If there’s one thing we love here at Polygon, it’s the Halloween season.
We cover horror year-round, whether it’s the best horror movies you can stream at home or the best horror movies on Netflix, and generally, we have our finger on the undead pulse of the newest and ghastliest releases in horror. We even have a list of the best horror movies of the year (ranked by scariness, of course).
Even still, Halloween is an especially spooky time of year, and it warrants special attention and celebration.
For the past three years, Polygon has put together a Halloween countdown calendar, selecting 31 of our staff’s top horror-themed or Halloween-adjacent picks across movies and TV throughout the month of October, all available to watch at home. We’ve loved doing it, so much so that we’re bringing it back again — this time with a whole new batch of films and shows to choose from.
Every day for the month of October, we’ll add a new recommendation to this countdown and tell you where you can watch it. So curl up on the couch, dim the lights, and grab some popcorn for a terrifying and entertaining marathon of horrific delights.
Oct. 1: Messiah of Evil
Where to watch: Prime Video, Shudder, Pluto TV, Plex
A undersung classic of ’70s cosmic horror, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz’s Messiah of Evil is a surreal and nightmarish experience that more than deserves its status as a cult horror classic.
The film centers on Arletty, a young woman who journeys to the remote coastal town of Point Dume, California, to track down her missing father, a reclusive painter who is plagued by disturbing visions of an impending apocalypse. After crossing paths with an eccentric aristocrat and his groupie companions, the group bears witness to the realization of the painter’s prophecy, as the townspeople are transformed into flesh-eating ghouls and the messiah of evil makes his return to the mortal realm.
At times convoluted and bizarre, Messiah of Evil is a genuinely entertaining horror thriller filled with memorable scares and chilling set-pieces. From a cross-eyed albino man gleefully devouring a field mouse whole to a unsuspecting woman watching a Western as the theater around her slowly fills with ravenous undead zombies, it’s a dreamy and frightening experience that lands somewhere between the ineffable gothic horror of H.P. Lovecraft and the anti-consumerist allegories of George A. Romero. The horrors hold up over 50 years after it was first released, and with just the right combination of inadvertent silliness and legitimate terror, Messiah of Evil is a satisfying watch and an excellent start to a month of horrors. —Toussaint Egan
Oct. 2: Ginger Snaps
Where to watch: Criterion Channel, Shudder, Peacock, Vudu, Tubi, Freevee, Plex
There’s a sizable hole in the monster movie canon: There just aren’t enough good werewolf movies! Ginger Snaps is here to fix that. And if you love Jennifer’s Body, you’re in for a bloody treat.
Directed by future Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett, Ginger Snaps is a delightfully gruesome story about two sisters. One of them has gotten her period for the first time, and is turned into a werewolf shortly after. Things get messy, fast.
Ginger Snaps doesn’t just do a great job filling in the werewolf canon. It’s a grisly body horror story placed onto an effective puberty allegory, with a compelling central sister relationship. If you’ve ever watched something like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and thought, This is great and surprisingly gooey, but give me stories like this about teen girls, then Ginger Snaps is for you.
The movie has amassed a dedicated cult following in the years since its release. You’re next up to join the ranks — see you at the next full moon! —Pete Volk