Dread Central’s Best Horror Movies Of 2023

best horror 2023

2023 was a year of fascinating ups and downs in the world of horror. Whether it was the disappointing release of films like The Exorcist: Believer or the surprising box office success of the lo-fi nightmare experience Skinamarink, 2023 proved that people want original horror films just as much as franchises or movies based on existing IP. It was a year of shattering taboos (looking at you, When Evil Lurks) and really starting to push boundaries when it comes to transgressive horror in the more mainstream space. 2023 was the exciting start of something new, of horror movies really feeling dangerous, gross, and deeply queer. We’re moving towards an era of weird horror, and those possibilities are both endless and incredibly exciting.

With all of that in mind, we here at Dread Central have put our heads together to determine our top 10 horror movies of 2023. Check out the full list below!

10. Evil Dead Rise

A family must face off against flesh-possessing demons in their apartment. I respect the Evil Dead franchise and even like some of the movies and the TV series well enough. However, this is my favorite entry so far. Filmmaker Lee Cronin has a very keen eye for the grotesque and disturbing. It was such a pleasure to watch this mayhem unfold. This movie is dark, funny, and unafraid to gleefully scream “fuck those kids” as it wields a cheesegrater as a weapon. From the title card to us making sure mommy really does sleep with the maggots, this movie is sick, mean, and dirty. I lived my best life. May we see more final women head to battle with a chainsaw in the years to come! —Sharai Bohannon

9. 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 threatens 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. —Chad Collins

8. Five Nights At Freddy’s

Say what you will about Emma Tammi’s Five Nights At Freddy’s, but you cannot deny its importance. Fans wore their best cosplay to see the horror film based on the wildly successful video game franchise. TikToks dissecting the film’s Easter Eggs flooded the app. But most importantly, it brought more young people into the world of horror films. Sure, it’s a weird movie, but the games aren’t any less weird. Tammi taps into the bizarre and actually quite endearing to craft one of the year’s biggest surprises. By no means is Five Nights At Freddy’s perfect, but it’s a crucial piece of 2023 horror cinema that’s way more entertaining than anyone could have expected. —Mary Beth McAndrews

7. Scream VI

I think some fans were put off by the ending of Scream VI. But I am in the opposite camp. The film’s conclusion is among my favorite aspects of the picture. The denouement reminds me of the scenery-chewing chaos that transpires in the final moments of Urban Legend. Sure, it’s over the top and requires some suspension of disbelief. But I think that’s what makes it enjoyable. 

I count this sixth outing as one of my favorite sequels in the Scream canon. I think the flick serves as a great amalgamation of legacy characters and fresh faces. In short, this sequel stands as yet another noteworthy offering from the talented filmmaking collaborative, Radio Silence.  

6. The Outwaters

Finally, Robbie Banfitch’s found footage cosmic nightmare was unleashed onto the world this year. While the first 45 minutes are a traditional found footage movie, the back half is a chaotic hellscape that throws you through time and space. Bodies collapse into piles of organs and blood splatters the sand. Screaming tentacles skitter across the landscape and our four heroes are reduced to nothing but piles of shrieking flesh. It’s disgusting, it’s scary, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. —Mary Beth McAndrews

5. Swallowed

Carter Smith’s Swallowed set a dirty and queer tone for 2023, for which I am forever grateful. Shot in a claustrophobic 4:3, the film follows a young aspiring porn star whose best friend gets them stuck in a drug deal gone bad. And those drugs are, in fact, bugs! While this is definitely body horror, it’s not John Carpenter body horror. Rather, it’s something more restrained, yet still terrifying. It’s queer but not just about queerness. It’s gross, it’s campy, and Mark Patton delivers some of the year’s best one-liners. Don’t mess with this queen, y’all. —Mary Beth McAndrews

4. Sick

It kind of always felt like Kevin Williamson ushered me by hand into this horror fandom like a length of rope into a dark hall. The first scary movie I ever laid eyes on was I Know What You Did Last Summer, and his Scream films are inarguably the most important touchstones of North American horror cinema during the late 90s. Yet we don’t hear too much from Williamson these days, who has since built a television empire with blockbusters like The Vampire Diaries, The Following, and Tell Me a Story. Then, out from the dark shadows, this genre icon returns with a new slasher film set during the early worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic and directed through the slick lens of John Hyams (TV’s Black Summer). 

With a brutally suspenseful opening sequence that evokes the faint scent of Casey Becker’s burnt popcorn, Sick is a mean and relentless slasher movie with a clean and concise point-of-view. From masking and contact tracing to social distancing and Lysol, the film takes the discomforting practices of the early pandemic and puts them to sadistically fine use. It’s a real goddamn shame, like with Cobweb and Dark Harvest, that Sick didn’t get the big theatrical release that it deserved. With the immeasurable success of new films like Terrifier 2, Scream 6, and Thanksgiving, slashers are as profitable as they’ve been in decades. —Josh Korngut

3. 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. —Chad Collins

2. When Evil Lurks

Two brothers try to dispose of a demon-infected man who is about to give birth to evil. However, they accidentally release a hellish nightmare on their village in the process. This movie was possibly the most unexpected, chaotic, and meanest movie of the year. At several moments, I found myself internally screaming while trying to process what I had just seen. This is also another movie that happily fits into the “fuck those kids” camp. When Evil Lurks is my favorite Shudder original of the year. It also made me rearrange my end-of-year list, and that’s kinda rude. —Sharai Bohannon

1. Talk To Me

During my interview with Australian filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou, they told me that Talk to Me was partially inspired by a disturbing real incident that they encountered. The story goes that a young person was experiencing an obvious overdose of drugs of some kind, yet instead of helping the person, the onlooking crowd gleefully filmed the incident and posted it online.

A shocking and delightfully scary ghost story about a group of young people who speak with the dead through the conduit of an embalmed severed arm of a psychic, Talk to Me is nearly relentless with its horror; once it takes hold, it refuses to let go. With standout performances by Sophie Wilde and the legendary Miranda Otto, this new classic will not soon be forgotten. With a sequel (and prequel?) already in the works from A24, I think we can soon expect it to become a household-name horror franchise.

A feast of refreshing, low-concept, and unpretentious horror that’s self-aware but never cynical, Talk to Me is my easy choice for scary movie of the year. An elegant hybrid of Blumhouse-style soundstage spooks balanced out by thoughtful and disturbing A24 tendencies, Talk to Me is an exciting vision of what original commercial horror can look like these days. —Josh Korngut

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