The Best Horror Kills of 2023

Horror Kills When Evil Lurks

What’s horror without a good kill? A lot, actually, as we all know, but there’s still something to be said when a horror movie gleefully unleashes some carnage on an unsuspecting audience. For some subgenres, a good death is part and parcel with what makes a movie work. There is no Terrifier, after all, without buckets and buckets of blood. Last year, I took a look at the very best kills the 2022 horror scene had to offer. Sadist that I am, I’m back for another round, having scoured the lineup of 2023 horror releases to find the nastiest, scariest, gnarliest, most “I want to look away but I can’t” kills around.

Here, in no particular order, are the 10 very best horror kills of 2023, with several honorable mentions rounding out this year’s best at the very end. Of course, this piece has more spoilers than Freddy Krueger has knives for fingers, so proceed with caution.

Thanksgiving: Dinner Is Served

Thanksgiving’s kills, despite hailing from gore maestro Eli Roth, are tamer than audiences might expect. They’re bloody, sure, but they’re almost never sick, with Roth instead imbuing them with a kind of cartoonish quality that immediately signals it all, as Billy Loomis might say, is just one big movie. Mostly.

To kick off the third act, Roth finally unleashes his John Carver killer on our protagonist’s stepmother, Kathleen (Karen Cliché). In conventional ensemble slasher fashion, Kathleen is bad without being awful. She’s greedy, shortsighted, and, to an extent, a criminal, having played a key role in covering up the previous year’s Right Mart Massacre. But she doesn’t deserve what she ultimately gets. In a protracted beat of tension, Kathleen endeavors to escape Carver’s clutches. Anyone who has seen the trailers knows she’s unsuccessful, and soon, she’s roasting alive in an oven to be served as a Thanksgiving turkey. Carver goes so far as to carve some thigh meat from his main course, a scene so nauseatingly nasty, I had to turn away.

Scream 6: Don’t Look Down

The Scream series has been one of the goriest slasher franchises around. It’s easy to forget, what with all the humor and meta-commentary, but since 1996, this series has been bumping off young adults with graphic, visceral abandon. Poor Anika (Devyn Nekoda), girlfriend to Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is no exception.

Unwisely kicking it with the Core Four, she’s caught in the middle of the fray as Ghostface breaks into their living room. Bravely defending her girlfriend, Ghostface turns his sights on Anika, carving her from navel to sternum. Somehow, she (incredulously) survives, clutching her chest when instead she should be shoveling her entrails back inside. Resultantly, she’s the last to attempt an escape across a ladder extended between two buildings, giving Ghostface enough time to catch up, shake the darn thing, and send her plummeting below, whereupon her head is crushed on a dumpster lid. It’s Scream VI’s goriest death, and also arguably its cruelest. While it didn’t quite turn out to be true, it was a key moment in signaling Scream VI was at least endeavoring to take some risks.

Evil Dead Rise: Don’t Lose Your Head

Evil Dead Rise may not have been the barf-bag jamboree audiences were expecting from one of the goriest horror franchises around—even that infamous cheese grater scene kind of just came and went—but that doesn’t mean director Lee Cronin attempted to play it safe. He kicks off his movie with one of the series’ nastiest deaths to date. Teresa (Mirabai Pease) just wants to check in on friend Jessica (Anna-Maree Thomas), worried about how sick she’s been since starting their lakeside retreat. Jessica is possessed, Teresa! She finds out the hard way after Jessica violently scalps her, leaving Teresa to stumble, brain exposed, to the docks outside, an augur of the brutality to come.

The Fall of the House of Usher: It’s Raining Acid

Episode two of Mike Flanagan’s final Netflix miniseries, The Fall of the House of Usher, doesn’t exactly end with a twist. In recapping the many deaths of the titular Usher clan, the focus on young Perry (Sauriyan Sapkota) and his debauched masquerade is as clear an indication as any that the audience is going to see him bite the dust. Plus, well, the audience already knows the Usher kids are all dead. How they die, and their many, many opportunities to avoid fate, are instead where Flanagan culls his tension, and the moment Perry suggests turning on some industrial sprinklers for an orgy, we know there’s going to be trouble.

Those sprinklers are full of chemical waste, and going full The Collection, an entire club’s worth of people are melted down to nothing but bone as acid rain pours from the ceiling, leaving poor Perry as a pile of goop with big dreams.

Saw X: A Real Head Scratcher

No one anticipated Saw X would be as good as it was. Ten movies in, even the return of John Kramer himself shouldn’t be enough to wash the taste of Spiral out of an audience’s mouths. Beyond being a return to form, it was a reinvention, the first film in the series since the original to feel like it had something substantive to say, some reason for being beyond lining an executive’s coffers. Saw returned with a vengeance, packing plenty of nasty gore to rattle even the most hardened of audience members.

The Saw X traps are a treat, some of the best in a while, though the binds Mateo (Octavio Hinojosa) finds himself in are undoubtedly the worst. He’s strapped to a chair, given only a drill and a few minutes to drill into his skull and remove enough cerebral tissue to unlock access to a key. It’s never outrageously gory, and director Kevin Greutert wisely shows just enough to make you sick without going overboard.

Cobweb: Kids Will Be Kids

Cobweb’s standout death is a simple beheading. It doesn’t sound like much, though after an hour of wondering where on earth director Samuel Bodin was going with his feature debut, it lands with all the ferocity of Mrs. Loomis losing her noggin more than forty years ago.

Having killed his parents, convinced by the voice in the wall that they wanted to hurt him, Peter (Woody Norman) does what he’s always been told not to—unlocking the door behind the clock. His sister, a deformed, spider-like creature, emerges, haunting the house as Peter hides under his bed. Simultaneously, a band of bullies from earlier break-in, eager to punish Peter for a perceived slight. Chaos ensues and blood spills, though Peter can only hear it. Even the audience is treated only to brief glimpses of the boys being picked off one by one. Peter watches as one particular boy is thrown against a wall, dragged back, and thrown again. The final time, he stumbles out, missing only his head.

Suitable Flesh: Back, Back, Back It Up

Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh is full of exceptional performers, horny sex scenes, and Lovecraftian mythos. It’s also, not so coincidentally, full of buckets and buckets of blood. Bodies splat on concrete. Heads are severed with knives. And, desperate to stop a body-swapping possession, faces are pummeled with the rear end of a car. Heather Graham’s Elizabeth attempts to kill the soul of Ephraim trapped in Asa’s (Judah Lewis) body. A fall from a window isn’t enough, so she backs into him, gorily displayed on the car’s backup cam until he’s nothing but mush. You gotta destroy the brain, you know?

When Evil Lurks: You Know The One

That dog. The damn dog. We all knew it was coming. Director Demián Rugna knew we knew it was coming. That didn’t stop me from audibly yelping as I flew from my seat in the movie theater. When Evil Lurks is a mean, merciless movie in the best way possible.

Project Wolf Hunting: Get Smashed

Kim Hong-sun’s Project Wolf Hunting is chock full of deaths. A cargo ship full of extradited criminals is en route to Korea when they finagle themselves free from their chains and endeavor to take over the ship. For two hours, Project Wolf Hunting is nothing but carnage, but you’d be remiss to mistake it for an extended reel of mindless gore. Amidst the bloodshed, it’s difficult to narrow down just one particular standout death, though the end of Lee Do-il (Jang Dong-yoon), the mastermind of the entire escape, feels more deserved than most. Did I mention there’s an experimental superhuman on board? There is, with Project Wolf Hunting shifting into supernatural territory with abandon. That introduction proves to be too much for Lee Do-il, and after so much savagery, he’s swiftly taken down with a sledgehammer, smashed at until he’s nothing but mush.

Five Nights at Freddy’s: Open Wide

I don’t know much about the Five Nights at Freddy’s lore, but plenty of people do, easily explaining how the movie—which, at best, is fine—catapulted to a staggering $80 million opening weekend domestically. I don’t have to get it to appreciate it. While several of the deaths are of the strictly PG-13 variety, including a penultimate death that should have been pretty sick, there is one in particular that surprised even me. Kat Conner Sterling’s Max is tasked with breaking into the pizzeria with her useless gang to trash the place, unaware of the dangers within.

The group is systematically killed off-screen, though Max gets the worst death of the punch. In the movie’s most inspired move, she is drawn into the mouth of an animatronic that swiftly closes its jaws, biting her clean in half. From what I’ve heard, the death has profound lore implications, but beyond that, it was the first (and maybe only) moment that had me understanding what all the fuss was about.

So, those are the best horror kills of the year. Of course, with any list of this sort, these kills are subjective. What was your favorite horror kill of the year? Let me know over on Twitter @Chadiscollins.



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