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scariest horror films 2023

These are officially the scariest films of all time, according to actual science

Scientists tested 250 people with heart rate monitors and the spooky results are IN

Fear is subjective, of course. What I find terrifying is personal to me – to my lived experiences, to childhood core memories that chilled me to my core and inflicted a legacy of terror through my life. The same will apply to your life. However, what ACTUALLY is the scariest film ever made, according to science? Every year, the Science of Scare project publishes the top 2o English language horror films by scare factor according to a test where they fit a panel of 250 people to heart monitors, testing their resting heart rate, their heart rate BPM, their heart rate variance (the time between beats) and their sharpest heart rate spike. They then get an overall scare score. So what are the scariest horror films according to science for 2023? We’ll start off with 20-11, the ones that just missed out on the top 10.

20. The Ring (Scare Score: 69)
19. Insidious 2 (Scare Score: 70)
18. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Scare Score: 70)
17. A Quiet Place Pt 2 (Scare Score: 71)
16. The Babadook (Scare Score: 72)
15. Paranormal Activity (Scare Score: 73)
14. The Dark and the Wicked (Scare Score: 74)
13. It Follows (Scare Score: 74)
12. The Conjuring (Scare Score: 74)
11. The Descent (Scare Score: 74)

10. Talk To Me (2023) – Scare Score: 75

Bursting straight into the top 10 on year of release is this year’s amazing Talk To Me. The debut film from YouTubers RackaRacka, aka twins Danny and Michael Philippou, Talk To Me released to acclaim and as a die hard horror fan, it’s easily the best horror of the year in my opinion. The film centres on a group of young people who start allowing themselves to be briefly possessed by a hand that brings forward a spirit when they say “talk to me”. Of course, things go horribly wrong.

9. Hell House LLC (2015) – Scare Score: 75

scariest horror films 2023

The only film on this list I’ve not seen is number nine, 2015’s found footage film Hell House LLC. It’s a found footage documentary style horror about a group of haunted house attraction creators who have a tragic “malfunction” on opening night that kills 15 tour-goers and staff. If it’s scarier than Lake Mungo (a similar style horror film that, spoiler alert, is somehow not even in the top 20) I will be SHOCKED.

8. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – Scare Score: 76

scariest horror films 2023

scariest horror films 2023

scariest films 2023

2022’s Smile was polarising, but I was firmly in the “this is good” camp. I thought it was a romp, a rollercoaster of shock scares and actually pretty gnarly visual effects. Smile stars Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin) as a doctor whose patient passes on a terrifying curse. It’s a ghost train horror of jump scares but in my opinion they’re done in really fun and creative ways!

6. Hereditary (2018) – Scare Score – 81

If we’re being real, this is objectively the best film in this top 10 scariest horror films for 2023. Ari Aster is a genius, and this was his debut. A proper horror auteur. Great premise, shocking story and a harrowing performance from Toni Collette that in a fair and just world would have got her an Oscar nom.

5. The Conjuring (2013) – Scare Score: 88

James Wan’s masterpiece, in my opinion. I LOVE The Conjuring. Maximalist, mainstream horror that throws it all at you and has a core family that you root for and an amazing duo of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as real life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. Just a PROPER horror film. Classic of the 2010s.

4. Insidious (2010) – Scare Score: 90

I’m sorry but if you think Insidious is scarier than The Conjuring I am literally agog. The less good James Wan horror franchise, and I will die on that hill. Patrick Wilson is also in it, of course. Insidious is all about a young lad who becomes a vessel for demonic entities and evil spirits via an astral plane. The jumpscare in the picture above is the best bit of the whole film, tbh.

When it comes to scariest horror films of 2023 according to science, Insidious proudly boasts the highest spike in heart rates of all the films – 133.

3. Skinamarink (2022) – Scare Score: 91

Look, here’s the deal. I think Skinamarink is a bad film. I am an advocate of slow horror and would say horror films like Lake Mungo, which I count amongst the scariest ever, could be completely unchilling to many fans wanting high octane spooks. Skinamarink goes beyond that. It is both slow and ugly. Nonetheless, here it is, top three. Skinamarink doesn’t deliver on its premise of dread and atmosphere for me, but it got the highest heart variance score which means the panel tested found it the most dread-filled.

2. Host (2020) – Scare Score: 95

A rogue choice but a very valid one, Host is 2020’s pandemic horror that has a concept that feels eyeball worthy but manages to be completely and utterly terrifying as a group of self isolating friends contact the spirit world on Zoom during Covid. Honestly, this is a brilliant film. It’s short, lean and harrowing – low budget, maximum terror. The cast’s understated and realistic performances are outstanding. Science ways, it takes the top prize when it comes to average heart rate during the movie – a super high 88.

1. Sinister (2012) – Scare Score: 96

Scott Derrickson’s 2012 harrower Sinister has Ethan Hawke in as a true crime writer who finds a load of footage of harrowing family murder and winds up trapping his family in danger. It’s bleak, it’s spooky and the ending is downright dark sided. I really want to rewatch now. Pure evil.

For all the latest horror news and to watch any film from the checklist, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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