his heart that only a select few are able to take on the premise, or maybe it’s because the premise seems simple and malleable enough to make nearly anything work. It can shoot for the downright zany and ludicrous with Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness, or it can strive to be like Lee Cronin’s newest spin Evil Dead Rise – a movie so sick and twisted that you can’t help but give it its dues by the time the credits roll. Evil Dead Rise review
3. Scream 6
The sequels for Scream have always struggled to live up to Wes Craven’s original 1996 masterpiece. It’s the inherent issue of trying to catch lightening in a bottle a second time after the first struck a nerve with a widespread audience well versed in the rules of the horror genre – if you drink, have sex, or do drugs, you’ll probably die by the time the credits role, or that you’ll surely not be back if you utter that you’ll be right back. These rules forged the franchise, and ever since the franchise has worked harder and harder to justify its own existence. Yet with Scream 6, the gang seems ready for the big time – and big changes. Scream 6 Review
Sick is the latest action/horror picture from director John Hyams. It’s his follow-up to the 2020 film Alone and feels like a natural successor for the filmmaker. In both movies, protagonists are quickly pushed into a battle to save their own lives from relentless attackers that feel just shy from being the boogeyman reincarnated. While Alone takes place mostly in the outdoors wilderness, Sick opts for a luxurious remote cabin secluded from neighbors and the outside world. Sick review
1. Saw X
Saw X emerges from the twisted mind of director Kevin Greutert, delivering a surprisingly refreshing take on the notorious Saw franchise. In this tenth installment, the filmmakers, led by writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, shift the focus to a more sympathetic exploration of the series’ iconic character, John Kramer, played wonderfully by Tobin Bell. Saw X review
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