Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good Halloween special. While mostly not “specials” in the traditional sense, these 12 new horror-themed series and movies are streaming now and perfect to mix-and-match to create an evening of chilling entertainment.
This moody series from Mike Flanagan, creator of the The Haunting of Hill House and a ton of other horror smashes, aims to elevate horror. Yes, it’s about vampires, but it’s serious. It’s also about Catholicism, isolation, regret, and other weighty topics. Whether you have the patience for this kind of serious horror is a personal thing. I think horror should be at least a little fun, and I don’t love long monologues about the Bible. Maybe I’m just crass.
Halloween fans: Have you ever wanted to see the how the lesser-known survivors of the first Halloween movie would take on Michael Myers now that they’re middle-aged or geriatric? Me neither! But that’s what you’ll get in Halloween Kills, the latest in the long-running, oft-rebooted franchise.
You should still watch it though, because on the positive side, Jamie Lee Curtis, as always, is excellent, and it’s not the absolute worst Halloween movie. On the negative side though, Halloween Kills seems disjointed and slapped together, with tonal and character shifts that suggest competing visions for the movie.
Day of the Dead
Movies and TV have been done zombies to undeath, but for me, they’re still not boring. They’re more like comfort food. This series, based very loosely on George Romero’s third Dead movie, is as comfortable as it gets. Nothing is likely to surprise you, but it moves fast enough, it’s funny and self-aware (the characters in Day of the Dead have heard of “zombies” before!), and no matter how many times I’ve already seen it, there’s something about a horde of undead ghouls menacing desperate survivors that just works.
Snoop and Martha’s Very Tasty Halloween
My wife insisted I include this one. She’s a fan, and this is a legitimate Halloween special for adults — I doubt many kids are interested in this duo. For Halloween this year, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart Dogg are judging a spooky cooking contest where teams of confectioners and bakers make as-scary-as-possible spreads. I wasn’t able to watch this — it drops on Oct. 21 — but if you like the opposites-attract chemistry between Snoop and Martha, or you like overly complicated show-baking, I’m sure this will have a ton of both.
Do not sleep on Ghosts. This imported-from-the-UK supernatural comedy series is my favourite Halloween programming this year. The premise — a young couple inherits a creepy old house and its many ghosts — is as old as an ancestral mansion, but the execution is just delightful. The old mansion is packed-to-the-decaying-rafters with very British comedians doing the kind of character-based, awkward comedy that makes British comedy so bloody great.
I was hoping the American version of BBC’s Ghosts would be like the American Office — totally different but just as funny. Sadly, that’s not the case. Even though Ghosts sticks closely to its source material, there’s something off about it, something un-funny. It’s hard to even see what exactly, but it just doesn’t work. I still have hope, though. Ghosts is only on its third episode, and maybe it will find its voice, if it can stay out of the sitcom graveyard of course.
The Toolbox Killer
If you like your Halloween horror real and more brutal than any fright flick, Peacock’s new documentary on the infamous Toolbox Killer, Lawrence Bittaker, will be your favourite. I love true crime documentaries and all things macabre, but the absolute brutality and remorseless evil of this murderer was too much for me. Call me a wimp, but I noped out after the first half hour.
There’s Someone Inside Your House
A fresh take on the slasher genre is not an easy thing to do, but There’s Someone Inside Your House takes a stab at it (so to speak.) It even sometimes succeeds in its ambitions, hurling poisonous barbs at 2021 teenage-hood (and by extension, American culture), with audacious scenes like a gaggle of kids making bongs out of Nazi memorabilia and literally getting high on fascism. But even with some standout moments, it kind of falls apart and never lives up to its promise. Still, definitely worth a try.
This fascinating, evocative horror film is the opposite of There’s Someone Inside Your House. It’s doesn’t play on the fears of teenagers, and it doesn’t comment on society. Instead, it’s an uncomfortably personal story that sticks its finger deeply into the anxiety of parents (mostly mothers) and just roots around in there, digging things up, examining them, and generally being inside you, like the parasitic worms that burrow into the main character’s kid and turn him into someone else.
In his long career, the murderous doll Chucky has appeared in one great horror movie, and a slew of mediocre-to-bad follow-ups. Where 2021’s Chucky will land on the continuum remains to be seen, but judging from the first episode, it looks promising. Even though it’s all set-up, the pilot works: The writing is breezy and smart, and the characters and situation are grounded in reality, unlike too many of the Child’s Play films. Definitely worth a watch.
This movie straddles the line between kid and adult horror. It’s rated PG, so it’s not too extreme, but that doesn’t mean it’s without chills. Nightbooks tells the story of a young boy imprisoned by an evil, murderous witch. In a riff on 1000 Arabian Nights, the creative kid bargains for his life with scary stories. As long as the tales he tells are creepy enough, she won’t kill him. But if he slips up, it’s lights out forever. The premise allows for lots of short, animated horror sequences, the best thing about this movie.
Barbara Hershey stars in an assisted living horror story that’s scarier than receiving your first form letter from the AARP. Following a stroke, Hershey moves into a nursing home and quickly discovers that something sinister is going on. While The Manor occasionally touches on the unique horror of ageing — it’s heartbreaking how everyone assumes she has dementia instead of believing her — it’s ultimately a suspense thriller that sticks pretty closely to a well-worn formula. But hey, it’s only a formula because it works.