Scary stories to stream on Netflix, Hulu and beyond for spooky season

  • Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) confronts Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in "The Silence of the Lambs," streaming on Netflix.

    Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) confronts Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in "The Silence of the Lambs," streaming on Netflix. File photo

 
 
Posted10/8/2020 11:05 AM

Spooky season has arrived, and you've probably already seen "Beetlejuice," "The Addams Family" and "Ghostbusters" a few times if you've been using your witch's wand, er, remote control, to sample the basic cable offerings. Below are the best frights you can scare up on your streaming services of choice this October:

Netflix

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Begin your monstrous menu with a trio of cannibalistic delights: Anthony Hopkins stars as Hannibal Lecter in the bona fide classic "The Silence of the Lambs" and the creepy prequel "Red Dragon." Mads Mikkelsen takes over the role for three seasons of "Hannibal" which, despite originally airing on NBC, might be even more disturbing and disgusting than its R-rated theatrical counterparts.

If haunted houses are your thing, writer/director Mike Flanagan's "The Haunting of Bly Manor," a spiritual sequel to his 2018 smash "The Haunting of Hill House," begins streaming Friday, Oct. 9. Both TV series star Henry Thomas, Victoria Pedretti and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (he was "The Invisible Man" earlier this year), and "Bly Manor" adds "iZombie" co-star Rahul Kohli to the mix.

My all-time favorite horror movie is here, too: "Poltergeist," the 1982 Tobe Hooper blockbuster that makes us fall in love with the funny, relatable Freeling family before subjecting them to a hungry tree and an evil clown. A scarehouse movie of local interest is 2019's "Girl on the Third Floor," starring Chicago's Phil Brooks. He's better known by his WWE alias, CM Punk.

Abigail (Jessica Biel), Blade (Wesley Snipes) and Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds) fight vampires in "Blade: Trinity," streaming on Hulu.
Abigail (Jessica Biel), Blade (Wesley Snipes) and Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds) fight vampires in "Blade: Trinity," streaming on Hulu. - Courtesy of New Line Productions
Hulu

If the movie industry ever gets back to normal, we will someday see Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali play Blade, Marvel's vampire-hunting hero with fangs of his own. For now, the three previous films starring Wesley Snipes are streaming. "Blade" has the coolest vibe, courtesy of Snipes' full-blooded performance; "Blade II" has the best action, courtesy of director Guillermo del Toro; and "Blade: Trinity" has the best one-liners, courtesy of co-star Ryan Reynolds.

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A more elegant, elegiac experience can be had with "Interview With the Vampire," Neil Jordan's adaptation of the Anne Rice novel. The casting of Tom Cruise as Rice's infamous antihero Lestat caused quite a stir in 1994, but a young Brad Pitt and an even younger Kirsten Dunst steal the show as two unfortunate souls struggling with the vampirism given to them by Lestat's bite.

A suburban-based curiosity: "The Curse of Downers Grove," a teen shocker based on a novel by Chicago's Michael Hornburg, is indeed set in the DuPage County village. Alas, the film written by Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho") was filmed in Pomona, California.

Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh) are as horrified as the audience watching "Midsommar," streaming on Amazon Prime.
Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh) are as horrified as the audience watching "Midsommar," streaming on Amazon Prime. - Associated Press
Amazon Prime

If you haven't seen Ari Aster's films, stop reading this now and watch "Hereditary" and "Midsommar" immediately. The 34-year-old writer/director's first two features make you feel as if you are watching the resurrection of Stanley Kubrick -- such is the mastery of Aster's camera, the confidence in his storytelling, the power of his imagery. "Hereditary" stars Toni Collette as a grieving mother who uncovers an unspeakable family secret; "Midsommar" stars Florence Pugh as a college student who sees unspeakable things on a research trek to Sweden. Both actresses give wrenching, exhausting performances.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a surprisingly calm performance from Robert De Niro in a twist on a classic tale. Sure, Bobby goes big when he needs to in "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," but the monster's quiet moments are the highlights of this Kenneth Branagh adaptation. Even more surprising is a dramatic turn from Monty Python's John Cleese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

George (Courtney B. Vance), Tic (Jonathan Majors) and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) explore "Lovecraft Country," streaming on HBO Max.
George (Courtney B. Vance), Tic (Jonathan Majors) and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) explore "Lovecraft Country," streaming on HBO Max. - Courtesy of HBO
HBO Max

We'll start with a TV series that's currently in the middle of its debut season: "Lovecraft Country," in which Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors explore the entire horror/sci-fi-fantasy ouevre -- there's a haunted house episode, an adventure in a spooky cave full of booby traps, body horror, interdimensional travel, magic -- from the perspective of Black people living in 1950s Chicago. And some of it was filmed in Chicago and Elburn.

The movie lineup includes Elisabeth Moss's towering performance in "The Invisible Man," and the aforementioned Mike Flanagan's underrated "Doctor Sleep," a sequel to "The Shining" that somehow manages to bridge the narrative gap between Stephen King's original novel and Kubrick's classic film. (The director's cut is available here, too -- check the "Extras" tab on the movie's page. Same goes for "Little Shop of Horrors.")

HBO Max also has a bevy of classics: "Night of the Living Dead," "Jaws," "The Blob," "Child's Play," and most of the films in the "Alien" series.

Jack Skellington tries to usurp Santa's job description in Tim Burton's animated musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas," streaming on Disney+.
Jack Skellington tries to usurp Santa's job description in Tim Burton's animated musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas," streaming on Disney+. - File photo
Disney+

Lastly, something for the kiddos. "Hocus Pocus" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" are here, but you probably know that because the kids have already watched them. Take them further back in history with "Trick or Treat," a 1952 short in which Huey, Dewey and Louie prank their uncle Donald -- and a creepy pumpkin sings the title song, thanks to some magic from Witch Hazel.

Go back further to 1949 for "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," which includes the version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" that introduced a few generations of young folks to Washington Irving's iconic tale. Finally, turn the clock back to 1937 for "Lonesome Ghosts," a short cartoon starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy as hapless ghost hunters.

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