Spooky season is upon us. But when it comes to big screen horrorshows, it doesn’t have to stop at Halloween.
The fall movie schedule is littered with all sorts of ghouls, goblins and otherworldly terrors – from new entries in beloved franchises (“Hocus Pocus,” “Halloween,” “Hellraiser,” “X”) to brand new scares from folks like Luca Guadagnino, Adam McKay, Henry Selick and Jason Blum. There’s much to get excited (and, yes, somewhat terrified) about.
We’ve run down 13 (!) of the most exciting new horror movies coming out this fall. Read if you dare!
“Barbarian” (September 9)
Plenty of horror movies claim to be “messed up.” “Barbarian” actually is messed up. Tess (Georgina Campbell) is a young woman who travels to Detroit for a job interview. She shows up to her Air BnB, in a rough part of town, only to find that another person (Bill Skarsgård) already there. Thus begins a strange odyssey that is almost impossible to explain without spoiling one of the many shocking twists. Writer/director Zach Cregger really goes for it, laying on stylistic shifts, multiple timelines and, like we said, some trully messed up junk. It’s hard to shake this one. And while it might not be a blockbuster, it seems destined to become a cult classic.
“Pearl” (September 16)
Earlier this spring indie powerhouse A24 released Ti West’s “X,” a blood-soaked throwback to slasher films of the 1970s and ‘80s that followed a group of good-natured pornographers as they were dispatched, one by one, while filming their latest adults-only opus. “X” was a new horror classic. As it turns out, it was also the beginning of A24’s first horror franchise. “Pearl,” a prequel that West and his crew filmed in secret concurrently with “X,” takes place during World War I on the same Texas farm. Only this time Pearl (Mia Goth) is a young woman, and she is being forced to take care of her elderly parents. This, of course, can only lead to bad things. West has said that he was inspired by Douglas Sirk and wanted to make “a Technicolor, ‘Mary Poppins’ type of movie.” And yes, West is also working on a sequel set after the events of “X.”
“My Best Friend’s Exorcism” (September 30)
Based on the best-selling 2016 novel by Grady Hendrix, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” follows two BFFs in smalltown, Reagan-era America. Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller) are as close as can be … until, of course, it appears that Gretchen has become possessed by an otherworldly spirit. That can put a real strain on a friendship. Produced by “Happy Death Day” filmmaker Christopher Landon and directed by Damon Thomas, a veteran of “Killing Eve,” “Penny Dreadful” and the terrific BBC “Dracula” miniseries from a few years ago, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” has a blood-splattered horror pedigree. And judging by the marketing materials, it could fill be the next “Jennifer’s Body” – a proudly feminist re-contextualizing of horror tropes, made for the overnight slumber party we all wish we could still be invited to.
“Hocus Pocus 2” (September 30)
It’s finally happening. A proper sequel to the 1993 cult classic is actually here! And what’s more, “Hocus Pocus 2” (this time directed by “The Proposal” director Anne Fletcher) actually managed to reunite its trio of iconic stars – Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy – for this new supernatural adventure. (Doug Jones also returns as the undead Billy Butcherson.) Not much is known about the plot of this new outing, beyond the fact that “three high-school students must work together to stop the Sanderson sisters who have returned to present-day Salem.” But does that really matter? The gals are back, the camp will undoubtedly be turned up to 11, and if it’s even halfway decent you’ll probably watch it alongside the original every Halloween. As it should be.
“Smile” (September 30)
Quickly after writer/director Parker Finn’s short film “Laura Hasn’t Slept” won a prize at the 2020 South by Southwest (virtual) film festival, he was hired by Paramount to expand the concept into an original feature. Sosie Bacon plays a therapist whose patient dies by suicide in her office, which leads her on a quest to uncover the truth and a mystery involving other victims, all with a ghoulish smile. This could be a more modern version of “The Ring,” which similarly involved a curse and some creepy ghouls. (Spoiler alert: we’ve heard there’s a crazy monster involved too.) Something tells us that while watching this new horror movie, you’re probably going to scream much more than you’re going to smile.
“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” (October 5)
Based on a novella of the same name from Stephen King’s 2020 collection “If It Bleeds,” “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” follows Craig (Jaeden Martell, a veteran of King thanks to his role in “It”), a young man who works for an elderly business tycoon, the titular Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland). When Harrigan dies, the nature of their relationship changes too. And considering this is based on a King story, you know it’s headed in an altogether horrific direction. Produced by the twin powerhouses of Jason Blum and Ryan Murphy, whose last horror collaboration was 2014’s underseen gem “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” was written and directed by John Lee Hancock, whose last film was 2021’s nifty crime thriller “The Little Things.” It’ll be interesting to see how Hancock expands the world of the original novella, which at around 70 pages was as slender as it was spooky. This one debuts directly on Netflix.
“Hellraiser” (October 7)
Plans for a “Hellraiser” remake go back more than a decade and have cycled through some of the biggest and brightest names in horror cinema, while various entities wrestled for the rights. Eventually the remake (or perhaps a new twist on Clive Barker’s 1987 novella “The Hellbound Heart”) would be handed over to David Bruckner and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, all of whom were behind 2020’s sleeper hit “The Night House.” And while the specifics of their take on the material have yet to be fully revealed, beyond a young girl (Odessa A’zion) discovering a puzzle box that could be connected to her brother’s disappearance, the filmmakers have gone a different route with Pinhead, the iconic “Cenobite” at the heart of the franchise. This time, Pinhead will be played by Jamie Clayton, one of the leads of the Wachowskis’ “Sense 8,” and the film premieres on Hulu. Can we get a hell yeah?
“Halloween Ends” (October 14)
We’ve heard this before. But apparently this is the end of the “Halloween” series, or at least this new trilogy which, if we can remember, ignored every sequel and instead served as a direct follow-up to 1977’s original classic. (Producer Jason Blum, who shepherded the new trilogy, recently confirmed that they only had the rights to these three new films.) “Halloween Ends” is set four years after the events of 2021’s “Halloween Kills,” with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) living with her granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and writing a memoir of her experience. While nobody has seen killer Michael Myers since the events of the last movie (where he more or less took out the entire town of Haddonfield), wouldn’t you know it, he shows back up again, leading to a final confrontation between the two. Bloody exciting!
“Halloween Kills” will debut in theaters and on Peacock the same day.
“Run Sweetheart Run” (October 28)
Finally. “Run Sweetheart Run” premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, just before the world went to hell. After an attempt at a theatrical run in 2020, producer Jason Blum sold the film to Amazon Studios and now, finally, we can all watch “Run Sweetheart Run.” Written and directed by Shana Feste, the film follows a young woman (Ella Balinska) who goes on a blind date with a handsome stranger (Pilou Asbæk) that winds up going very, very wrong. Feste based the film, in part, on her real-life experience with sexual violence, but considering Blumhouse’s history with making social issue movies that are extremely entertaining (hello, “Get Out!”), “Run Sweetheart Run” will, undoubtedly, be far from preachy. We’re just happy it’s finally here.
“Wendell & Wild” (October 28)
Henry Selick returns! The animation wizard behind “The Nightmare Before Christmas” hasn’t directed a feature film since Laika’s “Coraline” way back in 2009. (He did spend several years working on a stop-motion project for Pixar that was ultimately canceled.) With his Netflix movie “Wendell & Wild” he gets to return to the same spooky space he’s always enjoyed most, this time focusing on the titular pair of demons (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) who try to coerce a young girl (Lyric Ross) into freeing them from the land of the dead. (That’s some “Beetlejuice” energy if we’ve ever heard it.) What makes the film even more exciting is that Peele co-wrote the screenplay and produced the movie through his Monkeypaw Productions shingle. What a thrill.
“Something in the Dirt” (November 4)
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have always specialized in hip, cosmic horror where characters are faced with a mounting sense of dread at the possibility of exploring the unknown. That is definitely the case with “Something in the Dirt.” While the duo had been working on the screenplay for a decade, the pandemic shutdown left them with the perfect opportunity to make the movie, with themselves in the lead roles, from the comfort of their own homes. The resulting film has garnered Benson and Moorhead with some of the best reviews of their career, as they are scaling new heights professionally at Marvel Studios (they directed some of “Moon Knight” and are now hard at work on “Loki” season 2). While the trailer for “Something in the Dirt” is typically elliptical, it’s also riveting. This might be the you-can’t-stop-talking-about-it indie sensation of the fall movie season.
“The Menu” (November 18)
Well this sounds delicious. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult play a young, status-seeking couple who travel to a remote island for a unique culinary experience lorded over by an eccentric chef (played, of course, by Ralph Fiennes). While they’re there, they get more than they bargained for. Are they about to end up on … the menu? Produced by Adam McKay and directed by his “Succession” collaborator Mark Mylod, it’s safe to assume there will be some barbed satire alongside the bloodletting. (The starry cast also includes Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light and John Leguizamo.) There are some horror heavyweights behind the scenes too, with “Evil Dead II”/”The Cabin in the Woods” cinematographer Peter Deming providing the imagery and “Hereditary” composer Colin Stetson responsible for the music. Yum!
“Bones and All” (November 23)
The last time Luca Guadagnino, the celebrated Italian director behind “Call Me By Your Name” and “A Bigger Splash,” tried his hand at horror, the result was 2018’s “Suspiria” remake, one of the greatest horror movies (and one of the greatest movies, period) of the past 10 years. So, you know, no pressure for “Bones and All,” his anticipated adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel of the same name, starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell as cannibalistic lovers who journey across Reagan-era America. (The insane cast also includes Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, Jessica Harper and “Halloween Ends” director David Gordon Green for some reason.) Also very exciting: that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are providing the score. If there’s anyone who has perfected angsty teen alienation while also being able to deliver Grand Guignol-worthy bloodbaths, it’s Guadagnino.