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Friday the 13th is a fun day for horror fans. Not only is it the spookiest of all Fridays, but it also reminds us that we should be watching more horror movies. At least, it reminds me that I should be watching more because it tends to be a date reserved for many horror movie releases. In 2023, one of the year’s Friday the 13ths landed in October, making it an even bigger target for horror film release dates.
On our New and Upcoming Horror Movies tracker, we list nine movies released on October 13th, 2023. That has to be a record for the year. So, in keeping up with my Halloween resolution to watch even more new horror movies than usual, I set out to watch all nine Friday, October 13th releases as quickly as possible. One film, The Elderly, was released exclusively in theaters and wasn’t playing anywhere near me, so I substituted that for a movie released on October 12th instead. Over the weekend of October 13th, all nine movies were watched.
In this article I review the nine brand-new horror movies I watched between October 13th and 15th (I actually watched more than nine movies in that time, but the others were older releases). I’ve also added in a few bits of my own entirely subjective experience I had while watching. The movies are also all ranked in order of my own enjoyment, from the best at #1 to the least best at #9.
Ranking Nine Horror Movies Released on Friday October 13th, 2023
1. 15 Cameras
15 Cameras is a surprise highlight of my mini movie marathon. It is a story about watching people, and it approaches the topic from multiple perspectives that overlap more and more and the movie progresses. 15 Cameras is about a couple, Sky and Cam, who move into a duplex knowing that it used to be owned by a killer known as the Slumlord. The Slumlord used hidden cameras in the properties he owned to watch people for extended periods of time before finally entering the homes and killing them.
Sky (Angela Wong Carbone) becomes obsessed with a true crime series chronicling the Slumlord’s exploits. Meanwhile, Sky’s partner Cam (Will Madden) discovers a hidden bunker in their new home which is the control room for the previously undiscovered hidden cameras spread throughout both halves of their duplex. Cam becomes obsessed with secretly watching the footage from the cameras (especially when two college women move in to the other half of the duplex), but Sky’s obsession with learning more about the Slumlord threatens to expose what Cam is doing. It all builds incredibly well, with tension steadily rising to a finale that pays the story off in a fantastic way.
The Conference is a slasher movie that manages to achieve a near-perfect blend of horror and humor. As a huge fan of slashers of all kinds, but especially of those where the horror can be brutal yet also darkly funny at times, The Conference is exactly the kind of slasher I look for.
The Conference is about a group of coworkers who go to an isolated campground for a conference. There is already tension within the group before they arrive, and it only gets worse when everyone is forced into close proximity in the name of team-building. After we get to know the crew during a few funny scenes skewering workplace culture, people begin dying at the hands of a mysterious killer wearing a smiling mascot head. The kills are bloody and the characters are well-developed, which is often all you need for an entertaining slasher movie. I also particularly enjoyed the ending that didn’t necessarily follow the typical “final girl” tropes. That helped the ending feel somewhat unexpected.
3. Dark Harvest
Dark Harvest was a nice surprise. The movie was originally scheduled for release in 2021. When a movie gets delayed for two years, it’s only natural to wonder about the quality of the film. Thankfully, Dark Harvest turned out to be a fun monster movie with good action and a great look. The story, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Norman Partridge, is about a small isolated town with a strange tradition. Every Halloween, the teenage boys of the population are sent out to kill a monster called Sawtooth Jack that rises once a year in the fields just outside the main town area. The boy who kills the monster earns fabulous prizes for himself and his family.
In 1963, Richie Shepard (Casey Likes) wants to kill Sawtooth Jack just like his older brother did in 1962. Richie isn’t supposed to participate in the hunt since his family is already enjoying the benefits of his brother’s big win, but Richie is determined. What transpires is a Purge-like hunt with crazed, masked boys running through town in a murderous rampage. Meanwhile, Richie discovers dark secrets that cause him to rethink his town, his parents, and his whole life.
The Puppetman is a blending of a possession movie and a curse movie, and it plays out in a good, if not entirely unpredictable, way. The movie begins with a man, seemingly not in control of what he’s doing, violently murdering his wife. Years later, the man’s daughter, Michal, is in college. Michal sleepwalks, and she has a habit of scratching her arm to the point of drawing blood. She’s also dealing with the fact that her father is finally scheduled to be executed from his crime. While trying to live a normal life with her small group of friends, an inexplicable tragedy occurs that sends Michal’s life into turmoil as her past comes back and threatens to destroy her.
The first half of The Puppetman, when we’re getting to know the characters and are first starting to experience the film’s mystery, is probably the best. As Michal inevitably goes into research mode to learn more about what is happening to her and her friends, The Puppetman can sometimes shift away from the most gripping plot threads and character interactions. However, the driving force that keeps the movie compelling is Alyson Gorske as Michal. The curse Michal is dealing with is unique and interesting, and Gorske plays it extremely well in what must have been a challenging role.
The trailers and write-ups for Herd don’t do the movie justice. Going into Herd, I expected a fairly typical low-budget zombie movie. Lots of guns, feuding groups of survivors, people getting bitten. That sort of thing. Even though most of those things do exist in Herd, the movie isn’t really about that. Rather, Herd is a love story set against seemingly insurmountable odds… with lots of guns, feuding survivors, and a zombie-like outbreak.
Though there are certainly parts of Herd that could’ve worked better, the central story of two women, Alex and Jamie, going through a painfully rough patch in their relationship drew me in. A lot of that is thanks to Mitzi Akaha and Ellen Adair, Alex and Jamie respectively, having great chemistry and being believable in an unbelievable situation. It’s an example of seeing two characters who, at the beginning of the movie, you are sure don’t belong together, but by the end you’re pulling for both of them to be okay and make everything work out.
Along the way we do see some simplistic zombie-movie shenanigans like a rivalry between factions of survivors that leads to gun fights, but it always comes back to Alex and Jamie which, again, is the best reason to watch Herd. If you’re looking for a gory zombie movie, maybe try something else (the zombies aren’t on screen for very long), but if you’re looking for something a little different, Herd is a good choice.
I didn’t know what to expect from Monster Inside, but it may end up being the movie that sticks with me the longest out of the nine in this list. Monster Inside is a documentary that works as a kind of exposé of the extreme haunted house attraction known as McKamey Manor. More specifically, it focuses on the proprietor of McKamey Manor, Russ McKamey. Through interviews with people who know Russ, people who have endured McKamey Manor, and experts, Monster Inside paints a picture of a man who is abusing the power people give him when they sign up to be “scared” (aka tortured).
While the look into the extreme haunt is illuminating, the personal stories are the most compelling. They shine a light on the mindset it takes for someone to volunteer for an experience like what McKamey Manor offers. Also, despite the apparent intentions of some of the people who participated in the making of the documentary, Monster Inside is unlikely to dissuade many people who already support Russ and want to sign up for McKamey Manor. The documentary tells us that Russ declined to participate in the making of the movie, which can only serve, for some people, to increase the mystique of an experience that is already built largely on fear of the unknown. Regardless, it is a highly-recommended watch for fans of true crime stories.
7. Dear David
Before watching Dear David, I vaguely remembered seeing a few of the tweets back in 2017 about the ghost of a boy supposedly haunting the apartment of a BuzzFeed writer. I didn’t really pay much attention to it then, but I went back and looked into it after seeing Dear David. Unfortunately, the Twitter thread is much creepier than the movie it inspired.
Dear David is enjoyable, but it also takes some odd turns that didn’t work for me. The movie follows Buzzfeed writer Adam Ellis as he becomes increasingly haunted in his apartment. The way the film is presented, it makes the audience wonder if we’re watching a movie about an actual haunting, or a movie about a person’s mental breakdown told from his unreliable point of view. Either could work well, but the way the movie becomes completely unbelievable at times makes it less eerie and more about standard jump-scare tactics. That said, Dear David is pretty good, and it is worth a watch for fans of ghost movies and people who are familiar with Adam Ellis’s Twitter thread.
8. HeBGB TV
HeBGB TV (pronounced heebie-jeebie TV) is the movie I started my nine-movie marathon on. It looked fun and silly, and I though it would be a nice and light place to begin my journey. The movie is fun and silly, but not much of the comedy worked for me personally. HeBGB TV is an anthology film, and it is (mostly) made to look like you are watching television, complete with commercials and changing channels. The comedy is extremely campy with a nostalgic quality, and if that’s your thing then you’re likely to enjoy HeBGB TV.
9. In the Fire
I wasn’t sure how much of a horror movie In the Fire would be before I started it. After watching it, I can report that it is a drama first, and a horror movie maybe third or fourth. The story, set in the 1890s, is about a doctor named Grace (played by Amber Heard) who travels to an isolated plantation to see if she can help a young boy, Martin (Lorenzo McGovern Zaini) overcome what she believes are mental issues. The local townsfolk believe Martin is possessed by the Devil, but Grace believes only in science and psychology. The movie is okay, but the rudimentary way it tells its story makes it feel woefully underdeveloped in many places. And if you’re looking for horror, the only moments that could be construed as horror come very late in the movie, and only for a few seconds.
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