Horror Movies to End Your Summer With a Thrill

On the big screen, under the stars or in your living room, there are plenty of frights to catch up with before fall’s serious season arrives.

By Erik Piepenburg

No matter if you’re a horror die-hard or an occasional toe-dipper, here’s an end-of-summer guide to slashers, thrillers, creature features, kid comedies and other scary movies.

Grab a Seat

The buzzy new horror movie in theaters is “Talk to Me,” an Australian demon-possession film by the brothers Danny and Michael Philippou. Despite some messy storytelling — does anybody work at the local hospital? — it’s a propulsive movie about trauma, parenthood and the afterlife that manages to be both harrowing and tender.

New York’s repertory theaters are always offering opportunities to discover or revisit horror’s past. The Alamo Drafthouse has two very different creepy films on tap: “Psycho,” the groundbreaking and still terrifying 1960 proto-slasher (Aug. 18, 20 and 22 at the exhibitor’s Staten Island location), and “Killer Workout” (Aug. 22, Brooklyn), a 1987 schlocky slasher about an aerobics studio under siege from a maniac.

Take a time machine to grindhouse-era sleaze at the Nighthawk in Williamsburg, which is showing “The Honeymoon Killers” (Aug. 23), a 1970 thriller based on the lives of Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez, otherwise known as the Lonely Hearts Killers.

Laptop, schmaptop: See it big in “See It Big,” a series dedicated to 70-millimeter films now at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. The disaster film is a horror-adjacent genre that warms my fear-seeking heart, so I’d go with a progenitor: “Airport,” (Aug. 25-26), the 1970 camp-as-heck drama with a starry cast that includes Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin and Jacqueline Bisset.

Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater is known for its out-in-left-field repertory programming. Its Dark Side of Summer series hits a Gen X home run with “Cutting Class” (Aug. 19 and 24), a wacky 1989 high school slasher-comedy starring a baby-faced Brad Pitt and a sourpussed Roddy McDowall.

“What better way to cool down in the sweltering August heat than by watching two chilling black-and-white gay serial killer flicks?” That’s how Anthology Film Archives bills its experimental double feature on Aug. 18, part of the Narrow Rooms series of subversive queer cinema. On tap are “Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men” (1989), a wordless cinematic adaptation of a theater piece about the serial killer Dennis Nilsen, and “Pig” (1998), a short film about a ritual murder.

Make a Night of It

If it’s too hot to open the front door, I say turn the lights out, crank up the AC and stream some of the year’s most popular horror movies, including “Scream VI” (Paramount+), “M3gan” (Amazon Prime Video), “Evil Dead Rise” (Max), “Infinity Pool” (Hulu) and “Knock at the Cabin” (Peacock).

For new international horror, head to Netflix. Two recent standouts include “The Strays,” a dark drama about secret traumas that haunt a family in suburban England, and “Troll,” a teen-friendly, folk-horror creature feature about a towering moss-covered monster that ravages Norway.

Tubi, the ad-supported streaming service, has a terrific roster of classic horror, including “Ringu” (1998) and “Last House on the Left” (1972). But for a Friday night at home with friends and pasta — manicotti, to be exact — you can’t get funnier than the new adults-only gross-out animated comedy “Pastacolypse,” about a chef named Alfredo Manicotti who turns into a maniacal noodle monster out to corrupt a gluten-free world.

Two of the year’s most experimental and renegade horror movies are streaming, too. “Skinamarink,” now on Hulu, is a starkly minimalist and macabre mood piece about children and the night terror they encounter inside their home. “The Outwaters,” on Screambox, is a brutal and gory film — an experience, really — about an entity that assaults a group of friends in the Mojave Desert. Consider yourself warned.

Get Out

A sweeping view of Times Square is a perk of the Rooftop Cinema Club, which shows films atop the Embassy Suites Hotel on West 37th Street in Manhattan. Horror movies on the calendar include the comedy “Scary Movie” (Aug. 20) slasher classic and the family-friendly comedy “The Addams Family” (Sept. 1). But my must-see pick is “Jennifer’s Body” (Sept. 3), a deeply unsettling feminist fable from 2009 about the aftermath of a woman’s traumatic sexual assault.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are watching scary (but not too scary) movies by moonlight. The 2022 animated sci-fi adventure “Strange World” (Aug. 26) is showing for free at Police Officer Nicholas Demutiis Park in Queens as part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Movies Under the Stars series.

Take a Ride

Creepy costumes and a hunger for nostalgia are encouraged at the Rosendale Theater in Rosendale, N.Y., an Ulster County cinema about a two-hour drive from New York City. The theater has a robust calendar of genre movies all year, but I’m a fan of its Saturday Creature Features series. The theater is showing a gem, “Them!” (Aug. 19), the gonzo 1954 B-movie about larger-than-life monster ants who tear up Los Angeles.

Over Labor Day weekend, the Mahoning Drive-in in Lehighton, Pa., about a 90-minute drive from New York, is hosting “Camp Blood,” a 35-millimeter camping-themed horror movie extravaganza. The schedule is heavy on slashers, including “The Burning,” a 1981 revenge slice-and-dicer with Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter (to be followed by an actual campfire); “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,” the of-course-not-final film in the slasher franchise, from 1984; and “Sleepaway Camp,” the queer but controversial vengeance fantasy that turns 40 this year.

The weekend includes raffles, live music and games, including an eyeball toss and the Crystal Lake Morgue Body Bag Race. I recommend visiting hungry: The concessions, including vegan options and my favorite, pierogies, are affordable and pigout-worthy.

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