If you're a horror fan like I am, October tends to offer a wealth of creepy film and television options — some quality, most skippable. Here are a handful of new titles that are not only pretty good, but currently available on various streaming services. Add these to your watch lists for when you've finished bingeing that second season of Stranger Things
Thomas Jane in Netflix's 1922.
and GERALD'S GAME
It's been an eventful but wildly uneven year for Stephen King adaptations — just a month after The Dark Tower
began a box office reign that made it the highest-grossing horror film ever — and now two films inspired by some of the prolific author's lesser-known works have hit Netflix weeks apart.
First is Gerald's Game
, based on King's 1992 novel, for years considered unfilmable and yet made into a properly nerve-shredding chamber piece by director Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil
). It's not a great film — the sheer insularity of the material is something of a built-in limitation — but it's horrifying as a study of men wielding sex like a blunt weapon.
The premise is simple. During a let's-save-our-marriage weekend in a remote vacation house, Jess (Carla Gugino) is handcuffed to a headboard by her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), who promptly croaks. As she realizes she won't be found for days, and as a feral dog wanders in to gnaw on Gerald's corpse, her own delusions start to kick in as the sun goes down.
, meanwhile, is a feature-length adaptation of a 2010 novella, returning Thomas Jane to King country after starring in 2007's The Mist
. Here he plays Nebraska farmer Wilfred James, who's trying to convince his wife (Molly Parker) to relinquish control of the neighboring land that rightfully belongs to her family. When she refuses, Wilfred and his teenage son (Dylan Schmid) kill her, throw the body down a dry well and make it look like she skipped town.
In a riff on Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart
, the crime haunts them, and Wilfred's nagging guilt begins manifesting itself as flesh-eating rats that always seem to be scuttling behind the walls. Like Gerald's Game
, the movie burrows into its protagonist's troubled mind, and while it doesn't have enough substance to entirely justify its 100-minute runtime, it's still a stylish and effectively morbid morality play.
The popular spooky stories podcast gets the television treatment, an anthology series of sorts that explores (supposedly) true tales of death, superstition and apparent paranormal phenomena. Lore
relies heavily on dramatic reenactments, which are of wildly varying quality, despite featuring good actors like Campbell Scott, Robert Patrick and Colm Feore: Sometimes the added visual component boosts the atmosphere of the featured tale, and other times it's so hacky that it recalls the worst of Unsolved Mysteries
The series' first six episodes, now streaming on Amazon, concern malevolent spirits, questionable medical procedures, and a doll
that seems to have a mind of its (his?) own. And like its source material, it's at its best when it steps back and simply allows podcast creator Aaron Mahnke to spin a creepy yarn.
Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany in Mindhunter.
Having ushered Netflix into the TV game with House of Cards
, director David Fincher returns to the streaming service with Mindhunter
. Although he only helmed four of the new series’ 10 episodes, his visual sensibilities and his trademark fascination with violent sociopaths hang over the entire show like a blood-red fog.
Like Fincher's 2007 masterpiece Zodiac
is a period piece, set during the post-Vietnam fatigue of the late 1970s, right around the time when the Son of Sam murder spree is transfixing and horrifying the country. It centers on two mismatched FBI agents, a clean-cut hostage negotiator (Jonathan Groff) and a grizzled veteran criminal profiler (Holt McCallany), who convince the head of their bureau to let them study the minds and methodologies of serial killers, territory was, at the time, mostly unexplored.
The series is more of a talky psychological study than your typical police procedural, one that gets under your skin with its graphic examinations of diseased, homicidal minds. It's a slow burner, but rewards your patience.
Also Recommended (although not necessarily for Halloween):
Brawl in Cell Block 99:
Vince Vaughn is soft-spoken but effective (no, really) as an incarcerated drug runner who must descend into the bowels of a grungy prison to kill another prisoner, all at the behest of his pregnant wife's kidnappers. Another absorbing and uber-violent — and be warned, it's really
brutal — drive-in nasty from S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk
). Not rated. $4.99 rental on Amazon, $6.99 rental on iTunes
Better Watch Out
: A thoroughly twisted (and twisty) little Christmas-themed slasher that starts out with a nerdy 12-year-old kid and his slightly older babysitter being menaced by apparent home invaders on a dark December night. But all is not as it seems, and the less you know about the plot's bloody surprises, the better. Rated R. $6.99 on Amazon and iTunes
A pensive sci-fi drama that imagines a near future where dead loved ones are replaced by uncanny hologram lookalikes. Occasionally stagey (it's based on a play, and you can tell), sometimes quietly profound. Starring Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. Not rated. $4.99 on Amazon and iTunes
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected):
Director Noah Baumbach's latest is (no surprise) a bitterly comic and sneakily empathetic examination of caustic parent-child relationships, centered on a family of New York artists and intellectuals and their doddering, self-centered patriarch. Great performances from Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and — no joke — Adam Sandler, who hasn't put in this much effort in a long time. Not rated. Streaming on Netflix