Chad Collins’ Top 10 Horror Movies of 2023

2023 horror in my mother's skin

2023 has been a strange year for horror. Franchises have started and stopped. Expected hits (i.e. The Exorcist: Believer) flopped while long-running franchise entries (Saw X) were surprising delights. There’s been the good. The bad. The worse than bad. Yet, there’s no joy or satisfaction in revisiting the blips of disappointment, of course, so here, we’ll be taking a look at my ten favorite horror movies of the year. Some veer a little closer to broad genre than outright horror, though undoubtedly, this is the best horror cinema I’ve seen this year.

10. Infinity Pool

A weird thing happened with Infinity Pool. Brandon Cronenberg’s nihilistic masterpiece was unrealistically constrained by expectations. Missing the point, it became an early-year litmus test for depravity in cinema. If it worked, you simply hadn’t seen the right kind of movies. The cool kids, so it goes, had seen everything Infinity Pool tries to do, and they’d seen it done much worse (in the best way). Great, but Infinity Pool isn’t just a Cronenbergian showcase for genitalia, acid trips, and Mia Goth screams. The efficacy of its scares isn’t rooted in the conspicuous, but rather in the all-too-real recognition of justice by means of a caste system where consequences are predicated on income, not deservedness. It’s not a new message, but it’s never been quite as seductively terrifying as it is here.  

9. A Haunting in Venice

Dutch angles and dastardly murders! As one of three longstanding fans of Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot adaptations, his horror-tinged reworking of Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Expectedly, Branagh delivered, managing both the strongest entry in his trilogy and one of the most earnest haunted house movies of the year in the process. This is stylish, excessive, cacophonous horror at its very best, a séance of talented performers and throwback scares. Damp hallways, slamming doors, hidden specters, and all.

8. Cobweb

Marianne remains one of the scariest Netflix original horror shows ever made, so of course, Samuel Bodin’s Cobweb arrived with considerable expectations attached. Luckily, Cobweb is as weird and unrelenting as Marianne fans would expect. Familiar elements—creepy noises, abusive parents, scary drawings—at first threaten to erode the carefully crafted fairy tale aesthetic Bodin is going for. This is horror as punctuation, embellished narrative conceits that unsuspectingly strike. Destined to be a Halloween classic, Cobweb’s botched release is an unfortunate pox on one of the year’s very best.

7. Cat Person

You might be surprised to hear one of Sundance’s buzziest hits for the year has been available to stream for months. You’d be surprised because it’s streaming on Hoopla, free to anyone with a library card. It’s fitting that Cat Person bungled its release so considerably. It’s also a shame since while Cat Person is liable to be the most divisive entry on this list, it’s one of the few horror films this year I haven’t stopped thinking about. While tonal shifts and creative liberties have proven polarizing, for me, it remains as perfect a cocktail of modern dating anxiety and horror as any I’ve seen. It’s a sign of the times, and in a few years, I think Cat Person might finally get the credit it’s due.

6. Sick

No one can script a slasher quite like Kevin Williamson. While Sick deserved a wide theatrical release—seriously, imagine—its sudden streaming debut in January of this year remains one of the genre’s most delectable surprises. It’s a monster truck of a movie, a protracted chase scene that never lets up, crushing any sense of familiarity or respite. While its thematic bearings are a little iffy, it’s never enough to degrade just how ruthlessly effective (and fun) Sick often is.

5. Scream VI

Scream VI, you silly little movie. Since March, my opinion on Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s and Tyler Gillett’s sequel to a legacy sequel (my favorite horror movie of 2022) has fluctuated wildly. At first, I loved it, consumed by the hype that Scream was scarier and more mythic than ever. Then, the hype retreated, and some of Scream VI’s more pronounced elements acidulated my perspective. Broadly, and this remains consistent no matter how my personal tastes ebb and flow, Scream VI is a Scream movie that doesn’t always like the Scream movies. For every moment that elevates the franchise writ large—Gale’s phone call, the apartment attack—there’s another that incredulously undermines its own existence.

It’s almost too meta for its own good, like the conceptualization of executives failing to pay Neve Campbell her worth, but as a movie. So, while it’s not always a great Scream movie, it remains a grittily effective slasher. It looks great—Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are no hacks—and returning stars Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are better than ever. Barrera especially helps to take Scream VI the closest it’s come to saying anything of note in years, and it’s deeply unfair that her contributions concluded the way they did. If nothing else, Scream VI is quite a way to go.

4. Horror in the High Desert 2

I was late to the game of Horror in the High Desert. For a few years, it was the stuff of found footage whispers, a small, cheap little movie that those who had seen it loved, constrained only by, well, no one really seeing it. It’s hard to start a fire without a spark. Luckily, Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva is an entire inferno. This is oppressive, lore-heavy found footage at its most effective, a series of uncompromising scares, suffocating atmosphere, and mythic, in-universe implications. Arguably the scariest found footage movie I’ve seen in years, I can’t wait to see what Dutch Marich accomplishes with the forthcoming third entry. Believe the hype. Seriously.

3. Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is Eli Roth and writer Jeff Rendell having a go at the Scream formula with much more successful results. Understandably, Roth’s attachment to Thanksgiving makes it a hard recommendation, and with the past few weeks’ worth of news, that sequel isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. But despite the man at the helm, Thanksgiving is too good for me to simply write off. It’s an earnest, gory homage to the ensemble slashers of the 1990s, and as a horror fan whose experience started with the likes of Urban Legend and I Know What You Did Last Summer (not to mention Scream), there were moments where it didn’t feel like 2023 in the theater.

Thanksgiving could exist—and succeed—in the late 90s without feeling out of place. I suspect more than most on this list, Thanksgiving is going to endure. It singularly targets a particular subgenre, and if you don’t watch Jamie Blanks’ Valentine every year, thinking it’s the best thing ever, the Thanksgiving hype might seem overstated. That’s fair. But for the bonafide slasher stans, Thanksgiving targets exactly what’s been missing for years.

2. Huesera: The Bone Woman

I had the pleasure of reviewing Michelle Garza Cervera’s Huesera: The Bone Woman out of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, and while there is an innate privilege in getting to screen certain films early, the festival rollout also makes it hard to remember when a particular film is finally released. I make it a point of not including festival releases in my Top 10 unless they’re widely available, having been burned one too many times growing up as an audience for such end-of-year recaps. Luckily, I took some time to revisit Huesera: The Bone Woman a year later, and as expected, it remains as viscerally effective now as it was over a year ago.

This is singular horror filmmaking at its finest, merging identity, motherhood, and bone-cracking scares into one unrelenting stockpot of superb craftsmanship. It’s one of the finest horror offerings in years and signals Cervera as a filmmaker to watch.

1. In My Mother’s Skin

If a movie can be reasonably described as “Blank meets Guillermo del Toro,” it doesn’t matter what “Blank” is. I want it, and I want it now. Kenneth Dagatan’s folk horror masterpiece is more than just del Toro homage, however. It’s a lovingly crafted, relentlessly bleak foray into hidden history. As World War II comes to an end in the Philippines, a young girl enlists the aid of a flesh-eating fairy to protect her family. This isn’t happy horror, and Dagatan’s script regularly arrives at some aggressively somber places. But this is filmmaking with guts. A historical probe with a horror lens that will resonate long beyond the final reel.

Several other watches this year might have made the cut, but because they haven’t been publicly released yet, they weren’t eligible for entry here. That being said, keep an eye out for the twisted chamber thriller Manhole next year, and don’t miss this year’s buzziest documentary Satan Wants You when it bows in 2024.

Additionally, while they didn’t quite make the cut here, both Birth/Rebirth and Brooklyn 45 were at one point featured. This list went through several iterations, and I think they could easily fit alongside any of the others here. It’s been a remarkable year for horror, especially indie horror. While the theatrical landscape has been thriving, I was surprised to find some of the year’s splashiest franchise entries not making the cut.

What do you think? What were your favorite horror movies of the year? As always, let me know over on Twitter @Chadiscollins.  



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