Looking for something to watch this Halloween? Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime Instant and Hulu Plus offer a variety of great content for either a Halloween night alone with the family or a holiday-themed movie marathon.
Here are a few recommendations based on what’s currently available on the major subscription services:
“ParaNorman” (Netflix Instant) — The world of genuinely great kid-friendly animated Halloween movies is surprisingly crowded. If you only manage to watch one this year, it should probably be “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a pretty much unbeatable seasonal favorite that just celebrated its 20th anniversary. If you watch a second one, though, definitely give Laika’s “ParaNorman” a try. It’s a spooky, but heartfelt, pastiche of all things fall/Halloween, featuring zombies, witches, cursed tomes, ’80s movie references and a kid who sees dead people. “ParaNorman” also happens to be one of the most beautifully animated movies you’re likely to find, and it has a soundtrack to match. Just a word of warning — a couple scenes might be a little on the scary side for younger audiences.
“Mad Monster Party?” (Netflix Instant) — For fans of old-school stop-motion animation, check out this swinging 1967 monster movie spoof. Done in the classic Rankin/Bass style — familiar to many from their stop-motion Christmas specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (as well as the 1977 animated version of “The Hobbit”) — “Mad Monster Party?” features Boris Karloff in one of his last performances, this time voicing Baron von Frankenstein. If you can get past the dated animation and music, it’s actually a pretty charming little Halloween flick that brings together all the classic horror movie monsters — and it did it a full 45 years before “Hotel Transylvania.”
“The Mummy” (Netflix Instant) — The original “Dracula” and “The Wolf Man” are also available to stream on Netflix, but “The Mummy” is the Universal monster movie that seems to get the least love these days. Maybe it’s because mummies don’t translate as well to young adult romance novels? Either way, this one more than earns its spot among the all-time classics of the horror movie genre, and it would make a great addition to any Halloween movie night, especially if you’re looking to break up the glut of vampires and zombies.
“Plan 9 from Outer Space” (Hulu Plus) — “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1959) is notorious as possibly the worst movie ever made. But it’s also a bona fide Halloween classic that everybody should watch at least once in their lifetime. The completely inane story about an extraterrestrial scheme to turn corpses into violent, shambling “ghouls” is pure cornball fun that, somehow, seems a little ahead of its time given the recent zombie movie craze. From a historical perspective, “Plan 9” should be seen just to catch Count Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, in his final onscreen appearance. Just make sure to watch this with a group of friends. You’ll be quoting some of the choicest lines for months afterwards.
“Ghostbusters” (Netflix Instant) — Simply put, “Ghostbusters” is one of the best horror comedies ever made. If you haven’t seen it, now’s the perfect time since it’s newly available on Netflix Instant. While it's rated PG, the film features a good amount of sexual humor.
“Black Sunday” (Amazon Prime Instant) — Before almost singlehandedly inventing the slasher movie genre, Italian horror-maestro Mario Bava crafted this 1960 creepfest about an evil witch returning from the grave to possess the body of one of her descendants. Definitely not for kids, but older audiences looking for real chills will have a blast thanks to the atmospheric black-and-white visuals and Barbara Steele’s hypnotic gaze.
“White Zombie” (Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime Instant, Hulu Plus) — Considered by some to be the first zombie movie ever made, “White Zombie” came out just a year after “Dracula” in 1932. Although not nearly as well known as his earlier role, Bela Lugosi is endlessly captivating as the villainous Murder Legendre, a witch doctor on a plantation in Haiti who uses voodoo magic to turn people into mindless slaves.
“The American Scream” (Netflix Instant) — “Best Worst Movie” filmmaker (and Salt Lake City native) Michael Stephenson directed this documentary about three Massachusetts families and their obsession with creating the ultimate neighborhood haunted houses. Not much in the way of spooks and scares, but this one will definitely get you in the holiday spirit as it examines just what it is people love about Halloween.
“Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus) — The Master of Suspense (and the only director to have his own theme music) curated this anthology series that ran from 1955-1958. While not all of the episodes could be called “horror” or even “thrillers” — some are straight-up comedic — it’s all done with an appropriately macabre sensibility and plenty of gallows humor. For people not into supernatural scares, these 25-minute episodes could be a great choice come Halloween night.
“The Twilight Zone” (Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime Instant, Hulu Plus) — Featuring some of the best TV writing of its time courtesy of genre heavyweights like Richard Matheson (“I Am Legend”), Rod Serling’s anthology series holds up remarkably well all these years later. Episodes like Matheson’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” — about a monster on the wing of an airplane — or “It’s a Good Life” — about a town terrorized by a monstrous child with supernatural powers — have become famous in their own right, but there are plenty more episodes worth discovering.
A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.