This month brings no shortage of scary real-life issues, much of it focused around the election, coronavirus and the economic challenges related to the virus.
But if you are in need of fresh horror-related fictional sustenance as an escape, TV and streaming services have released a terrifyingly wide array of new films and TV shows this month. You get your share of ugly monsters, metaphoric comedic twists about hair and gentrification, and a hefty amount of psychological chills and thrills. Familiar names such as Octavia Spencer, Vanessa Williams and Adam Sandler tackle the genre.
"Monsterland” — Hulu
This eight-part anthology provides a window into the darkness of the human soul. Monsters do pop up for real in this series, but just as often, the characters themselves make monstrous decisions. Each episode is named for the city it’s based in, and while most of the characters are disconnected, a few do show up in multiple episodes. Some actors are notable from past work, such as Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”), Nicole Beharie (“Sleepy Hollow”) and Kelly Marie Tran (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). The show features grinding poverty, grief and a drug made up of bits of dead angels.
“Books of Blood” — Hulu
The horror genre seems to embrace anthologies such as recent offerings like Amazon’s “Lore” and HBO’s “Room104.” In this case, there are three intertwined stories based loosely on Clive Barker’s popular book series from 1984 with a “Creepshow" vibe. Meet Jenna, a woman suffering from misophonia — a condition when certain sounds like simple chewing trigger trauma. She stopped taking her meds, and after being spooked on a bus, jumps off and decides to stay at a creepy B&B where the owners become a wee bit too interested in her well being. Later, a university professor falls in love with a supposed medium who says he’s in touch with her dead son. And there’s a story about two thieves seeking a valuable “book of blood.” The three stories do loosely tie together at some point.
Credit: Amazon Prime
Credit: Amazon Prime
“Black Box” — Amazon Prime
After losing his wife in a car accident and nearly dying himself, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) recovers physically but has amnesia. He is not the same and is on the verge of losing his daughter, so he decides to take on an experimental treatment by a neuropsychiatrist played by Phylicia Rashad of “The Cosby Show” fame. She is able to dig into his subconscious through hypnosis and a contraption stuck on his head to extract memories in a virtual manner. But are Nolan’s memories actually his memories? A wedding memory is in a church with fuzzed-out faces, but his actual wedding was outside. Hmm.... And is Rashad’s seemingly kind doctor doing something truly legit for Nolan?
“Vampires vs. the Bronx” — Netflix
Vampires have been metaphors for foreigners, the unleased id and unrelenting rapaciousness. In this more humorous take on the genre, the pale vampires are part of a gentrifying real estate company literally sucking the life out of the heart and soul of a Bronx neighborhood. “Everybody’s cashing out,” said Bobby, a Black neighborhood teen who sees a nail salon sold out to the vampiric Murnau Properties. “It’s all about getting that macchiato and gelato money." He and his two buds hold a fundraising party to try to save a local bodega, but they soon realize that something hella dark is happening and try to fight back. (They watch a DVD of “Blade” to pick up some knowledge.) There are also fun cameos from Zoe Saldana as a nail salon owner and Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man as a priest.
“Hubie Halloween” — Netflix
Adam Sandler and horror have not crossed paths — until now. But don’t expect Stanley Kubrick or John Carpenter. This is old-school Sandler, and he brings in a host of familiar faces, including Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph, Michael Chiklis, Tim Meadows, Kevin James, June Squibb, Rob Schneider, Shaquille O’Neal and Julie Bowen from 1996′s “Happy Gilmore.” Sandler plays man-child Hubie, a much-maligned and mocked deli worker in Salem, Massachusetts with a weird “Waterboy”-esque voice, a Swiss Army thermos and a love for Halloween. When Salem is beset with a psych ward escapee and Hubie’s suspicious new neighbor, it’s up to Hubie to save the day.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor” — Netflix
This is the second installment of Mike Flanagan’s horror anthology on Netlflix following “The Haunting of Hill House,” which was shot in metro Atlanta. The nine episodes feature many of the same actors playing different characters — similar to “American Horror Story.” Dani (a returning Victoria Pedretti) plays an American au pair hired by Lord Wingrave (a returning Henry Thomas) to watch over his orphaned nephew Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and niece Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). The kids are not alright. And neither is the haunted country manor where they reside. Though set in the 1980s, there are echoes of Henry James' 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw."
Credit: HBO Max
Credit: HBO Max
“The Witches” — HBO Max
Based on British novelist Roald Dahl’s whimsically dark novel of the same name, this film is re-imagined by Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump”). It was originally meant for movie theaters, but the pandemic shifted plans. Set in Alabama in the 1960s, “The Witches” stars Anne Hathaway as The Grand High Witch who hates kids and loves turning the “brats” into literal rats. The film focuses on Charlie, an orphan whose grandmother (Octavia Spencer) tries to protect him from the evil forces. Hathaway reunites with “The Devil Wears Prada” co-star Stanley Tucci, who plays an uptight hotel manager.
Credit: Tobin Yellan/Hulu)
Credit: Tobin Yellan/Hulu)
“Bad Hair” — Hulu
This is yet another movie that was destined for movie theaters but was diverted to Hulu due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a horror-comedy featuring newcomer Elle Lorraine as Anna, a passive woman trying to break into the music entertainment business in 1989. She decides the ticket to success is a hair weave, and her decision works for a time. But the demonic killer weave has a mind of its own and takes control of her life when she tries to recapture some of her old sense of self. The film also features a coterie of well-known stars including Kelly Rowland, James Van der Beek, Laverne Cox, Usher and Blair Underwood.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.