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Craig's Top 20 Horrors Of 2023

Well here we are once again, like each new year; February is already upon us and I've still been scrambling through the last of the previous year's Horrors to pull together my list of Top 20 Horrors. Honestly, I don't know how a lot of people manage to release their Tops in December, or even January! Surely they haven't seen everything? Whilst I have definitely missed a whole bunch more, I think I've made my way through most of what I wanted to catch in 2023, and in no particular order - here are my Top 20 Horrors of 2023:

A brilliant toy company roboticist uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN, a life-like doll programmed to emotionally bond with her newly orphaned niece. But when the doll’s programming works too well, she becomes overprotective of her new friend with terrifying results.

Serving C*nt and Killing Bitches! 

A January Horror that had us all talking! M3gan was a lot of fun with a campy flare; something a lot of modern horror movies lack. 

The pacing was a bit slow to begin and the PG13 rating hindered the film slightly for many horror fans, but the star of the show was M3gan, and she delivered. The final act of the movie was pure entertainment; giving me Terminator Vs Deadly Friend vibes.

To me, it’s basically a female version of Buddi, but without the downright disrespect to Don Mancini, Tom Holland and Chucky (I'm still pretty mad about all that!) 

I always said, if 2019’s 'Childs Play' slapped on a completely different title and tweaked the Buddi doll to look a lot less Chucky, then the film would have been much more successful. Technology running amok with an added killer doll!

I guess James Wan took the memo and ran with it 🤖 

The R-Rated Cut (which was released on Peacock a few months later) was cute (that extended ear part was much better in the new cut), and the added elements of gore was a nice touch but I’m more excited to see a more full throttle kind of sequel.

(Please) Bring the Violence, Bring the Gore, Bring the Action. 🤖

In the midst of the pandemic, college student Parker and her best friend Miri decide to self-quarantine at her family’s lake house, where they will be alone — or so they think…

I Know What You Did Last Quarantine! 😉

With 2022 officially being laid to rest, it was time to jump headfirst into some 2023 Horror with Kevin Williamson's Sick, taking us all back to 2020 🥴

Just like any good slasher, the film jumps straight into the action with a fun open kill, and us Gays and Ladies love to see a male character succumb to the phallic object instead of the overdone and traditional female open kill. 

Sick is a lean (83 mins!) and mean home invasion style slasher that knows when to poke fun at itself (in that Williamson style). The film can be pretty generic, but also downright suspenseful, tense and bloody good fun! 

The kill count is somewhat lacking, and not overly creative, but are really quite nasty. The kills are more vicious than spectacle. 

I was also pretty disappointed that the killers weren't wearing some creative and elaborate slasher-style mask; it is nice to break the mould now and again, but I'm sure 90's Williamson would have said that there are some slasher tropes NOT to be fucked with. However. he did bring back the thrilling chase scenes (something lacking in a lot of modern Slashers); and they were utilised to great effect here. 

(Plus I gotta love the Scream > Halloween > Orphan 2 2022 tradition of throwing a character across a kitchen island! 😂)

The CoVid story threading was very on the nose, but it didn't get preachy. Plus, someone was bound to make a pandemic set slasher, so why not horror maestro Kevin Williamson!

Overall I really enjoyed Sick. Effective and fast paced direction from 2020 Alone's John Hyams and it features a pretty exhilarating final act! The 3rd act bringing in Jane Adams was a nice touch and even gave me Mother's Day vibes; plus it was cute that her character was named Pamela 👐

One of the funniest things is reading back on reviews for this film by all the anti-vaxxers and CoVid conspirators who seem to thrash and rip the film apart by calling it 'propaganda' 😂

Remy, a seemingly naive and devout young woman, finds herself cast out from her religious cult. With no place to turn, she immerses herself into the underground world of truck stop sex workers. Under the watchful eye of their matriarch and an enigmatic local lawman, Remy navigates between her strained belief system and the code to find her true calling in life.

Candy Land is a very understated indie film. It's brutal but doesn't push the boundaries. It never goes batshit or over the top, which is a direction it could easily have taken, and one I'd have liked to have seen.

I loved the strange Christmas aesthetic hiding in the background, adding a twist of macabre to the backdrop of the truck stop setting. 

The cast here are great, and I really loved their connections with one another; it was refreshing to see an ensemble cast for a film like this. This is the 2nd film this year in which I've seen Olivia Luccardi pop up in dark and fascinating roles (Soft & Quiet) and between this, X, Super Dark Times and My Heart Heart Can't Beat... Owen Campbell is becoming a cute little Horror King. 

Like much of the film, the ending is very (soft and) quiet but violently ominous. It doesn't go big but still encompasses some deep rooted darkness that can be shocking, disturbing and thought provoking.

While vacationing at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.

Family, Love and the Apocalypse. 

Knock At The Cabin is a pretty solid adaptation of a very well written and intense novel by Paul Tremblay. The film didn't really hold that same intensity as the book, but for me personally, that's probably because I'd been through the journey once (with the book) and experiencing it for the second time seemed less effective.

The performances are outstandingly raw, especially from Bautista and Groff, and Kristen Cui; who plays Wen... OMG, so cute, so fantasticallly genuine; I see a big career ahead of her!

SPOILERS.... There are a few changes from the original source material, the biggest being that in the film, Wen survives. This choice is tied into the tweaked ending and how it differs massively from the book. In the novel, Wen accidentally gets shot; which is absolutely devastating, and the effect it has on her Dads is palpable. At the end of the book, and after everything they've been through, Eric and Andrew decide not to sacrifice anyone for the sake of the world, and they walk off into the bleak distance, carrying Wen in their arms, unsure of what is to come. We, the readers, are left without knowing if the impending apocalypse is true or not... The film has a very different outcome, but I can't work out which I prefer.

Overall I really enjoyed the film, however, despite Shyamalan's extremely competent direction, I do wonder how effectively different the execution could have been under a different director...

Benjamin and Dom have been best friends since they were kids. On their last night together, Dom plans to send Benjamin off with a pocketful of cash. All he has to do is deliver a package over the border for a friend…

I'd been looking forward to Swallowed for quite some time... Jena Malone, hot gays, Nightmare On Elm Street 2's Mark Patton (!!!) and director Carter Smith (The Ruins, Jamie Marks Is Dead). I've followed Carter over the years with his Queer shorts screening on anthologies like Boys On Film, and I remember his 2006 short, Bug Crush - which I believe this film is based on. 

Unfortunately, I have to admit, the film left me a little disappointed, but it most certainly left me wanting more, and I've been thinking about it all year; which is why this made it into my Top 20.

Carter's direction is solid, the cast's performances are fantastic (absolutely loved seeing Queer, Camp yet frightening Patton in action). The story was darkly original and engaging but it didn't really go anywhere... Or at least it didn't delve deep enough into the kind of story I had imagined it would be. 

Much like Bug Crush, the story is creepy as hell, and highly homoerotic, sexy and downright suspenseful. The beautiful male nudity is horny and the tantalizing and the palpable connection between Cooper Koch's Benjamin and Jose Colon's Dom is sublime.

Original, fresh and Queer, there was a LOT to like here. However, from the poster artwork alone, and how the story seemed to be developing, I did imagine and hoped for a batshit 3rd act, one that could easily have leaned more heavily into the body horror aspects.

An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.

This fun romp managed to serve what was written on the tin with some fantastically over the top set pieces 🚑 

The main reason this made it into my Top 20 was THAT ambulance scene - pure perfection!

I didn’t really expect a character ensemble piece for a film titled Cocaine Bear, and to be honest, the drug dealing and the family drama was getting in the way as I just wanted more Bear rampage!!! 

The comedy didn’t always land for me and I didn’t really believe Keri Russell as a stressed out Mama; she seemed way too chill that her daughter had been taken by Cocaine Bear 👀

I loved the fantastic soundtrack, the Bear scenes were the best, the Cub’s were adorable, and the kids taking coke was hilarious… ‘My throat is running’ 😂😂

Overall, both inspired and lacklustre at the same time.

Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter in New York City.

Even though I adore the Scream franchise (mainly for my main man Wes), it did take me about 10 years to fully appreciate Scream 4, and it took about 4 watches to truly enjoy 5cream

Scream VI however... Instantly fell in love 🔪 

Yes, it has flaws, maybe more than some... I thought Samara Weaving's opening kill was unimaginative and dull; but what followed immediately was pretty damn jaw-dropping. I also felt that the NYC setting, whilst a little exciting to be out of Woodsboro, was essentially under utilised (how the hell did they not incorporate some kinda chase scene through Times Square?) - however, the setting did seem to serve many a fan-art poster well! 

(SPOILERS!!!!) The Killers reveal was fiiiine, but I did geek out that there were THREE!!! - and there's an ICONIC scene with 2 of the Killers in Ghostface stabbey mode unity - however, could there not have been 3 Ghostface costumes side by side?? 🤷🏻‍♂️

I LOVE the Core 4, but the film played it safe by saving them all - however, this should now make for a very emotional Part 7 (if it ever gets made...)

So, despite those little flaws, the film was an utter joyride, with some hella cool set pieces, Gale's scene was just damn incredible (however, I was ready to say goodbye, it was her time, and what a way to go - BUT, we do need that final scene of Gale and Sidney back to back one last time for the sequel ((if it ever gets made..)) ).

Melissa Barrera's Sam Carpenter is fierce AF, I absolutely adore having a Final Girl flirting the thin line of survivor vs the dark psychosis of a killer and I can't wait to see what twisted antics she'll get up to in Scream VII (if it ever gets made...).

Whilst 5cream played it safe to not upset the fans and stick to the Craven and Williamson formula, they laid some clever groundwork which enabled them to take bigger and riskier swings with VI, which proves to me that Radio Silence are truly worthy successors. Lets just hope they have some damn good ideas to bring this requel trilogy to a satisfying close... (but alas, FUCK YOU Spyglass!)

Three siblings find an ancient vinyl that gives birth to bloodthirsty demons that run amok in a Los Angeles apartment building and thrusts them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.

Mommy Is With The Maggots Now... 

Going into Evil Dead Rise, I had my expectations in check. The trailer looked great, but I had a feeling it would be a 'smaller' film, more of a low-key Evil Dead movie than the balls to the wall we all know and love. And even from the trailer, it looked more like a possession movie than full-on ED. Not that any of these assumptions were a deter for me, at all. And I was pretty much correct on all fronts... but the Lee Cronin directed flick even went in a lot harder than I expected - so that was a nice surprise.

The cold open was fun (but unnecessary), the title card WAS the drama, and the story unfolded at quite a brisk pace.

The new high-rise location was quite refreshing, however, similar to Scream VI and its NYC setting, I didn't really think the high-rise was utilised to great effect akin to films like REC, Demons 2 or even Poltergeist 3. It became just a meaningless location that just seemed cool for the title and poster.

There's a lot more grounded drama and characterisation here than the original trilogy, and is more in line with the 2013 remake; but I'm definitely not afraid of some emotional elements mixing in with my Deadite fun! And there was a hell of a lot of Deadite fun to be had! But in all honesty, it was Alyssa Sutherland's Ellie that carried the whole damned movie - she was incredible.

Overall, some of the set-pieces were super gory and bloody good fun, all the easter eggs were absolutely adorable, and THAT finale gave me Carpenter's The Thing meets Yuzna's Society with those frighteningly fantastic Evil Dead quips!

Honestly, Rise is super cute and I had a great time.

Eight year old Peter is plagued by a mysterious, constant tapping from inside his bedroom wall—one that his parents insist is all in his imagination. As Peter’s fear intensifies, he believes that his parents could be hiding a terrible, dangerous secret and questions their trust.

Despite this making my Top, Samuel Bodin's Cobweb did have me very much conflicted.... (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

I'll start with the good; it's atmospheric as hell! Honestly, the cinematography, set design, sound design, score and vibe are all beautifully sublime 🤤 The build up is very spooky and mysterious, albeit a little slow.

However... the story is a mess. Very much a gorgeously macabre style over (any) coherent substance. 

So let's get into it - WTF was his Sister? Supernatural? Monster? Superhuman? She's definitely not the skinny, weak and malnourished thing that she should be, considering she's lived in the walls all her life.

What's with the added mystery of the girl in the neighbourhood that Peter found buried in the garden... Did the parents kill her? Did the sister? Do we care? URGH!

It's like with each new twist, we're given pieces of a bigger story that may have just been edited out. It could have been bad writing, or some meddling with the Studio? Who knows... But it's awfully messy. Honestly, this could have been quite masterful, if certain parts of the muddled story were tweaked.

Despite these frustrations, I did enjoy the film. Very much. If anything, the film is a just a VIBE. A gorgeous, sublime, modern gothic vibe that's absolutely perfect for Halloween.

A Barbarian meets Mama by way of People Under The Stairs.

When the infamous “Sweet Sixteen Killer” returns 35 years after his first murder spree to claim another victim, 17-year-old Jamie accidentally travels back in time to 1987, determined to stop the killer before he can start.

#TotallyKiller was TOTALLY a fun time! I love Kiernan Shipka, and she was a bloody delight in this movie; plus I totally dug seeing Modern Family's Julie Bowen pop up in a horror movie (don't think I've seen her in one since Werewolf In Paris!).

Possibly a bit too family friendly for my taste, but I ate it all up greedily; it seemed both extremely cliched and yet pretty darn original. Not as emotional and effective as 2015's Final Girls, but I think I enjoyed this over Happy Death Day (which I found too repetitive) and probably on par with Freaky. It's cute that these types of Slashers (along with the less than stellar It's A Wonderful Knife) seem to be creating their own little sub-genre within this current resurgence of Slasher movies (Scream V, VI, Sick).

Totally a feel good Slasher for the whole family to enjoy!

Between the events of ‘Saw’ and ‘Saw II’, a sick and desperate John Kramer travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer, only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, the infamous serial killer returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through devious, deranged, and ingenious traps.

Saw X was a fun standalone movie that seemed to bring things back to basics. Definitely better than the last few Saw Movies, but a rather silly story where you wouldn't expect THE John Kramer to be scammed!? - But hey, guess it shows us all he's just like us...

The Traps were fun, if a little unmemorable, and the cast of characters were a good bunch to see killed off. I really LOVED Dr Cecilia Pederson - what a fucking BITCH in the BEST possible way! Probably one of my favourite Saw characters we've had since Amanda! - I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her if they continue making movies. 

It was lovely to see John and Amanda back together (except her dumb ass wig) and it was nice that they accompanied us throughout most of the films runtime, as opposed to a scene here and there. The development of the story was also a lot more linear and straightforward than the other sequels, which I appreciated.

Overall, it was nice to be back in the original Saw world, and I'm definitely down for seeing another one, but honestly, it's not necessary. (2024 EDIT: Guess I'm looking forward to Saw XI ! LOL)

An exiled anxiety-ridden homebody must battle an alien who’s found its way into her home.

No One Will Save You is a pretty solid movie and I definitely loved a good 75% of it. The house invasion scenes were really intense and well done and I honestly watched 3/4 of the movie before even realising there had been little to no dialogue! - Guess I was THAT into it. Like, WOW. The visuals, intensity and visceral performance by lead Kaitlyn Dever; pulling off an incredible feat carrying a non-dialogue movie for most of its runtime; which is so much more than just a gimmick.

The Grey's themselves were a little too cute and CGI and lowered the tone a little, but I really loved the different variations of the stereotypical Grey we often see in abduction movies.

I feel pretty indifferent about the ending, I'm not sure if it elevated or cheapened what came before; however it didn't in any way spoil the experience of the film as a whole. I don't think I've enjoyed an alien movie this much since 2014's found footage Alien Abduction.

A once-esteemed psychiatrist helplessly watches her life spiral into a nightmarish maelstrom of supernatural hysteria and gruesome deaths, all linked to a seemingly unstoppable ancient curse.

I absolutely loved Suitable Flesh.

Heather Graham acting her chops out. Barbara Crampton looking absolutely beautiful! Joe Lynch! Dennis Paoli! H.P. Lovecraft! Cronenberg vibes! Queer vibes! Humour, Horror and a surprising amount of Gore! There is SO much to enjoy here. 

And unlike some of the films I've watched recently, there wasn't even one minute of slow burn or fodder! It's wild, erotic, surprisingly shocking and just downright fun. 

Feels like a 2023 love letter to the Iconic Stuart Gordon and a gift to Horror Fans.

In a small Midwestern town, a deadly annual ritual unfolds when the mythical nightmare, Sawtooth Jack, rises from the cornfields and challenges the town’s teenage boys in a bloody battle of survival.

I went into Dark Harvest completely blind - but now I am obsessed and I NEED to read the book! I absolutely loved every second of this dark Halloween themed fantasy horror set in the '60s. 

Visually stunning, a cast full of cute boys and a surprising amount of gore - props to the scene that reminded me of Hatchet - I was NOT expecting that!

Although the influences of a lot of other movies can be seen here (Pumpkinhead, Hunger Games, Children Of The Corn) it's freshly original and I was fully enthralled in the tale of Sawtooth Jack.

It feels like the love child of Creepshow and Goosebumps - so, it's no wonder I bloody loved it!

I honestly can’t wait to watch it again this Halloween 🎃

After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off residents one by one, what begins as random revenge killings are soon revealed to be part of a larger, sinister holiday plan.

Thanksgiving was a lot less Grindhouse than I was expecting, and a lot more typical Teen Slasher - but I'm definitely not complaining. 

A super fun Holiday Slasher with gory violence and inventive kills, which can be both hilarious and VERY Eli Roth.

The movie seemed like a modern love letter to 90's Slashers and yet I felt that the film could quite easily have been released in the late 90's right alongside Scream and I Know, adding to the slasher resurgence of that decade. 

Whilst the whole journey was super fun, I will admit to feeling a bout of anxiety in the opening Black Friday riot - I absolutely hate the toxic rage of the human condition and it stresses me the fuck out! But there was enough standard horror/slasher violence that followed which helped alleviate my anxiety 🤣 Death by shopping trolley - genius! 😂

I loved the little mask switch-up during the parade, and I'm wondering if there are any other Slashers out there where the Killer changes mask to cleverly fool the dumb victims 🤔

I was definitely here for the dinner scene which gave me Texas Chainsaw meets Happy Birthday To Me vibes. 

I'm certainly looking forward to adding this to my yearly Holiday Horror watchlist and I can't wait for the sequel!

A team-building conference for municipal employees turns into a nightmare when accusations of corruption begin to circulate and plague the work environment. At the same time, a mysterious figure begins murdering the participants.

Konferensen AKA The Conference is a super fun Nordic Slasher/Comedy with a great cast and a pretty compelling story with heart. It was quite refreshing to see a Slasher with a bunch of middle aged and older people as opposed to our usual trope of teens; it's so strange to think that changing one trope within a particular sub-genre completely brings something quite original and refreshing to the chopping block.

Some of the kills were pretty gnarly and there was quite a lot of fun chase scenes - HOW some of these older characters were able to run and fight like that I'll never know... my old body would have just laid on the ground complaining about my back and await my death 🤣

A single mother and a childless morgue technician are bound together by their relationship to a little girl they have reanimated from the dead.

This was a pretty heavy film that I vibed hard with. I'd say the strongest elements here belong with the insanely talented leads Marin Ireland and Judy Reyes. Birth/Rebirth is part Re-Animator and part Pet Semetary vibes with a bit of Frankenstein thrown in and served to us on a slow burn indie plate.

There's a hell of a lot to like here, but the pay-off doesn't quite match the build up. I definitely needed another Act to see how things were gonna play out. The themes of human mortality and grief hit HARD, to the backdrop of an insanely eerie score. The vibe of foreboding and dread are strong, but there's an actual vibrantly macabre story beating throughout.

When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.

I'm a big fan of supernatural / possession horror, and I definitely have a little obsession with Ouija based movies; so it's no surprise I really enjoyed this little indie film which turns the Ouija idea on its head, mixing it with a bit of Monkey's Paw and giving us something quite refreshing. 

The first half of the Talk To Me is mainly about the game; establishing its place in the world and the rules - and I laughed at the fact that it seemed SO Gen Z of the characters to make a fun game and filming one another whilst being possessed. I can see that kind of vibe happening in the real world. 

The second half of the film is about the consequences and where the film really comes into its own. There are some pretty intense visuals, terrifying moments and the filmmakers have created an exceptional amount of atmospheric dread - that's quite some feat for the directing duo's debut! 

I will say, the story does get a little messy towards the end and there's some ambiguous threads and a few metaphors  thrown around, reminding us all this is an A24 film - but I didn't mind as the overall result was a bone-chilling frightfest that's a pretty unique and original take on one of my favourite sub-genres.  

Londoners Maya and Jamie escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent, murderous goblins lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden. When heavily pregnant Maya’s relationship with a local family turns sour, who – or what – will come to her rescue and to what extremes will she go to protect her unborn child?

Jon Wright, the director of 2012's Grabbers, brings us a cute little Irish Folklore which is really quite weird and quirky. The setting and cinematography were actually beguilingly beautiful, capturing a nice balance of an enchanting fairy tale juxtaposed with a knowing British/Irish landscape.  

Mixing up genres and styles, Unwelcome floats seamlessly through fantasy, horror and comedy but ultimately finds itself between the Home Invasion Vs Monster sub-genres. 

And wait until you meet the Redcaps...evil little fuckers with quite a bit of humour that seem ripped straight from an 80's rental movie. A mix of the Goblins from Labyrinth meets the creatures from Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark. A mix of CGI and practical FX, I enjoyed some of the size perspectives which reminded me a lot of  87's The Gate.

I don't think everyone is gonna gravitate towards this, but I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was super cute.

A group of social media experts are hired to help an old family business to strive. But they soon find themselves stuck on a tiny island in a lake in which an ancient Swedish witch is said to live.

#FEED is a low budget, super fun Swedish Supernatural Slasher. The cast of characters are a bunch of Influencers who are all, to my surprise, relatively tolerable. I guess you don't always need to be an overzealous A-hole to be an Influencer in a horror movie. 

The sub-genres do fuse and twist, but I can't explain why without giving the story away; but I will say that'll you'll enjoy the vibes of Blair Witch meets Friday the 13th, with a bit of Creepshow 2's The Raft thrown in too. 

It's definitely a 'leave your brain at the door' and just enjoy the wild journey kinda horror, and don't even bother to poke the plot holes - just sit back and embrace the generic jumpscares and wild storyline that'll keep you guessing right up until the final scene. 

And that is my Top 20 Horrors of 2023. Another enjoyable year of Horrors from around the World including some big budget Hollywood and low budget Indie.

And with every Top list comes my Honourable Mentions; movies that I loved but didn't quite make it into my Top:

Whilst I'll never create a 'Worst Of' list, as film is Art and Art is subjective; I will highlight some films that were major disappointments to me personally; Exorcist: Believer, Five Nights At Freddy's and Insidious: The Red Door - the latter, breaking my heart as I'm a big Insidious fan and I thought the return of The Lambert's would be my highlight of the year - but alas, even with a 10 year history, they completely dropped the ball on this final instalment.

Time to lay 2023 to rest and jump head first into the Horrors of 2024, which I'm sure will be equally as busy and chaotic, here's a little list of a few that I'm looking forward to -

Join me on my journey as I review 2024's Horrors throughout the year on my Letterboxd - FisherFilms82


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