The Most Wonderful Time of Year–October–is upon us at last! I noticed my streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) suddenly have a lot of new horror movies in October, so I thought I’d compile a list here of a few of my favorites for anyone looking for spooky viewing this month. Just so you know, I tend to enjoy a pretty wide-ranging selection horror movie subgenres, but I definitely prefer psychological horror over gore or torture porn. Also, these aren’t really listed in any particular order. Let me know in the comments whether I missed any movies horror fans should definitely watch, okay? Let’s get to the list!
Available on Netflix:
The protagonist in It Follows has sex with her boyfriend and ends up being pursued by a relentless monster that can look like anyone. It’s a brilliant metaphor for sexually transmitted infections and also a fantastic example of how a horror movie doesn’t need fancy special effects or a big monster reveal to be extremely effective. I have goosebumps right now just thinking about this movie, it’s so creepy.
The Invitation is about a guy who goes to a dinner party hosted by his ex. Things get weird and then…well, I don’t want to give away the big finale. This is another movie that doesn’t need special effects, so a lot of people would probably classify it more as a thriller, but isn’t the horror even scarier when it’s propagated by human beings? Trust me, this one is worth watching all the way until the end.
With period costumes, period dialogue, a spooky witch choir providing the music, and a ton of wide shots that make you feel as lost in the woods as the characters, this drama set in colonial America is about a family exiled from the Commonwealth and determined to conquer the wilderness. But something living in the woods finds them instead. This movie is a slow burn and not for everyone, but I enjoy unraveling Judeo-Christian mythology, and I love a metaphor for Puritanical misogyny, so it really worked for me.
As Above, So Below
Speaking of unraveling Judeo-Christian mythology, you may want to read Dante’s Inferno before you watch As Above, So Below. A woman obsessed with finding the legendary Philosopher’s Stone in the catacombs beneath Paris finds herself–and the fools she convinced to descend into the darkness with her–facing all the horrors of Hell in this claustrophobic film. It’s a found footage movie, but the shaky cam is generally used to pretty good effect.
While everyone was watching Netflix’s movie based on Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, hardly anyone seemed to notice the simultaneous release of 1922, a movie based on a Stephen King novella. I enjoyed Gerald’s Game (the movie), but 1922 really blew me away. Thomas Jane’s performance as Wilf, a man who not only murders his wife, but makes his 14-year-old son complicit in the crime, is phenomenally creepy. Because this is a Stephen King story, it’s a lot of fun to watch Wilf get his supernatural just desserts, but it’s really the ordinariness of Jane’s portrayal of Wilf that gives me the heebies. Talk about the sociopath next door.
Train to Busan
This zombie movie was a smash-hit in Korea and abroad for a very good reason. The heart of the story is a father who neglects his parental duties but finally has a chance to prove his love for his daughter when a zombie outbreak strikes Korea. The train is used very effectively to keep the tension high–the passengers can’t get off, but the zombies keep breaking through car after car. If you like high-octane horror or you’re tired of the same old zombies, this one’s for you. I practically ripped the arms off my couch while watching it.
Another foreign film, this one from France, Raw is the story of a young, naive, vegan veterinary student who partakes in a hazing ritual in the early days of college that involves eating meat. She is suddenly struck with an insatiable craving for flesh–human flesh. This film is a great metaphor for the many awakenings that college can produce, and the discomfort–and revelations–that can result.
Teeth is a coming-of-age story for every woman who has been sexually assaulted. Do you know what vagina dentata are? You will after you watch this movie, and you’ll probably shudder every time you hear the concept mentioned.
Honorable mentions on Netflix: The Babadook, The Conjuring, The Lodgers
Available on Hulu
If period horror is your jam like it is mine, The Others is a classic you must watch. It’s Gothic and atmospheric and mysterious and wonderful. Nicole Kidman is her absolute brilliant best as a neurotic mother whose children are allergic to sunlight living in an old, spooky mansion in the countryside during World War I. Her paranoia is almost as tangible as the omnipresent fog that surrounds her home.
This Spanish found-footage movie about a camera crew trapped with the residents of a quarantined apartment building as they succumb to an unknown infection is terrifying. The American remake, Quarantine, isn’t bad either, and it’s interesting to watch both to note the thematic differences between the interpretations of the same concept by people from different cultures.
The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows
Look, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. This was the first movie I can remember (from way back in 2000) to really explore the horror potential of video footage. What if the footage you recorded showed you doing something unspeakable, something you don’t remember doing, something you’d never do…how do you prove your innocence when video doesn’t lie? Just the concept gives me chills.
This is going to be another controversial choice, but several of the short films in this anthology movie are, in my opinion, fantastically creepy. Because they’re so short, I can’t say a lot about them without giving a lot away, but Amateur Night and The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger were both especially delightful/terrifying for me.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
If you like your horror with a dose of humor, this is a brilliant satire of the hillbilly horror genre from the perspective of the hillbillies. It’s fairly gory but so over-the-top it’s hard not to laugh at the gallons of blood spray. Perfect for fans of the Evil Dead franchise.
This beautiful film explores the idea of vampires from a unique–and feminist–perspective. Two women are vampires in a world where vampires are made in an unusual manner, and of course, only men are inducted into their exclusive society. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are mysterious and lovely in a fresh take on an old premise you won’t soon forget.
Let The Right One In
Speaking of fresh takes on vampires, this Swedish film is an exploration of what it means to be an outcast, whether a human child or a vampire. What’s the price for protection, love, and friendship for a friendless, vulnerable boy perpetually bullied at school? There’s an American version called Let Me In (available on Amazon Prime) that I think is equally good, but it’s almost a shot-for-shot remake of this one.
Honorable mention on Hulu: Blair Witch, Insomnia, Hellraiser, The Fly, Carrie
This classic French film is worth watching with subtitles in black-and-white. Two women, the wife and mistress of a school headmaster, conspire to murder him. But then his corpse goes missing and strange things start occurring. Is the widow being haunted, or is she driven mad with guilt? The remake simply does not do the original justice, so watch this one.
The Girl With All The Gifts
Zombies are created by fungal spores in this unique take on the genre, and one little girl may be the key to saving the human race from extinction. Anchored by the talent of young Sennia Nanua, plus powerhouses Glenn Close and Gemma Arterton, this movie is one part action flick, one part zombie horror movie, and one part nuanced exploration of what it means to be human.
Ah, the movie that spawned a thousand sequels. Cheap to make, because it has few expensive special effects and a set no larger than a family home, Paranormal Activity is a great example of the found footage genre. The first in the franchise is genuinely scary, a homeowners are haunted by slamming doors, levitating blankets, and mysterious bruises.
The Woman in Black
Daniel Radcliffe made this film not long after the Harry Potter movies ended, and it’s definitely a great palate-cleanser if you want to stop thinking of him as HP. The film is The Most Gothic, set in a gloomy mansion in the middle of a British marsh. Naturally, the house is haunted by the titular Woman in Black. If you like period dramas or haunted house movies, this is a great choice.
Amazon Prime Honorable Mentions: Flatliners (1990), Let Me In, Nosferatu (1922, Silent), The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Innkeepers, The Bride
So, dear reader, what movies did I miss? What do you recommend? Do you think one of my recommendations is crap? Comment and let me know!