Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Halloween is just around the bend which means it’s time for our second annual Spookies Awards! I’ll be taking a look back at the best and worst of the genre of horror brought to fans this year (so far) and it’s been an interesting ride to say the least.
Now I wish I could include EVERY horror movie that I saw, both streaming and on the big screen, but that would leave us with a list 100 pages long. So I’ve done my horror-loving best to stick to the most well-known ones released to wider audiences. And of course, this is just my personal list, so it’s based on the movies and television shows I’ve seen. So if I missed out on some good stuff, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my watch list as an early Christmas present. Speaking of which, as an extra gift to readers I’ve added some new categories this year.
Best Horror Television Show – The Fall of the House of Usher
Proving once again he’s the king of making complex narratives engaging and jump scares effective, Mike Flanagan effortlessly weaves together multiple Edgar Allan Poe tales to deliver a dramatic and darkly comedic look at a wealthy family’s sins and the supernatural consequences paid for them. If Karma looked like Carla Gugino’s Verna a lot of people would think twice about their life choices; then again if temptation looked like Carla Gugino, more than a few of us would be screwed.
Further Reading: Every Episode of The Fall of the House of Usher Ranked
Best Horror Movie You Missed (Maybe) – Little Bone Lodge
People are never what they seem to be is the core premise of Little Bone Lodge where a couple of strangers knock on a family’s door in the middle of the night begging for help after an alleged car accident. As the tale unfolds all manner of shocking secrets are revealed. And while the plot may have a few holes in it, the cast is so believable and the slow building tension created by director Matthais Hoene is so well crafted, you’ll find yourself casting that aside in favor of fully engaging with this unnerving and unpredictable thrill ride.
Best Horror Movie Kill – Renfield
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD
While it may have had issues finding its tone Renfield manages to get more hits in than misses. This fantastical look into toxic relationships finds Dracula’s (Nic Cage) right hand man Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) teaming up with police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina) in a final showdown with the king of bloodsuckers himself. While other media makes it seem like a stake to heart or a well-placed ray of sunshine can easily dispatch old Drac, there are others (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Blade) that acknowledge how near impossible it would be to truly destroy him. Renfield and Rebecca give it the old college try though and the results are both over the top and satisfying, especially to horror fans who find themselves yelling at protagonist to “hit him again!”
Shot, defanged, beaten, slashed, stabbed and sliced apart by every conceivable weapon you can think of, and it doesn’t stop there. He’s also mixed into cement and holy water, diced up into ice cube sized pieces and washed into the sewers. While not the bloodiest kill I’ve seen this year it was the most entertaining and as Dracula kills go, definitely the most memorable.
Further Reading: Cage Vampire Comedy ‘Renfield’ Has Got Some Bite
Most Disappointing Horror Movie of the Year – Cocaine Bear
You probably thought The Exorcist: Believer would be number one here, but the truth is after the dismal Halloween Ends, I had no expectations of excellence going into David Gordon Green’s latest. Cocaine Bear, on the other hand, had the kind of crazy premise that could’ve made for a spectacular horror-comedy. Instead, they chose to focus on unnecessary character development and not enough cocaine bear, leaving viewers with a few chuckles instead of raucous laughter and over-the-top kills. We could’ve had another Lake Placid on our hands instead of this. What a waste.
Best Creature Feature – Cobweb
One of my favourite things to do is to watch a movie knowing absolutely nothing about it beforehand. With Cobweb I hadn’t seen the trailer and didn’t even bother to read the synopsis instead choosing it based on the poster alone, which is what I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. A mix between The People Under the Stairs and films like The Boy, this movie takes a U-turn into Crazyville once the big reveal is made completely shifting the tone from supernatural or psychological to creature feature. And the design of the antagonist alone makes it worthwhile viewing. If you enjoyed Barbarian and Malignant, this one is for you.
Further Reading: Bonkers Horror ‘Cobweb’ is a Mess, but an Entertaining One
Best Slasher – Saw X
It was close for me on this one, so close as Scream VI was a stellar return to form after the previous mediocre outing. But I just had to go with Saw X, which arguably had the more difficult task of taking a franchise that felt like it should’ve been wrapped up after the third film and making it just as engaging as the first time (we ever heard the words “game over”).
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw gives his best performance to date in the role and every trap felt tailored to its victim in a way that’s been missing from the franchise for some time. Well-crafted from beginning to end, Saw X is truly one of the best modern-day sequels I’ve seen since the likes of Aliens and Terminator 2.
Further Reading: Saw X: An Excellent Back to Basics Sequel
Best ‘So Bad It’s Good’ Horror – The Pope’s Exorcist
From a kid yeeting a priest across the room while yelling obscenities to a priest choking the life out of said possessed kid because he pissed him off to Russell Crowe hamming it up while delivering dialogue in a terrible Italian accent. This movie checked all my “cult classic” boxes and while I’m sure the humour wasn’t intentional, The Pope’s Exorcist is so over-the-top you can’t help but laugh out loud, especially when it comes to the action-filled conclusion that includes Crowe’s jaw CGI unhinging like he’s trying out for Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy.
Don’t go in expecting a classic possession tale, and I think there’s a lot you can get out of this crazy but fun movie.
Further Reading: The Pope’s Exorcist is Energised and Possessed with Dark Humour
Best Possession Movie – Evil Dead Rise
Ironically the most talked about possession horror movie this year was Talk to Me, a movie that had a wonderfully original set up, a solid cast of newcomers and some great practical effects. While I enjoyed it though, I didn’t find it as chilling or as unsettling as Evil Dead Rise.
This is a franchise that hasn’t had any bad entries but keeping the concept fresh was never going to be easy, and yet that’s exactly what Rise did. Unapologetically brutal, with fantastic effects, a solid cast of characters that you truly sympathise with and a phenomenal performance by Alyssa Sutherland as possessed Mom Ellie. They cranked the dial up and broke it off on this one delivering a sequel fans can be proud of.
Runners Up: Talk To Me, The Nun II, Nefarious, Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism
Further Reading: Whoa Mama! Evil Dead Rise is a Franchise High
Worst Horror Movie of the Year – Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
How exactly do you mess up a concept this simple?! I have no issue with director Rhys Frake-Waterfield taking the beloved characters of The Hundred Acre Wood and turning them into blood thirsty killers. What sucks is this soulless, joyless, lazy uninspired joke of a slasher doesn’t even attempt to lean into its concept in any unique ways. Instead, what we get is a couple of guys in terrible masks lazily killing people we don’t care two cents about. You can have all the gory kills you want, if they lack impact audiences won’t care, not to mention the movie takes itself way too seriously considering the killers are supposed to be children’s characters. Can you imagine how boring M3GAN would’ve been if they left out the dark humour?!
No rhythm, no rhyme, no reason to waste your time watching this banal bore of a movie.
Runners Up: Fear, Pillow Party Massacre, The Black Demon, Perpetrator, Deliver Us
Further Reading: Oh Dear! Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is Absolutely Terrible
So those were my Spookies 2023 Awards. Any you agree with? Disagree? And you can check out the 2022 edition of the Spookies below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge-Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes. Double Tap Baby! Read More