Halloween is upon us. No matter what the calendar says, when summer ends, spooky season begins. (Time is meaningless this year anyway.)
To get you in the mood, we’re not only rounding up our favorite horror and horror-adjacent movies that are perfect to watch in the lead up to Halloween, but movies you can stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, Shudder, and the myriad other services available in this golden age of streaming. We’ve included classic and modern horror (from The Thing to Midsommar) as well as kid-friendly options (Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown) and a few that straddle the line between family-oriented and nightmare-inducing (Beetlejuice, The Witches.)
Michael Keaton’s iconic performance as the “bio-exorcist” is so outsized, it’s easy to forget that Beetlejuice actually focuses more on the relationship between the recently deceased Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) and the goth teen Delia (Winona Ryder). Keaton doesn’t actually show up until about halfway through the movie — but the supporting cast makes the whole thing wonderful. Before there was Schitt’s Creek, there was Catherine O’Hara in a flamboyant black dress dancing to “Jump in Line.”
Beetlejuice is streaming on Peacock.
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.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Many have adapted Bram Stoker’s Dracula over the years to varying effect, but Francis Ford Coppola’s is one of the best. Starring Gary Oldman as the titular count, Coppola’s adaptation leans more into goth than camp, giving the film a lush, operatic vibe. (It also might have led to its ’90s heartthrob stars Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves accidentally being married for real, which is a weird delightful fact.)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is streaming on Shudder.
The Cabin in the Woods
There’s something for everyone in Drew Goddard’s loving sendup of the “cabin in wood” genre, encompassing everything from Evil Dead to “torture porn.” The Cabin in the Woods opens on Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins in lab coats, discussing plans for a big upcoming project. It lasts just long enough for you to wonder if you’re in the wrong movie before the title pops up as a jump scare. As it turns out, this underground facility is preparing to perform a ritual: sacrificing a group of teens.
The teens in question head to a cabin, where they check off a bunch of slasher movie clichés: they all explore a creepy basement, the two hot blondes sneak off to have sex in the woods, the stoner kid spouts off a philosophical monologue. Eventually they’re attacked by a “Zombie Redneck Torture Family” unaware that their deaths are appeasing a mysterious evil force.
And if that’s not enough for you, it stars a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth as a jock with a heart of gold.
The Cabin in the Woods is streaming on Hulu.
This underrated gem of a psychological horror film stars Orange is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer as Alice, a cam girl who goes by the name of Lola. Soon after hitting her site’s top 50 ranking, Alice wakes up to find that a doppelgänger has taken over her stream. Written by a former cam girl, Isa Mazzei, Cam treats its heroine with respect, curiosity, and affection, which is a refreshing change of pace in a genre when overtly sexual women — and sex workers in particular — are treated as disposable.
That’s not to say the people in Alice’s life does the same, however. She’s worried that one of her biggest fans is stalking her. Her younger brother’s friends giggle and gossip about her. The police officers she calls for help seem more interested in learning about her job than figuring out what’s going on.
From Polygon’s review:
The terror of Cam is not jump scares or gore. What makes Cam scarier than so much other horror is that it leaves its protagonist out to dry. The movie makes you believe that our heroine may not win this fight because there is no one who actually wants her to come out on top. It confronts the genre’s longtime statement on who gets to live and die by creating a whole new set of rules in which the sexual woman finally prevails.
Cam is streaming on Netflix.
With Nia DaCosta’s remake on the way, now’s the perfect time to revisit the 1992 classic, which stars Virginia Madsen as a graduate student researching urban legends who summons an undead slayer, the Candyman, who was murdered in the 1890s by a lynch mob. Bearing a hook hand and followed by a swarm of bees, the Candyman (Tony Todd) is a horror icon alongside Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger, but there’s more to this movie. By shooting in and around Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project, the terror takes on a deeper social meaning.
Candyman is streaming on FuboTV and DirecTV.
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.