October is synonymous with Halloween, and a season full of scaring ourselves while eating lots of candy. This month, there are a few great horror movies and thrillers heading to Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime (and plenty that are already there) to fill up your October evenings with thrills and chills.
Of course, even if you’re not a horror fan you’ve got plenty to watch this month. Family comedies, rom-coms, period adventures, and the singular anomaly that is Cats are all heading to streaming services in October. Below, we break down our
jellicle choices favorites.
A Knight’s Tale
Heath Ledger stars in A Knight’s Tale as a peasant who poses as a knight in an attempt to attain fame, glory, and the love of a fair maiden (Shannyn Sossamon). But this is a period story with a twist: LA Confidential writer Brian Helgeland’s film is full of anachronisms, most notably in the music. (At a tournament, the crowd bursts into a rendition of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”) It’s a fun romp through medieval times, and the liberties it takes — Chaucer (Paul Bettany) as a ring announcer, for instance — just add to the experience. —Karen Han
A Knight’s Tale is streaming on Amazon Prime.
With Blade set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s worth remembering why Wesley Snipes iconic performance as the half-human vampire hunter is such a high bar to clear. From a Polygon essay on the subject:
In his performances as Blade, Snipes projects a mentality and guarded interior life as only a nuanced actor could. As the “Daywalker,” a legendary half-human vampire on a crusade to eradicate his fellow bloodsuckers, he creates the contradictory impression of an antisocial weirdo with the comic timing of a funny, charismatic dude. With all that, he brings the attention to physicality of a screen martial artist. Though almost universally beloved in his performances as Blade, Snipes rarely gets enough credit for bringing all of those facets together.
Blade is streaming on Hulu.
Watching Cats for the first time feels like getting hit by a loud, colorful, uncanny-valley-dwelling train — in a good way. Tom Hooper’s star-studded adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical (which is itself based on the T.S. Eliot poetry collection, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) forgoes the facepaint and furry legwarmers of the stage play in favor of CGI cat bodies with human proportions and faces. It makes an already strange and surreal show all the more stranger and surreal-er. As Karen Han writes in Polygon’s review, “Cats is a fever dream, a hallucination, an approximation of what would happen if your third eye actually opened and you could suddenly see into the astral plane.”
Cats will be streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 10.
We can argue whether Martin Scorsese’s remake of J. Lee Thompson’s 1962 thriller is a “horror” movie worthy of Halloween or you can simply behold Robert De Niro going full slasher-psycho and get on the ride side of history. With a Southern gothic soul, Scorsese turns his go-to method actor into a Freddy Krueger-esque dreamstalker while still poking at the hive of criminal justice. Having been burned by the system and put away for 14 years, Max (De Niro) walks out of jail determined to unleash hell on his lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his family. What happens next will make your skin crawl. —Matt Patches
Cape Fear is streaming on Netflix.
The Coen brothers are known for their dark, offbeat comedy style and it’s perhaps at its most potent in Fargo. Starring Frances McDormand as pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson investigating the murder of a state trooper, Fargo is billed as a true story taking place in the small town of Fargo, North Dakota. (It’s not, but that’s kinda the point.)
Fargo is streaming on Netflix.
Criterion’s New Korean Cinema collection drops on Oct. 20 — with a new conversation between masters of the movement Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer) and Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) — but you can get a head start with The Host, which is currently streaming on the platform. Director Bong’s creature feature about a monster who emerges from the Han river and captures a schoolgirl before descending back into the river’s depths. Her father (Song Kang-ho) attempts to rescue her, but is kidnapped by American scientists who are responsible for the creature, which they reveal is the host of a deadly virus.
As in his Oscar-winning film Parasite, Bong’s critiques of capitalism in The Host is sharp, while still maintaining the momentum and stakes of a compelling thriller.
The Host is streaming on the Criterion Channel.
Kicking and Screaming
No, it’s not the Noah Baumbach indie darling about aimless 20-somethings (that one’s streaming on Netflix,) it’s the Will Ferrell-led movie about a gentle son overthrowing his tyrannical father Buck’s (Robert Duvall) hold on a youth soccer league. Kicking and Screaming is pure, silly fun, with surprisingly funny jokes for a mid-budget family comedy. Legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka costars as himself, playing Buck’s neighbor and nemesis. Sure, it’s for kids, but it’s a perfectly enjoyable kid’s movie. Plus, it’s just fun to see Will Ferrell get hit over and over again with a tether ball.
Kicking and Screaming is streaming on Hulu.
Seven is David Fincher’s directorial debut (if you don’t count Alien 3, which he doesn’t) and it’s already brimming with his signature stylings: The color palette is a sickly yellow-brown; it paints obsession as one of the darkest human impulses; and it stars Brad Pitt being hunky-but-weird.
Pitt plays a young detective paired with a veteran cop (Morgan Freeman) who’s just days away from retiring when a serial killer whose murders are inspired by the seven deadly sins strikes. As the detectives investigate, they find out just how sick and sadistic the killer is. The final twist is gut-wrenching — Brad Pitt’s “What’s in the box?” scene becoming a meme doesn’t make it any less devastating to watch. (Spoiler alert: Fincher never actually shows what’s in the box — if you think you remember seeing Gwyneth Paltrow’s severed head, that’s because he did such a good job of ratcheting up the tension that you brain filled in the blanks.)
Seven is streaming on HBO Max.
Former CollegeHumor cast member Josh Ruben makes his feature directorial debut with Scare Me, which he also wrote and costars in with Aya Cash (You’re the Worst, The Boys.) SNL’s Chris Redd turns up in the third act, bringing his signature high-energy charm as an enthusiastic pizza guy. Scare Me is framed as a horror anthology about two strangers (both writers, though she’s much more successful than he is) telling each other scary stories during a power outage. The stories start to come to life, and with more intensity as they commit harder to their stories.
Scare Me is streaming on Shudder.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Unlike Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, which takes considerable liberties with the Shirley Jackson novel on which it’s based, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a pretty straightforward, faithful adaptation of its source material. It maintain’s the gothic horror’s sense of carefully balanced anxiety that threatens to topple in an impending calamity, with gorgeous-but-slightly-stuffy visuals and nuanced performances. From Polygon’s review:
When translated to screen, the literary-gothic format can sometimes feel plodding, since the genre relies so heavily on internal emotions. We Have Always Lived in the Castle avoids this pitfall not only through the strong performances, but by paying off on a tense atmosphere. Both Jackson and Passon create a mood so palpable that it seems the characters themselves feel its effects. Although the mystery is satisfied, the true terror isn’t derived from the lack of knowing, and tension doesn’t recede once everything is clarified. Instead, the horror of We Have Always Lived in the Castle comes from watching powerlessly as the tension mounts, straw by straw, before breaking spectacularly.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is streaming on Netflix.
The Wicker Man
Kicking off the official start to the Halloween season, the Criterion Channel is debuting a new collection of classic 70s horror. The 29 films included in the collection represent horror auteurs like George A. Romero (Season of the Witch, The Crazies), Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes), Brian De Palma (Sisters), and David Cronenberg (Shivers, Rabid, The Brood). Our favorite from that iconic mix is The Wicker Man. Robin Hardy’s folk horror starring Christopher Lee as the leader of a pagan community that engages in ritual human sacrifice is nothing short of a masterpiece, and essential Halloween viewing.
The Wicker Man is streaming on the Criterion Channel.
You’ve Got Mail
Nora Ephron’s seminal rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks at their most endearing is back! It left HBO Max for one sad, loveless month but is now streaming again just in time for rom-com season. Ryan is as a sweet, indie bookstore owner whose business is threatened by a big-box retailer, Fox Books, moving in down the block. She’s also carrying on an email relationship with an anonymous man. In a classic rom-com twist, the email hunk is none other than Joe Fox, heir to the Fox Books empire. Come for the sweet happy ending, stay for the charmingly dated way everyone treats online dating as a novelty.
You’ve Got Mail is streaming on HBO Max.