Finally! We’re back in the fall spirit and ready for October. The pumpkin spice Scentsy aroma is strong in the Speak house, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. OK, maybe Reznor could do with a little less of it, but he’s a good sport.
It seems like forever since I’ve written anything, either on my blog or on my books. I’ve been dealing with severe tendinitis in both of my hands the past few months, which has made typing rather difficult. I had intended to have book three of the Bettendorf Tales ready for publication by now, but I’m afraid that timetable will be pushed back into 2021. Happily, I am feeling much better and my hands are nimble enough to finally bang out a blog post.
It’s that time of year again when those courageous few of us prepare to take on the Shocktober Challenge, watching one horror movie each day of October—and no, the presidential debates don’t count, even if they are horrific…
I’ve got my list pretty well settled with several movies I have never seen before saved for the first couple of weeks. I always leave some room for improvisation, depending on my mood, or for new films that might pop up along the way. Schedule changes sometimes make it difficult, but there are plenty of short films out there for those days when you just can’t find the time for a full-length movie. And I always have my annual favorites, culminating in my tradition of watching the original Halloween on the 31st.
So, if you’re interested in giving this challenge a shot yourself, I’ve put together a little guide that will hopefully help you out. Even if you can’t commit to one movie each day, there’s no reason you can’t at least fill your weekends with spooky viewing. I’ll be posting my daily views on Instagram, so join me using the hashtag #speaktober when posting your own viewings. If you don’t already, follow me @matthew.speak.
The first thing I recommend to any proper Shocktoberist is to subscribe to a month of the Shudder streaming service. It’s like Netflix for horror movies, with loads of stuff you’ve probably never heard of, including a fine list of foreign horror, classic American fare, and new or original exclusive Shudder selections. For the price of one rental, you get a full month of fantastic horror films, offering more than enough movies to fill the month.
- Shudder recommendations:
- Terrified and Satan’s Slaves (both from 2018). Two of the creepiest movies of the past decade. Terrified is from Argentina and Satan’s Slaves is from Indonesia, so make sure you’re watching the subtitled versions—the dubbed versions are always bad. I cannot recommend these two movies highly enough. Heads up! There is a movie called Satan’s Slave (singular, not plural) on Shudder, but it’s older and might not be to everyone’s taste—and no, you don’t have to have seen the older one to watch the newer one.
- Host (2020) – A COVID-era Zoom session seance-gone-wrong that’s wonderfully scary. You’ll love it!
- Hell House LLC (2016) – An effective found footage movie, set in a haunted Halloween haunt. Terrific!
- The Changeling (1981) – One of the most influential haunted house movies ever made. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story, with some unforgettably frightening sequences. A classic!
- Ghoul Log – it’s like the Yule Log but for Halloween, for those nights when you just want some creepy sounds to add a spooky atmosphere to your socially distanced get-togethers.
Shudder has a ton of other horror movies to choose from, ranging from classic to classically bad, and everything in between, so have fun sifting through the remarkable selection curated by AMC Networks.
The streaming giant has a sinister selection of genre films for October, including some of their own. And The Haunting of Bly Manor, Mike Flanagan’s descendant to The Haunting of Hill House, looks to be a fine ghostly series to binge on this month. As always, there are some clunkers in the mix, but that’s to be expected from our beloved genre. Sometimes you’ll find a gem too.
- The Social Dilemma (2020) – OK, so this is a documentary, not really horror. But wow, is it a horrific look at how our attention is bought and sold through social media. It’s got me thinking about getting rid of all my social media accounts. It’s important viewing.
- Sinister (2012). This little sleeper has gained a rabid following and spurred a couple sequels along the way to boot. An unsettling and disturbing mystery.
- The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) – What a great little find this one turned out to be. It’s on the art house side of the genre, but the atmosphere is almost claustrophobic. One of my favorites of the last decade.
- Poltergeist (1982) – Spielberg and Tobe Hooper crafted this classic ghost tale. Nothing more to be said about this one, but it is available on Netflix this month.
- The Ritual (2018) – Another terrific film from ’18, and a scary lost-in-the-woods creature feature, with one of the unique monsters in recent memory. Highly recommended.
There’s too many to list here, so take your time and sift through what Netflix offers. You’ll have plenty to choose from.
The Prime users out there have their work cut out for them, because Amazon goes nuts with the horror selections. You’ll spend much of your time just scrolling through their vast offerings. I can’t cut a dent on what they have for you, but I’ll highlight a few.
- Halloween (1978) – along with several of its sequels will be available through your Amazon Prime subscription. Perfect for post trick-or-treat viewing after you’ve removed your makeup and put on pajamas. I recommend watching 1-4, and the 2018 sequel. The rest are varying levels of not-so-good.
- Friday the 13th: 1 through infinity – How many F13 movies are there now? Hard to keep up, but Amazon has them for you, if you’re feeling nostalgic for some Jason Voorhees (and mom) mayhem. My favorites are 1, 2 (the best F13, in my opinion), and 4.
- Bone Tomahawk (2015) – Kurt Russell stars in this shockingly brutal horror western, two genres that don’t get mixed too often. This one is not for the faint of heart—trust me!
- Lake Mungo (2010) – I probably recommend this one every single year, but it’s that creepy-good. A mockumentary style film focused on a family whose daughter drowned in a nearby lake. It’s a slow-burn meditation on a family’s grief, but also includes one of the scariest images I’ve ever seen in a movie. I still get the willies just thinking about it.
Do yourself a favor and check out the rest of their vast horror menu.
AMC Fear Fest and TCM
Starting October 13th, AMC will resume their annual tradition of filling their schedule with horror movies the last two weeks of the month thorough Halloween. Their selection pretty much sticks to the 70s-80s classics like the Chucky, Halloween, and Friday the 13th franchises, but they throw in some other favorites along the way too. They cut out most of the graphic stuff and nudity, which makes these films slightly more family friendly, though you will have to wade through commercials.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) offers a fine selection of older horror films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s—everything from Village of the Damned to Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s a great resource for the classics.
Other Streaming Services
Services like Hulu, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Peacock also have their share of horror movies. Hulu also produces a good number of originals, which are of varying in quality. I don’t have HBO Max, but I’m told they have lots to choose from, though most of your needs can be met by the above services. Also, keep an eye out for new release straight-to-home horror movies coming out in the next few weeks.