2023 has come and gone. The dust has settled hailing in the new year, giving us time to settle in and really think about all of the horror we here at Creepy Kingdom experienced in 2023. There were some highs and lows, and there was the arrival of a now-iconically creepy supernatural hand.
As we get ourselves primed and ready for all the horror coming our way in 2024, sit back. Relax. And read onward as to which horror films of 2023 reached the tippy top of Creepy Kingdom’s list!
THE FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY'S
"THE FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY'S movie, directed by Emma Tammi and starring Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, and Matthew Lillard, was one of 2023's most highly anticipated horror movies. It was released in theaters and on Peacock and quickly became one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time.
Exhausted young man Mike (Hutcherson) struggles with the disappearance of his younger brother while trying to hold down a steady job and care for his little sister. When a night guard position opens up at an almost abandoned old pizzeria/fun center, Mike takes it, ignoring the quirky animatronics and odd behavior of the recruiter (Lillard). When it becomes apparent that there’s more going on at this place than meets the eye, it’s up to Mike and his little sister Abby to put the pieces together and make it out alive.
I’ve been not-so-mildly obsessed with the FNAF video games since the first one came out in 2014, and the movie did not disappoint. As a longtime fan, it was exactly what I expected from a FNAF movie: some good jumpscares and nasty bites, lots of story and lore, and nods and references to the games and their fans. It felt like a love letter, from the opening to the closing credits. I’ll definitely be watching this more than a few times to absorb all the fun details.” - Hannah Fledermaus
"SKINAMARINK is at the top of my 2023 Best in Horror list because it is essentially my nightmares projected on a movie screen. Director Kyle Edward Ball has a lot of experience dealing in the nightmare space, as his previous project involved making short films out of people’s dreams.
This debut feature focuses on two kids who wake up in the middle of the night to their father missing, and all the windows and doors in their house gone. What follows is 100 minutes of dreamlike imagery, creepy cartoons, and unsettling darkness that had me gripping the edges of my seat til my knuckles were pale white. The creeping dread of something terrible happening was incredibly effective, as was the nostalgia of being a child when the fear of monsters under the bed was real.
While this film is widely debated in the horror community, SKINAMARINK is a mighty microbudget film that delivers a big punch, providing a terrifying atmosphere and some memorable jump scares. It’s a movie I will not be able to forget anytime soon." - Lauren Cupp
"Eli Roth delivered a feast that was equally funny as it was horrific. The kills in this flick are incredibly creative and help get you in a festive mood for Thanksgiving. I never thought a pilgrim mask could be freaky, but here we are. This will surely gain cult status and will be played alongside PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES every November in many people’s houses. This film is no turkey. Pass the cranberry sauce, I'm ready for another helping." - Grant Duvall
“Body horror, surrealism, and unhinged Mia Goth land Brandon Cronenberg's third feature, Infinity Pool, high on my list of top 2023 horror films. On a basic level, this surreal sci-fi flick, starring Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, and Cleopatra Coleman, depicts how a couple's tropical vacation becomes derailed after an unexpected tragedy.
With deeper analysis, this film is rich in commentary on couple relationship dynamics, group dynamics, classism, power and control, existentialism, and morality. The story is compelling, it is shot beautifully, and the acting is superb. Don't sleep on this film.” - Danielle Portney
“After almost two decades of twists, traps, and Tobin Bell, 2023’s SAW X is a bloody and fresh new addition to the franchise. Set between the first and second films, we follow a desperate John Kramer to Mexico to undergo an experimental brain cancer treatment. The scammer surgeon, Dr. Pedersen (played excellently by Synnøve Macody Lund), makes Kramer look like a saint compared to her fraud clinical institute, and she and her team quickly learn that they conned the wrong man.
SAW X is a fantastic return to the franchise for longtime fans. While the traps are satisfyingly brutal and are what we’ve come to expect from a SAW movie (I mean, bloodboarding? cmon...), what really stands out is the heart and emotion of John’s story. Tobin Bell gives everything into playing Jigsaw at his most vulnerable and personal, and we’re all on his side in this film. Not only did I delight in seeing John back on the screen, but also Jigsaw apprentice Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), who we explore as less of a “sidekick” and more of a daughter figure to John throughout. Their connection onscreen is immediate and explosive.
Also returning is director Kevin Greutert, who more than understands what it takes to make a SAW film and puts the audience in familiar territory with the gritty visual style and the yellow/green color palettes we’ve come to love. You can tell everyone put their blood (real and fake), sweat, and tears into this, making a movie that makes you laugh, scream, and sob all at once. This is one game I personally can’t wait to play again.” - Lauren Cupp
TALK TO ME
“Written and directed by Australian twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou with a budget of $5 million, A24’s TALK TO ME is the latest film created by this generation of YouTube talent. The film stars an all-Aussie cast headlined by Sophie Wilde as Mia, a young woman whose mother recently passed away. She and a group of friends come across a statue of a hand with supernatural powers, allowing them to reach out to the dead. Careless with the power, Mia and her friends play around until the tables turn on them, and Mia is tormented by something otherworldly.
It’s a film that is simple in concept but written and acted so perfectly that you can’t help but fall deeply into it, even if you know where it’s going. The hand statue feels instantly iconic, and Sophie Wilde’s performance and Joe Bird’s incredible scenes as Riley give me chills in ways I can only associate with a film like HEREDITARY. As a YouTube creator myself, this is the kind of film I love seeing because not only is it just a wonderful cinema experience, but it gives validation to people like myself who start out by making videos for the internet.” - Josh Taylor
“Based on the short story by Stephen King, THE BOOGEYMAN is an excellent gateway horror movie that packs a bunch. Directed by Rob Savage from a screenplay by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, THE BOOGEYMAN follows a family that becomes haunted by this mysterious specter that may have been around longer than time itself.
The story is relatively simple, as are the scare set-ups. Yet, Savage runs with the simplicity of the set-up. Focusing on the shadows creates a sense of anticipation that lingers after the film’s ends. The lighting and sound design also go a long way in getting under the skin. The anticipation builds with each shot and visual shot in the dark shadows. It psyches the viewer out before the scare has officially been launched. That, to me, is a sign of horror done right.” - Sarah Musnicky
WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY
“While THANKSGIVING was my favorite horror film of 2023, I'd be remiss not to give an honorary shout-out to Rhys Frake Waterfield’s WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY. It's not a great film, but it was one of the most creative and fun of the year. To see what was done with A.A. Milne’s (who received a writing credit posthumously) creation by twisting it into a gory, violent film needs to be seen to be believed. The sequel, slated for 2024, will introduce Tigger. This film makes heffalumps and woozles seem tame.” – Grant Duvall
WHEN EVIL LURKS
“The impact of brutal violence and disgusting imagery is heightened when coupled with beautiful cinematography and gut-wrenching emotional depth.
What makes WHEN EVIL LURKS special is that its violence is on par with its emotional pain. Even without the demonic infection consuming the world around the main characters, you can feel their pain and emotional struggle.
And no one is safe, not even children. In the fall of 2023, Creepy Kingdom’s Shannon McGrew moderated a Q&A with the director and writer, Demián Rugna, after a screening of the film. Her first question was, “Why do you hate children so much?” His response was, “I don't hate children; I am a child.”
This one sentence helped me understand what the film is truly trying to convey. It's not senseless gore (there is a time and a place for that); instead, it's a metaphor for how he feels the world is trying to brutally kill him, and how we all can relate to that.” - James H. Carter II
BEAU IS AFRAID
”No one does it quite like Ari Aster. Though it’s far from being conventional horror, this film touches upon how scary our own mind can be. It explores our fears and anxieties, and brings to life our personal demons in a cacophony of mayhem. In its three hours, it produces a gambit of emotions and does so in a creative and profound way. Everything from the acting, most notably by Joaquin Phoenix and Patti Lupone, to the whimsical and chaotic set design was perfect. Love it or hate it, BEAU IS AFRAID is an unapologetic tour-de-force from a master filmmaker.” - Shannon McGrew
Whether or not you agree with our list, no one can deny that 2023 had a good turnout for horror. As 2024 starts to warm up, keep your eye out for all things horror coming our way. And, if you're anything like us, make a list. The year is longer than you think!