It’s Halloween weekend and you’re tired of being outside in whatever thing you made out of tulle and duct tape. The CVS candy sales haven’t even hit yet. What are you supposed to do with yourself until nighttime, when, if you are an adult, you’re allowed to go inside a bar with spooky decor and drink hot cider with rum or something in it?
How should you spend the hours until the costume party starts and you have to tape the tulle back on and stick your face in a bucket of water? Is there absolutely anything to do right now, other than search for scary playlists and curl up in a ball and cry and cry and
Yes, relax. You can watch a movie. I found some that are available to stream. They’re all “horror” movies, but a few of them are not traditionally scary, out of respect for The Verge readers who have had quite enough of that by this point in October.
Here they are, and Happy Halloween!
This 2007 Sundance favorite is a new cult classic — in the way of any movie that gets passed around suburban basements for awhile — and a dark comedy about a teenage girl (Jess Weixler) who realizes that she has teeth in her vagina. It was written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, Roy Lichtenstein’s son! I recently spoke to Lichtenstein about the film’s upcoming 10th anniversary, and he said Teeth is less a horror movie and more a superhero origin story. It’s true; this film has the story structure of Spider-Man, but instead of super-sticky palms, it’s vagina teeth.
How scary: Scarier than Spider-Man, not as scary as James Franco’s performance in Spider-Man 3.
French director Julia Ducournau’s debut feature, Raw follows a prodigious 16-year-old veterinary student named Justine (Garance Marillier) as she deals with all the standard personal revelations a young woman might have in her first year of college: a fascination with soccer-playing boys, a vague interest in getting hammered and sweaty at dirty underground punk venues, a fondness for shawarma, an insatiable desire to consume human flesh, etc. If you heard whispers about “the girl cannibal movie” earlier this year and ignored them: you were wrong, and it’s as good a time as any to make things right.
How scary: As scary as being 16.
A good adaptation of a bad Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game stars Carla Gugino as Jessie, a woman trying to repair her marriage with a weekend sex trip in a secluded lake house. One thing leads to another, and suddenly she’s hand-cuffed to a bed with her husband’s dead body at her feet, hallucinating and panicking and sifting through memories of childhood trauma in hopes that it will elucidate a way out of her predicament. Fair warning: this movie involves a gruesomely-depicted hand injury that made me want to die.
If you like it, you should know that the director, Mike Flanagan, has another horror movie on Netflix right now: home-invasion thriller Hush, which features The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr. as a murder guy. It’s pretty good, too.
How scary: Scarier than the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s It, but not as scary as the prospect of reading all 1,200 pages of Stephen King’s It.
Karyn Kusama’s 2015 SXSW stand-out The Invitation is about what happens when you know something is seriously awry at a dinner party, but you really don’t want to be rude. It stars Logan Marshall-Green as a man invited to dine with his ex-wife and her new husband for the first time, where he’ll also be reuniting with some friends he hasn’t seen in a while and meeting some new weirdos who love a rousing game of truth or dare. That’s all the information you should have, really. The experience of this movie relies on a hazy, paranoid dread, and I won’t ruin it for you.
How scary: You will absolutely never go to another dinner party. On the plus side, you’ll also be deterred from agreeing to hang out with someone who broke up with you, which is probably best for your emotional health anyway!
Richard Kelly’s 2001 box office flop Donnie Darko is so important to me that I am having trouble finding the words to describe it. Last year, Donnie was my Halloween costume. Last year, my coworker Lizzie Plaugic said “I don’t trust people who think that Donnie Darko is formative for them,” and she’s right, you shouldn’t either. You should still watch the movie — it’s dark, weird, confusing, and looks like a beautiful, brittle painting. It is fun to watch while drunk, and it is most fun to watch while drunk in October. If you’ve already seen it, that’s not really an excuse.
How scary: I don’t know… how scary is the idea of dying? How scary is the possible end of the world? How scary are Reagan-era politics? How scary are rabbits?
Okay, it’s not Mother!, it’s Mother. Just to be clear!
South Korea’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Oscars, this film from Snowpiercer and Okja director Bong Joon-Ho is about a single mom who makes her living as a rogue, unlicensed acupuncturist. She becomes the self-appointed lead investigator on a murder case when her young son is arrested for allegedly killing a teenage girl and displaying her on a rooftop in the middle of town. Do you like a murder mystery? Do you like helpful context for the director who could potentially win Netflix its first major Oscar this year? Mother is for you, and Mother! is for another time.
How scary: Scarier than Mother!.
Clive Barker’s first movie, Hellraiser is based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, and came out in 1987. The timing explains why the special effects are utterly bonkers, and the timing (also the year of Moonstruck and the “your brain on drugs” PSA campagin) additionally explains why the story is utterly bonkers. It’s about a magical puzzle box that rips all the skin off of a man named Frank, who must later con his ex-lover into seducing and murdering people whose blood he can drink. Later, there are aliens.
How scary: Um.
The Amityville Horror
Haven’t you ever wanted to see a possessed Ryan Reynolds go absolutely nuts in a haunted house, with an ax? The Amityville Horror was directed by Andrew Douglas, who also directed a few episode of David Fincher’s new Netflix show Mindhunter. It’s a cheesy remake of the 1979 classic, released in 2005, when cheesy was good and Ryan Reynolds was new. There’s a high-stakes library research scene, if you’re into that.
How scary: The last time I watched this movie I was in college, and had just eaten an ice cube tray full of Jell-O shots. It was terrifying, if I’m remembering correctly, which — who knows!
The Purge: Election Year
The third installment in James DeMonaco’s The Purge series came out in the summer of 2016. It follows a Senator (played by Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell) who wants to end the yearly event in which citizens are permitted to commit crimes up to and including murder.
At the time, Emily Yoshida argued that Election Year cemented the Purge series as “the zombie franchise we deserve,” writing “The Purge’s satire is not of a particularly subtle or sharp variety, but it’s deeply effective. From the very start, its true demons have nearly unanimously been moneyed white people. Its the over-the-top depiction of bloodthirsty blondes decked out in Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer, sharpening their machetes while spouting sanctimonious pseudo-religious nonsense about their rights is absurd and beside the point — the evils of privilege are the banal kind, after all — but also darkly cathartic.”
How scary: Well, I would say “as scary as US politics,” but that hardly seems funny or true.
This isn’t really a horror movie, but witches are having a huge year and so is Cher. This is another pick from 1987, a good time for weird Halloween movies. It stars Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer as the titular witches, who live in a beautiful but boring town in Rhode Island and develop a strange relationship with the devil — played by Jack Nicholson! It’s a campy dream, and Racked’s Meredith Haggerty recently dubbed its costuming and general aesthetic “wall-to-wall vibes.”
How scary: It is sort of existentially scary to imagine that a powerful BFF trio wouldn’t consider themselves capable of magic until after they had sex with Jack Nicholson. But in general, this is a comedy.
One of last year’s best low-budget surprises, The Witch is full of Old English and sinister goats. It’s about a young woman and her creepy family in early colonial America, trapped between the country’s paranoia about witchcraft and the entire world’s basic paranoia about women with strange demeanors or any amount of internal strength.
Our film editor Tasha Robinson interviewed director Robert Eggers, and he told her “From a contemporary perspective, looking back, it’s clear that in the early modern period, the evil witch [represents] men’s fears and ambivalence and fantasies about female power. And in this super male-dominated society, the evil witch is also women’s fears and ambivalence and fantasies and desire about their own power.” Dang.
How scary: As scary as being a human woman.
Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 dark fantasy won the Academy Awards for makeup, cinematography, and art direction, for good reason: It’s a beautiful, twisted fairytale full of deeply messed-up looking monsters. It takes place during the Spanish Civil War and follows a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she descends into a labyrinth to save her baby brother. This movie is about children but is not at all appropriate for children, as it features some of the most terrifying creatures committed to film this century. There aren’t any useful metaphors for how scary they are. I have thought about them every day since I was 13.
Del Toro’s new film, The Shape of Water, is in theaters on December 8th, so it’s a great time to catch up on any landmark works you’ve missed. Conversely, is it ever a great time to watch a guy drink whiskey through a hole in his face? Is it ever a great time for a pasty demon with eyeballs in his hands? Up to you.
How scary: [SCREAMED THIS WHOLE BLURB OUT LOUD WHILE I WAS WRITING IT.]
Jeremy Saulnier’s siege thriller Green Room came out in April 2016, and set up a battle between some punk scene kids and some actual Nazis — a full nine months before the leftist internet’s schism over whether it was okay and hilarious to punch Richard Spencer in the face on TV. It’s about physically fighting the evil that you’ve spent most of your life just talking about, and in that way, it’s a cathartic fantasy about righteous anger. Also, it stars Patrick Stewart!
Saulnier told The Verge last year, “Violence for the sake of violence doesn’t sit well with me as an audience member any more. I still like a good makeup show. I like the intensity and the atmosphere of genre films. But I don’t like just waiting for the next kill. I like characters. I like people.”
How scary: Not as scary as online discourse, but pretty scary.
Prom Night (1980)
I’ve only seen the 2008 remake of this movie, starring Pitch Perfect’s Brittany Snow. Assuming the plots are similar, it’s about a young woman who is stalked by a vicious psychopath who is romantically obsessed with her and therefore decides to murder various people in her life. Snow also stars in the god-awful “Most Dangerous Game” inspired horror movie Would You Rather, which is available on Netflix — her career has been odd?
I assume it is worth it to revisit the original, if only to show your respect for “final girl” icon Jamie Lee Curtis.
How scary: The 2008 remake wasn’t scary, but it was very sad.