BRIAN VINER reveals his top picks of Halloween movies

From ghoulish tales to gruesome slashers and comedy horrors, BRIAN VINER reveals his top Halloween movie picks at cinemas and on TV and streaming platforms this weekend

  • From Scream to The Exorcist, film critic Brian Viner revealed top Halloween picks
  • Movies are available in cinemas, on television or on various streaming platforms
  • Includes cinema showings of classic films like The Nightmare Before Christmas 
  • With Halloween lying in wait for us on Sunday, here is our ghoulish guide to the most frightful films available this weekend in cinemas, on TV and on streaming platforms. 

    Or should that be screaming platforms? 

    So, make yourself a brew (no, not that kind) and choose a scary movie or two from our list – which we have conveniently divided up into chunks. Bite-sized, obviously. After all, that’s what fiends are for…

    IN CINEMAS

    Halloween Kills (Odeon, Cineworld, Picturehouse, Showcase)

    The 12th film in the Halloween franchise that began with John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween Kills is showing at Odeon, Cineworld, Picturehouse and Showcase cinemas this weekend

    The 12th film in the Halloween franchise that began with John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween Kills is showing at Odeon, Cineworld, Picturehouse and Showcase cinemas this weekend 

    The 12th film in the Halloween franchise that began with John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. But more relevantly, this is the second of the modern trilogy, with psycho slasher Michael Myers having escaped from captivity and continuing to wreak his brand of evil havoc in the long-suffering town of Haddonfield. 

    Gorier than 2018’s Halloween, which is saying plenty. Having made her big-screen debut in the original, Jamie Lee Curtis stars once again.

    Shepherd (Showcase, from tomorrow)

    In Shepherd 2021, Eric Black (Tom Hughes) is lost after the mysterious death of his adulterous wife and finds himself trapped alone on an island with an ominous secret

    In Shepherd 2021, Eric Black (Tom Hughes) is lost after the mysterious death of his adulterous wife and finds himself trapped alone on an island with an ominous secret

    A man mourning the mysterious death of his wife takes a job tending sheep on a remote British island, in the hope of starting afresh and consigning his woes to the past.

     But guess what? It turns out to be the very worst place to bury his grief. 

    Director Russell Owen uses the bleak beauty of the landscape to great effect, and teases fine performances from Victoria’s Tom Hughes as the bereaved husband, Greta Scacchi as his miserable mother, and Kate Dickie as the obligatory creepy local.

    Barun Rai And The House On The Cliff (Vue, Showcase, Cineworld)

    A psychological horror film set in the Seventies in an English seaside town, where an Anglo-Asian couple move into what they think is their dream home. 

    Of course, dream homes in the movies invariably turn out to hide nightmares of one sort or another, and so it is here, as they become enmeshed in a mysterious series of suicides, and duly call in the eponymous Barun Rai, a paranormal investigator.

    The Addams Family 2 (Odeon, Vue, Picturehouse)

    Animation The Addams Family 2 will be showing in Odeon, Vue and Picturehouse cinemas over the weekend

    Animation The Addams Family 2 will be showing in Odeon, Vue and Picturehouse cinemas over the weekend 

    A classy voice cast (Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Grace Chloe Moretz, Bette Midler) is not really matched by the quality of plotting and writing in this dispiritingly lacklustre follow-up to the 2019 animation. 

    But as the Addams Family go on a trans-American road trip it’s an innocuous enough way to introduce children to their spooky world, and youngsters might get a kick out of it.

    Candyman (Odeon)

    Supernatural slasher film Candyman (1992) starring Tony Todd will air at Odeon cinemas over the weekend

    Supernatural slasher film Candyman (1992) starring Tony Todd will air at Odeon cinemas over the weekend 

    This 1992 supernatural slasher film is based on a short story by Clive Barker, the Liverpudlian author whose collection Books of Blood earned the ultimate endorsement, a quote from Stephen King that read, ‘I have seen the future of horror and its name is Clive Barker’. 

    Lavish praise indeed, and if Candyman never quite scaled the heights of certain movie adaptations of King’s own stories, it still won plenty of fans.

    Blade (Odeon, Cineworld, Picturehouse, Showcase)

    Blade, part-vampire and part-mortal, becomes a vampire hunter to protect human beings in the 1998 Marvel production starring Wesley Snipes

    Blade, part-vampire and part-mortal, becomes a vampire hunter to protect human beings in the 1998 Marvel production starring Wesley Snipes

    The world might not have known it was waiting for a superhero vampire movie, but it certainly got a memorable one in Blade, the 1998 Marvel production starring Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson. 

    Blade was Marvel’s first box-office success, following the quacking disaster that was Howard The Duck. A reboot is in the pipeline, this time with Mahershala Ali taking the title role.

    An American Werewolf In London (Picturehouse, October 31)

    The 1981 comedy-horror classic An American Werewolf In London will be shown at Picturehouse cinemas in London on Halloween

    The 1981 comedy-horror classic An American Werewolf In London will be shown at Picturehouse cinemas in London on Halloween 

    This 1981 comedy-horror classic confounded the financial backers who pulled out before it was made, declaring the script too scary to be properly funny, and too funny to be genuinely scary. 

    As it turned out, the balance was just about perfect, and winning the first ever Academy Award given for Best Make-Up was only one of the many accolades John Landis’s film received. 

    The most enduring of which is, of course, the way it is still cited every time strangers walk into a pub and everyone gawps.

    Room On The Broom (Picturehouse, October 31)

    Charming animation Room On The Broom will be shown at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK on Halloween

    Charming animation Room On The Broom will be shown at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK on Halloween

    Adapted from Julia Donaldson’s charming picture book about a kindly witch, who accommodates on her broomstick all the animals that have done her a good turn, this children’s animation is a real delight. 

    And it has a wonderful voice cast, too, including Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, Martin Clunes, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins and Simon Pegg.

    Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Showcase, tomorrow)

    Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will be shown at Showcase cinemas on Saturday evening

    Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will be shown at Showcase cinemas on Saturday evening

    Tim Burton conceived and produced this 1993 stop-motion animation about the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town who becomes obsessed with Christmas. 

    Evidently Burton plundered memories of his own lonely childhood to create the film, which he was all set to direct until he fell out with Disney. It still looks wonderfully original, almost 30 years on.

    Scream (Showcase, tomorrow)

    The 1996 slasher movie starring Courteney Cox and David Arquette will be shown at Showcase cinemas on Saturday evening

    The 1996 slasher movie starring Courteney Cox and David Arquette will be shown at Showcase cinemas on Saturday evening

    This huge 1996 hit was inspired by the real-life story of the ‘Gainesville Ripper’, a police officer’s son who in 1990 murdered five Florida students in four days. 

    He eventually confessed to eight homicides and received the death penalty. Wes Craven’s film is still considered a landmark in the horror genre because it featured so many well-known actors. 

    It stars Drew Barrymore, while Courtenay Cox asked for (and got) a main part to counter her cosy image as Monica in a certain new sitcom called Friends. Look out too for an uncredited Henry Winkler. 

    ON TELEVISION

    The Addams Family (tomorrow, 1.55pm, ITV)

    The Addams Family (1991) stars Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman as America’s spookiest family and will air on ITV tomorrow afternoon

     The Addams Family (1991) stars Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman as America’s spookiest family and will air on ITV tomorrow afternoon 

    America’s spookiest clan had long since been immortalised on the small screen by the time this 1991 movie version was made. 

    Perhaps aptly, it was a famously troubled production, blighted by ill-health, delays and legal wrangles, but a fabulous cast led by Angelica Huston and Raul Julia just about saved the day. Not the classic everyone had hoped for, but fun.

    The Exorcist (tomorrow, 10.40pm, BBC2)

    Supernatural horror masterpiece about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl The Exorcist will air tomorrow on BBC2

    Supernatural horror masterpiece about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl The Exorcist will air tomorrow on BBC2

    Director William Friedkin was on a roll in the early Seventies, having just made The French Connection. But this is the movie – released on Boxing Day 1973 – with which he will forever be associated, a supernatural horror masterpiece about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl. 

    It was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, indeed it got 10 Oscar nominations and won two.

    Halloween (tomorrow, 10.55pm, Film4)

    The original 1978 slasher film Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis will air tomorrow evening on Film4

    The original 1978 slasher film Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis will air tomorrow evening on Film4 

    The original 1978 slasher film, which kicked off a franchise that is still running. As, for that matter, are the good folk of Haddonfield, desperate to escape crazed serial killer Michael Myers. 

    The original starred Donald Pleasance as psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis, writer-director John Carpenter’s unsubtle but heartfelt homage to the 1960 Hitchcock classic Psycho, which also featured a Sam Loomis.

    What We Do In The Shadows (tomorrow, 10.45pm, BBC2)

    Director Taika Waititi features in hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows airing tomorrow evening on BBC2

    Director Taika Waititi features in hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows airing tomorrow evening on BBC2 

    This wonderful ‘mockumentary’, written, directed by, and starring Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, follows the eventful lives of four vampire flatmates living in modern-day New Zealand. 

    Waititi has said that his portrayal of a dandyish but uptight 379-year-old vampire was based on his mother.

    It (tomorrow, 9pm, ITV2)

    Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Bill Skarsgard stars as the terrifying  Pennywise in It, which airs tomorrow at 9pm on ITV2

    Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Bill Skarsgard stars as the terrifying  Pennywise in It, which airs tomorrow at 9pm on ITV2

    Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, It was a colossal global hit, becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time. It certainly put the ‘gross’ in highest-grossing. 

    There are some properly gory scenes in the story of seven children in smalltown Maine who are terrorised by a psychopath. 

    That the psycho happens to be a clown, the demonic Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), will do nothing for those who already find clown masks a bit creepy.

    The Awakening (tomorrow, 12.25am, BBC1)

    In supernatural thriller The Awakening, which will air on BBC1 on Saturday, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) visits a boarding school to investigate the sightings of a child ghost

    In supernatural thriller The Awakening, which will air on BBC1 on Saturday, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) visits a boarding school to investigate the sightings of a child ghost

    A strong British cast (Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton) elevate this supernatural thriller, set in a haunted boarding school in the north of England in the early 1920s. Released only 10 years ago but pleasingly old-fashioned.

    Goosebumps 2 (Sunday, Premiere)

    A sequel to the 2015 original based on the horror books by RL Stine will air on Premiere this Sunday

    A sequel to the 2015 original based on the horror books by RL Stine will air on Premiere this Sunday 

    A sequel to the 2015 original based on the books by RL Stine, this 2018 comedy-horror lacks the verve and wit of the first film, but it has its moments, and an enjoyable performance, though little more than a cameo, by Jack Black.

    The Witches (Sunday, 3.40pm, Channel 5)

    The 1990 classic adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches will be airing on Channel 5 on Sunday at 3.40pm

    The 1990 classic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches will be airing on Channel 5 on Sunday at 3.40pm

    Not the enjoyable 2020 adaptation of the Roald Dahl story, with Anne Hathaway, but the even better Nicolas Roeg version from 20 years earlier starring the peerless Angelica Huston as the Grand High Witch, leader of all the world’s witches.

    Beetlejuice (Sunday, 5.35pm, Channel 5)

    Alec Baldwin plays a ghost who, with his wife (Geena Davis), haunts his former home in wildly successful comedy-horror film Beetlejuice from 1988

    Alec Baldwin plays a ghost who, with his wife (Geena Davis), haunts his former home in wildly successful comedy-horror film Beetlejuice from 1988 

    Alec Baldwin, in the news recently for tragic reasons, plays a ghost who, with his wife (Geena Davis), haunts his former home in this wildly successful comedy-horror film from 1988. 

    Directed by Tim Burton, it also stars Michael Keaton in the title role, as a sly poltergeist. Great fun.

    Let The Right One In (Sunday, 12.05am, BBC2)

    The 2008 Swedish film Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let The Right One In) will be available to watch on BBC2 this weekend

    The 2008 Swedish film Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let The Right One In) will be available to watch on BBC2 this weekend 

    Rather like What We Do In The Shadows a few years later, this splendid 2008 Swedish film sucked new life into the vampire genre. 

    The story of the friendship between a bullied 12-year-old boy and his androgynous new neighbour, it is a potent mixture of genuine scares and real charm.

    STREAMING

    Welcome To The Blumhouse (Amazon Prime Video)

    On Amazon Prime Video Bingo Hell, Black As Night, Madres and The Manor are all available to stream in the Welcome To The Blumhouse special

    On Amazon Prime Video Bingo Hell, Black As Night, Madres and The Manor are all available to stream in the Welcome To The Blumhouse special 

    The horror specialists Blumhouse unveil four new films: Bingo Hell, Black As Night, Madres and The Manor. 

    The pick of the quartet is probably The Manor, which stars Barbara Hershey as an elderly woman who, after suffering a mild stroke, moves into a care home. 

    She soon realises that it contains, yes, a malign supernatural force. Unfortunately, her anxiety is blamed on creeping dementia, and she has to face the demons herself.

    Night Teeth (Netflix)

    Netflix horror Night Teeth follows a group of vampires in Los Angeles and is available to stream over the weekend

    Netflix horror Night Teeth follows a group of vampires in Los Angeles and is available to stream over the weekend 

    The title refers not to dentures in a bedside glass of water but to vampires, centuries old, stalking modern-day Los Angeles. Alas, it is more than a little derivative and lacks, well, bite.

    Classic Hammer Horror Collection (BritBox)

    The Classic Hammer Horror Collection featuring films such as  The Nanny from 1965 (pictured) can be found on BritBox to stream this weekend

    The Classic Hammer Horror Collection featuring films such as  The Nanny from 1965 (pictured) can be found on BritBox to stream this weekend 

    Hammer Film Productions was founded in London in 1934 but it was another two decades before the company began to produce the horror films with which it became synonymous. 

    This collection contains some classics of suspense as well as horror, including The Nanny (1965), starring the great Bette Davis in the title role, with a young Wendy Craig as the neurotic mother of her 10-year-old charge. 

    The collection also comprises more conventional Hammer Horrors, such as Scars of Dracula (1970), with Christopher Lee, and To The Devil A Daughter (1976), featuring Lee, Honor Blackman and Richard Widmark.

    Hypnotic (Netflix)

    Low-budget psychological horror Hypnotic is available on Netflix. Pictured, Lucie Guest as Gina, Kate Siegel as Jenn

    Low-budget psychological horror Hypnotic is available on Netflix. Pictured, Lucie Guest as Gina, Kate Siegel as Jenn

    A low-budget psychological horror film about an outwardly dashing hypnotherapist, who charms a woman at a party before turning out to be, you’ve guessed, not quite the caring person he appears.

    The Night House (Disney+)

    In this 2020 chiller available on Disney+, Rebecca Hall plays a widow whose architect husband committed suicide

    In this 2020 chiller available on Disney+, Rebecca Hall plays a widow whose architect husband committed suicide

    In this 2020 chiller, Rebecca Hall plays a widow whose architect husband committed suicide. She is haunted by his death and much besides, as evidence builds that he may have been a murderer.

    Army of Thieves (Netflix, from today)

    A brand-new prequel to Army of the Dead, Zach Snyder’s uproarious zombie-heist thriller, which itself only came out earlier this year is available on Netflix from today

    A brand-new prequel to Army of the Dead, Zach Snyder’s uproarious zombie-heist thriller, which itself only came out earlier this year is available on Netflix from today 

    A brand-new prequel to Army of the Dead, Zach Snyder’s uproarious zombie-heist thriller, which itself only came out earlier this year. 

    This one is set six years before the events of the last film, in the early stages of the zombie pandemic. It is billed as a romantic comedy, but expect to see plenty of the undead, too.

    Muppets Haunted Mansion (Disney +)

    Halloween special Muppets Haunted Mansion is available to stream this weekend on Disney+

    Halloween special Muppets Haunted Mansion is available to stream this weekend on Disney+

    A Halloween special, in which Gonzo the Great and Pepe the King Prawn stay overnight in a haunted house while the other Muppets whoop it up at a Halloween party. 

    Among the celebrity guest stars, look out for Ed Asner, who passed away in August, aged 91, and would doubtless have been tickled that his final screen appearance was alongside Kermit, Fozzy and Miss Piggy. Every old actor should enjoy such a valediction.

    A Sixties dream to die for… this thriller lifts lid on dark side of Swinging London: BRIAN VINER reviews Last Night In Soho and Antlers

    Last Night In Soho (18, 116 mins)

    Verdict: A Sixties nightmare 

    Rating:

    Those rose-tinted glasses through which we romanticise the past badly skew our vision. That is the message of Last Night In Soho, Edgar Wright’s wonderfully deft mix of horror film and period thriller, set in London partly in the present day and partly in the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

    Wright made his name with the so-called ‘Cornetto trilogy’ of comedies (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End). But he has since made a terrific action film, 2017’s Baby Driver, and now proves himself a master of psychological horror. Last Night In Soho — which Wright wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns — exerts a fierce grip from the start and never lets go.

    Not only that, but it affords us our last look at the glorious Diana Rigg, who died aged 82 shortly after filming ended. It also has parts for veterans Terence Stamp, 83, and Rita Tushingham, 79.

    Innocents snared: An aspiring nightclub singer called Sandie (the superb Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own dreams start coming true when a roguish charmer (Matt Smith) gets her an audition

    Innocents snared: An aspiring nightclub singer called Sandie (the superb Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own dreams start coming true when a roguish charmer (Matt Smith) gets her an audition

    Sixties iconography is everywhere in this movie, including both the cast list and the title (named after a 1968 single by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich). But it begins in the present, in a bedroom in Cornwall. 

    Eloise (the engaging New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie, making a decent fist of her West Country vowels) is dancing to A World Without Love, the 1964 song by Peter and Gordon.

    A whisk around the room shows us that she’s in love with the Sixties. And her dearest wish is to move to London to study fashion, doubtless so she might one day follow in the footsteps of Mary Quant.

    A letter arrives. Thrillingly, Ellie has been accepted into a fashion college on the edge of Soho. Her grandmother (Tushingham) is thrilled too but warns her: ‘London can be a lot.’ This line — London can be a lot — might almost be the film’s subtitle. 

    It is repeated several times, by different characters, and perhaps reflects the experiences of the director, who grew up in sleepy Wells, Somerset. London, it appears, was too much for Ellie’s mother, who died years earlier by her own hand. While a strong part of Ellie’s motivation is to make her dead mother proud, her gran was right — London can be a lot.

    A lecherous cab driver is her first taste of city life and when she moves into a hall of residence, her country mouse ways are soon being mocked by her fellow students, led by her spiteful, entitled roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen).

    So unworldly, impressionable Ellie escapes to a nearby rooming house owned by elderly Miss Collins (Rigg), who calls her ‘dearie’ and seems like a better bet than Jocasta.

    That night, Ellie dreams vividly of the Sixties. She is whisked to the Cafe de Paris, where Cilla Black is in cabaret. 

    There, she acquires a kind of alter ego — an aspiring nightclub singer called Sandie (the superb Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own dreams start coming true when a roguish charmer (Matt Smith) gets her an audition. Sandie is on her way up.

    Back in the real world, these exciting visions inspire Ellie to design clever retro dresses; in parallel with Sandie, she too is on her way up. She gets a job in a pub with a sympathetic landlady.

    And a friendly classmate, John (Michael Ajao), clearly fancies her rotten and looks like Mr Right. Maybe this isn’t a world without love, after all. But the other Mr Wright has a series of shocks in store, for her and for us.

    It turns out Soho in the Sixties didn’t swing, it suppurated. Sexual predators didn’t even lurk in the shadows, they operated in the open. Through an ever-present fug of cigarette smoke, the threat of violence shimmered.

    Sandie isn’t on the way up, she’s on the way down. And as her life becomes a nightmare, so does Ellie’s. She becomes haunted by Sandie, who, she is convinced, lived in the very house in which she is renting a room.

    Visions of a long-ago murder, to which the key appears to be a louche old man (Stamp), lead her to the police. Just like her gran, they tell her ‘London can be a lot’.

    Well, this captivating film, too, is a lot. The ending is perhaps a little overwrought, with Wright reaching for horror movie tropes a bit too enthusiastically, but it is ingeniously managed from start very nearly to finish — with a Sixties soundtrack, and let me choose my words carefully, to die for.

    If the cinematic double-bill was still a thing, Last Night In Soho could pair up rather inventively with Quant, Sadie Frost’s enjoyable documentary about the pioneering fashion designer who, as a schoolgirl, used to hitch up her skirt to run for the bus, and later parlayed that experience into her most celebrated blueprint.

    In the early 80s, as a hotel concierge in Paris, I once had to buy a hairdryer for Quant, who tipped me generously. It was easily my biggest claim to fame at the time.

    Hers, more seismically, were the mini skirt and a wildly successful make-up range conceived when she realised that ‘Fifties faces didn’t match Sixties lives’.

    If Last Night in Soho suggests that women back then weren’t as liberated as we like to think, nobody did more to make them look liberated than the inspirational Mary Quant.  

     

     Also showing…

    Antlers (★★✩✩✩, 15, 99 mins), directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro, is also about people who are not what they seem. It’s a laboured horror film, layered with metaphors about abuse and racism, set in smalltown Oregon.

    A strong cast includes Jesse Plemons as the sheriff and Keri Russell as his sister, a teacher convinced that a vulnerable pupil of hers has a monstrous supernatural secret.

    However, it’s young Jeremy T. Thomas, as the boy, who steals the show. Only it’s not really a show worth stealing. 

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