Josh Korngut’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2023

Josh Korngut
'Where the Devil Roams' - Courtesy of Yellow Veil Pictures

The third year of my Dread Central managing editor tenure arrived with plenty of well-timed and important additions to the horror landscape. As a lifelong genre devotee and now professional, my editor position at one of the widest-reaching horror publications still feels like an absurd truth for which I am deeply grateful. This list of ten films, many of which I was able to review or cover in real time, is the perfect example of why. 

Here are my ten favorite horror movies of 2023.

10. In My Mother’s Skin

In My Mother’s Skin by writer/director Kenneth Dagatan is a Filipino production shot in Bacolod City with an extraordinary cast of young talent. A grotesque and elegant folk horror fantasy that would undoubtedly make Guillermo del Toro proud, its plot concerns a young girl (Beauty Gonzalez) who is left to attend to her dying mother at their isolated estate while her father is away facing the dark politics of World War II. Suffering from this impossible responsibility, she soon encounters an ornately decorated fairy woman in the woods who promises to help in exchange for suspicious favors. 

What follows is a story of unforgiving carnage and flesh-eating madness that will make even the most seasoned horror fan squirm. While When Evil Lurks is getting all of the attention this year for committing unspeakable acts of cruelty, this little fairytale has teeth that will rival any shocker to arrive this year. I highly recommend you take a step in this putrid garden and check it out on Prime Video, you won’t be disappointed. 

9. Evil Dead Rise

An extraordinary legacy sequel, Evil Dead Rise is a grisly, gory, and gnarly new entry in the never-disappointing Sam Rami-conducted Deadite universe. For a franchise with five feature films, a television series, a musical, and two major video games under its belt, it’s a demonic miracle that Evil Dead has yet to achieve anything less than perfect; an unheard-of achievement in IP of any genre.

Lee Cronin’s story is the first in the franchise to take matters out of the cabin. This time, the nasty mayhem takes audiences into an urban apartment up in the sky. While the setting is unfamiliar, it parallels the isolation and dangers of the cabin while adding a host of new disadvantages for the ensemble and audience to endure. The new playground of horrors is an invited and refreshing recharge as it stays true to the thesis of the original films. 

8. Scream VI

I see this as a sister release to Evil Dead Rise in a few different ways: first of all, they’re both modern horror entries set in urban settings that their characters utilize, like jungle gyms. Scream VI uses its NYC setting like a parkour park, with characters dangling from dizzying heights, and with gorgeous skylines adding style and a new sort of isolation for the danger lurking in the next room. The latest Scream film takes what succeeded with the 2022 reboot by elevating (heh) the stakes and giving our new crew more emotional muscle. 

Protagonist Sam (Melissa Barrera) is also able to really shine in this sixth film, and the script provides its talented lead with a more substantive range of challenges and subtext that were somewhat lacking during Scream (2022). The “core four” are all bringing their A-game this time around, providing levity, and charm to an already fun and brutal Ghostface movie.

7. Thanksgiving

Based on the infamous fake trailer showcased during the Grindhouse (2007) halftime show, this tonally and viscerally updated version of a holiday horror slasher came out cooked to perfection. There are so many modern horror movies that tout 90s influence without much more to show for it other than space buns or a Hole song on the soundtrack. But not here. Thanksgiving is a precise exercise in the impressionist recreation of the perfect 90s slasher movie. And as a mid-millennial horror fan, Thanksgiving really took its axe and struck me right in my 1997. 

While I’m seeing a lot of culture writers compare this one to Scream, I personally see more direct allusions to I Know What You Did Last Summer. While the first Kevin Williamson-penned slasher offered a post-modern reflection on a stale and nearly dead subgenre, I Know What You Did Last Summer had much less cynicism and self-awareness. It’s not a post-modern resurrection of a type of film film we’ve grown bored of. Instead, it’s a meticulously crafted impressionist recreation of a late 90s thrill ride. And l loved every minute of it. 

6. Dark Harvest 

2023 had a few more sacrificial lambs than anyone was comfortable with. With the plug-pulling of Batgirl, Coyote Vs Acme, and the disappearance of horror offerings like Salem’s Lot, cinema has felt especially untrustworthy as of late. Three of the year’s most gruesome examples of horror collateral damage appear on this list, starting with the quiet release of Dark Harvest.

Dropped unceremoniously onto VOD in time for Halloween, Dark Harvest is a one-of-a-kind October spook show from exceptional director David Slade (30 Days of Night). Based on the sensationally seasonal horror novel of the same name by Norman Partridge, Slade’s version is both charming and ghoulish in equal measure. Undoubtedly a future Halloween cult classic, this tale of teenage boys, evil Jack-o-lanterns, and a small town stained by the sweat of its past will make your seasonal rotation soon enough.

5. Cobweb 

The second most egregiously mistreated horror release of 2023 was the limited summertime drop of Cobweb. Like Dark Harvest, this is another superb example of classical, nostalgic Halloween horror. This deeply macabre fairytale received its limited theatrical release at the start of summer. From its production design to creeping storytelling, Cobweb is a Halloween movie strangled at the root by this tepid and insecure release. 

An intimate and razor-sharp story about a young boy who discovers the dark truth about his family and childhood home, Cobweb feels the plays of Martin McDonough, particularly The Pillowman, as these are both tales about unnatural, terrible miracles that occur when children experience unimaginable suffering. It’s mean, it’s scary, and it’s infested with a gothic spooky atmosphere. 

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.

3. Where the Devil Roams

The latest freak show from creative collective The Adams Family is Where the Devil Roams, a grisly and stylish shadow play with a wintery Depression-era America backdrop. Back again after binding the festival circuit with their witchy title Hellbender, Tyler Posey, Zelda Adams, and John Adams—a real-life family— now present a gory and ghoulish terrarium of bloodthirsty artists, musicians, and vagrants that uses its blinding on-screen talents to tell a road story rooted in pathos and love.

While The Adams Family has been known to the genre world for a hot minute, their latest (and arguably greatest film) to date is an alternative 90s goth kid fever dream. With music video-level visuals reminiscent of Nirvana, Hole, and Rasputina, this unique cinematic experience feels like horror couture. It’s hand-made, bloodstained, and crafted with care.

2. When Evil Lurks

Definitely not for the gaze of an inexperienced horror fan, this Argentinian shocker from Demián Rugna will have even hardened genre gurus shouting at their screens in terror. With a story that is somehow both simple yet intensely high concept, When Evil Lurks is a masterful old-school field trip into mean-spirited exploitation cinema. And for the right horror fan, this is a wonderful yet difficult beast to behold. 

What I respect most about this film is its absolute disregard for humanity, even in its most precious forms. Children, animals, and adults are all fair game, which is such an audacious and distinctly anti-Hollywood choice. With a set-up that concerns a pair of adult brothers attempting to flee a small community corrupted by an ancient evil, the brutality and body horror begin almost immediately and never give up until we’re gargling with blood and begging for mercy. 

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.



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