As the year draws to a close, audiences has been spoilt for choice with a plethora of fantastic horror fare. And, as per the norm, Hollywood blockbusters have been far from the only be-all and end-all when it came to horror hits with a plethors of sleeper indie hits creeping out of nowhere and squeezing the absolute most out of their limited budgets, with a number of these receiving much deserved limited theatrical releases.
Besides the year having been rife with some of the most groundbreaking horror films we’ve seen of late, a whole host of forthcoming sui generis-sounding films have also been announced for 2024, so we decided to include a break-down of our most anticipated shockers slated for release next year below the following list of CinemaChords’ Top 10 Horror Movies of 2023.
Kurtis David Harder’s (Summerland) Influencer tells the story of Madison (Emily Tennant, “Riverdale”), a popular social media influencer who is having a lonely and uneventful trip in Thailand despite what she tells her followers on Instagram. While reflecting on her boyfriend canceling the trip, she meets CW (Cassandra Naud, “See”), a fearless and enigmatic traveler who offers to take her to some of the most Instagram-worthy locations. Together they share authentic meals and drinks with locals, discussing the differences between Madison’s online presence and CW’s lack of one. After showing Madison all of the amazing sights, things take a different turn when CW brings her to a surprise location — a deserted island that is completely off the grid.
Why it’s on this list: What sounded like a gimmick on paper ended up being an equal parts savvy, entertaining and terrifying reality check, buoyed by powerful lead performances.
For fans of: Triangle of Sadness, Afflicted
35 years after the shocking murder of three teens, the infamous “Sweet Sixteen Killer” returns on Halloween night to claim a fourth victim. 17-year-old Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) ignores her overprotective mom’s (Julie Bowen) warning and comes face to face with the masked maniac and on the run for her life, accidentally time travels back to 1987, the year of the original killings. Forced to navigate the unfamiliar and outrageous culture of the 1980s, Jamie teams up with her teen mom (Olivia Holt) to take down the killer once and for all before she’s stuck in the past forever.
Why it’s on this list: I have to admit I didn’t expect to enjoy this film as it sounded a little too similar to Final Girls and Happy Death Day but the humour in the script worked way better than expected and Shipka was cast perfectly as she hit just the right horror and comedy notes. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it ends up very much its own thing despite simlarly-premised movies having been released lately.
For fans of: Final Girls, Back to the Future, Scream
In Samuel Bodin’s (“Marianne”) Cobweb, eight-year-old Peter (Woody Norman) is plagued by a mysterious, constant tap, tap from inside his bedroom wall – a tapping that his parents (Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr) insist is all in his imagination. As Peter’s fear intensifies, he believes that his parents could be hiding a terrible, dangerous secret and questions their trust. And for a child, what could be more frightening than that?
Why it’s on this list: The premise certainly felt familiar but this reviewer loved the fact that Bodin didn’t beat around the bush and pulled me into the film straight away without any unnecessary explanatory prologue and the terrifyingly palpable performances made the film really eerie, particularly in moments when you really don’t know what is right around the corner. A perfect suspense-inducing gateway horror movie.
For fans of: Mama, I See You, The Black Phone
Brynn, an unloved and friendless dressmaker, has learned to find solace in her intricate daily routine, with haunting guilt and crushing sadness as her only companions. Isolated in her hauntingly vacant childhood home, Brynn expects no visitors. But in the middle of the night, she is startled awake by a blood-curdling noise. As the sheer dread of a home invasion calls for a clear mind to stand firm, Brynn must brace herself for a long, unimaginable ordeal. After all, the eccentric hermit is about to discover that not all home invasions are the same, especially when the dangerous intruder is something other than human.
Why it’s on this list: Already a huge fan of writer-director Brian Duffield’s previous film Spontaneous, which you need to see if you haven’t already, No One Will Save You cunningly blends familiar home invasion trappings with an alien bent whilst proving that dialogue is not vital to engage an audience with a film’s characters by adding an intriguing backstory that, whilst not congealing with the central alien/home invasion premise as I would have liked, still worked its magic to create a far more palpable experience of the protagonist’s dread and reasoning for facing the attack in the way that she does.
For fans of: A Quiet Place, Prey
After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts — the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off residents one by one, what begins as random revenge killings are soon revealed to be part of a larger, sinister holiday plan. Will the town uncover the killer and survive the holidays… or become guests at his twisted holiday dinner table?
Why it’s on this list: Bar Hostel, this is the director’s best horror work to date, especially as this reviewer didn’t particularly get on with his last few films. Here, he combines plenty of raucous comedy with his trademark over-the-top brutality to deliver a slasher flick that grindhouse fans will have an absolute field day with. Thanksgiving left me excited to see Roth playing to his strengths again, and I can’t wait to see Thansgiving 2, which has already been greenlit..
For fans of: Black Friday, Valentine
The latest film from the creators of The Deeper You Dig and Hellbender takes place in the dregs of Depression-era America where a family of performers tours a cold, dying carnival circuit. Seven enjoys reading books, Maggie has a penchant for hammers, and daughter Eve is fascinated by scissors. On a worn-out stage, quiet Eve sings for her supper, but offstage her bloody sideshow is booming. When the family bond is shattered by a violent comeuppance, Eve is there to pick up the pieces. After obtaining magic from a Devil-dealing carny, the family’s gruesome act begins to shine. However, Eve must continue to cut and sew, as the Devil guides them from below.
Why it’s on this list: The Adams family never cease to raise the bar with each film they produce, and Where the Devil Roams is arguably their most accomplished piece of work to date. Rarely do low budget films manage to pull off period pieces, but here they have cracked the formula perfectly. Both the narrative and the mythology referenced in the film kept this reviewer glued to the screen throughout, all of which was buoyed by some genuinely and intimately moving and haunting performances from the entire cast.
For fans of: Nightmare Alley, “Carnival”
John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back in the tenth installment in the franchise which explores the untold chapter of Jigsaw’s most personal game. Taking thank back to between the events of Saw I and II, a sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure in hopes of a miracle cure for his cancer — only to discover the entire operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, John returns to his work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way through a series of ingenious and terrifying traps.
Why it’s on this list: Wisely injecting some long-needed depth into the franchise’s central players, topped off with Tobin Bell’s best turn yet as Jigsaw, the tenth entry in the franchise invests us in the characters just as much as the original Saw did so well. On top of that, it never neglects to cater for those die-hard fans expecting the trademark gruesome horror the saga is best known for. After the lacklustre ninth outing, Spiral, director Kevin Greutert and screenwriters Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg have turned the franchise around to deliver arguably the best sequel to date; something of a tall order considering how far the series has come.
For fans of: Saw, Would You Rather, Hostel
The fifth entry in the iconic horror franchise created by Sam Raimi in the ’80s tells the twisted tale of two estranged sisters (Sutherland and Sullivan), whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.
Why it’s on this list: Lee Cronin‘s (The Hole in the Ground) fresh new take quickly became the highest grossing film in the Evil Dead franchise to date this year and for good reason. Revamping the franchise in unprecedented fashion, Cronin’s bold new vision provides a completely new setting for the film that adds just as much -if not more – claustrophobia to the experience than the original cabin in the woods setting. What had this reviewer even more invested in this sequel than the original films was the fact that this premise puts a family with young kids in a situation that virtually from the beginning you know just can’t end well. Add to that the trademark deadpan, oftentimes verging-on-slapstick humour and we couldn’t have asked for a better addition to the already beloved franchise.
For fans of: The Children, Mom and Dad
When a group of friends stumble upon a way to call on spirits using an embalmed hand, they fall prey to their newfound addiction, until one of them pushes things too far and ends up unlocking the door to the spirit world, forcing them to fathom out who they can really trust: the living or the dead.
Why it’s on this list: The film had its preview screening at the 2022 Adelaide Film Festival, followed by its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2023 which spurred a bidding war with Universal Pictures and others. A24 won and acquired the rights to distribute the film in the United States.
Talk To Me is unlike anything we’ve experienced before and whilst it’s not outright scary, per se, the story the Philippou’s have come up with is not only cleverly put together but never lets up, keeping things fervently intense and maintaining a sense of tangible dread throughout. The ending certainly left the door wide open for a sequel (which has now been confirmed) and this reviewer thinks this idea has the legs – and a hand – to become a fully-fledged cult franchise…
For fans of: The Ring, Long Time Dead, Smile
When brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomón) discover a demonic infection festering in a local farmhouse – its very proximity poisoning the local livestock – they seek to evict the victim from their land. But, failing to follow the proper rites of exorcism, their rash actions unwittingly unleash a possession outbreak across their rural community. Facing an encroaching evil that corrupts and mutilates everyone it touches, the brothers must turn to a wizened ‘cleaner’ who wields the only tools capable of containing this supernatural pandemic.
Why it’s on this list: Demián Rugna’s previous film, Terrified (2017), was a true supernatural masterpiece in its own right, but When Evil Lurks cranks the dial even higher. A possession meets zombie movie of sorts, this film needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, as that explanation falls woefully short of doing the film any justice, as it’s so much more than that. The narrative soudn’t be tighter, absolutely no holds barred, things get as visceral as they come (without ever being gratuitous) – with a certain dog scene that I’ll never be able to get out of my mind – and I’d go as far as to say it’s the most unsettling and unpredictable horror film of the year. Rugna has pulled another masterpiece out of his hat and we can’t wait to see whatever he comes up with next.
For fans of: The Dark and the Wicked, Evil Dead, Don’t Kill It