October tends to bring moviegoers two kinds of films: thoughtful cinema (and potential Oscar nominees) from the early fall festivals and horror flicks just in time for Halloween. We’re particularly anticipating 13 gems in both fields, including a big-budget remake that’s got everyone talking, new explorations of the work of Leni Riefenstahl and Alfred Hitchcock, the latest from acclaimed directors Todd Haynes and Sean Baker, and a monster movie series in 3-D. Catch us popping Goobers at these scary-good flicks:
Oscar Contenders and Art Films
Blade Runner 2049 in wide release
What You Should Know: This big-budget sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott classic about rogue androids is helmed by director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival), who brings intensely crafted visuals and a puzzle-box plot to the rapturously reviewed sci-fi film. A now-grizzled Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, the titular robot-decommissioning “Blade Runner,” with Ryan Gosling as his replacement. Robin Wright and Jared Leto round out the all-star cast.
Perfect if…you love sci-fi, big event movies, and Gosling.
Skip it if…you still haven’t seen the original film and want to avoid potential spoilers.
What You Should Know: Director Sean Baker’s Tangerine was a tour de force of insight and technical skill, especially since it was all shot with an iPhone 5. It’s now available to stream on Netflix, and I can’t recommend it enough; it was easily one of my favorite movies of 2015. Based on the strength of Tangerine, I have almost unreasonably high hopes for Baker’s newest film, a character study of an impoverished family squeaking by at a pay-by-the-week hotel. The movie stars Willem Dafoe, but early buzz suggests that performances by 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince and 6-year-old Valeria Cotto may be the ones you’ll remember.
Perfect if…you’re looking for a thoughtful, well-acted, and critically buzzy drama that’s sure to be talked about come awards season.
Skip it if…you need to see at least one massive explosion or bar brawl per movie.
What You Should Know: Way back in 1941, psychologist and comic book writer William Moulton Marston wrote the first Wonder Woman story. His character is as famous as she’s ever been 75 years later, but the origin story of DC Comics’s heroic Amazon owes a great deal to the polyamorous, S&M–tinged relationship between Marston; his wife, Elizabeth; and partner Olive Byrne. This fresh biopic, written and directed by Angela Robinson, explores the complex backstory of both the comic character and her creators.
Perfect if…you loved the Wonder Woman film and want to know some of the more-than-a-little-kinky story behind her origins.
Skip it if…mixing semigraphic ménage à trois and comic book history sounds like a dangerously bad combination.
What You Should Know: The infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho runs three minutes long with 78 camera setups and 52 discrete camera edits. 78/52, directed by Hitchcock aficionado Alexandre O. Philippe, explores how that bravura bit of cinema changed moviemaking ever since. He’s assisted with voiceover support from a bevy of Hitchcock fans that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Guillermo del Toro, and Peter Bogdanovich.
Perfect if…you’re either the sort of Hitchcock nerd who knows where he cameos in each of his films or the sort of student of film history who can appreciate long essays on editing.
Skip it if…living alone is scary enough without having Norman Bates on your mind when you’re taking a 2 a.m. shower.
What You Should Know: Renowned artist, filmmaker, and Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei has become a fixture in the New York art scene, with a recent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, an installation artwork outside the Plaza Hotel, and a series of fences—designed to bring attention to the global migration crisis—going up in all five boroughs. Weiwei’s just-released film, Human Flow, is a 150-minute exploration of the latter topic and follows the plight of today’s 23 million international refugees.
Perfect if…you’re a fan of Weiwei’s provocative artwork and feel a responsibility to be engaged and informed on world affairs.
Skip it if…you go to the movies to get a break from troubling national news, not hear more of it.
Against Riefenstahl at Light Industry
What You Should Know: Any appreciation of the career of German director Leni Riefenstahl is necessarily complicated by her complicit relationship with Hitler’s Third Reich. Riefenstahl’s Nazi documentary, Triumph of the Will, is often cited as one of the greatest and most offensive propaganda films ever made. Brooklyn film gallery Light Industry will screen an edited version of Triumph back-to-back with the classic American propaganda piece, Frank Capra’s Why We Fight: Prelude to War.
Perfect if…you want insight into how powerful visuals can motivate people to follow their worst instincts.
Skip it if…Nazi imagery and symbolism are triggering.
What You Should Know: Director Todd Haynes’s film signature is a gauzy, Douglas Sirk–esque haze of melodrama. His latest work, a well-received adaptation of the bestselling novel Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, features Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, and a breakout performance by actress Millicent Simmonds.
Perfect if…you love high-concept films and big weepy moments.
Skip it if…you find Haynes’s work more campy than exhilarating.
Halloween Cinema and Scary Series
What You Should Know: Director James Whale is best known for his work on three famous 1930s horror films: The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein. Film buffs consider the lesser-known Old Dark House to be on par with these classics, but copies of the original reels were near impossible to find in any kind of viewable condition by the ’60s. This 4k restoration reissue run of Whale’s once-lost triumph is the first time the movie has seen theaters in decades; it is screening exclusively at Quad Cinema.
Perfect if…you’ve got a soft spot for the Universal monster movies.
Skip it if… black and white films make you LOL bcz OMG so OLD.
Written by Stephen King at Metrograph
What You Should Know: Love him or hate him, Stephen King remains the bestselling and most adapted-for-film writer of his generation. In honor of Halloween, upscale downtown multiplex Metrograph will be showing an array of classic King film adaptations over a two-week period, including some of the better-known movies (Carrie, Misery, The Shining) and lesser-known misfires (Creepshow, Maximum Overdrive).
Perfect if…the recently released It whet your appetite for a smorgasbord of pulp horror.
Skip it if…you’ve had quite enough Stephen King this year already, thanks.
Comin’ at Ya! – 35mm 3-D at Quad Cinema
What You Should Know: Focused squarely on the 3-D gold rush of the 1980s, this series at the Quad includes numerous horror and sci-fi cash-ins (including pop-out takes on Jaws, Friday the 13th Part III, and Amityville), but also shares rare screenings of 3-D Westerns (Comin’ at Ya!), kung-fu flicks (Dynasty), adventure movies (Treasure of the Four Crowns), and even a 70mm X-rated German erotic romp (Love in 3-D).
Perfect if…you think cheesy cult movies can only be improved by blood and lasers shooting out of the screen.
Skip it if…3-D glasses give you a headache.
What You Should Know: George Romero’s genre-defining 1968 zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, was famously made on a shoestring with music and special-effects sounds cobbled together on the cheap from production library licenses. This is the first Halloween since Romero’s too-early death at age 77, and, to commemorate his passing, Film Forum will be screening this scary and still scathingly political classic for a two-week run.
Perfect if…you’re a fan of The Walking Dead but have never seen this seminal horror film on the big screen.
Skip it if…you’re all zombied out.
The Seventh Annual Shriek Show at Spectacle Theater
What You Should Know: The Spectacle Theater collective, a group of Williamsburg film buffs dedicated to the preservation and screening of out-of-the-ordinary cinema, will be hosting this immensely over-the-top 14-hour marathon of eight barely known cult horror films, which run the gamut from the 1925 silent Wolfblood to the 1989 slasher flick Fatal Exposure. Stop by anytime from noon to midnight; tickets are only $25 for the whole day.
Perfect if… you’d like to cross a few obscure films off lists culled from your dog-eared copy of the Psychotronic Video Guide.
Skip it if…the idea of watching a movie titled Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood doesn’t fill you with dark glee.
Holy Blood: Mexican Horror Cinema at BAMcinématek
What You Should Know: BAM’s Halloween festival of Mexican horror films includes rarities such as 1962’s El Barón del Terror; major works like Guillermo del Toro’s debut, Cronos; Alejandro Jodorowsky’s psychedelic Santa Sangre; and cult classics like the Satan worship shock-schlock Alucarda.
Perfect if…tú hablas Español, you have a soft spot for little-known splatter films, or you’re looking to get going on either of the above.
Skip it if…subtitles scare you more than el Diablo.