Fall has traditionally been viewed as prime time for the horror film, but this summer was actually a pretty good one for the genre, with movies like The Conjuring 2, Lights Out and the surprise smash Don’t Breathe doing gangbusters business in the midst of blockbuster season. But the year’s not over yet! With September in full swing, there are a slew of worthwhile (and, yes, questionable) titles looming on the release calendar over the next three months.
Below, you can find a rundown of upcoming horror films, along with my unfiltered opinions on which of them look worth checking out and which of them we should remain skeptical of as we head into sweater season.
Release date: Out now on VOD, October 21 (limited theatrical)
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Malcolm McDowell
Though he achieved some mainstream success with his two Halloween films in the late ’00s, at this point Rob Zombie caters to a more specialized audience. And if you continue to like what he does, you’ll probably like 31, a ’70s-set horror film about a group of carnival workers who are kidnapped and forced to play a deadly game by a group of sadistic, powder-wigged lunatics. Gorehounds, get your fill here. This one’s already out on streaming platforms.
The Greasy Strangler
Release date: October 7
Director: Jim Hosking
Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
What is The Greasy Strangler? Only one of the most repulsive-sounding horror films in many a moon, with Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar playing father-son “Disco walking tour” operators who compete for the love of a beautiful woman, all while the oily title serial killer begins stalking the streets. Called “a brutal, stomach-churning cinematic endurance test” by one critic, the trailer for this one alone is nausea-inducing. But if you’re into John Waters-style indie grossouts, this may be right up your alley.
Under the Shadow
Release date: October 7
Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian
Chosen as the official British entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Oscars, Under the Shadow won raves at this year’s Sundance and currently boasts a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Starring Narges Rashidi and Avin Manshadi as a mother and daughter struggling to survive in post-revolution Iran in the 1980s — only to be haunted by a “mysterious evil” in their own home — the feature directorial debut of Babak Anvari promises smart allegorical frights for those not deathly afraid of subtitles.
Release date: October 21 (VOD)
Director: Vincent Masciale
Cast: Lucas Neff, Caitlin Stasey, Chris Marquette, Stephanie Drake, Abigail Breslin
Fear, Inc. is a feature-length adaptation of Masciale’s short of the same name, about a group of friends who sign up with a company that promises to “bring their customer’s greatest fears to life.” First mistake! The trailer looks like a lot of fun thanks to a comedic bent a la Scream and Cabin in the Woods, though given how many of these “meta” horror films we’ve seen over the past two decades, Fear, Inc. has its work cut out for it in bringing something new to the horror-comedy sub-genre. Look for a brief turn by 2007 Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin, who is most certainly not long for this particular world.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Release date: October 21
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas
Universal and Blumhouse made a concerted effort to correct the wrongs of 2014’s widely-reviled Ouija by hiring Oculus and Hush helmer Mike Flanagan to direct this follow-up, and the first trailers for the 1960s-set prequel look appropriately spooky. Flanagan won the respect of genre fans and critics alike with his last couple of features, and if he can deliver here, I have no doubt he’ll hit the big leagues, a la James Wan, who steadily broke into blockbuster filmmaking on the strength of genre efforts like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring.
The Love Witch
Release date: October 28
Director: Anna Biller
Cast: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise
One look at trailer for The Love Witch and it’s clear we’re in fertile “cult film” territory here. Director Anna Biller shot the film — about a witch (Samantha Robinson) who uses magic to seduce men, only for things to of course go horribly wrong — in the style of a 1960s Technicolor movie, and it functions as a love letter/knowing tribute to the “horror sexploitation” films of the ’60 and ’70s. This one certainly won’t be to all tastes, but for lovers of retro kitsch (with an arch sensibility), it promises to be a delight. The critics already love it, by the way.
Release date: November 11
Director: Farren Blackburn
Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, David Cubitt, Jacob Tremblay
In Shut In, Naomi Watts stars as an isolated, recently-widowed child psychologist caring for a paralyzed son who takes in a young boy during a winter storm and then…weird things start happening. There’s an unshakable familiarity to the film’s trailer, which plays like leftover bits from other recent supernatural horror flicks, so I’m guessing this one could be a dud. Blackburn is a well-respected TV director with one other feature credit to his name (Hammer of the Gods), but until I hear something different, I’m gonna remain skeptical for now.
Release date: November 25
Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Cast: Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier
Dropping into the foreign-arthouse-horror space that recently proved so fruitful for Goodnight Mommy, Evolution is the third feature from French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who last helmed the 2004 boarding school mystery-drama Innocence featuring a pre-stardom Marion Cotillard. As I wrote previously, it’s a great trailer, and the film’s setting — a remote island that consists only of women and young boys, the former of whom conduct strange rituals on the beach at night and the latter of whom are “subjected to a mysterious medical treatment” — is intriguing in its mythical outlines.
The Eyes of My Mother
Release date: December 2
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond, Will Brill, Joey Curtis-Green
The trailer for The Eyes of My Mother just dropped today, and it looks like a seriously twisted ride. Described by Variety as “reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock meets Roald Dahl meets the Saw franchise,” the black-and-white film is so intense that several patrons at its Sundance debut reportedly fled the theater. Which is some kind of an endorsement.
Release date: December 2
Director: Sean Carter
Cast: Bella Thorne, Ioan Gruffudd, Natalie Martinez, Chandler Riggs, Leigh Whannell
When it comes to Keep Watching, there’s not really a lot to go on right now. We know the film stars Bella Thorne (Scream: The Series, The Duff) as a teenage girl who’s imprisoned by a trio of psychopaths in her home along with the rest of her family, and we know it was directed by editor/first-time feature-length filmmaker Sean Carter. But beyond that, it’s a little hard to know what to expect here given that we haven’t seen a trailer and the folks responsible don’t have many credits to go on.