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Halloween Horror Watchlist 2023

It is that time of year again. Spooky Season. Fall. October. I didn't used to like horror, in fact, I hated it. But, my wife loves it, so every October I curated a horror watchlist so that we could enjoy the season together. Over the years I've grown to love the genre so much that I think it might be my favorite. I feel like I am more well versed in Horror now than any other type of movie.

This year's list comes a little later in the season and is limited to only 13 films with a mix of new and classics.

These are not recommendations, simply what we are watching, so this is by no means a definitive list. For most of these we went in blind, so there may be some I did not enjoy. For each entry I will include a quick description, a link to where you can stream it, a link to the screenplay (if available) and my take.

Without further ado, I present to you the most anticipated adaptation of the year...

1. The Fall of the House of Usher (Mike Flanagan Netflix Series)

If you've read any of my previous watchlists you already know how I feel about Mike Flanagan, and his latest adaptation is no exception. The Fall of the House of Usher is an amalgamation of many of Edgar Allan Poe's works housed in a frame story based on the short story of the same name set in the modern world. It is a monologue ridden, derivative, visually appealing mess. It is not horror. It is boring. It is further proof that Flanagan needs to hire writers and stick to directing.

Think Succession, but a member of the rich and powerful family dies each episode in a Poe-inspired way. My favorite line is from a scene where the characters are trying to figure out who this woman (played by Flanagan's wife) is in some grainy security footage. "I can't make out her face, but she's got a rockin' bod." That's pretty much the entire show.

I can see someone who has no media literacy (Gen Z) enjoying this. And all that to be said, it's not bad, it just annoyingly falls short at almost everything. 5/10.

Available for streaming on Netflix

90% on Rotten Tomatoes (78% audience score)

The Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Let's move on to the first classic in our list this year, A Nightmare on Elm Street. I did not expect this to be as good as it was. This is one of those movies that is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that you feel like you've seen it even if you haven't seen it. It has been parodied so many times that we basically have. But. This was not what I thought it was going to be. I assumed it was a mindless slasher that was going to be full of disturbing imagery. What I got was a smart, genre-defining meta-slasher that subverts the tropes set up in 1978's Halloween and 1980's Friday the 13th. Something Wes Craven would then go on to subvert again in the 90s with Scream.

A Nightmare on Elm Street proves yet again that a classic is a classic for a reason. 10/10.

Available for streaming on Max

95% on Rotten Tomatoes (84% audience score)

3. The Haunted Mansion (2023)

No, not the poorly received 2003 Horror/Comedy starring Eddie Murphy that had almost nothing to do with the classic Disneyland ride. This is the poorly received 2023 Horror/Fantasy starring LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson and Danny DeVito.

I actually really enjoyed this one. I'm not saying its the best movie out there, but if you already have Disney+ and you are looking for a family friendly easter egg filled generally good time, then you should watch it. Every room in the ride is represented here with a perfectly serviceable story with some genuinely emotional moments.

I was also a fan of the 2016 Ghostbusters penned by the same screenwriter, so do with that what you will. 8/10.

Available for streaming on Disney+

37% on Rotten Tomatoes (84% audience score)

4. The Exorcist (1973)

Another classic that impressed me in ways I did not expect. The Exorcist, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, occupies such a profound space in our cultural consciousness that literally everyone in the western world will know what you are talking about if you mention it. It has been parodied so many times I felt like I'd seen this movie without ever seeing it.

What I expected was a disgusting, disturbing supernatural horror. What I got was a contemplative, subversive, strangely feminist thinkpiece that was somehow both critical and in favor of organized religion.

This is a long film clocking in at just over 2 hours. It slowly builds up towards the incredibly famous climax of the exorcism of a young girl. But most of this movie takes place before the girl is even possessed (or at least before it manifests). Hidden beneath the grotesque (achieved through absolutely fantastic makeup work) is a depth rarely scene in the genre. It is a masterclass on character work through a long first act. 9/10.

Available for streaming on Max

78% on Rotten Tomatoes (87% audience score)

5. El Conde

El Conde is a weird one. As the poster suggests, it is a Chilean film primarily in Spanish with subtitles. Most kids these days watch everything with subtitles on, so this shouldn't be a problem.

I don't really want to give away much about what happens here, but to wet your whistle, El Conde is about if Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet were an immortal 250-year-old vampire. This is an independent foreign art film, so if you go in with that, you'll largely know what to expect.

I had a time with this one. The top audience review on google reads:

"Is this movie bad ? No Is this movie good? No....not exactly."

I think this is probably a good description. I do, however, recommend watching it if it at all peaks your interest. It is a valuable contribution to vampire fiction for sure. And the cinematography is extremely interesting. 8/10.

Available for streaming on Netflix

81% on Rotten Tomatoes (67% audience score)

6. Prince of Darkness

This movie was awesome! If you haven't seen anything from John Carpenter, you should probably start of with his masterpiece, The Thing, but then come back and watch this. The monster design is so gross and cool. The story is awful, but so deliciously 80s, and it takes place entirely inside of the church from 21 Jump Street. The casting is surprisingly diverse and we get a bonus Alice Cooper cameo.

Prince of Darkness is just a solid good time. I mean the plot is that a vial of Satan is uncovered sealed beneath a church. 8/10.

Available for streaming on Peacock

61% on Rotten Tomatoes (61% audience score)

7. House of Usher (1960)

My wife has a thing for Edgar Allen Poe. She also has a thing for Vincent Price. If you've never seen a Vincent Price movie, you are missing out. This is not by any means his best work; it is on the list this year because of the much hyped release of Mike Flanagan's The Fall of the House of Usher Netflix series. This adaptation takes more than a few liberties with the source material, though I think most of them were good choices for the screen. This era of low budget film making cared much more about showmanship than story, and it shows. Still, I had a good time with this one. 7/10.

Available for streaming on Pluto

84% on Rotten Tomatoes (74% audience score)

8. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

If you've read any of the past year's lists, then you know I always include one of the Twilight movies. It started as a joke, but each one of these I watch makes me unironically enjoy the series that much more. The Twilight Saga is criminally underrated. Headlined by two of our generation's greatest actors, these adaptations are as good as they could be given the source material (I haven't read any of them, but I just might. Watch me). I simply have the best time watching these. I mean it's like straight up romance, and then there's a whole section where vampires and werewolves are tearing each other apart with the worst CGI of all time, and for some reason Bryce Dallas Howard is in this one. 9/10.

Available for streaming on YouTube

47% on Rotten Tomatoes (60% audience score)

9. Friday the 13th

Now, I'd actually seen this one before, but Liz hadn't. If you haven't seen it, Friday the 13th is 100% not what you expect. It pioneered POV film techniques that are still influencing us to this day (hello TikTok and the Grimace Shake), it established the summer camp slasher trope, it has some of the best visual storytelling I've ever seen, and the character work is outstanding (plus Kevin Bacon). It's kind of a masterclass on developing characters using as little screen real estate as possible. The dialogue itself (and acting) leave quite a bit to be desired, but the jump scares (it has probably the most famous jump scare of all time) and tension are genuine, and there is a pretty good third act twist. There is a reason it spawned a 40+ year franchise with 12 movies. It's the perfect makeout slasher 8/10.

Available for streaming on Max

64% on Rotten Tomatoes (60% audience score)

10. It Follows

It Follows is extraordinary. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Full stop. It is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. It will stick with you. I feel like I could watch this over and over and it would still scare me.

This has been on the back of my list for years, and I hadn't watched it because I thought it was going to be about sexual assault, which it kind of is but at the same time somehow isn't. So, possible trigger warning, but the film maker is generally tasteful (I know how paradoxical that sounds) about how he handles the subject.

There are metaphors on metaphors in this film. What you think is a sophomoric allegory for HIV and AIDS is quickly revealed to be about something else entirely. Something much more primal. I'm not sure it's really about anything. It is postmodern in that way, and that is probably why I like it. It is a movie about nothing which makes it about everything all set against the collapse of Detroit in the early 2010s. It Follows ran so that Barbarian could walk. 10/10.

Available for streaming on Netflix

95% on Rotten Tomatoes (66% audience score)

11. Skinamarink

I don't want to say much about this one. Skinamarink is an abstract indie Shudder (the exclusively horror streaming platform) original. The entire movie leaked and went viral on TikTok in late 2022, but it recently released on Hulu. It is deeply polarizing due to its difficult to watch grainy film post-processing and entirely abstract film style (we only ever see one or two faces, and everything seems to happen just off camera). I do recommend sitting through it through to the end. Try and do it in one sitting on as big a screen as you can (bonus points if you manage to find a theater screening) with all of the lights off with a good sound system (or headphones). The sound design is the star of the show here, well, that and the child acting.

This film touches something deep and primal in our brains. A horror that is universal. The feeling of not feeling safe in your own home. That is, if you let yourself get drawn into its world. Liz had a much harder time with this one as it deals with heavy undertones of abuse and abandonment. If you enjoyed We're All Going to the World's Fair, you should not skip this one. If you weren't afraid of the dark before watching this, you will be. 9/10.

Available for streaming on Hulu

72% on Rotten Tomatoes (66% audience score)

12. Infinity Pool

If you were paying attention, Infinity Pool was the talk of the town amongst film folks at the beginning of 2023. This was my first Brandon Cronenberg movie, and I went in completely blind and oh boy. My biggest disappointment is that there isn't even one infinity pool in the movie. I mean I vaguely remember a single shot of one in the opening montage that didn't really have anything to do with anything except establishing tone.

And that's really what this is: a movie about nothing except tone. I mean there are themes of eat the rich and morality when there are no consequences, but ultimately, I think, Infinity Pool is a parody of Midsommar. Characters even wear very similar ritualistic robes. I think Cronenberg made this movie to mock Midsommar and everyone who loved it, which is the exact type of person who would watch Infinity Pool. This sounds scathing, but I think this movie was just fine. It's just not smart, at least in the ways people think it is. If you are looking for something to get here, you are doing it wrong. It's postmodern in that way. 7/10.

Available for streaming on Hulu

86% on Rotten Tomatoes (52% audience score)

13. A Haunting in Venice

I haven't seen this as of writing. It is still in theaters but comes out on streaming on Hulu on Halloween.

A Haunting in Venice is the latest of Kenneth Branagh's mysteriously charming Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie adaptations. I had a great time with Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile which have low-key become a guilty pleasure for me. It promises to be a fun old-Hollywood style mystery. I've intentionally not read anything about it even though its based on a story that exists in the public domain.

Available for streaming on Hulu

75% on Rotten Tomatoes (77% audience score)

Honorable Mention: Goosebumps (2023) Disney+ Series

I'm including this currently on-going Disney+ reboot of Goosebumps as an honorable mention because I started watching it on a nostalgic whim and very quickly realized it is pretty damn good. Brought to you by the screenwriters of Detective Pikachu and the 2010s Muppet movies and starring Barbarian's Justin Long and a bunch of really talented teens, Goosebumps is a clever and surprisingly faithful adaptation of the beloved Scholastic Book Fair (may they rest in peace) series of pre-young-adult horror novels. It is genuinely tense and disgusting and funny and sometimes scary. I'm having the best time. 9/10.

Available for streaming on Hulu and Disney+

77% on Rotten Tomatoes (67% audience score)

And that's it for this year. Thanks for reading.

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