The end of the year is near, and it is time for our features of “ranked lists.” Unlike other calendar years in the recent past, 2023 was a little low on excitement. It would be unfair to call the quality of filmmaking inferior. However, given the past few years, that characterization seems proper. The horror genre had a great year, though. From reboots to bustling independent films earning big at the box office, we had it all. By all stretches, we saw exciting work from new voices who continued to rewrite conventions around it. Our list of the best horror films of 2023 features films from different languages and backgrounds. The variety of films on offer will cover the majority of horror fetishes and desires our readers have. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

10. Sister Death

Sister Death The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023

One of the most impressive things about “Sister Death” is encapsulated in this Guillermo Del Toro statement: “Ghosts aren’t always trying to scare you.” This Netflix film underscores this thought process, although its reality is mixed. While its connection to the more celebrated “Veronique” will take precedence, “Sister Death” capably stands on its own feet. The film does not move at a frenetic pace. It trades the modern-day obsession for jump scares and quick cuts for a slow buildup that formulates a measured approach. “Sister Death” has its fair share of jump scares but doesn’t rely on them to capture the viewer’s imagination.

Director Paco Plaza uses the imposing architecture of his sets to touch upon its duality. While they’re beautiful and aesthetically empowered, the arches and curvature also hide complex mysteries. The writing is a strong point. Without giving away the core mystery, Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Paco Plaza expertly leave little cues for us to piece together. They are not placed too far apart yet not too close so as to extinguish the potency of their material. Sister Death’s biggest hope is its star, Aria Bedmar. She is easy on the eye, takes a deep interest in Narcisa’s quieter moments, and also fulfills the “scream queen” trope with aplomb.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

9. Malum

Malum The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023

Anthony DiBlasi’s 2014 cult film, “Last Shift,” might never be eclipsed in his body of work. But his reimagined version with a bigger budget, “Malum,” comes close. The two films essentially share the same concept: a ranked police officer takes the last shift at a newly decommissioned station. Her motive is to probe a mysterious connection between her father’s death and a vicious cult that terrorizes locals. Throughout the night, she finds herself barraged by terrifying supernatural events while trying to uncover the devious truth about her identity. However, there are loads of differences from the original film that first-time viewers may appreciate more.

It is difficult to write glowingly about “Malum” having seen “Last Shift.” But we presume that most of our readers haven’t, which should give “Malum” a high ranking in their wit. DiBlasi remarked how he needed more money for a more theatrical vision for his story. But he ends up doing less with more. “Malum” conjures the kind of atmosphere that horror fans relish and normies dread. The story moves at a significant pace with timely surprises. Acting is seldom a forte of a great horror film, but Malum’s cast marks that rare occasion. The film’s conclusion is uncompromising, benefiting from honest writing about a challenging subject. Despite its popcorn thrills and frills, the film manages to take you on a frighteningly lonely ride with its protagonist. Overall, “Malum” has the same atmospheric hook as “The Last Shift,” and there is a lot to like about its chilling universe.

8. Influencer

Influencer The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023

Influencer is firmly placed in the psychological thriller sub-genre of horror cinema that has seen tremendous progress in the recent past. It has become an unassailable part of the setup, introducing new tropes with constant inventions. The creators of “Influencer” manage to conjure up a surprise and yet another exciting twist on the “solo traveler’s backpacking trip gone wrong.” Emily Tennant is as refreshing as Madison, giving an impressive account. Madison’s hunger for likes and views mirrors our society’s growing obsession with self-aggrandization – not just in one’s own eyes, but others as well. That desire for validation follows an empty, isolated reality where Madison spends her time without company.

She runs into the mysterious CW one day, which is when “Influencer” takes a dark turn. Saying anything more would give away a chilling experience inspired by the yesteryear glory of found-footage-style films. The underlying messaging is solid and insightful. It is underscored by the fantastic work behind the camera to place the viewer right in the thick of things. “Influencer” has glimpses of brilliance, similar to those we saw in films like “Ingrid Goes West” and “Eighth Grade.” 

7. Birth/Rebirth

Birth/Rebirth The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023

Birth/Rebirth” is as difficult to absorb as it is scary. With mostly no over-the-top visuals and a finely tuned sense of storytelling, this horror film will make you weak in the knees. Director Laura Moss avoids a lot of horror cliches and story tropes that arm “Birth/Rebirth” with terrifying surprises. Fans will make a connection between the film and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” which shares a similar structure. But Mary Shelley’s cult classic, “Frankenstein,” is the one reference that immediately strikes you. Moss relies on the acting prowess of Breeda Wool and Marin Ireland among the cast to get a measure of the viewer. What makes this movie special is how authentically it renders the characters’ emotions into plot points, elevating the believability of its wild premise.

However, everything isn’t predicated on creativity alone. Technically, “Birth/Rebirth” is a marvel. The mix of visuals, sound, and crisp editing harnesses the former’s potential to make the final product impactful. “Birth/Rebirth” has a moral element to its approach, although it never turns preachy or didactic. The implications of the decisions our characters make are fully realized in the narrative, which will surely give you a lot of food for thought.

6. When Evil Lurks

When Evil Lurks The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023 - hof

 

This horror film is one of the most unforgettable offerings from Demian Rugna. The Argentinian filmmaker’s body of work is illustrious, but hardly any comes close to matching “When Evil Lurk’s” stellar approach. The atmospheric setting of a rural town can never go amiss, especially when the creator’s vision is so astute and precise. That is the life and heart of everything good about “When Evil Lurks,” although it cruelly takes away from the professional filmmaking on display. The haunting demonic event in “When Evil Lurks” isn’t like anything we have witnessed this year on-screen. The depiction of the possession is the film’s right to win. Its premise withholds a lot of urgency in how the rest of the film revolves around the demon’s anticipated birth and what will come after it, even though the suspension of disbelief wavers. Overall, “When Evil Lurks” is worth every second.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Also, Read: 20 Underrated Horror Movies of 2010s

5. Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023 - hof

Infinity Pool” is yet another occasion where a filmmaker addresses the “eat the rich” cultural revolution with a no-nonsense approach. Cinematically, “Infinity Pool” is beyond its high concept and follows the strict whip of its creator, Brandon Cronenberg. That surname should ring bells to movie enthusiasts, although Brandon’s body of work is well distinguished from his father’s. “Infinity Pool” uses the titillation of sex and nudity in a non-exploitative way, which elevates its appeal. Cronenberg focuses on his world-building efforts and making these subtly dreamlike liminal societies that act as the setting for “Infinity Pool.”

The director greatly diminishes the body horror attribute from the borrowed heritage of his father. Mia Goth is fast emerging as a true horror queen. Her performance will remind many of Ty West’s “Pearl,” but the little nuances she brings give her character a life and identity of its own. Admittedly, “Infinity Pool’s” first half is much better than its second, giving it a spot much lower on this list. Nonetheless, it remains a must-watch, although viewer discretion is advised owing to the film’s explicit nature.

4. Run Rabbit Run

Run Rabbit Run The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023 - hof

Netflix’s “Run Rabbit Run” is arguably one of the most discussed films of 2023. Its bizarre plot and even more preposterous ending have produced many explanations by fans. The intrigue around “Run Rabbit Run” increased manifold as its release was smartly placed after the conclusion of “Succession.” Speaking of, the show’s prodigal star, Sarah Snook, features in the central role, playing a mother whose concern grows for her daughter’s spiraling mental state. Throughout the film, Sarah struggles to come to terms with her pre-teen daughter Mia’s (Lily LaTorre) obsession with a stuffed rabbit. “Run Rabbit Run” is firmly placed in the territory of a psychological thriller with supernatural elements.

All of these are peripheral to the core themes of guilt and recovering from loss. Sarah’s past defines her present, whose prospects dwindle in the face of an old phantom coming back to haunt her. Many red herrings are placed cleverly to keep the experience of watching the film pulsating. Snook and Lily are brilliant. Since most of the acting responsibilities fall on their shoulders, their task becomes doubly difficult. But the pair admirably holds their own to the challenge.

3. Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise

There wasn’t much excitement among the core fanbase of the “Evil Dead” franchise when the new installment was announced. The muted expectations were owing to several reboots and remakes faring poorly. However, the string of subpar offerings finally stopped with “Evil Dead Rise,” which not only made its mark at the box office but also became a valuable entrant into the franchise. Helmed by Lee Cronin, EVR is straightforward in its concept. The “plague” spreads from the first minute of the runtime and keeps gaining momentum. Retaining the traditions of the “Evil Dead” franchise, “Rise” is loads of no-nonsense fun and offers a scary apocalypse reality.

Leads Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland are charming in the central roles. The core plot of “Rise” is meaningfully attached to the narrative. It ensures that you remain invested in the characters’ journey while also relishing the unfolding menace of flesh-eating monsters. Arguably, one of the best aspects of the production is the work done and time spent on makeup and visual effects. The budget doesn’t shoot up, and the finishing is top-notch.

2. No One Will Save You

No One Will Save You

Could anyone have imagined that a film with no dialogue would make it to the list of the year’s best horror films? Brian Duffield’s refreshing twist on the home invasion genre works in part due to Kaitlyn Dever’s frighteningly real central performance. The film’s major cinematic thrust comes from her ability to make the viewers feel Brynn’s internal turmoil and sense of guilt. “No One Will Save You’s” quirky, high-concept narrative is uncompromising. There are no half-hearted efforts, and Duffield’s team shows total commitment. The plot revolves around an alien invasion in a quaint American town, specifically focusing on Brynn.

The local townsfolk shun her for an incident from the past that still haunts her. However, things go out of hand as Brynn accidentally kills one of the alien humanoids in self-defense. That trigger piques the aliens’ interest in Brynn – not her physical existence but what lies inside her heart and mind. The second half of “No One Will Save You” takes a bold twist, one that can be as easily polarizing as it can be ingenious. That is really what sets up the film’s pitch as a unique horror genre offering. The crushing burden of the human condition is represented beautifully in Brynn’s characterization. Another winning quality of the film is that its mixture of different elements is very organic. The creators do not take too many new directions but retrace their steps with renewed themes. No One Will Save You…but yourself.

1. Talk To Me

Talk To Me

‘Disturbing’ probably does not even come close to describing how gory “Talk to Me” is. This year, there haven’t been many chilling experiences that compare to seeing this in a theater with a small crowd. The most exciting exhibition in the film that holds it together and gives it new life is a creepy embalmed hand. While that is an understatement of its endless and wild possibilities, the hand’s concept is relatively simple: it conjures spirits. “Talk to Me” isn’t as subversive and absurdist as some of its more illustrious A24 peers like Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.”

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

It is very close to a film like “Insidious,” where the conventional ghost/possession setup dominates proceedings. The themes about mental health are apparent in the characterization and story buildup. Above all, “Talk to Me” is among the best horror movies that have been released this year because it’s very well-executed and keeps us terrified till the end.

Read More: The Monstrous Feminine: 30 Best Feminist Horror Movies of All Time

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