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Kristopowitz’s Top 10 Movies of 2023 (#5 – 1)

January 16, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Saw X Tobin Bell Image Credit: Lionsgate

The Top 10 Movies of 2023 Part 2: #5-1

Okay, so here we are, the second part of my Top 10 Movies of 2023 list. This part will deal with the top 5 movies. Again, just like the first part of this list, the movies listed are a mix of theatrical releases, direct-to-video/Video On Demand movies, and movies I managed to see at a film festival. There are also two honorable mentions. Here is the link to the first part of this list, just in case you didn’t see it or want to see it/read it again.

And now, what made my top 5 movies of 2023?

The Top 10 Movies of 2023 Part 2: #5-1

Honorable Mention:

The Devil Comes at Night: Directed by Scott Leaver, The Devil Comes at Night is a wickedly good horror flick, a sort of demon siege horror thriller that goes in truly unexpected directions. I thought it was going to be one sort of horror movie, but it turned out to be something else, and it seemed like a breath of fresh air when I saw it. It’s also one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent memory in that it doesn’t waste any time, it gets right to the point, and is the best 80 minutes you’re likely to spend watching anything. Ryan Allen and Adirenne Kress, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Leaver, give top notch performances, and Jason Martorino is absolutely terrific as the movie’s big bad guy. You have to track this movie down and check it out. You won’t regret it.

Boudica: Queen of War: Directed by modern action director extraordinaire Jesse V. Johnson, Boudica: Queen of War (also known simply as Boudica) is a historical drama, a passion project of sorts for director Johnson, and one of the most graphically violent movies you will ever see. Starring Olga Kurylenko in the title role (and she does a great job), Boudica: Queen of War is visually stunning and inventive (the opening Roman massacre is like some sort of dark nightmare), and is the odd historical drama in that it runs at about 100 minutes (if this had been made by a big Hollywood studio it would probably be a three hour slog instead of a tight hour and forty minutes). Director Johnson manages to get more production value out of what was obviously a modest budget and has costumes and set design that looks better than any recent mega expensive Hollywood epic. And, my God, is it violent. We get decapitations, slit throats galore, and blood and guts everywhere. It’s truly glorious moviemaking. Check it out as soon as you can.

Image Credit: Lionsgate

5. Saw X: I was initially skeptical of the whole premise of Saw X, the tenth movie in the horror franchise, as it was advertised as a sort of prequel to the first movie and it was set to star Tobin Bell, the villain of the franchise who was killed off in the third movie. It had been twenty years since the first movie. How the heck was this going to work? I shouldn’t have doubted anyone involved because Saw X may be the best movie in the entire franchise. Bell is phenomenal as John Kramer, the Jigsaw killer who, when we first meet him, is dealing with a dead end cancer diagnosis. On the verge of accepting that his personal end is soon, Kramer meets someone who he thinks may be able to cure his cancer and save his life. Kramer goes to Mexico and receives the experimental treatment, only to find out later that he’s been conned and hasn’t been cured of anything. And so Kramer, along with the help of his apprentice Amanda (the also returning Shawnee Smith), sets out to capture all of the people involved with the con and puts them in his patented Jigsaw traps and gives them all a choice: live or die. The various traps are gruesome as hell, especially the “blood boarding” trap, which may be the nastiest trap in the entire franchise (just thinking about it makes my skin crawl). We’re set to get another Saw sequel/prequel/whatever this year, and it will be interesting to see just how the franchise as a whole progresses. Are the moviemakers going to try to make the next one fit in the already established continuity or will they create a sort of alternate timeline? I can’t wait to find out.

Image Credit: AMP & Eyevox

4. Suitable Flesh: Directed by Joe Lynch and based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, Suitable Flesh is a wonderfully wicked body horror flick that could very well end up being a modern horror classic. Featuring great performances by star Heather Graham, modern horror icon Barbara Crampton, and a brief but still awesome performance by Bruce Davison, the movie is all about a therapist (Graham) trying to help a disturbed young man (Judah Lewis) who believes that something evil is trying to take over his body. At first, Graham’s character believes that the young man just needs her help, but as she gets more and more involved with him things go awry. I don’t want to say any more than that as the movie is full of nifty twists and turns that should be experienced as fresh as possible going in. I will say, though, that Graham carries the movie brilliantly and gives one of the best performances of her career, and Suitable Flesh may very well be director Lynch’s best movie to date. The movie is currently available on various Video on Demand platforms as I write this and is set to hit home video on January 9th and then the Shudder streaming service at the end of the month, so there are multiple ways to see it. I know I can’t wait to see it again. And when you do see it be on the lookout for director Lynch in a bit part as a club wielding orderly in a psychiatric facility. Lynch’s mustache is nothing short of epic. Great movie.

Image Credit: Sony Pictures

3. The Equalizer 3: The third and presumably final movie in the The Equalizer movie franchise has star Denzel Washington living in a small Italian village, recuperating from injuries suffered while righting a wrong and then having to defend the village from a group of truly vicious local gangsters. Brilliantly directed by Antoine Fuqua, The Equalizer 3 has Washington’s Robert McCall struggle to find health and, maybe, lasting peace while also taking down the bad guys with brutal efficiency. The bad guys are just the absolute worst of the worst, and it’s cathartic as hell to watch McCall just end them all. The final showdown is practically a slasher movie but a slasher movie filled with a righteous rage that you will stand up and cheer for. Washington is once again just so damn good as the hero McCall, both when called to do violence and during the first part of the movie when we see McCall trying to recover from his injuries. It’s fun to see McCall establish new connections and friendships and, maybe, a new home for himself. Dakota Fanning is also in the movie and does a nice job as a CIA analyst that ends up having a surprising connection to McCall (I should have seen it coming but I didn’t). I know that The Equalizer 3 was advertised as the last movie in the franchise, but I hope that star Washington and director Fuqua reconsider and keep making them as long as people want to see them (and based on the money the movie made at the theatrical box office it’s obvious that they do want to see more outings). Washington’s McCall is very good at killing bad guys, and there are always more bad guys to kill. The top action movie of 2023 hands down.

Image Credit: Malevolent Dark

2. Fang: I wasn’t prepared for the masterpiece that is Fang. It is one of the best movies I ever saw at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, and it’s easily the best horror movie I saw in 2023. In the big scheme of things, a movie like Fang really only comes along every once in a while and when you’re in its presence you need to celebrate it and then tell others. Written and directed by Richard Burgin, Fang stars Dylan LaRay as a sort of down on his luck artist who sweeps the floors of a warehouse for a paycheck while also taking care of his mentally diminishing mother played by the great Lynn Lowry. LaRay’s character is beyond stressed and seemingly at the end of his rope when he is bitten by a rat. This one event initiates a change in LaRay’s character that leads to what can only be described as horrific events. That’s all I really want to say because it helps to experience the detail of what Billy goes through more or less fresh going in. I mean, I had no idea what to expect going into Fang. A guy turns into a rat after being bitten by one? That could go a million different ways. Burgin’s direction is top notch, and the movie’s main performances are nothing short of terrific. LaRay is awesome as the main character, and Lowry gives a breathtaking, no holds barred performance that would garner all sorts of major awards consideration if we lived in a just and fair world instead of the relentlessly unjust dumpster fire that we all currently exist in. Lowry really is that good in the movie and it’s a performance that horror movie nerds will be talking about for years to come. Fang is now available via Vimeo On Demand and Amazon Prime and will be on home video in the near future (check out the movie’s official Facebook page here for updates). See Fang now. See it, see it, see it!

Image Credit: Miramax

1. The Holdovers: I first saw the trailer for The Holdovers when I went to see The Expendables 4. Until then I had no idea The Holdovers even existed. As soon as the trailer was over I knew, right then and there, that I needed to see The Holdovers as soon as it came out. Directed by the great Alexander Payne, The Holdovers is about a somewhat curmudgeonly prep school teacher (played by Pig Vomit hisself, Paul Giamatti) who has to supervise a kid (newcomer Dominic Sessa) that can’t go home over Christmas break. They don’t get along, but over the course of the movie they eventually recognize one another’s humanity. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is also in the movie, playing a cook at the prep school that is trying to deal with the loss of her son who was killed in Vietnam (the movie takes place in 1970). All three actors give tremendous performances and all of the awards buzz surrounding Giamatti and Randolph is justified. Giamatti is, as he always is, beyond great as the teacher Paul Hunham, and Randolph is the heart and soul of the movie as Mary Lamb. Their performances are touching as hell. And Sessa, in his first ever movie, is able to hold his own with both Giamatti and Randolph and shine (it will be interesting to see how his career progresses into the future). The Holdovers also uses a sort of “1970’s movie” pastiche that has been done to death in the “grindhouse horror” realm for almost two decades now but comes across as fresh here. I wonder how many future dramedy type movies will try to do something similar. I absolutely loved The Holdovers. A dramedy that’s also a meditation on how people deal with loneliness, grief, idealism, and just life in general. A new Christmas movie (I can totally see The Holdovers becoming one of those movies that people watch every Christmas season. I know I plan to). The best movie of 2023, and the best theatrical experience hands down.

So, how many of you are now quoting Giamatti’s “Life is like a henhouse ladder” line? Is it just me? Such a great bit.


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