Matt Glasby, author of The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film, looks back at another banner year for horror…

(Un)pleasant Surprise of the Year: Cobweb

Not the film it appears to be from the trailer – and how often can you really say that? – this atmospheric effort from writer Chris Thomas Devlin (the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and debut director Samuel Bodin knows how to keep its secrets, so we’ll try to do the same. Poor eight-year-old Peter (Woody Norman) lives in a creepy house with his clearly not-right parents (Lizzy Caplan and Anthony Starr). But why won’t they let him go trick ’r’ treating , and what’s with the noises in the walls? Capably acted, beautifully art-directed and genuinely surprising, this is one slowburn shocker that’s definitely worth revisiting.
See Also: No One Will Save You

WTF-Fest of the Year: When Evil Lurks

Those in the know have been keeping an eye on Argentine writer/director Demián Rugna’s since his petrifying 2017 debut Terrified. After a segment in the well-received portmanteau effort Satanic Hispanics, he returns with a full-length, full-throttle follow-up. It’s set in a world where possession is commonplace, but there are rules – and experts – to deal with the clean-up. Not that helps brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomon), whose actions accidentally cause a mass outbreak. After a slow start, it kicks off in a manner so cruel, unusual and intense you’ll be screaming at the screen for it to stop. It’s not just the sequence of the year, it’s one we’ll be talking about for years to come.
See also: Infinity Pool

Studio Horror of the Year: Evil Dead Rise

Though Fede Álvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead reimagining gets a lot of love, there’s no denying it sacrificed the franchise’s absurdist streak for outright sadism. Attempting to redress the balance, Irish director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) has made the most fun Evil Dead movie since the 1980s. When Beth (Lily Sullivan) goes to see her older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her kids in their condemned LA (actually Australia) apartment block, an earthquake reveals the Necronomicon in a concealed underground chamber. Before you can say, “Groovy”, all hell has broken loose, with Cronin balancing gore and gallows humour with characters you actually care about.
See also: The Boogeyman

No-budget Wonder of the Year: Hostile Dimensions

A big hit on the festival circuit, the latest found-footage effort from Glasgow-based writer/director/everything elser Graham Hughes (Death of a Vlogger) weaves all kind of spooky cine-magic from a miniscule budget. It follows documentary film-makers Sam (Annabel Logan) and Ash (Joma West) as they investigate the disappearance of a graffiti artist, discovering an ominous door that opens onto other worlds. These contain surprises that are creepy, funny and spectacular in equal measure. For some, the limits of what can be shown onscreen would be dictated by the budget, but for Hughes it’s his imagination, so we’re treated to pyramids, malevolent pandas, and a climactic, universe-hopping chase that’s the equal of anything you’ll see in a blockbuster.
See also: Skinamarink

Horror Comedy of the Year: Here for Blood

If you’re looking for a good time at the movies – and frankly after the shitshow that was 2023 who isn’t? – look no further. Infused with the spirit of Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright, Daniel Turres’ laugh-out-loud splatter-com pits pro wrestler turned amateur babysitter Tom O’Bannon (Shawn Roberts) against a demonic cult intent on kidnapping his 10-year-old charge Grace (Maya Misaljevic), with only Tom – and his axe – standing in the way. Combining goofy good humour with geysers of blood, it’s like a gender-reversed House of the Devil with no downtime, and an eye for beer-fuelled, SFX-filled ultra-violence.
See also: The Blackening

Break-out Hit of the Year: Talk to Me

The buzz surrounding this A24 possession flick from Australia’s Phillipou twins was so strong it seemed guaranteed to disappoint. Not so. Emotional, original and genuinely scary, Talk to Me packs a hell of punch. Adelaide teen Mia (Sophie Wilde) and her pals find themselves at the centre of an urban legend which involves clutching an embalmed hand, saying, “Talk to me,” and letting the spirits in just long enough for freaky stuff to happen, but not so long they want to stay. Only, of course, it doesn’t quite work out like that. The film deals with all kinds of interesting questions about grief and addiction, Wilde is a star in the making, and the ending is one of the most perfect since The Descent. The franchise starts here.