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Avalon's Picks: Best Films Of 2023

Updated: Dec 22, 2023




It's that time of the year when I look back on the year that was, and recommend to all of my readers some of my favorite films that came out this year.


So in no particular order, lcheck out the list of movies that I absolutely enjoyed as well as some honorable mentions below...




When Evil Lurks - When Evil Lurks is hands down one of the most horrific, gut-wrenching horror films I've seen this year. Direcred by Demián Rugna, the fil follows two brothers who find a demon-infected man in their village about to "give birth" to a evil demon child. They believe their problems will be solved once they remove the body, only unintentionally spreading chaos all over town.


The film is subtitled, but that shouldn't defer you from checking out this film. If you're expecting some sort of westernized Hollywood happy ending, this is not the film for you. If you have the stomach to check out the film's subject matter (I will not spoil it for you here), definitely check out this movie if you have Shudder.







John Wick 4 - I am ashamed to say I have seen the fourth film in the JW franchise about a dozen times. That's how much I love this film. The action is a step above what we've seen on the big screen in a long time, Keanu Reeves is in top form as our tortured anti-hero, and director Chad Stahelski ups the stakes with the additions of action stars Donnie Yen, Marko Zaror, and Scott Adkins.


I was even impressed with the acting and fighting skills of singer Rina Sawayama, who plays Akira, the concierge daughter to Japan Continental manager Koji, played by Hiroyuki Sanada. If anything is to be transpired by the post-credit scene, hopefully we'll be seeing more of Akira in the future.







Evil Dead Rise - A twisted new take on the Evil Dead universe, the film follows two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short when their high rise becomes infested with flesh-possessing demons. I was impressed with the practical horror effects, and even though it would have been cool to see Bruce Campbell reprise his role as Ash again, if you have a cool idea that can take the franchise in a completely different and effective direction, I'm all open for fresh takes on a long-running horror IP.








M3GAN - Even though M3GAN was hit with a PG-13 rating, the film showed that a horror film doesn't need a hard R in order to get it's point across. I thouroughly enjoyed the film, and while there's already a sequel in the works (titled M3GAN 2.0), I've really got my fingers crossed that we can get a M3GAN/Chucky crossover movie.








Blue Beetle - Even though the film didn't do all that well at the box office, I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Beetle. While there are some aspects of the film that give you your standard paint-by-numbers superhero action, and a weak underwritten villain (played by Susan Sarandon) what saves the film is the dynamic between Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) and his family. Comic George Lopez brings the laughs, and Xolo definitely has the chops to play a superhero for years to come.







Thanksgiving - Despite it's flaws (some weak acting from the mostly unknown cast, extremely unlikable characters), I had a hell of a good time with Eli Roth's Thanksgiving. 15 years after serving us a platter of splatter in the form of a fake trailer placed between Robert Rodriguez's and Quentin Tatantino's Grindhouse movies, Eli got to make Thanksgiving a reality, and he went balls to the wall with some impressive kills, lots of blood and gore.


After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious axe-wielding,Thanksgiving-inspired killer wearing a Jack Carver mask seeks revenge against the residents of Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday.


As someone who is a sucker for holiday horror movies (Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas) Thanksgiving is definitely a film that offers not only the thrills and kills, but I can see conjuring many sequels down the road.






SICK - I happened to catch this film a few months ago on Peacock, and I have to say I absolutely enjoyed this film. Not only did Sick have me on the edge of my seat, but what really drew me to wanting to watch this film was that it was co-written by Kevin Williamson, the IT screenwriter who gave us iconic films such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.


It's been a while since we've gotten a fun slasher film by Williamson, who rewrote the rule book on the slasher genre in the late 90's. So if you are looking for a COVID-centric horror movie that gives you that late 90s nostalgia, Sick is definitely a film you should check out.







Scream 6 - Even though Spyglass did Neve Campbell dirty by refusing to pay her her worth, and we've become aware of Scream 7's future with the production company firing Melissa Barrera, and Jenna Ortega leaving the franchise, Scream 6 in my opinion was the freshest addition to the franchise.


The opening sequence was a breath of fresh air, I loved that they gave the film an urban setting in New York (via Canada), and the film featured some of the most intense set pieces we've gotten from the franchise in quite sometime (my favorites being the ladder sequence and Gale's chase scene).


Plus I loved the nod to previous franchises. My only gripe was the third act was pretty weak, and I figured out who the killer(s) were after the first 30 minutes. Other than that I will miss seeing the core four in future installments.








Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves - Even though it didn't do well financially at the box office, I had a hell of a good time with Dungeons & Dragons. I will admit I've never played D&D growing up, but I thought the filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein did a phenomenal job pulling someone like myself into a cinematic world that I wasn't all that familiar with.


I can also understand why the film maybe didn't do well. I feel because Hollywood's last attempt at bringing D&D to cinematic life was an epic failure that it had many people skeptical that the reboot wouldn't be just as good.


If you still haven't seen it, I say give it a chance this holiday weekend. Trust me, you'll have a great time with Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis and Regé-Jean Page, who's chemistry and comedic timing will have you cackling until the end credits start rolling.







Renfield - I always love when writers can come up with creative ways to drive a story into new directions, and they definitely did that with Renfield. I was aware of the Renfield character (played by Nicolas Hoult) from Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Bela Lugosi's film, and I absolutely loved them using co-dependency issues and the mental abuse Dracula bestowed upon Renfield as a way to breathe life into the world's oldest tale about Dracula and his loyal servant.







The Last Voyage of the Demeter - Speaking of Dracula, another intriguing vampire film was released this year based on the Captain's Log chapter in Bram Stoker's Dracula where they focus on the found journal from the captain of the Demeter. The film is a slow burn, but definitely worth the wait.







Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 - Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them. Besides Shang Chi, GOTG vol 3 was the only film from the phase 4 era that I really enjoyed, and I will admit Rocket's backstory definitely caused a few tears to escape my eye ducts. Now that James Gunn has moved from the MCU over to DC, I'm really curious to see what he will bring to the comic book universe of the DCU.







A Knock At The Cabin - Usually when it comes to M. Night Shyamalan's films, they can be pretty hit or miss. However when he decided to take on a apocalyptic thriller featuring a gay couple at it's center, it definitely peaked my interest.


It's not often we get to see queer characters leading in the horror genre (even though queer audiences tend to identify most with horror than any other genre), so when I heard this film was in the works I had to check it out.


Plus I have become quite impressed with Dave Bautista's acting over the years, so that was another reason I had to see this film.


Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui do a phenomenal job as the family who are vacationing at their cabin in the woods, who are then interrupted by four adults who reveal to them that in order to save the world one of the family members has to kill the other.


The ending is a bit controversial (depending on the subject matter if it works for the story I don't get upset regarding a film not having a happy ending. I think I may be one of the rare people who wasn't bothered by the ending of The Mist), but if you're looking for a thriller full of intensity, definitely check out A Knock At The Cabin.





The Blackening - I wasn't able to catch this film in theaters, but I did happen to catch it recently on STARZ. The Blackening plays into every black trope under the sun to clever, hilarious results. I haven't seen a hilarious black-centric horror/comedy that had me laughing so hard I damn near pissed myself since Scary Movie.


The film follows a group of college friends are invited to spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods where they end up playing a game called The Blackening. They end up trapped in a cabin with a killer who has a vendetta. The only way to survive is by playing the game, and putting their knowledge of black culture and horror movies to the test.


Not every joke sticks the landing, but I promise you that you will have a great time watching this film. I have heard there is a sequel in the works (The Blackening grossed $16 million on a $5 million budget), so I'm definitely excited to see where the films original writers (Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins) will take the sequel.







Extraction 2 - If you thought Chris Hemsworth was only good for playing the God of thunder, you'd be mistaken, because the hot Aussie actor has proven that he has the chops to become the next big Hollywood action star.


I also can't forget to mention Golshifteh Farahani (Invasion) as his partner Nik, who definitely holds her own in the sequel, and is given a lot more to do this time around.


Recovering from his injuries after being left for dead in the first film, Hemsworth's Tyler Rake jumps back into action when he has to protect his sister-in-law and her family from a ruthless gangster.


Director Sam Hargrave also takes the one-take action sequence to the next level in Extraction 2 (the flawlessly shot prison sequence still lives rent free in my head), and I'm definitely excited to see where this franchise plans to go with future installments.






Honorable Mentions:


The Mother

Polite Society

Cocaine Bear

Love To Love You Donna Summer

65

Red, White And Royal Blue

The Stroll

Spider Man Across The Spider-Verse

Killers of the Flower Moon

Five Nights At Freddy's

It's A Wonderful Knife

Transformers Rise of the Beasts

Equalizer 3

Infinity Pool

No One With Save You

Totally Killer Blue

The Sacrifice Game

V/H/S/85

The Killer

Leave The World Behind

Influencer

Birth/Rebirth

Resident Evil Death Island

Rustin

The Creator

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning (Part 1)

Maestro

Saltburn



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