Halloween is, sincerely, one of best times of the year. There’s candy, there are costumes, and maybe most importantly, everyone who doesn’t normally want to watch horror movies suddenly wants to watch horror movies.
Last year, Polygon introduced the Halloween Countdown, offering a daily Halloween-friendly movie or TV show to stream each evening. (So if you need 31 things to watch ASAP, check out our previous month of horror recommendations.) This year we continue that tradition, with the Polygon staff once again sharing its favorite spine-tingling streamables.
Every day through the month of October, we’ll add a new recommendation to the Countdown and tell you wear you can watch it. From perennial horror classics to new-school contemporary frights, chilling television shows and Halloween specials, YouTube creepypasta series and terrifying short films, we’ve assembled a list of the very best horror that streaming has to offer. So curl up on the couch, dim the lights, and ready yourself for a terrifying and entertaining host of Halloween surprises. Check back each day for a new thing to watch.
Oct. 1: Cure (1997)
A Japanese detective named Takabe finds himself in the middle of a seemingly unsolvable case in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 1997 horror masterpiece Cure. The case involves a string of unrelated victims whose bodies are found with the letter X cut from their throat to their torso. In each separate case, the murderer is found nearby with no memory of the murder, or even a hint of what could have motivated them, leaving Takabe no closer to how these are all connected. Takabe’s partner, a psychiatrist, jokes that maybe the devil made them do it. But Kurosawa’s never gives us the comfort of blaming the supernatural, and eventually we meet an enigmatic character who easily belongs in the pantheon of movie murderers right next to Hannibal Lecter.
Much like other Japanese Horror from the late 1990s, Cure is as much — if not more — of a procedural and investigation than it is a horror story. It doesn’t build its brand of horror on scary moments, but where Kurosawa’s mastery of the horror genre really comes through is in the movie’s creeping dread. His direction is still, quiet, and almost emotionless, pulling us slowly into a terrifying and grisly mystery that he makes feel almost real. Amid all this tension, Kurosawa doesn’t even offer a release valve for the ending, instead leaving us with one of the most unsettling climaxes of all time.
There may not be demons or ghosts, but there is enough haunting existential dread to make Cure stick with you like an old nightmare. —Austen Goslin
A 4K restoration of Cure is currently playing in select theaters and is available to stream on Criterion Channel.
Oct. 2: Waxwork (1988)
Nobody’s going to be impressed with the technical virtuosity on display in the cheesy 1988 horror movie Waxwork, which looks a bit like it was shot on a series of leftover sets from, alternately, a series of Hammer horror films, and some old Ed Wood productions. The acting is mostly amateurish, and some of the costuming is downright hilarious. Even so, it’s worth watching just for the sheer demented imagination on display, and for some truly wild things you’re unlikely to see in any other horror movie.
When a wax museum abruptly appears in a small suburb that couldn’t possibly support a wax museum, a group of sullen college students gets drawn in, literally. The museum’s horror tableaus, with werewolves, vampires, and more human monsters, are actually pocket dimensions that suck people in to murder them and harvest their souls for nefarious purposes. That plays out as a series of micro horror stories: One is a gasping vampire bodice-ripper that feels like a hilarious re-imaging of Labyrinth, if the Goblin King was keeping prisoners in his kitchen with their legs gnawed off. Another is a surprisingly in-depth venture into kink, with one of the students falling into the hands of the Marquis de Sade, and realizing she enjoys pain and doesn’t want to escape. Keep an eye out for The Avengers’ Patrick Macnee as the inevitable explainer who lays out the actual purpose of all these mini-adventures, and stay tuned for the surprisingly explosive ending. It’s all extremely messy, but executed with passion and more subversive glee than most 1980s horror. —Tasha Robinson
Waxwork is available to stream free with ads on Tubi, or to rent at Amazon or Vudu.