20 January 2024
2023 was a strange year for me and horror movies. I saw a lot I liked but not a lot that I loved. Most of the films I loved this year were not horror, which is not usually how it goes. But, of what films I liked in the horror realm from 2023, these are the ones that stood out the most.
I didn’t see this one coming, but it really bowled me over. It was marketed as something of a straightforward folk horror, which makes sense because even though it is not at all a straightforward folk horror, it’s not anything else marketable either. Enys Men reminds me of a musical composition more than anything—an expertly woven collection of melodies, harmonies, counterpoints, and echoes. It’s horrific really only in the existential sense of term, but that is one of my favorite senses of the term, so there we are.
It’s been a year since its release, so I (and others) have talked enough about Skinamarink (we even discussed it on an earlier episode of Quiet Little Horrors). I didn’t immediately love it, but it’s far too original for it to have not lodged into my brain and stuck with me.
Another surprise. I had few expectations when I sat down to watch No One Will Save You, but maybe that is why it made such a positive impact. I’m not always enthused for (spoiler alert) alien horror. However, this film’s “no dialogue” conceit and its grounded emotional context, plus its (another spoiler alert) cynical happy ending won me over. Fresh and unique.
I have no intention of activating any “TV series are actually films” discourse by including a miniseries remake of Dead Ringers in this list. I just really, really want to highlight a piece of work that I feel never got its due. I loved this series. Superbly performed and thoroughly committed to the themes of womanhood and motherhood as body horror, some of my favorite themes to explore.
Speaking of womanhood and motherhood as body horror, Huesera is a deeply felt meditation on unchosen lives and fear of losing yourself, wrapped up in curses and hauntings. I wish for the main character’s sake she wasn’t left with an either/or decision at the end, but perhaps we’ll find balance yet.
Another entry about the dark side of motherhood (horror has been a fertile field for this topic lately—no pun intended nor any complaints here), Birth/Rebirth is a tale of a grieving single mother and a scientist intent on conquering death and the uneasy alliance they strike to get what they each want. The tension flags a bit as the film goes on, but the performances are strong and the thematic territory worth exploring.
I have always like experimental filmmaker Jennifer Reeder’s work, and as she has edged into more traditional horror film, I continue to enjoy her brand of feminist perspective and iconography. Perpetrator plays with a lot of her pet themes, continues the trend of showcasing the visceral experience of girl/womanhood, and features a deliciously weird and wonderful monologue from Alicia Silverstone.
In all honestly, this one didn’t come together for me as well as I would have liked, and I liked it less than Brandon Cronenberg’s first film, Possessor. But it’s bold and strange and unique, and I value that more than perfect coherence.
A super fun throwback to the best of Stuart Gordon. Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton are both a blast. Sometimes you just want a sexy, weird time.
I had no idea what I was in for when I started watching this, which might have contributed more than its fair share to my surprised delight with it. What starts out as a rather grim but elevated folk horror tale at some point takes a sharp turn into gonzo creature feature that never stops getting wilder and bloodier, and I had a tremendous amount of fun with it.
I also put all these films into a Letterboxd list, if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you’d like to read last year’s horror film favorites, please do so.