The Halloween Countdown: 31 days of horror to watch
A complete month of scary selections to stream, including horror films, Halloween specials, and everything in between.
Is there anything more enjoyable than the Halloween season?
Sure, we cover horror all year round at Warside. We have monthly updates to our rankings of the greatest horror movies to watch at home and the best horror movies to watch on Netflix.
Even for year-round horror lovers, Halloween is a special occasion.
Polygon has put together a Halloween Countdown calendar for the previous two years, with a Halloween-themed movie or TV show available to view at home every day of October. We’re thrilled to bring it back, with 31 frightening options to keep the vibe going all month.
Every day in October, we’ll add a new recommendation to this Countdown and let you know where you can watch it. So get up on the sofa, turn down the lights, and grab some popcorn for a frightful and fun evening of Halloween surprises.
OCT. 1: AUDITION (1999)
Love is a consensual fiction in Takashi Miike’s 1999 psychological horror-thriller Audition. Shigeharu Aoyama, who lost his wife to a serious illness years ago, is persuaded by his son to get back out there and meet someone. Aoyama agrees to his buddy, a film producerrequest ,’s to participate in an audition for a nonexistent film in order to identify a prospective wife among the hopefuls. His search eventually takes him to Asami Yamazaki, a stunning former dancer with a troubled history.
As Aoyama gets closer to his new love interest, he becomes entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens to tear him apart emotionally, mentally, and, yes, physically. Yes, there is something black within Asami, but there is also a latent darkness within Aoyama, probably much worse. The only difference is that Asami has accepted and embraced her darkness.
For the most part, Miike’s picture keeps its cards close to its breast, unspooling its tightly wrapped mystery like garrote wire before peeling back its veneer of meet-cute artifice to uncover a pulsating mass of horrors swirling underneath. The picture devolves into a macabre fugue state of assumptions, misdirections, and cinematic sleights of hand, with dreams that feel nearly real juxtaposed against a reality that is too horrific to be anything other than genuine. But, in the end, they are just words. Only suffering can be relied on. —Egan, Toussaint
Audition is available to stream on Arrow Video and Hi-Yah!, for free with advertisements on Tubi, and for free with a library card on Kanopy. It is also available on Vudu and Apple for digital rental or purchase.
OCT. 2: THE VANISHING (1988)
Although it is not a horror picture, Stanley Kubrick stated that The Vanishing was the most scary film he had ever seen. This 1988 Dutch thriller — generally referred to by its original title Spoorloos to avoid confusion with an inferior 1993 American adaptation by the same director, George Sluizer — plays it casual, as if it were a simple missing person case. Rex and Saskia are a young couple taking a car trip through France. They’re taking a break at a gas station when Saskia unexpectedly and utterly vanishes.
The tragedy of the scenario is initially in its banality: the impression that it could happen at any time, to anybody. The matter-of-fact reality of Sluizer’s location filming emphasizes this. Then, hardly more than 20 minutes in, he catches the audience off guard with a sudden change: We’re following Raymond, a happy-go-lucky French family man who looks to be practicing an abduction. The question of what happened to Saskia appears to have been answered. What comes next?
The way the film — which is based on Tim Krabbé’s book The Golden Egg — leaps so swiftly beyond the typical framework of a mystery thriller should drain tension, but it instead creates an almost philosophical discomfort. As Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) guides us through the “how” of his crime, the “why” becomes a nagging, far more serious question. Three years later, Rex is obsessed with discovering what happened to his long-lost sweetheart. When an answer is given, we totally understand his desire for it and follow him to what may be the most clearly terrifying finale of any film ever. This is a minimalist work of existential terror. —Welsh, Oli
The Vanishing is available to view on The Criterion Channel or to rent or buy digitally on Apple and Amazon.
OCT. 3: RAMPANT (2018)
One of the great thrills of horror is the variety of subgenres available, as well as the subgenres within subgenres that sprout from that. Take, for example, the monster movie. It’s a subgenre of horror in and of itself, including vampire movies, werewolf movies, and zombie movies, to mention a few. Then there’s Rampant, which blends the zombie subgenre with an unexpected pairing: the historical court drama period piece.
The film is set in Korea during the Joseon kingdom in the 17th century. The film is rife with political intrigue: the protagonist is an arrogant young prince sent home following his brother’s death, only to discover that political intrigues have already begun when he arrives. With numerous factions emerging, the court is striving to find out how to cope with the adjacent Qing dynasty in China (where our protagonist grew up).
Then there’s the zombies. Yes, a zombie epidemic occurs, altering the significance of this royal battle for some (but not all) of its participants. On his way home, our protagonist finds this and tries to persuade his father (and his father’s advisors) to take action. This results in some stunningly vicious swordplay action in a genre mashup for the ages. — Peter Volk
Rampant is available to stream on Hi-Yah!, FuboTV, and Viki, as well as Tubi, Crackle, Plex, Pluto TV, and Freevee for free with advertising. It is also available to rent or buy digitally from Amazon, Apple, Vudu, and Google Play.
OCT. 4: SECONDS (1966)
The inexorable process of aging dwarfs werewolves, vampires, zombies, and aliens. We shall all get older, life will become increasingly tough, and the only person waiting for us at the finish line will be Death. Seconds was constructed around such midlife fears, giving New York banking exec Arthur Hamilton the chance to fake his own death, reconstruct his body as Rock Hudson, and relocate to sunny Southern California as a hot, younger man called Tony Wilson.Hudson spirals through anxiety and remorse, complete with nude grape mashing and alcohol-fueled breakdowns, like a little animal tramped beneath the sunlamp of the Santa Barbara sun. Needless to say, the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and the only thing worse than growing old is remaining young.
The picture received boos at Cannes, perplexing reviewers who were used to seeing leading man Rock Hudson as exactly that – a typical leading man. However, the film has aged beautifully, pun intended. The Academy Award-nominated cinematography of James Wong Howe places the audience inches from Hudson’s face, twists reality via a fish-eye lens, and transforms lovely young bodies into disgusting bundles of limbs and flesh. And Hudson, who has lost touch with his Personal Brand for the majority of viewers under the age of 70, undercuts his Hollywood good looks with a modest performance of a guy in full collapse. —Christopher Plante
Seconds is available on Pluto TV for free with advertisements or Kanopy for free with a library card. It’s also available to rent or buy digitally on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
OCT. 5: BRIDE OF CHUCKY (1998)
The fourth installment of the hilarious Child’s Play series takes the killer doll series in an intriguing new direction. Bride of Chucky foregoes Andy, the little child pursued by the homicidal Chucky doll in the previous three films, in favor of two dumb adolescents (Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile) who unknowingly take two killer dolls on a road trip and begin to distrust each other as bodies begin to drop.
Bride of Chucky is a nasty inversion of the teen road trip movie, but it’s the inclusion of Jennifer Tilly that truly makes it sing. For those unfamiliar with the Child’s Play universe, the Chucky doll is possessed by serial murderer Charles Lee Ray’s spirit (Brad Dourif). Tiffany, Ray’s former girlfriend and collaborator, who brings the doll back to life and becomes a deadly doll herself, is played by Tilly.
As a result, two couples are on a road trip together but are unable to interact with one another. Jade and Jesse, played by Heigl and Stabile, are your usual young lovers, still getting to know each other and not entirely trusting each other, while Chucky and Tiffany’s squabbling and subtle manipulations make this a happy and twisted good time. With stunning graphics from director Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason) and cinematographer Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Killer), this series sequel is certainly worth your time. —PV
Peacock is now streaming Bride of Chucky. It’s also available to rent or buy digitally on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
OCT. 6: DEAD RINGERS (1988)
With the exception of one particularly unsettling dream sequence around halfway through and one gory but out-of-focus long shot at the conclusion, 1988’s Dead Ringers must be one of David Cronenberg’s tamest films. Otherwise, this is a film made up of talking heads in spotless, tidy settings that have been coated in 1980s designer opulence: tearooms, operation theaters, and penthouses. His customary bodily horror is intimated rather than displayed in the glistening, distorted outlines of surgical instruments. Nonetheless, it may be his most depressing film.
Jeremy Irons plays Beverly and Elliot Mantle, identical twin gynecologists who manage a thriving reproductive clinic in Toronto. Beverly, who is modest and sensitive, looks after the practice and the patients, while the urbane Elliot works his way up the medical establishment ladder. They live together and occasionally pretend to be each other so that shy Beverly can reap the benefits of Elliot’s womanizing. When Beverly falls in love with Claire (Geneviève Bujold), an actress and patient who can’t carry children due to three chambers in her womb, their symbiotic connection begins to tear and peel.
Feeling seeps deep and frigid under Dead Ringers’ glossy veneer. The tremendous psychodrama that develops between the three characters — primarily the twin brothers — leads to a shocking and poignant ending. The magnificent performances provided by Irons and caught by Cronenberg with precise, unshowy workmanship are at the core of the picture. Irons not only separates Bev and Ellie without relying too much on identifying makeup or tics, but also creates a closeness between them that is as sympathetic as it is creepy. It’s like witnessing someone rip themself apart and then awkwardly try to close the wound. Dead Ringers is both a tragedy and a horror film. —OW
Dead Ringers is currently available to watch on HBO Max. It is also accessible on Hoopla and Kanopy for free with a library card, as well as for digital rental or purchase through Amazon and Apple TV.
OCT. 7: THE KEEP (1983)
Michael Mann is known as a slick, streetwise filmmaker. Films like Thief, Heat, and Collateral treat the city as a maze and crime as a psychological test. The Keep, his 1983 foray into more blockbuster stuff, is nothing like those pictures — except for a lot of atmosphere.
Set in 1941 Romania, at the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the film depicts a German regiment discovering a strange edifice known as “The Keep.” Two astute soldiers intend to pilfer what they believe to be wealth within. Instead, their crime frees Radu Molasar, a golem-like planet destroyer. Whoops!
When members of the infantry start dying, a vicious SS commander (played ruthlessly by Gabriel Byrne) arrives to check out what’s going on. Naturally, he begins killing people as well. Mann alternates between the brutal drama one might anticipate from a film delving headlong into World War II geopolitics and eerie twists that guarantee every area of the plot seems haunted. Scott Glenn eventually appears as a guardian of the local community, which is being tormented by both Nazis and Radu Molasar, and the race is on to stop it.
The Keep is, without a doubt, B-movie schlock, backed by Tangerine Dream’s ecclesiastic synth soundtrack and staged amid some of the most magnificent, light-streaked stone sets ever constructed (can a Romanian temple be a liminal space?). However, it is given the artistic veil of a nightmare in the hands of a genius like Mann. Matthew Patches
The Keep is available to watch on The Criterion Channel and Pluto TV for free with advertising. It is also available to rent or buy digitally through Amazon and Apple TV.
OCT. 8: SAMURAI JACK — EPISODE XXXV: JACK AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE
Samurai Jack by Genndy Tartakovsky is a multifaceted series. The show’s premise, about a samurai prince who is transported into a dystopian future by his nemesis, a tyrannical shape-shifting demon, and forced to trek across a strange and alien new world in search of a way back home, provided a plethora of storytelling opportunities ranging from epic and comical to somber and horrifying. “Jack and the Haunted House,” episode 35, falls clearly into the latter group.
One night while traveling alone, Jack comes upon a tiny girl screaming in the woods. Chasing her in an attempt to soothe her, he is pulled to a mystery mansion whose terrible aura haunts him with visions of an evil power preying on vulnerable families. However, Jack’s desire to save the child and her family from grave danger risks trapping him in the grips of a ghost that feeds on converting the house into an impossible maze from which there is no escape.
Not just for its clear horror-centric concept, but also for its representation of the demon itself — a writhing mass of black tendrils that combine into a ukiyo-e-style dragon with a leering jaw and piercing eyes — “Jack and the Haunted House” is an extremely striking episode. It’s a wonderful episode that hits a fine mix between unsettling horror and the series’ overall emphasis on action. —TE
Samurai Jack is currently available to watch on HBO Max. It is also available to rent or buy digitally through Amazon and Apple TV.
OCT. 9: STEVEN UNIVERSE — CHILLE TID
Steven Universe isn’t afraid of horror, especially body horror. The body of a Crystal Gem is the embodiment of their Gem, which is unchangeable, allowing them to shape-shift at whim. It’s part of what makes the program so appealing; the Gem characters are all canonically nonbinary, allowing them to pick the body and gender expression that best suits them. It also allows the program to do horrific things like showing the results of Gem “experiments” that result in ugly, churning heaps of animated disembodied limbs.
In the same vein, “Chille Tid” uses kid-friendly visual language to convey important issues such as authority, consent, codependency, and martyrdom. The episode focuses on fusion, which has previously been portrayed as wonderfully beautiful. Fusion allows two Gems to meld together to form a bigger Gem with their relationship’s personality. And the show treats this act with joy and reverence, basing so much of its storytelling on the power of love. It also teaches that forcing another Gem into fusion is a serious violation of trust. (By the way, fusing with a different sort of Gem is a great taboo in Gem World society – yet another sharp real-world reflection from Steven Universe.)
Lapis, a depressed and incredibly powerful Crystal Gem, fuses with Jasper, a mercenary sent to destroy the Crystal Gems on Earth, in “Chille Tid.” The merger is abhorrent. Lapis becomes a martyr by shackling herself to an abuser and plunging them into the sea. The enormous persona they make may be seen battling against water-created handcuffs that erupt from the sea. This is exacerbated by Lapis’ backstory: she has just lately escaped incarceration in an enchanted mirror. It’s a terrifying episode, especially for children’s television, but also for adults – if you’ve ever left an abuser, you know how it feels. The vision is memorable because it is true.
For those who are concerned, Lapis does break loose. And she does ultimately move into a restored barn with Peridot, culminating in one of the show’s finest fanons. Nicolette Clark
Steven Universe is now accessible on HBO Max and. It is also available on Amazon for digital rental or purchase.
OCT. 10: THE LAST WINTER
The Last Winter, Larry Fessenden’s unseen 2006 horror masterwork, was miles ahead of the climate-horror trend that the rest of the world is only now catching up on. The film follows a motley crew of government officials, scientists, and researchers dispatched to the frigid tundra of Alaska in quest of oil. While the government’s liaison, Ed Pollack (acted with terrifying cruelty and almost-cartoon levels of evil by Ron Perlman), is enthusiastic about drilling, a couple of the scientists aren’t so convinced. Despite repeated warnings, the gang delves into the ice and disturbs long-dormant ghosts, causing all hell to break out.
Fessenden’s film is significant not just for how good and enjoyable (and terrifying) it is on its own terms, but also for how well it combines so many of the best horror subgenres into a single plot. It’s one of the finest climate change horror movies, a terrific addition to the old horror canon of the polar expedition gone terribly wrong, and even sits beautifully next to other government-creep-in-way-over-their-head movies like Aliens.
But, despite spending so much time delving into horror history, The Last Winter’s strongest aspect is how unsettlingly it portrays its own topic. According to the film, humans is essentially a parasite on the natural world, and everything that goes wrong is merely the earth fighting back to defend itself. There are many films that depict the end of society, but few, if any, make it appear to be the only viable alternative. Goslin, Austen
The Last Winter is available on Amazon and Apple TV for digital rental or purchase.
OCT. 11: NEAR DARK
“May I have a taste?”
There is no other film like Near Dark, a sensual vampire western literally overflowing with “cool.” Kathryn Bigelow’s spectacular solo directorial debut kicked off a brilliant run that included Blue Steel, Point Break, and Strange Days.
Bigelow wanted to produce a Western, but in the 1980s, studios weren’t exactly lining up to bankroll them. As a result, she and co-writer Eric Red set out to blend the Western with another practically as ancient as cinema itself: the vampire film. The recent success of Fright Night and The Lost Boys also helped.
Near Dark offers outstanding action set-pieces, with a barroom fight and a shooting in a bungalow in particular standing out for their tension buildup and use of light. It’s also darkly humorous and full of piercing dramatic irony (a vampire giving a hickey to an unsuspecting neck, some acute early wordplay where your knowledge that this is a vampire movie changes everything).
The outfits are flawless, and the makeup is out of this world (the effects to create the illusion of burning skin are simply astounding). But I can only go so far without mentioning Bill Paxton. Paxton, who portrays the out-of-control vampire Severen in Near Dark, is a force of nature. At every step, he is an electrifying presence, equal parts threatening and erotic, and he is the most memorable aspect of an exceedingly remarkable film. —PV
The Criterion Channel is now streaming Near Dark.
OCT. 12: TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
Shinya Tsukamoto’s 1989 body-horror masterpiece has been described in a variety of terms, including “cult classic,” “visionary,” and “very screwed up,” to mention a few. I’ve landed on the description “transhumanist body-horror supervillain love romance.”
Tetsuo’s opening 15 minutes were like an injection of adrenaline straight to the occipital cortex, following the narrative of a salaryman and his fiancée who accidently run over a mystery eccentric with a body-morphing “metal fetish.” Later, after discovering they have both been afflicted with the same disease, the couple investigates the novel physical, psychological, and sexual dimensions of their odd illness, all while their victim turned foe plots his retribution from the shadows.
Tsukamoto’s magnum work is terrifying, sexual, and inexhaustibly inventive, continuously recreating itself with furious stop-motion montage and cackling quick-cut aural cues that keep the audience on the edge of their seat. With its droning industrial noise and burst-fire drum loops scorching into your eardrums like acid eating away at sheet metal, Chu Ishikawa’s soundtrack seems like the spiritual forefather of electronic music artists like Nine Inch Nails and Portishead.
While it was a natural forerunner to modern films like Julia Ducournau’s Titane and David Cronenberg’s Crash, you’ll quickly learn that, even after more than three decades and two sequels, there hasn’t been anything exactly like it since. If you don’t have the stomach for sadomasochistic bodily modification or gore, you may skip this one. If you do give it a shot, you’ll be treated to a vivid and memorable encounter. –TE
Tetsuo: The Iron Man is available to watch on The Criterion Channel, Shudder, and Kanopy for free with a library card. It is also available to rent or buy digitally on Apple TV.
OCT. 13: RIGOR MORTIS
This Hong Kong vampire film is exceedingly difficult to describe. Rigor Mortis appears to be a vampire/demon/ghost action film. But, upon closer inspection, it’s also a time capsule and a testament to Hong Kong’s past supernatural horror film.
The plot revolves around a man who comes in a gigantic concrete apartment complex that appears to be haunted by every spirit imaginable. He’s an out-of-work actor who plans to commit suicide. Twin ghosts attempt to seize his body when he attempts, but are thwarted by a former vampire hunter who now operates the apartment’s restaurant. What else would a vampire hunter do when no vampires remain?
This entire scenario only lasts about ten minutes and is a fantastic setup for the special kind of knowing, in-on-the-joke supernatural action that is always there in Rigor Mortis — which, of course, eventually involves a vampire. Everything’s the type of early-2010s film where the entire setting is gray simply so the filmmakers can paint it red when the fighting start. All of this may seem ludicrous (and it is), but Rigor Mortis manages to find the ideal mix of a so-serious-it’s-silly tone and easily swings between the two moods.It shifts from images of people trapping ghosts in wardrobes to someone urgently attempting to execute a spiritual ceremony to resuscitate a loved one, each with enough gravity to appear genuine.
Rigor Mortis has a mystery as well as being amusing. While not required to see the film, it does provide another level of enjoyment. See, the protagonist’s name is Chin Siu-ho, which also happens to be the name of the actor who plays him, who is also the star of the iconic Hong Kong horror series Mr. Vampire. In other words, it’s a film about a real-life retired actor/martial artist who formerly portrayed a vampire hunter, now meets a fictitious retired vampire hunter, and then returns to vampire hunting. –AG
Rigor Mortis is available to stream on Peacock and Hi-Yah!, to watch for free with advertising on Plex and Tubi, and to rent or buy digitally on Amazon and Apple TV.
OCT. 14: WITCHFINDER GENERAL
Vincent Price is a horror legend whose campy yet commanding presence characterized so many of the 1960s and 1970s’ garish, theatrical British and American horror films. Witchfinder General, his 1968 star vehicle, appears to be one of those pictures, but beware. This is a harsh, realist, historical nightmare, and both the film and Price’s acting take it very seriously.
Witchfinder General was adapted from a novel and largely based on the actions of a real figure: Matthew Hopkins, an English witch hunter who falsely claimed to have been appointed “witchfinder general” by Parliament. Hopkins rampaged freely over the East Anglian countryside during the English Civil War of the 1640s, condemning over 100 individuals to the gallows on suspicion of witchcraft.
Despite its loose interpretation of history, this gloomy, low-budget thriller steers clear of the supernatural. It’s all about man’s wickedness. In one of his chilling performances, Price portrays Hopkins as a manipulative fascist and sadist, akin to a serial killer. When he goes for a gentle priest and the priest’s niece Sara (Hilary Dwyer), he finds himself opposed against the niece’s fiancé, a brave Roundhead soldier (Ian Ogilvy).
But there’s nothing heroic about the battle in this picture, which takes place in a desolate rural area and seems miserable and suffocated. Over the gloomy closing scenes, Dwyer unleashes some of cinema’s most unsettling and iconic screams. Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves was only 24 when he created it, and he died of an overdose shortly after its release: a terrible early end to a promising career that has only contributed to the mystique of this uncompromising film. –OW
Witchfinder General is accessible on Hoopla for free with a library card. Readers with a little of foresight may also discover the entire thing on YouTube.
OCT. 15: THE HUNGER
How many other vampire films begin with an underground goth nightclub scene set to Bauhaus’ “Bela Legosi’s Dead,” starring David Bowie, the Thin White Duke himself? Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie feature as Miriam and John Blaylock, two vampires living in New York who spend their days playing the cello in their gloomy home and chasing their prey at night in the late Tony Scott’s vampire horror thriller from 1983.
As John’s vigor and youth mysteriously dwindle despite his immortal body, he seeks explanations and assistance from Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), a gerontologist researching the effects of different blood types on the aging process. However, it isn’t long until Miriam, who fathered John 200 years ago, sets her eyes on claiming Roberts as the newest in her long series of lovers.
The Hunger is an incredible feast for the senses, shot with ice blue color grading and lighting paired with cavernous shadows shot within John and Miriam’s lavish New York mansion. Bowie gives a typically fantastic performance as John, equal parts charming and aloof in his brief but unforgettable on-screen appearance, and Deneuve plays Miriam as a seductive and sad enemy. Sarandon delivers an equally enthralling performance as a scientist who seeks immortality in the form of fame and acclaim, only to discover it in the physical and spiritual form of vampiric longevity. Look no farther than Scott’s horror classic for a horror picture that is as scary as it is attractive. –TE
The Hunger is now available to watch on HBO Max and Watch TCM. It is also available to rent or buy digitally from Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play.
OCT. 16: CARNIVAL OF SOULS
Carnival of Souls, a 1962 mind game, has no time to squander on scene-setting or character-building: It begins two seconds before the action begins, with a drag race that suddenly deviates, sending one of the contestants into a dark river. When one of the car’s occupants, Mary (Candace Hilligoss), emerges from the water three hours later, it’s evident that something is wrong with her, but it takes the remainder of the film’s unsettling run time for writer John Clifford and indie filmmaker Herk Harvey to properly disclose what’s going on.
Carnival of Souls lacks large thrills and gruesome fear when compared to current horror, yet it became a cult success (and a key influence on horror directors like George A. Romero) for a reason: Harvey is a master of creepy tone and frightening visuals. A eerie organ soundtrack, a growing sensation of something wrong, and a sense of profound dread all linger over the picture, establishing a hypnotic spell as Mary stumbles through her future existence. Harvey himself appears in the film as an unsettling apparition, pursuing Mary with ill-fated intent.
The abandoned Saltair Pavilion in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Harvey places much of the action, may be the actual star of Carnival of Souls. Hilligoss’ big, haunted eyes and overall feeling of fragility make her a fascinating heroine. He paid $50 for the rights to shoot at the decaying, remote ancient spa, which seemed to have its own ghosts and macabre background. Carnival of Souls is classic cult horror, yet it still stands out as a memorable experience, and the journey through that nightmarish pavilion is a significant reason for that. Tamara Robinson
Carnival of Souls is available to stream on HBO Max, Paramount Plus, The Criterion Channel, and Prime Video, as well as Hoopla for free with a library card and Vudu and Tubi for free with advertisements.
OCT. 17 – DON’T LOOK NOW
Horror films are frequently used by filmmakers to provide insight into large, difficult issues such as religion, hope, death, or even fear itself. But seldom has a horror film tackled the theme of sorrow as directly as Don’t Look Now does, or in such a profound and heartbreaking way.
Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 horror classic depicts a couple who relocate to Venice after their daughter tragically drowns (yes, Venice the city full of canals; yes, it is a bad idea). The couple then encounters a pair of elderly ladies, one of whom claims to have psychic skills and swears that the couple’s daughter is still alive, which both heals and harms the couple’s rapidly crumbling relationship.
Roeg transforms Venice’s infinite passageways, bridges, and water into a dreamscape, folding them in on themselves and generating immense distances out of each canal, to help sell the crushing weight that sadness can have on a person and the way it may distort their environment. The city feels both tight and vast, perfectly capturing the protagonists’ uncertainty and total dismay and generating a sense of suspense that is rarely managed in a film with as few clear and overt horrors as this one. But Don’t Look Now is the type of film that will stay with you like silent anguish for years to come, without ever having you leap out of your seat. –AG
Don’t Look Now is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Pluto TV for free with advertisements, and Kanopy for free with a library card. It is also available to rent or buy digitally from Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
OCT. 18 – THE FACULTY
The Faculty begins with the blood-pumping guitar riff that introduces The Offspring’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” before you see a single picture. It’s the film’s promise to you: this is a film about troubled teenagers. And it’s going gonna mess up.
The Faculty, directed by Robert Rodriguez from a scenario by David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel and rewritten by late-’90s slasher master Kevin Williamson, is the underappreciated zenith of teen horror’s self-awareness period.
In The Professors, an Ohio high school turns into hell for its pupils after extraterrestrial parasites infect the faculty, transforming them into bloodthirsty hosts who plot to infect a group of kids first, and then the entire town. As the parasites multiply and become more strong, the chances of survival shrink — and a Breakfast Club-style motley gang banded together to battle the invaders.
The Faculty’s genre pastiche is part of the fun: the film is a smirking mashup of sci-fi horror classics like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, while also fitting in with contemporary films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (both written by Kevin Williamson). Another aspect is its incredible ensemble of early-career talents, which includes Jordana Brewster from the Fast and Furious trilogy, as well as Jon Stewart, Famke Janssen, Elijah Wood, and Usher himself.The Faculty is a goddamn rollercoaster of a picture, a superb horror movie for individuals who want some shocks but are generally down for a good time with a movie. It has a snappy writing that runs at an astounding rate and beautifully gross-but-not-too-gross realistic effects. Rivera, Joshua
The Faculty is available to watch on HBO Max or to rent or buy digitally from Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
OCT. 19 – UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB
In the year of our Lord 2022, there’s no need for anyone to feel obligated to attend another video call, and only somewhat less cause to feel hopelessly hooked to a computer screen. Unfriended: Dark Web is the psychopathic exception to both of these criteria, a horror film told entirely from Matias’ PC (Colin Woodell). During a Skype conversation with his buddies (this was pre-pandemic, if the app choice gives you pause), their night collectively falls into panic as the original owners of his laptop arrive.
Though Dark Web is a sequel to 2015’s Unfriended, the two are unconnected, and Dark Web, in my opinion, is the better scary month watch because to its pitch-black bleakness. The black web is as strange as any supernatural entity in this universe, and the film never slows down as it falls into digital anarchy. There’s something to Dark Web about how easily our online lives can bleed (literally) into our actual lives, and how we’re all easier targets than we realize.However, for those who simply enjoy seeing a group of youngsters being taken out one by one, it is also exactly that. The fascination of seeing someone painstakingly attempt multiple logical actions to get themselves out of jeopardy is similar to that of The Thing.
But there’s just so much you can do in a horror film. To become entangled in the network of Unfriended 2 is to allow yourself to experience a slasher film that is deeper than simply another Zoom invite: a thriller grounded in the world we actually live in, or at least the dark underbelly underneath it. After seeing Unfriended: Dark Web, that additional Zoom invitation may not seem like the worst thing in the world. But if your laptop background never seems completely safe again, you can always walk outside. —Zoe Millman
Unfriended: Dark Web is available to stream on Peacock or to rent or buy digitally from Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
OCT. 20: IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
Despite his huge and multifaceted influence, few direct adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft exist. The finest are indirect homages, such as John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, a film that is equal parts disturbing, ironic, and simply entertaining.
The film stars Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill as John Trent, an insurance investigator hired to discover Sutter Cane, a highly popular horror writer who has gone missing. Some think Cane’s profession drives them insane, as Trent discovers one day when Cane is attacked with an ax by a crazy guy – a man who, Trent discovers after police shoot him dead, was Sutter Cane’s agent.
Trent begins reading Cane’s work in his hunt for the author and uncovers signs that Hobb’s End, the fictional setting of several of Cane’s novels, may be a real place. Trent begins to blur the line between what is real and what isn’t as he drives off into the scary woods of New England in quest of it, and he finds himself in his own horror narrative.
In the Mouth of Madness, a lesser-known piece by a modern master, is a tightly wound clock of paranoia, a cyclical nightmare that explores where the boundary is between actual and imagined worries. It’s ideal for people looking for a weird horror film rather than a terrifying one, and a work that seamlessly straddles the line between schlock and artistry. Consider it the ultimate B-movie counterpart of the more blockbuster-friendly Cabin in the Woods: a horror story about horror stories, a lighthearted take on a certain sort of nightmare in which no one has any fun at all. –JR
In the Mouth of Madness is now available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
OCT. 21: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
Colm McCarthy’s gory horror-action film The Girl With All the Gifts, like the M.R. Carey novel it adapts, is best enjoyed without any type of spoilers or storyline explanation. It’s a journey of discovery that develops in a particularly meticulous and methodical manner, and uncovering its specific subgenre of horror without prior notice is an important part of the experience.It begins in a classroom where youngsters in prison jumpsuits are severely shackled, held under military security, and presided over by a harsh supervisor (Paddy Considine) and a patrician doctor (Glenn Close), who treat them as though they are feral animals. Why this is the case takes some time to unravel, and if you appreciate surprises, you should stop reading right now and go directly to the streaming links.
However, for those who are more precise and choosy about their horror and want to know what they’re getting into before diving in, here’s a bit more: The Girl With All the Gifts is a straight-up zombie film, but it sympathizes as much with the infected as it does with the survivors navigating the usual treacherous postapocalyptic landscape teeming with flesh-eating hordes. Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a young girl infected with the zombie virus but (mainly) capable of constraint and control, becomes the key role in a drama centered on adults attempting to understand and treat the zombie pandemic via her and her classmates.
The ultimate result is a sweet narrative with some notably vivid and compelling performances and a memorable-as-hell ending. This 2016 picture arrived a bit early in the continuing wave of “What sort of world are we leaving our children?” horror and sci-fi films, and it addresses that question in a charming and melancholy way — after enough horrific flesh-eating action to make this a good addition in the zombie-movie canon. —TR
The Girl With All the Gifts is available for free with commercials on YouTube, Vudu, and Tubi, free with a library card on Hoopla, and for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.
OCT. 22 – BLACK SUMMER – “THE COLD”
Black Summer, a shamefully underappreciated horror show, is one of the finest things streaming on Netflix right now. It’s a grim, ground-level depiction of the early days of a zombie apocalypse from Karl Schaefer (The Dead Zone) and Polygon favorite John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Alone). The show begins six weeks after the apocalypse and follows a mother (Jamie King) on the hunt for her missing kid, as well as the cast of individuals she meets along the road.
The crisp directing distinguishes Black Summer from the others – Hyams directs around half of the episodes, with Abram Cox (Miss Nobody) filling in for the other half. It’s a unique streaming program that has genuine, skilled film directors behind the camera, and this is never more evident than in the season 2 premiere, “The Cold.”
Black Summer relies on one-take scenes [ed. note: it’s extremely unusual to come across a true oner in the wild], playing up the anxiety inherent in a zombie apocalypse with the technological aptitude to actually pull off such ambitious sequences. One such sequence begins “Luke and Sophie,” with a man siphoning gas from a car into a disgusting KFC bucket while keeping an eye on a lurking zombie about a hundred yards away, and continues in an exhilarating seven-minute one-take sequence that includes seeing someone turn into a zombie, a temporary change in protagonists, an intense car sequence, and a contemplative zombie staring at his own reflection.It’s a perfect illustration of how the program can go from 0 to 60 in an instant, with thrilling action. You can watch it without any further background and get a very good indication of whether or not this program is for you. –PV
OCT. 23 – LAKE MUNGO
This fantastic Australian found-footage horror film is about grief, ghosts, and early camera phones. Lake Mungo tells the tale of the Palmer family, whose teenage daughter, Alice, perished recently while swimming in the body of water that inspired the film’s title. The family is distraught, but things take a bizarre turn when Alice’s brother Matthew begins to uncover various techniques to make Alice’s spirit appear in their home; at least, that’s what he claims is occurring.
The film’s inquiry of grief and its affects on families takes up the majority of its time, but it’s also full of little moments concerning teens’ private lives, including a half-dozen Twin Peaks-style revelations about Alice’s secrets. Despite this, Lake Mungo is at its finest when it’s a bit slower contemplation of whether or not moving on is truly possible and if memories, even the darkest ones, preserve people’s souls in the world a little longer.
Lake Mungo’s most successful approach in expressing this concept, and where it differs from other found-material documentaries, is calling some of the footage we’re shown into question. Matthew’s ghostly sights, as well as their veracity, are called into doubt multiple times during the film, leading us to question what we see. However, by providing us with a purposely untrustworthy perspective, one that is blatantly twisted by the characters themselves, it transports us deeper into the thoughts and anguish of the Palmer family in a way that mere talking head interviews or confessionals cannot. —AG
Lake Mungo is available on Tubi for free with advertisements, or for digital rental or purchase through Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.