Morbidly Beautiful

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2023 was a year of incredible highs and lows for horror. Critics deemed plenty rotten, but was the most savage criticism warranted?

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We’ve come to a flawed but useful manner in which we decide which films are worth viewing and which films aren’t.

Who would have guessed that one of the most watched review sites, Rotten Tomatoes, was started by three undergrads from Berkeley in 1998? Twenty-five years later, its humble beginnings are in the past, and it is now partially owned, one quarter by Warner Brothers Discovery, and 75% by NBC Universal, taking it out of the ages of AOL and turning it into one of the most popular review-aggregator sites used to screen media today.

The topic of today is the worst horror movies of 2023 — that is, anything considered “rotten” that ranks below 50% on the tomato meter, meaning it effectively divided critics or viewers enough that there are noticeably two parties, or simply a majority, in favor of the film was no good.

In exploring these films at the bottom of RT’s list, I was surprised to find such major titles falling out of favor. Nine out of the ten films on this list are adaptations (books, video games, historical documents), sequels, or remakes. My theory is that critics, especially, aren’t always game for seeing recycled material, and they don’t appreciate adaptations or biopics that stray too far from the source material or postulate other events within the timeline.

On the whole, though, audiences seem to disagree with critic’s summary judgment and instead seem to enjoy the films for what they are and use them for entertainment value or as another notch on their horror belt.

I’ll be reviewing these “rotten” films and discussing the high and low points while passing my judgment on whether these harsh ratings on this year’s films were deserved. Love it or hate it? Let’s take a second look, counting down from the least to most skewered horror film of 2023.

1o. The Last Voyage of the Demeter

(49% Critic/ 75% Audience)

An adaptation of the chapter “The Captain’s Log” from the 1897 Bram Stoker novel, The Last Voyage of the Demeter was a glimpse into what may have happened on the ship that harbored Dracula all those years ago.

Bringing in the star power of Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), David Dastmalchian (Suicide Squad), Corey Hawkins, and Javier Botet (Mama), there were plenty of history and horror veterans on the cast to keep this chapter afloat. The story follows a log found in the wreckage of the Demeter, a vessel washed up on land in August traveling from Bulgaria to London. We see that even as the ship is being loaded, locals are ready to flee, saying they must depart before sundown.

As the Demeter’s journey begins, though, they discover a crate with a dragon seal, a bad omen to those on board, and the ship is harboring much more dangerous and intelligent cargo than the crew could ever imagine.

I thought this was a smart Dracula film.

Taking a single chapter that encapsulates a whole marine voyage was brilliant to tease out small details we never thought to include about Dracula, and altered his appearance mostly from the well-dressed count we know him as to the ferocious blood-driven animal he truly is.

The cast is game, and Javier Botet plays an excellent monster. While the pacing can be slow, I view this as a historical horror drama playing to a novel, not unlike The Terror, which takes its time introducing you to new cultures and crewmen as the journey escalates.

Almost reaching fresh territory, this movie’s critics are split in two on this decision, half decidedly rotten, but why?

“Lost at sea, decidedly not scary, no suffic