October is my favorite month. In our home, it is a month-long celebration of cinnamon tea, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin beer. My pumpkin patch even produced an abundance of decorative gourds. I also spend the month preparing this movie review, a roundup of the best and worst scary streaming content, in brief. My recommendations from years past are available online, and I can only praise I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House so many times, so I am focused on movies that have come out since I turned in my review last year.
On Netflix, The Rental stars Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, and Shelia Vand as two couples on a romantic weekend at a secluded rental property where someone stalks them, dragging their secrets into the open. Ultimately, the premise of The Rental is much scarier than the execution of the main plot, but the story has sufficient tension and twists to make it a good watch for a spooky weekend. I will be thinking about it on my next vacation.
Fans of horror comedies will enjoy The Babysitter movies, featuring Judah Lewis and Samara Weaving as Cole and his babysitter, Bee, whose fun relationship turns devilish. These two movies are violent and weird but with a charming sense of humor. It is just so much fun to see Cole and Bee interact.
There’s Someone Inside Your House, adapted from the novel, tries to emulate Scream’s sense of humor but falls short of the classic franchise’s cleverness. Even still, the cast features some good performances and interesting characters, and there is enough of a slasher mystery to keep the audience intrigued.
Perhaps the best option this year, however, is the new series from Mike Flanagan, The Midnight Club, inspired by the Christopher Pike novels. Set in a mysterious hospice for terminally-ill teens, the show mixes an anthology of scary stories told by the young ensemble with a core mystery threaded through each episode. It’s a little bit Are You Afraid of the Dark? and a lot of the jump scares and outstanding ambiance expected from the Flanaverse. Each of the young performers does a wonderful job playing characters as haunted by mortality as by actual ghosts, but Iman Benson and Ruth Codd really stand out.
If you are not into horror but want some suspense, Netflix’s Luckiest Girl Alive showcases a stellar performance by Mia Kunis in a twisted thriller based on the bestselling novel. Although the ending felt like it was building toward one last twist that never came, the turns of the plot kept us guessing through movie night. It does have some pretty brutal scenes, even if it is not in the horror genre, so viewers advised.
On Hulu, Fresh weirdly blends romantic comedy tropes with a truly horrific story that comments on both dating and eating meat. As a vegetarian, I had a little emotional distance from some of the more graphic eating scenes, but the props department clearly had fun crafting the food. Stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan have great chemistry, but she acts circles around him in this bizarre and unforgettable story.
Pure satirizes purity culture with a warped story set at a camp for fathers and daughters. The movie is generally pretty bad but veers toward the so-bad-its-good category. After plenty of jump scares, the end delivers a realistic moment more horrifying than any of the genre tropes. With religious themes and a weak interpretation of Lilith, Pure takes a swing at feminist horror without really making contact.
On HBO, The Night House stars Rebecca Hall in an eerie, modern take on a haunted house movie. Although Rebecca Hall is one of my favorite actors in the genre and the first half of this movie builds incredible tension, the final twists go to some surprising dark places that do not feel totally earned. Although I do not think the screenplay pulls off the story, the cinematography and set design create memorably haunting images.
I was so excited for last year’s Halloween Kills, the latest installment in the epic franchise, which is now available on HBO, but once the joy of seeing scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis again wore off, the movie was almost unwatchably bad and much gorier than I wanted.
Finally, Amazon has released a remake of the disturbing 2014 Austrian film, Goodnight, Mommy. The remake stars Naomi Watts in a story that dwells on the horror grief can unleash. The Amazon version is fine, if bland, but why not just watch the original, a much better movie?
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