Emily’s Favorites of 2023

2024/01/02 19:51:07 +00:00 | Emily von Seele

Happy New Year! 2023 has been a strange one at times, and while not the worst year in recent memory, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to turn the calendar page and start something new. But that being said, there were a number of things over the course of this year that made it not only tolerable, but downright fun at times. I will always turn to art and media in stressful times, and 2023 gave me a great mixture of new films, exciting series and other projects that I found to be entertaining, enlightening, or even heart-touching.


2023 started off with a banger in the form of a sentient monster doll by the name of M3GAN. I haven’t had this much fun in a theater since 2021’s Malignant, which was also written by the great Akela Cooper. I had so much fun with this one. Gerard Johnstone’s sassy film plays in a space somewhere between horror and camp and has a great time doing so. The story takes itself seriously, but is always just a little cheeky. It invites the viewer along for the ride, promising some kills, some mayhem, and maybe a few sweet moments along the way. And whether it be Chucky, the Puppetmaster series, or now, M3GAN, I am always down for some murderous toy action. 

Talk to Me

If Megan was the film that got me giggling maniacally in the theater, Talk to Me was the film that had me too scared to speak. It was brilliant. Tense, scary and a fantastic story. Though the textbook definition of “fuck around, find out” it did so with a level of complex grace that you have to admire. Danny and Michael Philippou’s film pulls no punches and is as brutal thematically as it is scary. This is one of those films that works on every level. The storytelling, acting and filmcraft are all top notch. I love the story, but I also love the way it pulls us in and makes us so invested in the characters and their well-being. We want Mia to get the closure that she needs and emerge from this experience unscathed, but we’re also tempered enough to understand that actions have consequences, and we very rarely have the control that we think we do.


While definitely one of the most divisive films of the year, Skinamarink was also one of my favorites. It’s always amazing to be able to walk into a movie completely blind and have no idea what you’re in for. And then to be delivered something completely unique is icing on the cake. Skinamarink is 100% a film that is not going to be for everyone. It’s weird and slow and at times frustrating; definitely not a movie that is going to have wide audience appeal. For some people, this ride is 100% their thing, and for others, it’s 100% not. And that’s absolutely fine. I was fortunate to have been able to see this one in a theater, free from the distractions of my living room. Thus, I was able to get fully immersed in the experience and really allow myself to be taken over by it. This film is fascinating in that it takes a long time for the tension to really overtake you. It builds very slowly and you don’t even realize it’s there until we’re well into the film and we suddenly feel the breadth of this nightmare place. We know there is no escape, and there is a bleakness in that knowledge. It’s a very affecting film if you can manage to see it in the right environment and give yourself over to it.

Naked Theater & Uncensored Horror: A Memoir by Stuart Gordon

Published this year, but written by Gordon before his death in 2020, this memoir is a fascinating look into the life and work of one of horror cinema’s most unique voices. Gordon looks over his entire career - from his early days in the Chicago theater scene through his forays into Hollywood and beyond. There is a lot of interesting stuff here that fans of any of his films will eat up. Full of stories of successes, failures, and lessons learned, Gordon goes through his career in fascinating detail, giving us glimpses into his creative process, how some of our favorites came to be, and some of the big picture context that surrounded some of his work. Of course, all of the chapters surrounding his work in horror cinema are pure gold, but also fascinating was his early career as a theater director. I’m not even a big theater person, but learning about some of the productions he got off the ground and their context within the political landscape of the 1960s and 1970s was fascinating. The book was clearly a labor of love, which is only punctuated by the fact that his family wrote a beautiful introduction, and Jeffrey Combs penned a heart warming essay at the end of the book, both of which honored the life and the memory of Gordon himself. I really can’t recommend this book enough.


This one did the festival circuit in 2022 but was released to Shudder in 2023, so I’m counting it. Because I love it and we’re not talking about it nearly enough. Attachment opens with the most charming, most adorable meet-cute on the planet, where Leah (Ellie Kendrick) and Maja (Josephine Park) meet at a library and immediately hit it off. Their whirlwind romance sees them quickly moving in together and immediately creating friction with Ellie’s overprotective mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl) and the world of secrets that she carries. The film dives deep into Jewish mysticism and uses it not only as the backbone of the story, but as a fascinating way to tell a story around a tradition that the viewer might not be super familiar with. Gabriel Bier Gislason structures his story in a way that uses these traditions to create a sense of mystery and add to the uncertainty that both Maja and the audience feel. Simultaneously, they also feed into the backstory that isn’t revealed to us until later in the film. 

The Pope’s Exorcist

The Pope’s Exorcist was in no way the best movie of the year. But it was one of the most surprising. The trailer advertised a pretty standard possession movie with Russell Crowe doing a funny Italian accent as in his role as the exorcist who would eventually appear to vanquish the demons and save the day. What we all failed to realize is the fact that this film was directed by Julius Avery, who directed 2018’s Overlord. Another film that isn’t amazing, but is pretty damn fun. And if that fact had been plastered all over the trailer and the advertising, I would have shown up opening night instead of just catching this one on Netflix. A fact which I now regret, though I am happy that I gave it time in any capacity, because it’s a great time. More of an adventure story than a horror tale, it’s a blast from start to finish, and I demand more chapters of Crowe’s moped-riding exorcist in the future, if you please. 

The Fall of the House of Usher

Any year we get a new project from Mike Flanagan, it’s a good year. And I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall of the House of Usher. Flanagan is a skilled storyteller in any regard, but this was an interesting turn for him. He is a master of creating characters that we connect with. The Crain family from Hill House, Dani and Jamie from Bly Manor, every role he casts Robert Longstreet in; he masterfully creates these people that the audience falls in love with. But in Usher, he had the challenge of creating a family of monsters. People who we found fascinating, but were loathsome in their own right. We know from the jump that nothing but tragedy is going to befall the Usher clan, but Flanagan still wrote them in a way that makes them captivating. Captivating, but not sympathetic. We love watching the trainwreck of their lives, but also become wrapped up in the mystery of how they came to be. It’s another banger from Flanagan, and one that I know I will be rewatching regularly.

The Haunted Objects Podcast

As a fan of the Hellier series, I was very excited when my friend told me that the team behind it had launched a podcast. Not just any old podcast, but a podcast that focuses on haunted and/or strange items that they keep as a part of their paranormal collection. Over the course of 19 episodes (so far), Greg and Dana Newkirk delve into the stories behind some of the objects that found their way into the Newkirk Museum of the Paranormal. The histories behind them, stories and folklore connected with them, and theories as to how or why the energy surrounding these objects might be manifesting in specific ways. It is endlessly fascinating, thanks in no small part to the Newkirks themselves. The thing that I really enjoy about this team is their curiosity. They don’t claim to have all the answers, they will never swear that they know exactly what is going on, but they aren’t afraid to ask the questions and consider the possibilities. They approach this stuff with the understanding that the world is bigger and more mysterious than we might understand, and they leave space for that knowledge with their investigations. They don’t present this material cleanly because they recognize that nobody has all the answers, and the best way to gain knowledge is to simply be curious. So if you’re interested in ghosts, aliens, cryptids, witchcraft or just the unexplainable and weird, there will likely be something for you in this series.

The Sacrifice Game

This was one of my favorites out of this year’s Fantastic Fest. Christmas horror, creepy boarding school, some unexpected intruders, demons, and a plot that keeps you on your toes. It really has everything. It is both a supernatural tale and a home invasion horror story, and deftly walks the knife’s edge between the two. It’s a fun film with a great cast and it uses every moment to its advantage. A great group of villains keep the tension high and the story centers on the blossoming friendship between two lonely outcasts. It also features one of the greatest demon dances ever captured on film. Bravo!

Living with Chucky

I first saw this at Fantastic Fest in 2022, and it remains one of my very favorite film docs. Kyra Gardner’s look into the world of the Child’s Play series is something every horror nerd should check out. She delves into the history of the series, and also spends an appreciable amount of time looking at the people who made it all happen. We see the way the series has become an indelible part of their lives and how they have created a beautiful on-set family whenever filming takes them away from their own. It’s a really thoughtful look at the history of one of the strongest horror franchises out there, but also a look at the lives of the people who come together time and time again to make it all happen.

Where the Devil Roams

I am always here for the films of the Adams Family. Their storytelling and unique approach to filmmaking is something that I really connect with and it is something I am always excited to experience. Their latest, Where the Devil Roams, is one that has really grown on me over multiple watches. Though not as tight as Hellbender, it has a mysterious quality to it that I find incredibly enticing. Both through the Depression-era carnival setting and the otherworldly themes and rhythms that course through the story itself. There is a lot to be discovered in this story, and like the team’s prior efforts, the low-budget, try anything approach brings as much to the experience as the actors and the script. There’s a magic here that gets under my skin and into my heart and I love every second of it.


As always, thanks for reading. Thanks for being here, for your support, for our shared love of horror. I wish you all the best in 2024, and I can’t wait to see what new movies and stories we all discover together!