October looks a lot different than it did only a few weeks ago. As the month many movie theater owners were hanging their hats on with the hope of a weekly deluge of new movies , October has recently been vacated by high profile features that include Wonder Woman 1984, Death on the Nile, and Candyman.
Yet if you’re a cinephile or movie lover who is desperate for new stories and visions, it is not all doom and gloom. Between the streaming market of Netflix, VOD, and other platforms, as well as some smaller films willing to roll the dice on a limited theatrical release, there are still more than a few things to see in October 2020…
October 2 (U.S. Only)
A high-concept science fiction setup if we’ve ever heard one, 2067 is the story of Ethan Whyte (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young man born in a dystopian future where he learns that he might be the savior of humanity… at least that’s what people from an even more distant future are saying. In a plot twist that sounds, at least on paper, akin to a reversal of The Terminator, messengers from the future say Ethan is the key to saving the world and wish to transport him via time machine to an unknowable destiny. Chaos ensues. It’s a big idea, but we’re always game for someone swinging big in this genre.
Death of Me
October 2 (November 23 in the UK)
Darren Lynn Boseman, director of Saw II through Saw IV, returns to the horror genre again alongside Nikita’s Maggie Q and Westworld’s Luke Hemsworth. In this VOD release, the pair play a vacationing couple who wake up on an island with a horrible hangover. Yet a video on their phones seems to suggest the night before was even worse: Neil (Hemsworth) spent the evening brutally murdering his wife, as per the screen in their pockets. Nevertheless, here they are now, left with a lot of questions of what happened yesterday… and what can happen today.
The first of Amazon Prime and Blumhouse Productions’ “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s Black Box has a tantalizing premise. Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) survived a car accident that took his wife, but it also took large swaths of his memory of her. So in order to regain his memory, and regain a sense of stability for his young daughter, Nolan undergoes an experimental treatment where his psychologist uses hypnosis to thrust him into his subconscious where he’ll be able remember his past and face his personal demons. Literally.
Like something out of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, this horror movie shows how scary being trapped in dreams really is if all that’s in them is the stuff of nightmares…
The second Amazon/Blumhouse feature is more of a psychological thriller than a straightforward horror movie. Originally premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, The Lie follows a father (Peter Sarsgaard) who discovers his daughter Kayla (Joey King) accidentally killed her friend… until she admits she may have actually murdered her.
How far will he go to cover-up his daughter’s sins? Well, that’s the logline, and it seems to be a gripping one, albeit reviews from TIFF were less than kind two years ago.
Last year Adam Sandler warned the Academy that if he doesn’t win an Oscar for Uncut Gems he’d make a film so bad that it’d make “you all pay.” Well, he wasn’t even nominated and eight months after the ceremony, here we are with Netflix’s Hubie Halloween. It remains to be seen whether this is actually the bad one—for starters it filmed before Oscar nominations went out—but it is still very much a Happy Madison production, complete with major supporting roles for Kevin James and Rob Schneider.
In the movie, Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, the town loser of Salem, Massachusetts. A lonely fry cook obsessed with Halloween, Hubie spends all year looking forward to decking out his home and town the same way Clark Griswold anticipates Christmas. But on this particular Halloween, the town appears besieged by actual supernatural forces, and finally Hubie will have his time to shine. Eh, it looks more amusing than The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6?
Books of Blood
October 7 (U.S. Only)
Who doesn’t love anthological horror? Hulu certainly does, as they’re releasing Books of Blood, the latest adaptation of Clive Barker’s multi-volume series of short stories by the same name. Previous tales from Books of Blood have been adapted into movies as beloved as Candyman and as decidedly not as Rawhide Rex. In this film version, three stories are created for the screen by co-writer and director Brannon Braga. Here’s hoping it lands closer to the former?
October 9 (UK Only)
The UK will be the first to get A24’s only horror movie this year. Lucky. The feature directorial debut of Rose Glass, Saint Maud follows an unhealthily repressed and zealous young woman: Maud (Morfydd Clark). Maud is technically a caretaker by trade, looking after people in hospice. But she also imagines herself to be something of an apostle, sent to save godless folks from their sins, particularly Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), the woman she’s living with as the in-home nurse.
It’s already a tense situation, even before Maud starts hearing voices and having images of ecstasy and Heaven, and demons and Hell. Rich with atmosphere and grueling anticipation of something horrible happening, Saint Maud is a great debut for Glass and a potential star-maker for Clark, who is skin-crawlingly pious as Maud, the young woman who’s wound up tighter than a jack-in-the-box.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow
October 9 (U.S. Only)
Debuting in theaters and on VOD, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is Jim Cummings’ follow-up to Thunder Road. That earlier, underrated movie was a delightful mix of comedy and drama that won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize. So the sophomore effort being a werewolf comedy-horror movie is intriguing. Indeed, Wolf of Snow Hollow is the rare lycanthrope yarn that’s told from the point-of-view of the would-be wolf hunter, Sheriff John Marshall (Cummings).
Following a series of grisly murders every full moon, the residents of Snow Hollow become convinced they have a wolfman on their hands, even if the frustrated sheriff refuses to accept the obvious. The film also marks the final performance of Robert Forster as John’s crusty mentor.
The War with Grandpa
October 9 in the U.S. (October 16 in the UK)
For most people, having Robert De Niro as a grandfather can be an imposing experience. But kids these days! That’s at least one amusing takeaway from The War with Grandpa, the delayed family movie that sees De Niro’s grandfatherly Ed enter into a prank war with his grandson Peter (Oakes Fegley) after upsetting the youth by moving into his old bedroom—Peter’s mom and Ed’s daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) forced them into the arrangement.
Soon shaving cream reveals itself to be foam sealant stuck to De Niro’s face, and Peter’s oral report announces he is a louse. Oh, and there’s a dodgeball battle in which De Niro is aided by a squad of screen legends like Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour, to squash the pups. Now things are getting serious…
The first of Amazon and Blumhouse’s next batch of original movies, Nocturne is the tale of a hellish rivalry between sisters. Genuinely. The feature debut from director Zu Quirke stars Sydney Sweeney as Juliet, the younger sister of fellow musician Vivian (Madison Iseman). While both young women are gifted pianists, Vivian is a prodigy and the center of Juliet’s envy. That is until Juliet finds the diary of another child prodigy at their prestigious conservatory who killed herself. The book includes all the late pianist’s hidden compositions… and symbols and incantations.
Ever heard the story of Faust? It seems like Juliet is about to get an up-close modern example.
As the final Blumhouse effort to be released on Amazon Prime in 2020, Evil Eye hails from directors Elan and Rajeev Dassani and presents itself as both a psychological thriller and supernatural chiller. The truth of which it really is depends on how much you believe the eye of Usha (Sarita Choudhury).
For this mother of Pallavi (GLOW’s Sunita Mani) is convinced her daughter is necking with a new boyfriend (Omar Maskati) who’s the spirit of an evil abusive ex Usha escaped in her youth. Is he the vestiges of a half-remembered curse or the potential victim of a mommy dearest prone to snap judgements? Tune in to find out for yourself…
The Trial of the Chicago 7
“The whole world is watching.” That’s the chanted refrain of protestors in Aaron Sorkin’s second movie as director, but it might also apply to the level of anticipation regarding this major Netflix release and potential awards season darling. The movie itself is an old-fashioned legal thriller like Sorkin cut his teeth on with scripts like A Few Good Men, but Chicago 7 feels urgently (and depressingly) vital.
Following on the heels of the Chicago riots during the Democratic National Convention of 1968—riots later deemed to have been started by the police—eight men categorized as “the far left” are rounded up for a show trial by Nixon’s Justice Department where they’re charged with conspiracy.
The film features the same blistering abundance of dialogue Sorkin has become famous for, as well as his penchant for breezy fast-paced editing. But the political heft of the subject matter and the movie’s deep bench of an acting ensemble that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mark Rylance, and Frank Langella is what makes this one of the most thrilling movies of the year.
October 16 (U.S. Only)
Liam Neeson plays a thief who wants a second chance. A bank robber willing to turn himself and $9 million in to be with the new love of his life. But then crooked FBI agents (Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos) steal his money and frame him for murder instead. So he’s left with one thing to do: menacingly hiss over the phone, “I’m coming for you.” We imagine that trailer-ready threat was what Honest Thief was sold on during its elevator pitch.
Remaking Alfred Hitchcock remains a tricky proposition that has thwarted many filmmakers in the past. Readapting the only one of his movies to win the Oscar for Best Picture, Rebecca, appears all the harder. Yet everything we’ve seen from Ben Wheatley and Netflix’s luscious adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel is highly encouraging.
With a winning cast that includes Lily James as the new Mrs. de Winter, Armie Hammer as her husband Maxim, and Kristin Scott Thomas as his menacing housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, the film opens with the young bride trying to step into the shoes of Maxim’s dead first wife, Rebecca. An apparent light of his mansion that has been long snuffed, Rebecca’s flame burns still if only because of Mrs. Danvers’ admiration for her late mistress… and maybe the ghost who prowls the house. This is archetypal Gothic horror, and with screenwriter Jane Goldman apparently keeping the novel’s original ending, we already feel seduced by the imagery.
On the Rocks
October 2 in the UK (October 23 in the U.S.)
Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray work together again. For the first time since their luminous Lost in Translation (if you ignore the ill-considered A Very Murray Christmas), the director and star are collaborating on this visibly intimate tale. It’s about an adult daughter (Rashida Jones) and her famous father (Murray) spending a weekend in New York City on an adventure after years of estrangement.
The film, which also stars Marlon Wayans, premiered to a largely warm reception at the New York Film Festival and is already being written about as a spiritual successor to their original collaboration. Once more a woman in the midst of an existential crisis is aided by Murray between glasses of scotch. Who doesn’t want to pull up a seat and order another round?
Over the Moon
You probably don’t know Glen Keane’s name but you should. The longtime Walt Disney Animation Studios animator oversaw the design and animation of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin in Aladdin, and Rapunzel in Tangled. With Over the Moon, he steps away from the Mouse and toward Netflix as a first-time co-director, alongside John Kahrs (an animator on Tangled and Frozen).
The trailer for the film is like a Georges Méliès fever dream from as a little girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) builds a rocket ship to take her to the moon. But once there, Fei Fei and friends meet a mythical moon goddess (Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo) who takes them on a candy-colored odyssey through the cosmos.
October 23 (U.S. only)
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are two of the most intriguing new voices in science fiction. If you don’t recognize their names, go watch The Endless right now. One of the strangest and cleverest sci-fi yarns of the last decade, that film is now being followed up by Synchronic, another original tale that stars Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan. The specifics of the film remain vague other than it is about two New Orleans paramedics who investigate a series of murders caused by a new, bizarre designer drug. But we already know we can’t wait to watch what horrible side effects come from these poor bastards taking it.
The Craft: Legacy
It cannot be Halloween without at least one more horror movie coming out the week of. Thus enters The Craft: Legacy, Sony Pictures and Blumhouse Productions’ legacy sequel to the original 1996 The Craft. Like its predecessor, this follows an outsider who is the new girl in school (Cailee Spaeny). She may be ostracized by the popular kids, but she befriends fellow students who have alternative tastes… like witchcraft.
The original is a touchstone for millennials and Gen-Xers of a certain age, and this reboot looks to push the story into a more complex understanding of friendship. And if it doesn’t, it’s still a Blumhouse effort so it should have plenty of spooky jumps!
October 30 (US Only)
Dementia is at the heart of this very eerie chiller where three generations of women convene in an old family home which seems to be rotting from the inside. Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote star in a slow build drama which delves into the horror of losing your sense of self, as Nevin’s matriarch goes missing for days and can’t remember what happened while her house is filled with odd notes, black mould and snippets of a life slipping away from her grasp. This is the feature debut of Australian-Japanese director Natalie Erika James and it’s a stylish, chilling and confident first feature with a final act that veers into full blown horror. Out already in the States on VOD it has a UK theatrical release in the UK.