It’s the most wonderful time of the year for horror fans: As the leaves change color and Halloween decorations go up all over town, people turn to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for something a little spooky. With horror being one of the most prominent genres in recent years, these companies have increased their original outputs every October — and 2021 is no exception. A new series by Mike Flanagan, a new anthology horror film from the creators of a modern classic, and the returns of Chucky and Michael Myers are only a few of the month’s highlights. Here are the ten most prominent selections, followed by alternates for those who are really ambitious or just don’t want to go trick-or-treating.
September 24, Netflix
The director of Gerald’s Game and The Haunting of Hill House has become one of the biggest names when it comes to streaming horror. This time around, he’s not adapting a famous work by a genre author but telling his own story, one about religious fervor and creatures of the night. It may not be a Stephen King story, but it has the feel of Flanagan’s favorite writer as it sketches in an island community of lost souls who gather around a magnetic young priest (Hamish Linklater) just before things start to get weird. The excellent ensemble is filled out with Flanagan’s regular collaborator (and wife) Kate Siegel as well as Zach Gilford, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, and more familiar faces. It’s a fascinating original production in a time when most horror films and series seem to be rebooting something that’s been done before. The only question is if Flanagan can top its success next October.
Welcome to the Blumhouse
October 1 and 8, Amazon Prime Video
Blumhouse appears to have a new annual project with a pair of original double features that drop on Amazon every October. Last year, the Welcome to the Blumhouse banner saw the premiere of films like The Lie and Nocturne, both of which had reasonably strong buzz by the time Halloween rolled around. Will the same happen for any of this year’s quartet? The films this year are:
Bingo Hell — Genre icon Richard Brake plays a devilish figure who opens a casino in a poor community, which ends up fighting back in unexpected ways.
Black As Night — Asjha Cooper discovers that her addict mother has crossed paths with an actual creature of the night.
Madres — A pregnant woman in ’70s rural California discovers an insidious secret in her community, courtesy of a ghost in her new house.
The Manor – Barbara Hershey plays the newest resident of a nursing home where residents keep ending up dead.
There’s Someone Inside Your House
October 6, Netfflix
Patrick Brice (Creep) directs this adaptation of the 2017 novel of the same name by Stephanie Perkins that has an inherently creepy and clever premise: a serial killer who wears masks that look like his victims. Sydney Park plays a senior who transfers to a small town on Nebraska just as a series of brutal murders starts wiping out kids her age. It turns out that the killer has a unique agenda, as his crimes seem to expose the darkest secrets of the most popular kids at school. Part social-media commentary, part Breakfast Club, and part Friday the 13th, Théodore Pellerin and Asjha Cooper co-star in a slasher movie with a twist that’s likely to play well through Halloween and into 2022.
October 6, Shudder
The V/H/S series seemed to die a deserving death with the dismal V/H/S: Viral in 2014, but it returned with a vengeance in 2021, resulting in the most successful Shudder original to date (in terms of streaming numbers). Critics dug it, too, as it cleverly goes back to what worked best about these films, finding new ways to tell original stories via found footage. The first in the series to actually look like it was shot on VHS, the short films here include standouts from Simon Barrett (The Guest) and Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes for Us), the former a clever story about a woman at a funeral home on a rainy night and the latter a truly insane slice of sci-fi action that unfolds like the goriest first-person shooter ever made.
October 12, Syfy
Do you think when Don Mancini co-wrote Child’s Play in the ’80s that he knew he’d still be obsessed with a murderous doll named Chucky this many years later? Having fully taken over the franchise starting with 2004’s Seed of Chucky (which Mancini directed), he created the latest project about everyone’s favorite murdering toy, a weekly series airing on both Syfy and the USA Network. A sequel to 2017’s Cult of Chucky, the series totally ignores the recent Aubrey Plaza reboot and continues Mancini’s dark sense of horror humor. Brad Dourif returns to voice Chucky, who has now been purchased by a 14-year-old middle-school student at a yard sale. Carnage will most likely ensue.
October 13, Disney+
It doesn’t have to be R-rated to fit the bill for spooky season. Maybe you’re not in the mood for gore or you have kids who want a little scare too. Check out Disney+’s original anthology series that’s based on the graphic novels of the same name by R. L. Stine. (All eight episodes dropped on October 13.) Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter brings his expertise to the rare anthology show for young viewers. Think of it like Creepshow or Black Mirror but with Disney’s audience in mind. McKenna Grace and Nasim Pedrad co-star in the series premiere, “Leave Them Kids Alone.”
October 15, Peacock
In 2018, David Gordon Green stole the legend of Michael Myers from Rob Zombie and made a film that ignored everything that happened since the first two Halloween movies, picking up 40 years after “he came home.” Three years later, the middle chapter of what’s now a trilogy (Halloween Ends is in preproduction) lands in theaters and on Peacock at the same time. Picking up immediately after the end of the last film, it details how Michael escaped the burning house and continued his rampage across Haddonfield, bringing back more fan-favorite characters from the original films, including Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall). Darker and more vicious than the last film, it’s an intense slasher blockbuster that fans can watch at home.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
October 15, Amazon Prime Video
Almost a quarter-century after I Know What You Did Last Summer started a franchise, the concept of a vengeful slasher taking aim at a group of teenagers who covered up a crime returns, this time in series form. Madison Iseman leads a cast of relative newcomers as twins who collide on a fateful night. A year later, one of them has returned home to find messages like the title of the show scrawled on her mirror. Flashbacks reveal the secrets being held by a group of friends in this community, secrets that might get them killed. Scream worked well enough for MTV that it lasted three seasons. Who can blame Amazon for trying the same thing with its ’90s-slasher little brother?
October 27, Netflix
Kate Siegel (also in Netflix’s hit Midnight Mass) leads this original Netflix horror film from directors Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote that’s timed to drop just before Halloween. Little is known about the project, but Siegel has delivered in original Netflix material before, including The Haunting of Hill House and Hush. Here, she plays Jenn, a young woman who goes to a hypnotherapist (Jason O’Mara) for help with her life. Things go wrong. They always do.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
October 29, Paramount+
Believe it or not, this is the seventh film in the Paranormal Activity franchise, but the series seems to have moved from theatrical to streaming, as this one will premiere exclusively on Paramount+. While 2015’s The Ghost Dimension was billed as the final film in the series, it wasn’t long before Paramount reversed that decision and original producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli returned for another round of found-footage horror. A reboot of the entire series, the latest was directed by the talented William Eubank, who last helmed the Kristen Stewart flick Underwater.
Joe Bob’s Halloween Hoedown (Shudder, October 10): It wouldn’t be spooky season without Joe Bob Briggs, whose annual tradition includes guest David Gordon Green this year.
The Medium (Shudder, October 12): Directed by the man who made the excellent Shutter and produced by the man who delivered the unforgettable The Wailing — that’s all that real horror fans need to know to check this out.
Day of the Dead (Syfy, October 15): George A. Romero’s influential universe gets another spinoff in a Syfy original series about six strangers trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Slumber Party Massacre (Syfy, October 15): Danishka Esterhazy directed this remake of the 1982 slasher classic of the same name — the whole plot is really right there in the title.
Night Teeth (Netflix, October 20): The Netflix original centers on a freelance chauffeur who discovers that his latest clients happen to be vampires.
Locke & Key, Season Two (Netflix, October 23): The second season of the creepy and clever YA series based on the Joe Hill graphic novels of the same name.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight, Part 2 (Netflix, October 27): The Polish original slasher film became a hit for Netflix earlier this year, and a sequel is already about to drop.
Army of Thieves (Netflix, October 29): A prequel to Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead that focuses on Matthias Schweighöfer’s smart-ass safecracker on a job at the beginning of the undead-emic.
Dexter: New Blood (Showtime, November 7): It’s a bit after spooky season, but save some candy corn for the return of everyone’s favorite serial killer with a conscience, Dexter Morgan, returning to Showtime eight years after the end of the original series.