Your Halloween Movie Watchlist: Ten Horror Flicks From 2023 That You Should Stream This Spooky Season
Spend the scariest time of the year watching standout Mexican and Chilean films, an entry in an ace new slasher franchise and, of course, an evil doll.
October 27, 2023
We say it every year. We'll say it again this year. On Halloween, there's nothing like watching the exceptional slasher flick that is the OG Halloween, aka one of iconic filmmaker John Carpenter's masterpieces, as well as the movie that helped make Jamie Lee Curtis a star. But when October 31 rolls around — and spooky season in general — there are more flicks to binge at home, including new releases from 2023.
So, for your next scary movie-fuelled stint of sofa time, we've picked ten horror movies that'd make a killer streaming marathon — and are all available to watch on subscription-based platforms right now.
In this bag of tricks: standout Mexican and Chilean fare, an entry in an ace new slasher franchise, inventive examples of the genre that play with the form and, of course, an evil doll. They're all treats, too.
HUESERA: THE BONE WOMAN
The sound of cracking knuckles is one of humanity's most anxiety-inducing. The noise of clicking bones elsewhere? That's even worse. Both help provide Huesera: The Bone Woman's soundtrack — and set the mood for a deeply tense slow-burner that plunges into maternal paranoia like a Mexican riff on Rosemary's Baby, the horror subgenre's perennial all-timer, while also interrogating the reality that bringing children into the world isn't a dream for every woman no matter how much society expects otherwise. Valeria (Natalia Solián, Red Shoes) is thrilled to be pregnant, a state that hasn't come easily. After resorting to praying at a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in desperation, neither she nor partner Raúl (Alfonso Dosal, Narcos: Mexico) could be happier, even if her sister Vero (Sonia Couoh, 40 Years Young) caustically comments that she's never seemed that interested in motherhood before. Then, two things shake up her hard-fought situation: a surprise run-in with Octavia (Mayra Batalla, Everything Will Be Fine), the ex-girlfriend she once planned to live a completely different life with; and constant glimpses of a slithering woman whose unnatural body movements echo and unsettle.
Filmmaker Michelle Garza Cervera (TV series Marea alta) makes her fictional narrative debut with Huesera: The Bone Woman, directing and also writing with first-timer Abia Castillo — and she makes a powerfully chilling and haunting body-horror effort about hopes, dreams, regrets and the torment of being forced into a future that you don't truly foresee as your own. Every aspect of the film, especially Nur Rubio Sherwell's (Don't Blame Karma!) exacting cinematography, reinforces how trapped that Valeria feels even if she can't admit it to herself, and how much that attempting to be the woman Raúl and her family want is eating away at her soul. Solián is fantastic at navigating this journey, including whether the movie is leaning into drama or terror at any given moment. You don't need expressive eyes to be a horror heroine, but she boasts them; she possesses a scream queen's lungs, too. Unsurprisingly, Cervera won the Nora Ephron Award for best female filmmaker at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival for this instantly memorable nightmare.
Huesera: The Bone Woman streams via Shudder.
What if Augusto Pinochet didn't die in 2006? What if the Chilean general and dictator wasn't aged 91 at the time, either? What if his story started long before his official 1915 birthdate, in France prior to the French Revolution? What if he's been living for 250 years because he's a literal monster of the undead, draining and terrifying kind? Trust Chilean filmmaking great Pablo Larraín (Ema, Neruda, The Club, No, Post Mortem and Tony Manero) to ask these questions in El Conde, which translates as The Count and marks the latest exceptional effort in a career that just keeps serving up excellent movies. His satirical, sharp and gleefully unsubtle version of his homeland's most infamous leader was born Claude Pinoche (Clemente Rodríguez, Manchild), saw Marie Antoinette get beheaded and kept popping up to quell insurgencies before becoming Augusto Pinochet. Now holed up in a farm after faking his own death to avoid legal scrutiny — aka the consequences of being a brutal tyrant — the extremely elderly figure (Jaime Vadell, a Neruda, The Club, No and Post Mortem veteran) is also tired of eternal life.
The idea at the heart of El Conde is a gem, with Larraín and his regular co-writer Guillermo Calderón plunging a stake into a despot while showing that the impact of authoritarianism rule stretches on forever (and winning the Venice International Film Festival's Best Screenplay Award this year for their efforts). The execution: just as sublime in a film that's both wryly and dynamically funny, and also a monochrome-shot visual marvel. A moment showing Pinoche licking the blood off the guillotine that's just decapitated Antoinette is instantly unforgettable. As Pinochet flies above Santiago in his cape and military attire in the thick of night, every Edward Lachman (The Velvet Underground)-lensed shot of The Count — as he likes to be called by his wife Lucia (Gloria Münchmeyer, 42 Days of Darkness), butler Fyodor (Alfredo Castro, The Settlers) and adult children — has just as much bite. El Conde's narrative sets its protagonist against an accountant and nun (Paula Luchsinger, Los Espookys) who digs through his crime and sins, and it's a delight that punctures. As seen in the also magnificent Jackie and Spencer, too, Larraín surveys the past like no one else.
El Conde streams via Netflix.
70s-era porn, but make it a slasher flick: when Ti West's X marked the big-screen spot in 2022, that's one of the tricks it pulled. The playful, smart and gory horror standout also arrived with an extra spurt of good news, with West debuting it as part of a trilogy. 30s- and 40s-period technicolour, plus 50s musicals and melodramas, but splatter them with kills, genre thrills and ample blood spills: that's what the filmmaker behind cult favourites The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers now serves up with X prequel Pearl. Shot back to back with its predecessor, sharing mesmerising star Mia Goth (Emma), and co-written by her and West — penned during their two-week COVID-19 quarantine period getting into New Zealand to make the initial movie, in fact — it's a gleaming companion piece. It's also a savvy deepening and recontextualising of a must-see scary-movie franchise that's as much about desire, dreams and determination as notching up deaths.
In one of her X roles, Goth was magnetic as aspiring adult-film actor Maxine Minx, a part she'll reprise in the trilogy's upcoming third instalment MaXXXine. As she proved first up and does again in Pearl, she plays nascent, yearning, shrewd and resolute with not just potency, but with a pivotal clash between fortitude and vulnerability; when one of Goth's youthful X Universe characters says that they're special or have the X factor, they do so with an astute blend of certainty, good ol' fashioned wishing and hoping, and naked self-convincing. This second effort's namesake, who Goth also brought to the screen in her elder years in X, wants to make it in the pictures, too. Looking to dance on her feet instead of horizontally, stardom is an escape (again), but Pearl's cruel mother Ruth (Tandi Wright, Creamerie), a religiously devout immigrant from Germany turned bitter from looking after her ailing husband (Mathew Sunderland, The Stranger), laughs at the idea.
Age may instil nocturnal bravery in most of us, stopping the flinching and wincing at things that routinely go bump, thump and jump in the night in our ordinary homes, but the childhood feeling of lying awake in the dark with shadows, shapes and strange sounds haunting an eerie void never seeps from memory. Close your eyes, cast your mind back, and the unsettling and uncertain sensation can easily spring again — that's how engrained it is. Or, with your peepers wide open, you could just watch new micro-budget Canadian horror movie Skinamarink. First-time feature filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball has even made this breakout hit, which cost just $15,000 to produce, in the house he grew up in. His characters: two kids, four-year-old Kevin (debutant Lucas Paul) and six-year-old Kaylee (fellow newcomer Dali Rose Tetreault), who wake up deep into the evening. The emotion he's trading in: pure primal dread, because to view this digitally shot but immensely grainy-looking flick is to be plunged back to a time when nightmares lingered the instant that the light switched off.
Skinamarink does indeed jump backwards, meeting Kevin and Kaylee in 1995 when they can't find their dad (Ross Paul, Moby Dick) or mum (Jaime Hill, Give and Take) after waking. But, befitting a movie that's an immersive collage of distressing and disquieting images and noises from the get-go, it also pulsates with an air of being trapped in time. It takes its name from a nonsense nursery-rhyme song from 1910, then includes cartoons from the 1930s on Kevin and Kaylee's television to brighten up the night's relentless darkness. In its exacting, hissing sound design especially, it brings David Lynch's 1977 debut Eraserhead to mind. And the influence of 1999's The Blair Witch Project and the 2007-born Paranormal Activity franchise is just as evident, although Skinamarink is far more ambient, experimental and experiential. Ball has evolved from crafting YouTube shorts inspired by online commenters' worst dreams to this: his own creepypasta.
NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU
Thanks to Justified, Short Term 12, Booksmart, Unbelievable and Dopesick, Kaitlyn Dever has already notched up plenty of acting highlights; however, No One Will Save You proves one of her best projects yet while only getting the actor to speak just a single line. Instead of using dialogue, this alien invasion flick tells its story without words — and also finds its emotion in Dever's expressive face and physicality. Her character: Mill River resident Brynn Adams, who has no one to talk to long before extra-terrestrials arrive. The local outcast due to a tragic incident from her past, and now living alone in her childhood home following her mother's death, Brynn fills her time by sewing clothes, making models of her unwelcoming small town like she's in Moon and penning letters to her best friend Maude. Then she's woken in the night by an intruder who isn't human, flits between fighting back and fleeing, and is forced into a battle for survival — striving to save her alienated existence in her cosy but lonely abode from grey-hued, long-limbed, telekinetic otherworldly interlopers with a penchant for mind control.
With Spontaneous writer/director Brian Duffield's script matched by exacting A Quite Place-level sound design and The Witcher composer Joseph Trapanese's score, this close encounter of the unspoken kind is a visual feat, bouncing, bounding and dancing around Brynn's house and the Mill River community as aliens linger. Every single frame conveys a wealth of detail, as it needs to without chatter to fill in the gaps. Every look on Dever's face does the same, and every glance as well; this is a performance so fine-tuned that this would be a completely different film without her. Bringing the iconic 'Hush' episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to mind, No One Will Save you is smartly plotted, including in explaining why it sashays in silence. Just as crucially — and this time recalling everyone's favourite home-invasion film, aka Home Alone — it's fluidly and evocatively choreographed. There's also a touch of Nope in its depiction of eerie threats from space, plus a veer into Invasion of the Body Snatchers, all without ever feeling like No One Will Save is bluntly cribbing from elsewhere. The result: a new sci-fi/horror standout.
No One Will Save You streams via Disney+.
Kiernan Shipka has long said goodbye to Mad Men's Sally Draper, including by starring in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. After her dalliance with witchcraft, she's still sticking with horror in Totally Killer, but in a mix of slasher tropes and a Back to the Future-borrowing premise. There's a body count and a time machine — and 80s fashions aplenty, because where else does a 2023 movie head to when it's venturing into the past? Also present and accounted for: a tale about a high schooler living in a small town cursed by a past serial killer, which brings some Halloween and Scream nods, plus Mean Girls and Heathers-esque teen savagery. And, yes, John Hughes flicks also get some love, complete with shoutouts to Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink star Molly Ringwald. Totally Killer doesn't skimp on knowingly and winkingly mashing up its many influences, clearly, or on enjoying itself while doing so. The end result is a heap of fun, as hailing from Always Be My Maybe's Nahnatchka Khan behind the lens, along with screenwriters David Matalon (The Clearing), Sasha Perl-Raver (Let's Get Married) and Jen D'Angelo (Hocus Pocus 2).
Shipka plays Vernon resident Jamie Hughes, who has spent her whole life being told to be careful about everything by her overprotective parents Pam (Julie Bowen, Modern Family) and Blake (Lochlyn Munro, Creepshow) after an October turned deadly back when they were her age. Unsurprisingly, she isn't happy about it. The reason for their caution: in 1987, three 16-year-old girls were murdered in the lead up to Halloween, with the culprit badged the Sweet 16 Killer — and infamy ensuing for Jamie's otherwise ordinary hometown. Pam is still obsessed with finding the murderer decades later, but her daughter only gets involved after a new tragedy. This Jason Blum (The Exorcist: Believer)-produced flick then needs to conjure up a blast in the past to try to fix what happened then to stop the new deaths from occurring. Always knowing that it's a comedy as much as a slasher film (as seen in its bright hues, heard in its snappy dialogue and conveyed in its committed performances), Totally Killer leans into everything about its Frankenstein's monster-style assemblage of pieces, bringing its setup to entertaining life.
Totally Killer streams via Prime Video.
THEY CLONED TYRONE
Jordan Peele's Get Out and Us would already make a killer triple feature with Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You. For a smart and savvy marathon of science fiction-leaning films about race in America by Black filmmakers, now add Juel Taylor's They Cloned Tyrone. The Creed II screenwriter turns first-time feature director with this dystopian movie that slides in alongside Groundhog Day, Moon, The Cabin in the Woods, A Clockwork Orange, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live, too — but is never derivative, not for a second, including in its 70s-style Blaxploitation-esque aesthetic that nods to Shaft and Superfly as well. Exactly what drug dealer Fontaine (John Boyega, The Woman King), pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx, Spider-Man: No Way Home) and sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris, Candyman) find in their neighbourhood is right there in the film's name. The how, the why, the specifics around both, the sense of humour that goes with all of the above, the savage satire: Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier perfect the details. Ignore the fact that they both collaborated on the script for the awful Space Jam: A New Legacy, other than considering the excellent They Cloned Tyrone as a far smarter, darker and deeper exploration of exploitation when the powers that be see other people as merely a means to an end.
On an ordinary day — and amid vintage-looking threads and hairstyles, and also thoroughly modern shoutouts to SpongeBob SquarePants, Kevin Bacon, Barack Obama, Nancy Drew and bitcoin — Fontaine wakes up, has little cash and doesn't win on an instant scratch-it. He chats to his mother through her bedroom door, tries to collect a debt from Slick Charles and, as Yo-Yo witnesses, is shot. Then he's back in his bed, none the wiser about what just happened, zero wounds to be seen, and going through the same cycle again. When the trio realise that coming back from the dead isn't just a case of déjà vu, they team up to investigate, discovering one helluva conspiracy that helps Taylor's film make a powerful statement. They Cloned Tyrone's lead trio amply assists, too, especially the ever-ace Boyega. Like Sorry to Bother You especially, this is a comedy set within a nightmarish scenario, and the Attack the Block, Star Wars and Small Axe alum perfects both the humour and the horror. One plucky and persistent, the other oozing charm and rocking fur-heavy coats, Parris and Foxx lean into the hijinks as the central threesome go all Scooby-Doo. There isn't just a man in a mask here, however, in this astute and inventive standout.
They Cloned Tyrone streams via Netflix.
Book in a date with 2 M3GAN 2 Furious now: even if it doesn't take that name, which it won't, a sequel to 2023's first guaranteed horror hit will come. Said follow-up also won't be called M3GAN 2: Electric Boogaloo, but that title would fit based on the first flick's TikTok-worthy dance sequence alone. Meme-starting fancy footwork is just one of the titular doll's skills. Earnestly singing 'Titanium' like this is Pitch Perfect, tickling the ivories with 80s classic 'Toy Soldiers', making these moments some of M3GAN's funniest: they're feats the robot achieves like it's designed to, too. Although unafraid to take wild tonal swings, and mining the established comedy-horror talents of New Zealand filmmaker Gerard Johnstone (Housebound) and screenwriter Akela Cooper (Malignant) as well, this killer-plaything flick does feel highly programmed itself, however. It's winking, knowing, silly, satirical, slick and highly engineered all at once, overtly pushing buttons and demanding a response — and, thankfully, mostly earning it.
Those Child's Play-meets-Annabelle-meets-The Terminator-meets-HAL 9000 thoughts that M3GAN's basic concept instantly brings to mind? They all prove true. The eponymous droid — a Model 3 Generative Android, to be specific — is a four-foot-tall artificially intelligent doll that takes the task of protecting pre-teen Cady (Violet McGraw, Black Widow) from emotional and physical harm deadly seriously, creeping out and/or causing carnage against everyone who gets in its way. Those Frankenstein-esque sparks, exploring what happens when humanity (or Girls and Get Out's Allison Williams here, as Cady's roboticist aunt Gemma) plays god by creating life? They're just as evident, as relevant to the digital age Ex Machina-style. M3GAN is more formulaic than it should be, though, and also never as thoughtful as it wants to be, but prolific horror figures Jason Blum and James Wan produce a film that's almost always entertaining.
Teenagers are savage in The Boogeyman, specifically to Yellowjackets standout Sophie Thatcher, but none of them literally take a bite. Grief helps usher a stalking dark force to a distraught family's door; however, that malevolent presence obviously doesn't share The Babadook's moniker. What can and can't be seen haunts this dimly lit film from Host and Dashcam director Rob Savage, and yet this isn't Bird Box, which co-star Vivien Lyra Blair also appeared in. And a distressed man visits a psychiatrist to talk about his own losses, especially the otherworldly monster who he claims preyed upon his children, just as in Stephen King's 1973 short story also called The Boogeyman — but while this The Boogeyman is based on that The Boogeyman, which then made it into the author's 1978 Night Shift collection that gave rise to a packed closet full of fellow movie adaptations including Children of the Corn, Graveyard Shift and The Lawnmower Man, this flick uses the horror maestro's words as a mere beginning.
On the page and the screen alike, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian, Boston Strangler) seeks therapist Will Harper's (Chris Messina, Air) assistance, reclining on his couch to relay a tragic tale. As the new patient talks, he isn't just shaken and shellshocked — he's a shadow of a person. He's perturbed by what loiters where light doesn't reach, in fact, and by what he's certain has been lurking in his own home. Here, he couldn't be more adamant that "the thing that comes for your kids when you're not paying attention" did come for his. And, the film Lester has chosen his audience carefully, because Will's wife recently died in a car accident, leaving his daughters Sadie (Thatcher) and Sawyer (Blair) still struggling to cope. On the day of this fateful session, the two girls have just returned to school for the first time, only for Sadie to sneak back when her so-called friends cruelly can't manage any sympathy.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN
Does M Night Shyamalan hate holidays? The twist-loving writer/director's Knock at the Cabin comes hot on the heels of 2021's Old, swapping beach nightmares for woodland terrors. He isn't the only source of on-screen chaos in vacation locations — see also: Triangle of Sadness' Ruben Östlund, plus oh-so-many past horror movies, and TV's The White Lotus and The Resort as well — but making two flicks in a row with that setup is a pattern. For decades since The Sixth Sense made him the Oscar-nominated king of high-concept premises with shock reveals, Shyamalan explored the idea that everything isn't what it seems in our daily lives. Lately, however, he's been finding insidiousness lingering beyond the regular routine, in picturesque spots, when nothing but relaxation is meant to flow. A holiday can't fix all or any ills, he keeps asserting, including in this engaging adaptation of Paul Tremblay's 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World.
For Eric (Jonathan Groff, The Matrix Resurrections), Andrew (Ben Aldridge, Pennyworth) and their seven-year-old daughter Wen (debutant Kristen Cui), a getaway isn't meant to solve much but a yearning for family time in the forest — and thinking about anyone but themselves while Eric and Andrew don robes, and Wen catches pet grasshoppers, isn't on their agenda. Alas, their rural Pennsylvanian idyll shatters swiftly when the soft-spoken but brawny Leonard (Dave Bautista, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery) emerges from the trees. He says he wants to be Wen's friend, but he also advises that he's on an important mission. He notes that his task involves the friendly girl and her dads, giving them a hard choice yet also no choice at all. The schoolteacher has colleagues, too: agitated ex-con Redmond (Rupert Grint, Servant), patient nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Avenue 5) and nurturing cook Adriane (Abby Quinn, I'm Thinking of Ending Things), all brandishing weapons fashioned from garden tools.
Looking for more things to watch? Check out our monthly streaming roundup, as well as our rundown of recent cinema releases that've been fast-tracked to digital home entertainment of late.
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