It’s closing in on Halloweentime, folks, and we know what that means — settling in for a month of our favorite scary films. My personal scare of choice is and has always been Carpenter’s 1978 classic because it knows just how to sidle up to reality, envelop the audience in palpable memories of trick-or-treating (remember that feeling of being just a little afraid and reminding yourself everyone is just wearing costumes?), and Donald Pleasance delivers one of filmdom’s most memorable scenes — and don’t even get me started on the score. This October’s offerings veer from fantasy to reality and comedic to terrifying, so if you’re looking for something new to fill in the growing void of darkness, here’s the best of what’s coming our way.
October 1, 2021 (Disney+)
Directed by Ken Cunningham (Lego Star Wars Jurassic World: The Legend of Isla Nublar/Marvel Avengers: Climate Conundrum) and written by David Shayne (Lego Star Wars: All Stars, Lego Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit).; starring Christian Slater, Jake Green, Dana Snyder, Eric Bauza, Tony Hale, and A.J. LoCasico. Post-Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Poe Dameron and BB-8 make an emergency landing on the planet where Jabba Grabala the Hutt is fashioning the first Sith luxury hotel from Darth Vader’s castle, where the pair meet up with the dark lord’s servant, Vaneé. Hearing tales of Vader’s plans, BB and Poe must find a way to stop an “ancient evil from rising.” I won’t make the obvious joke because this is a family movie!
October 6, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed by Patrick Brice (Creep, Corporate Animals); written by Henry Gayden (Shazam!); starring Sydney Park, Théodore Pellerin, Asjha Cooper, Jesse LaTourette, and Diego Josef. Based on the Stephanie Perkins novel, here’s a twist on the Halloween/Scream-ish masked killer; this one wears the face of one of a group of classmates who may all be hiding their secret pasts. Told from the angle of a new transfer student (Park) who — presumably — has no applicable history to be uncovered (or does she? Dun dun dun!), the mystery’s who will make it out alive.
Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go for It
October 5, 2021 (PBS)
Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera (Chamacas, Lovesickness); produced by Riera, Lin Manuel Miranda, Norman Lear, and Michael Kantor; with Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Chita Rivera, Morgan Freeman, and Terrence McNally. Long overdue documentary on Moreno, the glorious star of the original West Side Story and a woman who broke through all the barriers, becoming an Academy-Award, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy-winning icon. Settle in and watch the incredible story of the legendary actress’ journey from its beginning and marvel that at 89, she’s still going strong.
October 8, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective, Maniac); written by Fukunaga with Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (Skyfall, Casino Royale, Spectre), and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve, Crashing; starring Daniel Craig, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (next 007, please!), Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Rory Kinnear, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, and Dali Benssalah. Craig’s Bond swan song, as it were, features James lured back from yet another break by an old friend who needs help stopping the release of terrible technology (no, not an iPhone update). With an ever-expanding cast and all the usual stunts and stilettos, Bond fans hope our hero will die another day, or live twice or, at the very least, never die tomorrow.
October 8, 2021 (Disney+)
Directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (The Muppets Take the O2, Muppets Now, The Muppets Take the Bowl); written by Bill Barretta(The Muppets, The Happytime Murders, Muppets Now); starring Ed Asner (in one of his final roles), Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss, Danny Trejo, John Stamos, and all your favorite Muppets. Poor Gonzo must spend a night in the haunted mansion with only Pepe the King Prawn at his side. This is the most important release of the month and that’s all I have to say on the matter.
October 8, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)
Directed and written by Axelle Carolyn (American Horror Story, Creepshow, The Haunting of Bly Manor); starring Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Stacey Travis, Ciera Payton, Jill Larson, and Nancy Linehan Charles. As if aging itself isn’t frightening enough… Judith (Hershey) suffers a stroke and moves into a nursing home (yup, scary) only to be faced with a supernatural threat. One of four Blumhouse productions in release this month, and with the fabulous Hershey in the lead, this is a guaranteed nail-biter.
October 13, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed and written by Claudia Lloso (The Milk of Sorrow, Aloft); co-written by Samanta Schweblin (Mariposas, Nothing All of This); starring Maria Valverde, Dolores Fonzi, German Palacios, Guillermo Pfening and Emilio Vodanovich. Based on Schweblin’s unsettling suspense novel (a Booker nominee) about two mothers’ intense love for their children and in turn, their relationships with each other. Something’s amiss in this languid, idyllic neighborhood and I can’t wait to see what it is.
October 15, 2021 (Theaters and Peacock)
Directed and written by David Gordon Green (Halloween , Mythic Quest, Joe) with Danny McBride (Halloween , Eastbound & Down); starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Anthony Michael Hall, James Jude Courtney, and Thomas Mann. For what is Halloween without another in this franchise installment? Each one is in some way worse than its predecessor and yet, we are helpless but to succumb to Michael Myers and his William Shatner mask. Of course, the main reason to watch is, as always, our Lady, Queen of Scream Curtis and the awful deaths of those too stupid to run from an exceedingly stiff, whitefaced man carrying a bloody knife.
October 15, 2021 (Theaters, Apple TV+)
Directed and written by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Carol, Far from Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, Mildred Pierce). Dig into this documentary (Haynes’ first) about the iconic band with archive footage, interviews, and a look at the members’ — Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Angus MacLise — effect on 1960s New York culture. Step into another time and place with one of history’s most influential bands.
October 15,, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Ridley Scott; written by Nicole Holofcener (Friends with Money, Enough Said), Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck; starring Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Damon, and Affleck. Based on Eric Jager’s The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, the story of a knight (Damon) who challenges his best friend (Driver) — and the man accused of raping his wife — to a trial by combat. Their fight to the death was purportedly the last officially recognized duel in France, and the subject of much debate. With Scott’s penchant for scale and grandeur, and these talented leads, here’s hoping The Last Duel is well worth a trip to the local theater.
October 22,, 2021 (Theaters, HBO Max)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Enemy, Prisoners); written by Villeneuve with John Spaights (Doctor Strange, Prometheus) and Eric Roth (The Insider, Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. Finally a filmmaker brave enough to attempt a serious take on — and do justice to — Frank Herbert’s sweeping novel (I admit to being a fan of Lynch’s 1984 version); the early reviews are impressive. With the all-star ensemble and Villeneuve’s vision, this is practically mandatory viewing for science fiction enthusiasts.
October 22, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed and written by Wes Anderson; starring Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, and Owen Wilson. Anderson quirks his way through another gorgeous stylescape, this time sending out a “love letter” to journalists in a very particular setting that you may be able to discern from the title. Weaving together three twee tales as played out by a generous gathering of Hollywood’s finest, we look forward to Anderson’s muse Mr. Murray leading through laughter to wherever we may roam.
October 27, 2021 (Limited Theaters) November 10, 2021 (Netflix)
Feature directorial debut and written by Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, Frost/Nixon, The Crown, The Prestige); starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, and Alexander Skarsgård. Based on the 1929 Nella Larsen novella about mixed-race childhood friends reunited and discovering the differences in the way their lives have progressed, in part, based on their appearances and “passing” (or not) for a white person. As gut-wrenching as Negga and Thompson are in the trailer — that scene with Skarsgård! — the full film will clearly require multiple boxes of cascading tissue.
October 29, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Ant-Man, Baby Driver, The World’s End); written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, Penny Dreadful — she’s also writing Taika Waititi’s Star Wars movie!); starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, and Margaret Nolan. McKenzie’s Eloise meets Taylor-Joy’s Sandie under strange and mysterious circumstances that appear to involve time-travel or body-swapping, and things only get weirder… creepier from there. Is she dreaming or dead? What is reality? I don’t know, but I’m damned sure a sucker for a great psychological horror movie, so strap in beside me and let’s take this wild ride.
October 29, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Scott Cooper (Hostiles, Black Mass, Out of the Furnace); written by Cooper and Henry Chaisson (Servant) and Nick Antosca (Brand New Cherry Flavor, Hannibal, Channel Zero); starring Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, and Amy Madigan. Speaking of horror and creepiness, what’s a teacher to do when she suspects one of her students is sheltering a supernatural creature? I mean, the logical answer is Get-Out-of-Town, but we all know that’s not going to happen. What a fantastically odd cast (fucking Todd!) and could we possibly talk about where this young lad’s parents might be? Wait, never mind.
October 29, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer (The Manny, You Are Wanted); written by Shay Hatten (John Wick 3, 4, 5, Army of the Dead) and Zack Snyder; starring Nathalie Emmanuel, Schweighöfer, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Jonathan Cohen, and Peter Simonischek. Say what you will about a Snyder film but Army of the Dead was a big hit, and this is its prequel. Set just before the zombie apocalypse, Schweighöfer’s Ludwig Deiter is hired to play his very specific part in a heist. With chaos just rearing it’s half-rotting head, the undead provide just enough distraction for Gwendolyn (Emmanuel) to get the team cracking. Yes, I just did make that terrible joke.
The Souvenir Part II
October 29, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed and written by Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir, Unrelated); starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Jaygann Ayeh, Richard Ayoade, James Spencer Ashworth, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Heaton, Joe Alwyn, and Tilda Swinton. Arthouse sequel to Hogg’s semi-autobiographical coming of age tale about her experiences at film school. Now making her graduation picture, Swinton Byrne’s Julie attempts to work through a lost love to find the story she wants to tell. I’ll be honest; I’m in this for the Ayoade (holy wow!), but the Swintons are stunning and funny, and they know how to tug at every heartstring.
October 29, 2021 (Paramount+)
Directed by William Eubank (Underwater, The Signal); written by Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day 2U, Paranormal Activity: 2,3,4, The Marked Ones, Freaky, Viral); starring Emily Bader, Roland Buck III, Dan Lippert, Henry Ayres-Brown, and Tom Nowicki. Sometimes family is… disappointing, shall we say? The madness continues with this reboot which, as Jason Blum noted, felt better to him than simply carrying on from where The Ghost Dimension left off. But can I just mention that reconnecting with your biological family shouldn’t mean lowering oneself into the apparent pits of hell?