Halloween is right around the corner. Last year, the spookiest of holidays was canceled due to COVID and godawful weather, which makes Halloween ‘21 a chance at redemption and a reason to double down on celebrating the season. Costumes. Decorations. Jack-o’-lanterns. Way too much candy. Scary movies. Not everyone likes horror, but everyone does become a horror fan for at least a couple of days every October. It’s a wide-open genre with something for all, even the scarediest of scaredy cats. Maybe that describes you. If so, or if it doesn’t, we have a healthy serving of horror to help you keep the spirit of Halloween alive. We’ve rounded up some unique and under-the-radar horror movies available to stream right now.
The Best Horror Movies to Watch Right Now
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Of all the slasher franchises in the canon, none are equally as critical to the subgenre’s very existence as they are disposable as Halloween. Keep John Carpenter’s original film, ditch all others up to David Gordon Green’s 2018 direct sequel, and all’s well. But keep Halloween III: Season of the Witch, too, because after all, it isn’t a Halloween film. Carpenter and Debra Hill, his longtime producer and screenwriting partner, envision Halloween III as a standalone film, the start of an anthology franchise set on Halloween, but unsatisfactory box office and poor critical reception precluded those plans from coming to fruition. That’s too bad. Halloween III has a lot to make it worthwhile apart from simply being better than most Halloween movies. There’s a reason it enjoys cult status today.
Trick ‘r Treat
One of the unimpeachable greats among Halloween horror films, right there next to Halloween itself, where serial killers, zombies, vampires, and werewolves stalk the streets of suburban Ohio looking for victims. Trick ‘r Treat’s micro-stories are presided over by Sam, an adorable pint-sized something decked out in orange footie PJs and a burlap sack mask. Follow Halloween’s rules and he’ll leave you be, but god help the poor schmucks who blow out their jack-o’-lanterns before midnight. Michael Dougherty’s career has slowly ballooned over time to a point where he’s directing and writing Godzilla movies, but the best of him is captured here.
Tales of Halloween
There’s just something about an anthology movie that screams “horror” more so than any other genre, and there’s something about “horror anthology” that screams “Halloween.” Anything can happen on All Hallow’s Eve. Every kind of skeleton, spirit, and haunt roams the earth until the sun rises, and, in Tales of Halloween, audiences get to see most of them. The Devil himself? Check. Slashers? Check. Aliens? Check. Flesh-eating mutant pumpkins? It’s a long list and we’ll hold off running through all of them. Suffice to say that the film starts off strong with Dave Parker’s “Sweet Tooth” and picks up steam with each additional entry. This isn’t a movie to miss.
It’s true that the V/H/S series comprises shorts from rotating groups of filmmakers, and that these movies are by nature collaborative productions. We might as well consider V/H/S/94 a Timo Tjahjanto picture for all the space given to his contribution, “The Subject,” clocking in at roughly half an hour; like “Safe Haven,” the segment he co-directed with Gareth “The Raid” Evans for V/H/S/2, the segment represents the best of what these anthologies are with the highest imagination, tightest scripting, and wildest gore. But “The Subject” is surrounded by other terrific, spooky tales – “The Storm Drain,” “The Empty Wake,” “Terror,” and “Holy Hell,” the movie’s wraparound device – that merit a viewing on their own strengths.
Universal Horror (Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein, The Raven, The Wolf Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon)
We’re cheating with this entry – eight picks is much more than just one – but the Criterion Channel has done us all a solid curating this package of 1930s horror classics. They do play well together from start to finish, totaling around 10 hours of excellence. Enjoy them at your leisure or make a marathon out of it. Either way, you get to watch some of horror’s formative productions, a window into another era of filmmaking brimming with incredible makeup and practical FX. Even today, nothing beats the sight (so to speak) of Jack Griffin unraveling his bandages to the shock of onlooking policemen.
Andrzej Żuławski’s madwoman masterpiece was met with contempt on its commercial premiere in 1983, 2 years after first screening at Cannes. 40 years later, Possession is considered not only his masterpiece, but also a masterpiece of horror period. This explains why the fine folks at New York City’s Metrograph theater are screening the movie’s sterling new 4K restoration in person and as well as digitally. Possession, a union between body horror and marital drama, deserves respect and as many eyes that can be put on it as possible. The market demands that horror today be elevated. Żuławski demonstrates how that’s done without sacrificing all the parts of horror that make horror worth our time to begin with.
Not simply “a” horror movie released in 2021, but “the” horror movie released in 2021, Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor premiered at Sundance in January and has kept on chugging along the festival circuit since, right up to winning the Méliès d’Or at the Sitges Film Festival. Censor is set in the 1980s at the height of the Video Nasty moral panic, in which Margaret Thatcher’s government had the British people convinced that banning grungy, low-budget, hyper-violent genre films was a necessary public good. In real life, the bannings accomplished bupkis and actually drove more people to seek these movies out for themselves. In Censor, banning and censorship drives Bailey-Bond’s lead, Enid (Niamh Algar), over the edge. The film plays with Enid’s loose grip on reality as well as the Thatcher administration’s dimwitted efforts at suppressing free (if grimy) speech.
Put “Christopher Lee” together with “Peter Cushing” in your head, and you’ll likely think of Terence Fisher’s Dracula, where the former plays the Count and the latter his nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing. But Lee and Cushing played side by side together in countless other movies, some of which were also directed by Fisher, like The Gorgon, a less-celebrated but no less superb 1964 Hammer Films project about a mysterious rash of murders where the victims are turned to stone. Lee plays Professor Meister. Cushing plays Professor Namaroff. They determine that the culprit behind these killings is, well, what the title says. Bask in excellent performances from the leading men and the ornate, detailed set design they act against.
Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within expands on the sensibilities he laid out in his last film, 2020’s Scare Me, and largely in literal terms: Where Scare Me unfolds in a single location, Werewolves Within takes place in a whole Vermont town, where Ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) shows up for his first day on the job and winds up immediately embroiled in a conflict between the residents over a pipeline proposal. Also, something’s going around and butchering people like sheep. That’s bad, too. Ruben has an innate grasp on the balancing act required for horror comedies to work. Let’s all make Werewolves Within a big streaming success so he can keep on making ‘em.
Bumping off teenagers in remote locales is typically the territory of slashers, but Czech New Wave pathfinder Věra Chytilová took on the responsibility for herself, and carried it out in her own way, in her 1986 sci-fi horror avant-garde mash-up Wolf’s Hole. There’s no masked killer here, of course. The movie has a close relationship with stories like Battle Royale, where kids get dead at the behest of intervening adults. Wolf’s Hole demands patience from its viewers. It’s surreal, for one, and induces high anxiety right off the bat for another. But curious types will find their attention rewarded with one of the great unsung paranoiac horror movies of its decade.