Netflix could make a bigger deal out of their horror programming on Halloween, but the video-streaming service does have a special holiday section of curated carve-‘em-ups and creep-fests to celebrate the season of the witch. Even if Netflix isn’t as crazy about horror movies as I am at this time of the year, there are still a lot of frightening flicks to screen this month. Here are some dark and doomed recommendations to keep your heart racing until Halloween.
The Fury (1978)
Carrie (1976) is one of my favorite horror films of all time, but two years after Brian De Palma brought Stephen King's novel to the screen, the director returned with the lesser-known paranormal thriller The Fury. Here, De Palma combines psychic teens with secret government agencies and John Cassavetes as an evil villain who wants to weaponize a young and beautiful Amy Irving’s gift for telekinesis. If that sounds a bit like a certain Netflix series, you’ll want to watch The Fury before Stranger Things returns to the service on Oct. 27.
Cult of Chucky (2017)
The latest iteration of the Child’s Play franchise slashed its way onto Netflix when Cult of Chucky started streaming on Oct. 3. I love the original film and the sequel, but the franchise has hit and missed as it has evolved from full-on horror to slasher cinema to the neo-gothic Curse of Chucky (2013). Cult of Chucky finds the brat-in-a-box in bloody-good form in a killer-in-an-asylum thriller that’s full of homages to De Palma.
It Follows (2014)
On its surface this less-is-more monster movie is a cautionary tale about casual sex, but its cinematography evokes a surreal suburbia, and its electronic music soundtrack creates a doomed mood while simultaneously tipping its hat to John Carpenter. This one would make a great pairing with Jim Jarmusch’s vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive, as both films cast the abandoned blocks of present-day Detroit as a haunted landscape where monsters roam. Pro tip: you can find Jarmusch’s film streaming on Amazon.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’ movie masterpiece, and Gene Wilder’s performance as Doctor Frederick Frankenstein – grandson of the mad Doctor Victor Frankenstein – may be his very best. Written by Brooks and Wilder, this movie makes use of many of the laboratory props from James Whale’s 1931 classic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. Brooks also shot this loving homage in gorgeous black and white. Young Frankenstein even has an all-star cast, including Peter Boyle’s hilarious take on the manmade monster, and a luminous Teri Garr as the lovely Inga. If you like your horror films scary-funny, this one’s for you.
Stake Land (2010)
Director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land turns the apocalyptic horror genre on its head by filling his post-doomsday landscape with vampires instead of zombies. Perhaps one undead monster species isn’t that much different from another, but it’s one of many little choices that make Stake Land more than just another episode of The Walking Dead. Will our ragtag band of survivors make it to New Eden? You’ll have to watch Stake Land to find out. Stake Land 2 is also streaming on Netflix this month, so if you dig the original, get ready for a mini-binge.
Children of the Corn (1984)
The “children kill the adults” horror subgenre has been with us since Zeus poisoned Chronos, and Children of the Corn makes any shortlist of creepy kids flicks. This adaptation of Stephen King’s novel finds a couple stumbling upon the town of Gatlin, Neb., where a religious cult led by the beady-eyed Isaac has killed every adult in town in accordance with the wishes of an entity that lives in the cornfields. Part contemporary folk horror, part critique of religious extremism, Children of the Corn is literally corny as hell at times, but it’s still a ton of scary fun.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The werewolf genre is my favorite movie-monster category, so I have to finish this list with one of the greatest shapeshifting scare-fests of all time. Writer-director John Landis’ howlingly good An American Werewolf in London features Rick Baker’s pioneering monster transformation makeup effects which still astound to this day. But it’s Landis’ script and direction that bring the perfect balance of funny, scary, smart and gory to the mix, making this one a classic that still feels subversive almost 40 years after its release.