LUCI HITTLE '22
Offbeat On-Demand, pt. 2
So. You’re back. Maybe you enjoyed my latest autumnal recommendations (in which case, thank you) or maybe, just maybe, they didn’t satisfy you. After all, I wrote that article at the beginning of the month, when the weather settled somewhere around a cool 80 degrees. Just a few weeks later, the air is finally getting crisp and the leaves are starting to turn. It truly feels like fall. Now that the atmosphere is right, do you find yourself longing for more spooky things to watch? If so, you’ve come to the right place. So I ask again… what are you looking for?
I’m here for the aesthetic and if what you’re recommending doesn’t have lots of dramatic lighting I don’t want it!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%
Where to watch: Hulu, Disney+
I’ve always been a huge Tim Burton fan, but his increasing reliance on CGI tends to cost him his charm (don’t even talk to me about Dark Shadows, I can’t cope). Fortunately, this 2016 release seems to be an outlier. Though not completely capturing the charm of Burton’s golden age, this film is a feast for the eyes and manages to hit the same whimsical notes as Edward Scissorhands (my personal favorite of his work!) Fans of Sex Education will mourn Asa Butterfield’s slightly underwritten character, but it’s hard to be a regular human amid the magical supporting cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Dame Judi Dench and Eva Green (captivating as the titular heroine). Based upon Ransom Riggs’s novel (an excellent book by a man with an excellent name), the movie twists from set-piece to set-piece, conjuring a gorgeously-costumed, deeply atmospheric world inhabited by a variety of monsters, a great deal of precocity, and Bridesmaids’s Chris O’Dowd, who is simultaneously miscast and underused. And the creatures who terrorize the children? Genuinely scary. They have a thing for eyeballs. There’s some absolutely bananas time loop stuff happening (still very cool, I love a time loop) and I couldn’t tell you how it ends, but you know what they say: it’s the journey, not the destination, and this particular journey is as spellbinding as they come.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Where to watch: Netflix
With Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa at the helm, it’s no wonder that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spirals quickly into melodrama. Unlike its predecessor, however, Sabrina finds a niche in its vaguely-Puritanical goth aesthetic, revelling in the plights of its many, many attractive teens. Dreamlike editing and a slight blurring at the corners of the frame create an appealing fantasy, which Kiernan Shipka eagerly occupies as the title character. Ross Lynch co-stars as a capable love interest, but the most compelling characters come in the form of the supporting cast. Chance Perdomo is excellent as fan favorite Ambrose, an eternally-young hedonist who has been banished from magical society due to his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, and Tati Gabrielle brings depth to her preening high school mean girl. The adults are also excellent, particularly Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez, who makes a meal of her deliciously witchy villainess. I can’t speak for subsequent seasons, but the first season of Sabrina offers a spell-binding spectacle, provided that you’re willing to embrace the cheese (I certainly did!).
Honorable mentions - movies scored by Danny Elfman
Men In Black
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Spykids (I was scared of the thumb people)
Just give me something really weird! Your weirdest wares, please, sir!
Atlanta: “Teddy Perkins” (S2 E6)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Where to watch: Hulu
Without a doubt, Donald Glover’s masterful dramedy redefines what makes excellent television. Never shying away from dark themes, the show tends to linger in the melancholy charm of its core cast as Glover’s protagonist Earn navigates young-adulthood while managing his cousin’s rap career. Though the characters often fall into surreal situations, Glover and his frequent collaborator Hiro Murai ground their story in the impact of American racism, never straying too far from the abstract. This episode is different from the others in that, rather than negating these values of comedy and darkness, it uses both to their fullest extent. LaKeith Stanfield is at his most captivating, finding a worthy opponent in Glover, who plays the episode’s terrifying titular character rather than everyman protagonist Earn. Venturing into the uncanny valley, he’s unrecognizable as Teddy, his face plastered with mask-like whiteface prosthetics and his voice twisted into a chilling falsetto a la late-career Michael Jackson. Penned by Glover himself, the unexpectedly-brisk 34 minutes are tightly-packed with references to Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Peele alike, sharpened to a fine point by Murai. It’s best viewed with no knowledge of what is to come - watch it on its own, or (ideally) on the heels of all preceding episodes for maximum enjoyment.
The Green Knight
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Where to watch: Amazon
David Lowry’s 2021 fever dream, produced by A24, is an adaptation of an epic Medieval poem. With a haunting score and hallucinatory visuals, it’s simultaneously soothing and unsettling, both an ode to the hero’s journey and its antithesis. This was one of the first films I saw in theatres after a year or so of pandemic-related anxiety, and it’s truly magnificent. There are some shots in this movie that are so breathtaking that I’m still thinking about them. It’s certainly a divisive movie, and it doesn’t pull its punches, but it’s absolutely worth taking a chance on. Lowry himself may not care if you like his weird knight movie, but if you think Dev Patel (or Alicia Vikander) is cute, watch this. If you were vibing with Beowulf in Brit Lit, watch this. If you watched Midsommar or The Lighthouse and immediately thought, “What if there was a movie exactly like this but also completely different and with magic and a talking fox and lots of skulls?” We’ve all been there. Watch this.
Over the Garden Wall
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Where to watch: Hulu, HBO Max
My dear readers, I have something of a confession to make. I did, in fact, write this entire article for the sole purpose of talking about Over the Garden Wall and spreading the good word of Patrick McHale. Drawing inspiration from sepia-toned relics of autumnal Americana, McHale’s Emmy-winning story is warm and inviting, slowly getting darker as it follows Wirt (Elijah Wood) and his step-brother Greg through a mysterious land called the Unknown. It’s a quick binge, clocking in at about two hours. Don’t let its PG rating fool you, though: the Unknown, which is widely assumed to be a metaphor for Purgatory, offers plenty of existential themes along with its rampant puns and slapstick. The Blasting Company (who did in fact appear on my Spotify Wrapped last year, thanks for asking) score the show with a folk- and blues-inspired soundtrack, accompanying each obstacle the brothers face with rich strings and horns. There’s nothing I can really compare this show to - it stands on its own as something weird and deeply comforting, and I know I’ll find myself turning to it for many autumns to come.
Honorable mentions - movies where Tim Curry just does the absolute most:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
It (1990 miniseries)
Thanks for reading; I hope you found something new to watch! I’ll be expanding my horizons too - Pan’s Labyrinth, Werewolves Within, Malignant, and 10 Cloverfield Lane are on my list this month. I’m always looking for new suggestions, so feel free to tell me about a movie you love at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, have a wonderful October. Happy watching!