April 13, 2024

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What to watch: The best streaming services for Halloween programming

6 min read

Grading the Halloween programming on every streaming service. Fight me.

My husband was away on a business trip last weekend and as much as I make fun of him for taking too long to pick programming when we’re together, I must confess here that I actually fell asleep while searching all our streaming services for something spooky to watch.

My deepest desire as a streaming customer is this: For my algorithms to have brunch together. (Not a boozy one; they need to be sober for this important work.) They really need to be talking to each other and truly putting their best options forward the moment I log on. I feel like my Hulu would benefit from knowing my Netflix choices. My Amazon Prime would really get a boost from knowing what’s happening on my Disney+. HBO Max needs to converse with my Peacock.

I know my algorithms are not performing to their best abilities because sometimes I’ll be digging deep into a given library and find a hidden gem that for some reason wasn’t served up on my homepage. It is with this in mind that I present my findings from my weekend deep dive.


"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

When it comes to creepy programming, Hulu’s library is its best asset, with everything from soft thrills like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Sleepy Hollow” to “American Horror Stories.” The same can be said for movies, with Mariah Carey-esque range like “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” to “It.” (Question: Why is “Edward Scissorhands” listed under Huluween? It’s a CHRISTMAS MOVIE.) You can’t beat it content-wise, but with a library like this, it’s baffling to me that there isn’t a curated list of best Halloween TV episodes for me to press “play” on. I thought there was at one point earlier this month, but maybe I dreamt it? If it wasn’t a dream, it’s certainly a missed opportunity. UPDATE: Hulu tells me these lists exist and are there. I was not dreaming. Grade adjusted. A-


"A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Being home to the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Conjuring” collections is enough to make this a contender for best Halloween streamer in my book. It also hosts the most recent “It” films and modern classics like “Corpse Bride” and “Warm Bodies.” If I were judging based on movies alone, it’d be a solid A, but I took a few points off for also not curating the best Halloween episodes across its properties. But, twist, I gave back some of those points when I saw they’d curated all the Halloween episodes from “The Middle.” In all, “B+” for organization, “A” for offerings, for an A- total.

(CNN and HBO Max are both part of WarnerMedia.)


"Hocus Pocus"

I mean, what’s not to love here? Home of “Hocus Pocus,” every “Simpsons Treehouse of Horror” episode, the highly charming “Muppet’s Haunted Mansion,” “Halloweentown,” the super cute “Under Wraps.” The list goes on. A

Amazon Prime Video

"I Know What You Did Last Summer"

Because this service is now home to the TV adaptation of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” you can also find all the movies here, including the highly skippable “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.” In addition to other on-theme films like “Midsommar” and “Monster Squad,” you can stream horror-adjacent TV series like “Dexter” and “Bates Motel” with your subscription. I’m pleased with the overall options, but I do hate it when something makes the featured page but is only available for rent or purchase. I’d say I give in about 30% of the time, but the other 70%, my rage sends me sulking over to another streaming service. B+


"Modern Family"

If you thought “Halloween Kills” was the only note this service had to play, you’re wrong. But it is its strongest film note. The rest of the movie offerings leave a lot to be desired BUT they do have a section for Halloween episodes from “The Office,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Recreation,” and more. Finally! It also offers a breakdown for those who want their content organized by monster, which was incredibly creative. Their programmer gets an A+, the service overall gets a B-


I’ll keep this brief: This is terrible. The only vague sign on the service that we’re entering the most fun holiday of year is that they changed the title picture for “The Movies That Made Us” to a cartoon of Freddy Krueger. When I went digging for the scary content, I did come upon films like “Little Evil,” “Fear Street” and “The Strangers.” Otherwise, Netflix is the equivalent of that house that keeps their porch light off. I’ll grab the eggs. C-

Brace yourself for ‘Squid Game’ wannabes streaming ashore.

Lee Sun-kyun in 'Dr. Brain,' premiering globally on Apple TV+.

CNN’s Brian Lowry has seen the future, and it suggests that “Squid Game” is going to have a lot of tentacles.

“In one of those “Well that took about as long as expected” moments, Netflix’s success with “Squid Game” will be followed by another creepy Korean drama, “Dr. Brain,” this time for Apple TV+.
The show, which features Lee Sun-kyun (“Parasite”), marks Apple’s first Korean-language offering. The story involves a neurologist who experiments with “brain syncs” to access the memories of the dead, yielding customary mad-scientist-type unforeseen consequences.

“Dr. Brain” premieres Nov. 3, to be followed a few days later by the return of “Narcos: Mexico,” a series predominantly shot in Spanish, which along with shows like the French import “Lupin” arguably helped break down some of the resistance among English-speaking Netflix subscribers in the US to watching series with subtitles.

Alberto Guerra as El Mayo in "Narcos Mexico."

The good news about that is greater exposure for international TV production, and Americans exhibiting a more receptive palate for excellent work from overseas. Part of that dynamic dates back to the wake of World War II, when the US provided movies (and later TV series) to the world while many countries were still recovering.

The down side is that in Hollywood, more of anything inevitably means more failure, and the careful curation in picking programs will become less selective, tilting toward tonnage over quality.

Streaming services are hungry for content, so it’s no surprise that more international series would be getting the green light. Programmers should be cautious, though, because as “Squid Game” reminds us, that red light can be a killer.”

Netflix’s movie mayhem begins in November.

Regina King, Idris Elba and Lakeith Stanfield in the Netflix movie 'The Harder They Fall' (David Lee/Netflix).

One more from Lowry, as Netflix takes a page from the villain in “Superman 2.”

“Netflix has a ton of content in ordinary times, but November signals the twin onset of its movie-awards push and holiday fare, which, added to the regular stream of series (hello, “Tiger King 2”), has a real “Kneel before Zod” feeling to it.
Many of the films are receiving theatrical releases of undetermined scope prior to their debut on the service. And the onslaught doesn’t just include awards bait (although there’s lot of that), but holiday movies with titles like “A Boy Called Christmas” and “A Castle for Christmas,” and lighter escapist fare like “Red Notice,” a teaming of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Godot that sounds like something birthed in the lab for maximum social-media attention.

Other movies coming to Netflix next month include the western “The Harder They Fall” (Nov. 3); the rom-com “Love Hard” (Nov. 5); “Passing,” starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga (Nov. 10); “Red Notice” (Nov. 12); the musical “Tick Tick … Boom!,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directing debut, and “The Princess Switch 3” (Nov. 18).

Hollywood is trying to rebuild the theatrical business, and there have been some encouraging signs. But it’s worth remembering that one of the biggest drags against prompting movie-goers to get off the couch is the industry devoted to keeping them contentedly glued to it.”


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