What To Watch For Halloween

As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is only good for one thing: making it socially acceptable to begin getting ready for Christmas. Sure, I’ve had some fun with costumes over the years, and there’ve been a few good parties in there. But overall, the holiday of ghouls and goblins just isn’t my jam.

And yet, I’m surrounded by friends and loved ones who are so into the spooks that I can’t get away from it. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

While I wait out the days until November 1 and the first spin of my holiday playlists, there are a few festive shows and movies I’ll be streaming to pass the time. Some are scary, some are disturbing, and some are even OK for the whole family. All of them are worth a look. (For the purposes of this post, everything is available to stream on Netflix.)

Penny Dreadful

At a tight 27 episodes across three seasons, you could probably stream this 2014 Showtime series in a week or so if you really try. It’s the rare case of a show that ended at just the right time, going out on a high note even if it’d be great to have another season or four. Starring—among others—Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Reeve Carney, Billie Piper (Rose!) and Helen McCrory, the show draws on characters from turn-of-the-century novels to weave together storylines that are as creepy as they are romantic, as riveting as they are dramatic. 


A French import, this one is not for the faint-hearted. It’s the story of a college freshman—a vegetarian, no less—who’s new to veterinarian school and shocked (at least at first) to learn that one of the school’s hazing rituals includes…well, it includes eating raw animal flesh, OK? Let’s just say that things escalate from there. What’s so smart about Raw is the way it favors the internal struggle even as the stakes gets more and more graphic. And just wait for that final scene!

The Babadook

Before Get Out, before A Quiet Place, before the newest Halloween, there was The Babadook. This horror flick premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was the talk of the town for months to come. Writer/director Jennifer Kent made her feature debut with the story of a woman struggling with the death of her husband and her son’s insistence on the existence of a creepy creature from his storybook, the Babadook. As stranger and stranger things start happening at home, you might want to watch this one with the lights on. Just in case.


Is Halloween complete without a bit of Neil Gaiman? Pair one of his characteristically dark yet meaningful stories with the gorgeous stop-motion animation from Laika and you’ve got an instant classic. Dakota Johnson voices the titular Coraline, a rambunctious 11-year-old who finds a door to a different world in the new house she and her parents just moved into. Of course, the ideal Other world comes with a catch or two, and soon she’s got to fight her way back to reality. Rated PG, this one’s perfect for a family night in (probably with older kids) as you get in the spirit before trick-or-treating.

Interview with the Vampire

Can I be completely honest? I’ve loved this film since I was like 13 years old and I just now realized it’s “the” Vampire not “a” Vampire. Holy crap…but I digress…

Is there any better Brad Pitt than Brad Pitt as a swooning, depressive vampire? Ok, maybe…but this is still a pretty great Brad Pitt. Louis to Tom Cruise’s Lestat, the 1994 film may very well be a forgettable pice of kitsch in the cannon of American filmmaking but who really cares? The film spans centuries as it weaves its tangled web of an underground society of immortal vampires and the trouble they manage to get into. Oh, and the film marks Kirsten Dunst’s arrival in our lives in a big way. So there’s that.

It Follows

After The Babadook made a splash at Sundance, It Follows turned up at the Cannes Film Festival, and it garnered just as much well-deserved attention. The premise is definitely NSFW, as a haunting attaches to its victims following sexual encounters. Jay discovers this the hard way, after a rendezvous in a car with a new boyfriend. When she sees just what the thing following her is capable of, she hatches a plan to kill it once and for all. She hopes. 

There’s plenty more to check out if you’re looking for a scare this Halloween season. I’m an episode into The Haunting of Hill House and have to pace myself so I don’t get too spooked; and there are a whole bunch of seasons of American Horror Story if you’re into that kind of thing. What will you be watching this Halloween?