Stories & Features

Streaming scary: Horror (and humour) for Halloween week

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Halloween comes 'round (literally) for SpongeBob in the Halloween episode "Scaredy Pants" (Photo courtesy YouTube)

We've got kids' stuff, all-time shockers, sitcom faves and hidden gems

When it comes to horror movies and TV, one person's shock is another person's schlock. And some of us would rather laugh than shudder.

With that in mind, we've put together dozens of scary/funny seasonal streaming picks for the lead-up to Halloween. We have classics, hidden gems, and some kid-friendly fare as well.

Did you know? Using a tablet is the most energy-efficient way to watch streaming content. Laptops use twice as much power, and LED TV needs 11 times the power, and a game console/TV console is the energy hog at 51 times the energy use of a tablet.

Kids, tweens and teens: Baby steps to horror 

Monsters and mirth sometimes mix, and that can be a great thing. While it's always a balancing act between giving the kids a taste of a scary movie and feeding their nightmares, it's worth a try. While every kid, teen (or adult for that matter) has a different tolerance for scariness, it's worth testing just where they're at.

One good source of parental advice is commonsensemedia.com. So we've looked to that website for some recommendations on what works best for the non-adult crowd.

Movies for kids and tweens: Can you beat Monsters, Inc. as a place to start with younger kids? Also on Common sense Media's list are Scared Shrekless, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Labyrinth, and The NeverEnding Story, along with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline for those a little older.

Best for teens: Kudos to Common Sense Media for including Alfred Hitchock's The Birds on their recommended list for teenagers, and good to see that it's available as a rental from Apple TV and Cineplex. See the full list, which includes other classics including Poltergeist, A Quiet Place, and The Sixth Sense.

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Is Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the best in the series? (Image courtesy of YouTube)

Best of the big horror franchises

The Globe and Mail recently published its picks for the best films from big horror movie franchises, including Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, The Conjuring, Living Dead series, Final Destination, Scream, Evil Dead and Rob Zombie's Firefly series. It's a fun list that includes information on Canadian streaming info for each of its 10 movie picks.

And if you enjoy reading (and debating) best horror movie lists, check out theringer.com's fun – one movie per year – list of 40 best horror films from 1978 to 2018.

When your favourite TV series gets scary/funny

It became a tradition for the likes of The Simpsons, The Office and Phineas and Ferb to run Halloween-themed episodes. Here are some of our favourites from TV, including a few picks for the kids.

Phineas and Ferb: (Streaming on Disney+)  "One Good Scare Ought to Do it!" (Season 1, Episode 39; "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein" (Season 1, Episode 40); Curse of Candace" (Season 3, Episode 23); "That's the Spirit!" (Season 3, Episode 22); "Druselsteinoween" (Season 4, Episode 25); "Terrifying Tri-State Trilogy of Terror" (Season 4, Episode 26); "Face Your Fear" (Season 4, Episode 27); "Cheers for Fears" (Season 4, Episode 28).

The Office: (Streaming on Netflix): "Halloween" (Season 2, Episode 5); "Costume Contest" (Season 7, Episode 6); "Spooked" (Season 8, Episode 5); "Koi Pond" (Season 6, Episode 8); "Here Comes Treble" (Season 9, Episode 5); "Employee Transfer" (Season 5, Episode 5)

Brooklyn 99: (Streaming on Netflix): "Halloween" (Season 5, Episode 4); "Halloween" (Season 1, Episode 6); "Halloween 2" (Season 2, Episode 4); "Halloween, Part III" (Season 3, Episode 5); "Cinco de Mayo" (Season 6, Episode 16); "Halloween IV" (Season 4, Episode 5)

Goosebumps: (Streaming on Netflix): "Haunted Mask, Parts 1 and 2" (Season 1, Episode 1 and 2)

The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: (Streaming on Nick+): "Nightmare in Retroville" (Season 2, Episode 4)

Dora The Explorer: (Streaming on Nick+): "Boo!" (Season 3, Episode 16)

SpongeBob Squarepants: (Streaming on Nick+): "Scaredy Pants" (Season 1, Episode 26); "Squidward, the Unfriendly Ghost" (Season 1, Episode 23); "Ghoul Fools" (Season 8, Episode 10)

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What if you could rewind for a look at the past? In the hands of Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, the Black Mirror episode "Entire History of You" is one of the series' best episodes. (Photo courtesy YouTube)

Bingeing scary: Weird and wonderful TV series

Streaming brings us all sort of retro scares and strangeness, along with some fantastic new series as well. Here's a shortlist of the old and the new:

Midnight Mass (Limited series on Netflix)

Katla (Limited series on Netflix)

Twin Peaks (Streaming on Crave)

The Twilight Zone (CBS, or buy on Apple TV)

Hannibal (2013) (Buy on Apple TV)

The X Files (Streaming on Disney+)

Channel Zero (Streaming on Shudder)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Streaming on Disney+, Prime)

True Detective (Streaming on Crave, plus Apple TV)

Black Mirror (Streaming on Netflix)

American Horror Story (Streaming on FX, Disney+)

The Walking Dead (Streaming on Netflix)

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Jordan Peele's "Us" gets the No. 1 critic rating in Rotten Tomatoes' Top 30 horror movies of all time. (Photo courtesy Universal Pictures)

Rotten Tomatoes' top-rated horrors, and where to watch them 

Many of the top 30 movies on the Rotten Tomatoes 100 horror films list are available for free via various streaming services, while others are available for rental fees on the likes of Apple TV. And don't rule out hopping aboard a free trial for a streaming service like Shudder to access some scary stuff – just remember to kill your subscription if you have no intention of paying to continue.

Here's the Rotten Tomatoes Top 30, rated by a blend of "fresh" reviewer score rating, but weighted to give preference to movies with a wider review base, with streaming options included for each.

  1. 93% Us (2019)  (Netflix)
  2. 98% Get Out (2017) (Apple TV and Cineplex rental)
  3. 99% The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) (Shudder, via Prime Video)
  4. 96% A Quiet Place (2018) (Prime Video rental)
  5. 98% King Kong (1933) (Prime Video)
  6. 97% Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)  (Shudder, via Prime Video)
  7. 96% Psycho (1960) (Netflix)
  8. 91% The Invisible Man (2020) (Crave)
  9. 98% The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (Apple TV rental, Criterion)
  10. 98% The Babadook (2014) (Prime Video)
  11. 100% Frankenstein (1931) (Apple TV, Cineplex rental)
  12. 90% The Lighthouse (2019) (Prime Video)
  13. 89% Hereditary (2018) (Netflix)
  14. 95% It Follows (2015)  (Cineplex, Apple TV rental)
  15. 98% Let the Right One In (2008) (Cineplex, Apple TV rental)
  16. 95%  Freaks (1932) (Apple TV rental)
  17. 97% Aliens (1986)  (Disney+, Crave STARZ)
  18. 96% Night of the Living Dead (1968) (Shudder via Prime Video)
  19. 96%  The Silence of the Lambs (1991)  (Cineplex and Apple TV rental)
  20. 96% Rosemary's Baby (1968) (Cineplex and Apple TV rental)
  21. 96% Halloween (1978)  (Prime Video Shudder, Apple TV rental)
  22. 98% Eyes Without a Face (1962) (Prime Video)
  23. 95% Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (Prime Video)
  24. 95% Repulsion (1965) (Apple TV and Cineplex rental)
  25. 100% Host (2020)  (Prime Video)
  26. 94% Possessor: Uncut (2020) (Crave+, Apple TV rental)
  27. 90% The Witch (2016) (Netflix, Apple TV rental)
  28. 92% The Cabin in the Woods (2012) (Netflix)
  29. 94% The Invisible Man (1933) (Criterion, Apple TV or Cineplex rental)
  30. 86% It (2017) (Shudder, via Prime Video)
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The overlooked 2005 film The Descent features an all-female cast in an adventure that's not for the squeamish. (Photo courtesy Lions Gate Films)

Hidden gems you may have missed 

Lurking in the nether regions of streaming services are some intriguing movies, many with lesser-known directors and minus megastar pedigrees.

The Descent: One of the most novel horror films of the past 20 years centres around a group of women who go on a caving adventure.

Coherence (Streaming on Prime Video): Friends gather for dinner as a comet passes close to earth. What could possibly go wrong?

Saint Maud (Streaming on Netflix): A nurse gets obsessed with saving her patient's soul in this horror/psychological thriller.

Gattaca (Streaming on CTV, with ads; rent on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Cineplex): In a future where your DNA really matters, it's up to Ethan Hawke to break free of his "in-valid" confines. A star-studded cast includes Uma Thurman, Jude Law and Alan Arkin.

Caché (Rent on Apple TV and Cineplex): French psychological thriller features stars Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteil as a couple terrorized by a series of videotapes that show up on their doorstep.