It’s Halloween; everyone’s entitled to one good scare. With this week’s streaming picks, expect many potent chills. Ghosts and hauntings tend to frighten more effectively than any other subgenre of horror because there’s no set rules or tangible way to fight them. The inherent unpredictability of incorporeal entities lurking in your home keeps you on edge. A ghost can do or look like anything. They can come and go at a whim, and getting rid of them is never that easy if you can even remove them at all.
Moreover, a ghost can be anything. Sometimes they serve as disembodied punishment for breaking the rules or trespassing. Sometimes a spirit is an echo of a past misdeed, a haunting imprint of guilt. Sometimes, they serve as a guide on a mysterious journey. Whatever their purpose in horror might be, they give you goosebumps.
These five spooky ghost movies bring the scares, and they’re all available to stream this week.
The Changeling – Shudder
George C. Scott stars in this seminal haunted classic as a music professor attempting to start fresh after his wife and child’s death. He relocates to Seattle and moves into a historic Victorian mansion with plans to work on his music, but he experiences strange phenomena right away. The more the paranormal activity increases, the more he’s drawn into a decades long mystery involving a child. The Changeling is a quiet chiller grounded by a fantastic lead performance and an intriguing murder mystery. Mostly, though, it’s full of dread and creepy moments – no other horror movie will make you afraid of bouncing balls quite like this one.
The Gravedancers – Prime Video
A group of former college friends goes out for a night of drinking after attending a funeral. Once drunk, they decide to return to the graveyard to say their final goodbyes and find a note with rules of dancing over graves. They follow instructions and don’t realize until far too late that they’ve invited the ghostly inhabitants of the graves to follow them home. Director Mike Mendez brings a retro vibe to this ghost story and delivers a few memorable moments of terror. These ghosts are of the worst, most menacing variety, and the ghastly ghost designs pack a visceral punch.
Satan’s Slaves – Shudder
A loose remake/prequel of the 1980 Indonesian horror film, writer/director Joko Anwar brings the unrelenting scares. Set in a remote home, a family struggles to survive after mom Mawarni Suwono’s long battle with illness dried up all the royalties from her once-lucrative music career. Her death triggers a series of supernatural occurrences suggesting that perhaps mom made a deal with the devil, and he’s come to collect. The isolated setting, the atmosphere, and the endless barrage of frights make this ghost story a perfect Halloween watch.
Hell House LLC – Prime Video, Roku, Tubi, Shudder
It doesn’t get much more Halloween specific than this pick. A group of friends works to transform an old hotel into a Halloween haunt attraction in time for the season. An unexplained accident on their first night in business results in 15 attendees and staff members’ tragic deaths. Over a decade later, a documentary crew ventures there to answer what happened on that fateful night. Written and directed by Stephen Cognetti, this faux-documentary style horror movie brings tons of thrills and chills. The maze-like setup of the home and the subtle details enhance the spooky tone of this movie. This place is haunted, and it’ll instill a deep fear of clowns.
The Devil’s Backbone – Criterion Channel
Directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, this period haunter is set during the Spanish Civil War. Recently orphaned, young Carlos is taken to an orphanage in the middle of nowhere and finds that it’s full of dark secrets. The key to unlocking them, of course, is through its ghosts. As is the case with all of del Toro’s films, The Devil’s Backbone isn’t a straightforward horror film, but rather it uses horror to bolster a more poignant tale that’ll give you all the feels. This orphanage is steeped in betrayal and tragedy. Its ghost delivers a few scares, but mostly it’ll break your heart.
Bonus: The Frighteners – HBO Max
Because you might need some comic relief to chase the chills away, and it’s available to stream only on a premium service, consider this a fun bonus. In Peter Jackson’s horror-comedy, Michael J. Fox stars as a man who discovers he can communicate with ghosts after surviving a brush with death. He uses that new gift to con people but finds himself drawn into a demonic plot that puts many lives at risk. It’s up to him to save the day. Inventive, thrilling, and full of laughs, The Frighteners is a ’90s horror highlight.