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I Watched 100+ Horror Movies And TV Shows For Halloween Season 2023. Here Are 15 Of My Big Takeaways

Napoleon Usher screaming in The Fall Of The House Of Usher

As a horror fan, I annually use September and October to both watch and rewatch movies and TV shows in my favorite genre… but even I’ll admit that I went a tad overboard in 2023. After keeping track of everything I saw in theaters, streamed, and popped into my 4K player, I find myself on Halloween looking at a list of over 100 different titles. It was a marathon that presented a wide range in quality – from absolutely awful to new favorites – and in reflection, I took a lot away from the experience.

Looking back on the various films, shows, and miniseries that I watched over the last two months, 15 things in particular ended up standing out to me, and I’ve put together this feature to both collect my thoughts and offer some recommendations that can help movie-lovers start their own planning for spooky season 2024.

Kaitlyn Dever in No One Will Save You

(Image credit: Hulu)

When Evil Lurks Is The Most Disturbing New Movie Of The Fall, But No One Will Save You Is The Best

This fall, the quality of Saw X turned out to be a big surprise, I dug The Exorcist: Believer more than most, and I loved Suitable Flesh (more on that movie later), but if I’m doing yearbook-style superlatives about spooky season 2023’s new releases, When Evil Lurks and No One Will Save You are the biggest wins. The former earns the title of Most Disturbing – particularly due to a standout sequence involving a little girl and a dog – but the latter gets Best Overall for being a wonderful (nearly) dialogue-free experiment and a fascinating meditation on grief.

The blob creeping through town in The Blob

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

All Three Blob Movies Are Excellent And Offer Radically Different Experiences

The general problem with sequels and remakes is the tendency for them to deliver more of the same from their predecessors, but that’s not the case with The Blob movies and as such, they make for a great triple feature. The 1958 original starring Steve McQueen is a terrific encapsulation of the era (replete with not-subtle anti-communism messaging); 1972’s Beware! The Blob is a ridiculous sequel that takes a left turn and operates as a goofy comedy; and the 1988 remake is a shocking effort that unleashes some horrifying death sequences.

Darren McGavin as Kolchak in The Night Stalker

(Image credit: ABC)

Kolchak: The Night Stalker Has Instantly Become One Of My Favorite TV Shows

Earlier this year, I watched all of The X-Files in celebration of its 30th anniversary, and I decided to follow that up this spooky season by watching one of that show’s biggest inspirations: Kolchak: The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin. I watched the one season 1974 series as well as the two TV movie that preceded it – The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler – and now I plan on recommending it to every genre fan I know. It’s dated in some respects, but mostly it’s terrific monster-of-the-week action from the perspective of crafty Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak, and the dynamic between Kolchak and editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) is and endless well of witty brilliance.

Miguel Ferrer as Richard Dees in The Night Flier

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Night Flier Is One Of Stephen King’s Most Underrated Movies, And It Needs A Home Video Upgrade

Thrilled by my discovery of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, I was inspired to check out another excellent tale of a reporter hunting a vampire: The Night Flier, based on the short story of the same name by Stephen King. I’ve maintained that it’s not just an underrated King adaptation, but one of the best Stephen King movies of all time, and it’s disappointing that no studio or boutique home video company has released an edition better than the existing DVD.

Lon Chaney Jr. in Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein Is A Nonsensical Title

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein is a goofy and fun horror comedy that mixed in well among the various titles I watched with the intention of terrifying and disturbing me, but I do have to express a gripe, and it concerns the title. The 1948 film doesn’t just limit itself to its eponymous monster and is actually akin to the Avengers of the Universal Classic Monsters – featuring Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, and Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man in addition to Glenn Strange (Boris Karloff’s successor) as Frankenstein’s monster. “Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein” is a major undersell.

Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Nancy Trilogy Is The Way To Go With Nightmare On Elm Street Movies

I’ve watched the entirety of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise enough times at this point to know which titles I like and which titles I don’t, so I took a new strategy to rewatching them this year: I just stuck to The Nancy Trilogy. Ignoring the second movie, installments four through six, the Friday The 13th crossover, and the remake, I simply stuck to the three films starring Heather Langenkamp, which is to say the original, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. I don’t think I’ll go back to watching the franchise any other way.

Host cast

(Image credit: Shudder)

Screenlife Movies Are Much Better When They’re Grounded In Familiar Reality

I rewatched Searching in the early weeks of the year in advance of the theatrical release of Missing, and so I decided to make screenlife horror a part of my Halloween season plans. I watched Host, Open Windows, Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web, and while all three stretch reality to a certain degree (two involving the supernatural, what I found is that the best examples of the medium/genre keep the computer activity grounded. Open Windows gets lost using too advanced technology/software and Unfriended doesn’t fully work with the literal ghost in the machine. Unfriended: Dark Web works better than expected, and Host is the best by far.

Chucky and Callum Vinson as Henry Collins in Chucky Season 3

(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

So Far, Chucky Season 3 Is The Show’s Greatest Season Yet

Because of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, Chucky Season 3 has been split in half, and the next four episodes of the run won’t debut until an unannounced date in 2024. That’s a particularly hard pill to swallow given that this season is thus far the best that we’ve seen from the show. The chaos that the titular homicidal doll has unleashed at the White House has been both delightful and chilling, including some stunning murder sequences, and the mid-season finale cliffhanger is top shelf stuff.

Barbara Crampton and Heather Graham in Suitable Flesh

(Image credit: RLJE Films)

To Get The Most Out Of Suitable Flesh, Watch Re-Animator And From Beyond First

Now out in limited theaters and on VOD, director Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh is one of the many great new highlights of the 2023 Halloween season (as previously noted), and it stands perfectly fine on its own, but if you want to get the most out of the experience, you should do some prep work first. With a screenplay by Dennis Paoli and starring Barbara Crampton, the film is made as a sister sequel to director Stuart Gordon’s legendary H.P. Lovecraft adaptations from the mid-1980s: Re-Animator and From Beyond. In tribute to Gordon (who died in 2020), Lynch made Suitable Flesh with a similar tone and cinematic language, and context helps you fully appreciate the work.

William Shatner in Incubus

(Image credit: Contempo III Productions)

Incubus Starring William Shatner Is Beautiful And Has A Fascinating History, But It’s Also Laughably Bad

First developed in the late 19th century, Esperanto has never caught on as the universal communication that it was intended to be, but one feather in its cap is the existence of the 1966 Esperanto-language film Incubus. Released the same year that Star Trek premiered, the movie is notable for starring William Shatner as the male lead, and it features some gorgeous Ingmar Bergman-esque aesthetics courtesy of cinematography legendary Conrad Hall… but it’s otherwise a disaster. It’s painfully clear that the actors have no idea what they saying, and the succubi-centric plot is ludicrous.

The Faculty cast

(Image credit: Dimension)

Is The Faculty Part Of The Cabin In The Woods Universe?

In The Cabin In The Woods, Richard Jenkins’s character mentions in an early scene that the United States-based operation of which he is a part hasn’t failed in its Old God-appeasing practices since 1998… and after watching Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty for the first time this spooky season, the horror geek in me wonders if the two movies are linked. It’s said in the 2012 film that the 1998 failure was due to a mistake made by the chemistry department, and The Faculty (released in 1998) sees the protagonist defeat an onslaught of body snatching aliens thanks to a special designer drug cooked up by Josh Hartnett’s Zeke Tyler. This might be coincidence, and I’m not the first person to make this connection, but they’re now connected in my personal headcanon.

Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The First Three Texas Chainsaw Massacre Sequels Aren’t Nearly As Bad As I Thought They Would Be

I wasn’t able to watch all of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies in the last two months, but I did manage to squeeze the first four in the franchise into my watching schedule, and I was pleasantly surprised by how tolerable the first three sequels are given their terrible reputations. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is a totally average movie as a pivot to more Friday The 13th-type territory, and both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (a.k.a. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation) are easy to like if you accept their bizarre swings at dark comedy (and the latter also has a surprisingly great final girl turn from Renee Zellweger in a face-off with an unhinged Matthew McConaughey).

Tom Villard in Popcorn

(Image credit: Studio Three Film Corporation)

More People Should See Popcorn

I watched a number of horror films for the first time in the last couple months that both surprised and delighted me, but one among them that I am particularly excited to eventually revisit is director Mark Herrier’s 1991 slasher Popcorn. The movie can be described as a hybrid between Friday The 13th Part II, Phantom Of The Opera and Matinee, featuring movie theater employees being mowed down amid the presentation of a William Castle-esque horror triple-feature, and though not everything about the plot totally makes sense, there is a cool twist and some stellar effects work.

Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Director Alan Parker’s Angel Heart is a film that was first recommended to me in college, and it’s been recommended to me multiple times since then, but I stupidly dragged my feet finally getting around to watching it. That changed this month as I got my hands on the domestic 4K UHD release, and not only do I finally understand the recommendations, but they were spot on. Starring Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro, the movie is an awesome blend of horror and neo-noir that goes to some shocking places and unleashes a twist ending I never saw coming.

Verna in skull mask in The Fall Of The House Of Usher

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Fall Of The House Of Usher Is Amazing, But It’s Still Not My Favorite Mike Flanagan Netflix Miniseries

In recently ranking the film and TV shows made by Mike Flanagan, I opted to take recency bias off the table by rewatching everything that Flanagan has made. That being said, his latest miniseries, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, still placed toward the top, as it’s a tremendous work… but I still don’t quite think it’s the filmmaker’s best Netflix serialized work. That honor, in my opinion, goes to 2018’s phenomenal The Haunting Of Hill House.

The official spooky season may be over, but every real horror fan knows that the true spooky season lasts year round, and there are always some great new scary films right around the corner. To keep track of all of the exciting releases that are coming in the weeks and months ahead, scope out our Upcoming Horror Movies guide, and for a major exploration of the genre, check out our Best 50 Horror Movies Of All Time ranking.

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