As the fall season gets going and possible awards contenders emerge (congratulations to Laura Poitras, by the way), it’s also the time when I have to make some decisions as I shape up the rest of the year’s On the Radar… entries. I can’t write a short novel every month covering every upcoming release in October, November, and December since I have a day job on top of being a part-time student, but that always means me having to make some painful sacrifices for the last three months of the year.
But there are so many major horror releases coming out in that hallowed of months, October, that I feel now is as good a time as any to put out a CROSSOVER PIECE **sound of air horns blasting off**!!!!!! That’s right; I’m going to do a special little preview article combining all the horror focus of the Sunday Scaries with gauging my feelings on the upcoming horror releases of next month reserved for On the Radar…. Because if you are a horror fan, I guarantee there is something for you in October. Including…
MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE – On Netflix October 5
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Jaeden Martell, with Donald Sutherland and Kirby Howell-Baptiste
What is it about? When Mr. Harrigan dies, the teen who befriended and did odd jobs for him puts his smartphone in his pocket before burial and when the lonely youth leaves his dead friend a message, he is shocked to get a return text.
How am I feelin’ about this one? The timeline of this movie coming into being is a little surprising to me. That so many Stephen King works got snapped up by distributors in a feeding frenzy when It shocked everyone to become not only a smash hit, but the highest-grossing horror film of all time (unadjusted for inflation) in 2017 was entirely understandable. Hollywood executives are sheep and will double-down on whatever was the last popular formula they saw they think they can milk. But according to the trades, Blumhouse acquired the rights to this King novella back in 2020. After It: Part Two disappointed. After In the Tall Grass came and went with barely a notice. After Doctor Sleep flat-out tanked at the box office.
Earlier this year, one of the worst adaptations of his works… really, ever, pooped its way into and out of theaters, so I guess Mr. Harrigan’s Phone has the benefit of a low bar to clear, but who would be interested in directing this? What filmmaker would jump at the chance to hop onto a bandwagon way too late to-oh hey, it’s John Lee Hancock! The director of The Girl on the Train, The Founder, and The Little Things! Mediocre versions of popular movies that launched dozens of desperate imitators are Hancock’s bread-and-butter, and while I wish Donald Sutherland well in his late career and hope Jaeden Martell builds up more screen credits and connections so he can star in that Ben Shapiro biopic I know he’d be perfect for… reader, it is hard for me to feign excitement for this movie based on the director.
TERRIFIER 2 – In Theaters October 6
Directed by Damien Leone
Starring David Howard Thornton, with Lauren LaVera and Elliott Fullam
What is it about? After mutilating sole survivor Victoria Heyes and committing suicide upon police confrontation, Art the Clown is resurrected by a sinister being a year later and begins a hunt for two unsuspecting siblings in the Miles County area on Halloween night.
How am I feelin’ about this one? There are a lot of die-hard fans of Terrifier, the incredibly grisly and bleak slasher starring an instantly iconic hideous killer clown written, edited, directed, and produced by now-underground horror celebrity Damien Leone. It was originally released in only a few select theaters in 2016 and attracted only a tiny following, until Dread Central picked it up and re-released it in 2018 to much more considerable fanfare. There wasn’t much of a story, and there’s really no character development or protagonist to speak of in the movie. No, Terrifier became a cult hit because of just how graphic the violence and gore effects are. You’d have to be an idiot to deny the upcoming release of this sequel is one of the most anticipated among horror fans this year.
I have to admit… I am not one of them. It’s not out of any kind of moralistic aversion to explicit or gruesome violence in movies – hell, one of my favorite horror films is the vicious home invasion thriller Inside! – but the fact that there’s quite literally no story, or any interesting character in the entire movie, or a compelling tone or atmosphere to it beyond a kind of prurient snotty cynicism really dampens the admiration I have for its admittedly impressive practical effects. Also… a killer clown? Really? We’re still pretending that’s edgy and subversive?
Anyway, I don’t want to dampen anyone’s excitement for this movie if you were a fan of the original Terrifier. This sequel brings Art back from the dead and boasts a much larger budget than the last one. So if you loved the first one, you will almost certainly be getting even more of what you loved again.
HELLRAISER – On Hulu October 7
Directed by David Bruckner
Starring Odessa A’zion, with Jamie Clayton and Hiam Abbass
What is it about? A young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.
How am I feelin’ about this one? I’m going to have a lot to say about my thoughts on this series, and director David Bruckner having a crack at it now, in the near future. But for now, I’ll just make a point that if you are someone who is resenting the fact that transgender actress Jamie Clayton is taking over Doug Bradley’s mantle as Pinhead, if you think such a casting choice means the Hellraiser franchise – literally the one everybody even passingly familiar with it knows as “that weird, horny one” – has “gone woke,” you’re kind of an idiot. Hellraiser is the one mainstream horror franchise that begs for gender-bending and trans representation. In The Hellbound Heart, the Cenobites are explicitly described as androgynous with feminine voices!
Hopefully we’ll be getting a trailer soon, but the production stills so far have been promising.
HALLOWEEN ENDS – In Theaters October 14
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, with James Jude Courtney and Will Patton
What is it about? The saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode comes to a spine-chilling climax in this “final” – pinkie promise we swear! – installment of the franchise.
How am I feelin’ about this one? I don’t know, folks. The original 1978 Halloween is one of the undisputed masterpieces of American horror filmmaking, one of the few horror movies I would recommend to anyone to “get into” the genre, but even when reminded of its existence, it is hard to want to extend any more goodwill to this dizzyingly convoluted franchise. There exists, by my count, at least four separate lines of storyline continuity branching off from the first one that are totally irreconcilable with each other, and I’m not even including Rob Zombie remakes.
I have mixed feelings on this new sequel trilogy of films, which will almost certainly stand as the last “official” attempt to do so, what with Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter’s advanced ages (Carpenter wasn’t directly involved in these movies, but gave Green’s treatment his blessing which goes a long way and was something he didn’t extend towards The Thing in 2011). On the one hand, it is almost without question superior to every single other canonical story branch, including that weird one-off Season of the Witch where Halloween exists only as a fictional movie and H20 which wasn’t a bad way to end it if they didn’t tack on the abominable Resurrection to it as well.
But while it’s perfectly fine, even sometimes quite good, as a meat-and-potatoes slasher movie, the attempts to be An Important Social Commentary on PTSD and familial trauma came off really trite to me, and I never felt a desire to catch up with the sequel Halloween Kills despite the previous one being one of the very few Halloween sequels I would describe as “decent.”
With that said, there is something kinda special to me about the fact that this will very likely be the last time we see Jamie Lee Curtis in one of these. This was the movie franchise she’s most closely associated with, and yet despite “killing” him multiple times and dying herself once in one of these damned movies, the promised finality of this one will be, in some ways, actually meaningful this time.
WENDELL & WILD – In Theaters October 28
Directed by Henry Selick
Starring the voices of Lyric Ross, with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele
What is it about? Two scheming demon brothers, Wendell and Wild, enlist the aid of 13-year-old Kat Elliot to summon them to the Land of the Living.
How am I feelin’ about this one? Much like how way too many people refer to A Nightmare Before Christmas as a Tim Burton movie, there will likely be quite a few critics and casual viewers who will refer to the upcoming stop-motion kids’ horror-thriller Wendell & Wild as a Jordan Peele movie, and while they do deserve some recognition as the producers of those projects, the director of those movies was actually Henry Selick, a titan of stop-motion animation who is particularly good at making creepy, macabre horror-tinged stop-motion films that kids watch and like just fine before becoming obsessed with them when they’re teenagers.
This one is his first featuring a predominantly black cast, not only the return of Key & Peele together as the titular demon duo, but also Angela Bassett as a demon-hunting nun and Ving Rhames as the awesomely-named “Buffalo Belzer.” The plot itself seems a little convoluted, though that seems to be just par for the course in kids entertainment these days, and because the reaction to Lightyear was so “meh,” that might give Selick an opening to finally win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Did I miss anything that you are particularly excited for next month? What horror release are you most looking forward to in October? Let us know in the comments.