With Halloween around the corner, it is the season for pumpkins, costumes, and slasher films. Slasher films and shows are all around this time of year: Hulu has a Chucky remake, Prime has remade I Know What You Did Last Summer, and FX is never more than a breath away from a new American Horror Story season or spin off. While those shows and movies are for many, some prefer their Halloween festivities without the nauseating gore and looking over the shoulder scares. By some I mean me. I have lost my taste for the slasher side of the horror genre. Maybe it was overexposure (I was watching horror films at a really young age), maybe it was parenthood making me squirm every time a young woman was kidnapped and tortured, or maybe I am just getting old. No matter the reason, somewhere along the way I no longer got joy from watching slasher films, so I began to look into what it is I do like to watch to get me in the spooky mood for Halloween. What I found is there is something for every Halloween lover, no matter their threshold for horror. If you are like me and want something different this Halloween season, you may enjoy watching one of these new shows/movies below.
First up is Netflix’s show You, which just released a new season. The psychological thriller amps up the stakes in its third season following stalker/murderer Joe (Penn Badgley) as he moves to the suburbs with his equally unhinged wife Love (Victoria Pedretti). As the two try to navigate parenthood in the wealthy suburbs of Madre Linda, they must also try to tamper their worst impulses, like stalking and murder. I spent the better half of my weekend binging most of season 3 of You and it was the perfect way for me to get into the Halloween spirit. The show has just enough gore, creepiness, and thrill to be exciting without being over the top. Despite murder and stalking, the show never becomes overly scary for me. Maybe it is Joe’s unhinged semi-comedic monologues, the hilarity that is Joe and Love’s couples' counseling or the talented supporting cast, but the show has much more going on than gore. In fact, in many episodes, murder is only a side dish to sex, psychological games, and Joe’s disturbing outlook on love. If you want a show that is more excitement than gory (with still some gore), then You is the Halloween show for you.
If You is still a little too much for you Hulu’s murder mystery Only Murders in the Building might be a better fit for you. Although the show is centered around a murder mystery it is balanced with comedy. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez head up this comedy creating an unlikely leading trio. The show is enjoyable with Gomez skipping no beats and keeping up with her comedy legend costars. The show dives not just into the mystery but it also examines society’s obsession with true crime as a genre. With some amazing guest stars and rave reviews, the show already has whispers about a second season. If you want something new and funny this Halloween watch Only Murders in the Building.
If murder if simply not your thing, a classic action flick may be your perfect Halloween match. Action films have the suspense and gore to get you in the Halloween mood without scaring you. If you are looking for an action film and have the ability/desire to go to the movie theatres, I would suggest Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The film is part of the Marvel universe and follows Shang-Chi, the son of a villain with the power of the "ten rings". The movie has great fight scenes, a dynamic backstory, and lots of humor in part thanks to Awkwafina’s character Katy. The film is a great introduction into Shang-Chi’s storyline and is an exciting look at the much more inclusive future of the Marvel franchise. If going to the movies is not an option for you, Shang-Chi will be on Disney + by November 12th and Marvel’s Black Widow is currently available to stream from home. Black Widow gives a much needed storyline for Natasha dealing with her complicated backstory and proves that she was always worthy of a lead role. The movie has non-stop action and a complex plot that rivals any of Black Widow's male counterparts. The movie also gives viewers a glimpse into Marvel's next act, with the introduction of Yelena (played by Florence Pugh). Yelena is Natasha’s sister and seems to be Marvel’s attempt at righting the wrongs they did with early versions of Natasha’s character. So, if action is more your Halloween speed, watch one of these movies to get you in the spirit.
One last option for the Halloween lover who does not like slasher films is the fantasy/sci-fi realm. Nothing screams Halloween quite like fantasy. Allowing yourself to be transported to another world for a few hours can get anyone in the Halloween spirit. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone has everything required of an epic YA fantasy: love triangles, a heroine with newfound powers, and an immersive universe. To top it off, the creators of the show gave much needed updates from the novel, including a much more inclusive cast. In the same vein is HBO’s The Nevers. The show is set in Victorian England after a mysterious event causes a part of the community (mainly women) to get supernatural abilities. These women are called “the touched,” and they remind me of X-Men's mutants. Navigating misogyny, hate crimes, and other supernatural elements, the main characters Amalia and Penance try to protect other “touched” women and children by running an orphanage safe haven of sorts. The show is fast paced and full of action, making it a must watch.
So this Halloween if you don’t truly enjoy horror films or slasher shows, think about watching one of these instead!
What We're Reading: Mexican Gothic
With the weather changing and Halloween season approaching it is a great time to read a gothic novel. While the term “gothic” initially brings to mind much older novels, such as Jane Eyre Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a fresh take to the genre with her 2021 novel Mexican Gothic. The novel both pays homage to the gothic and subverts the gothic narrative in the best ways. With a main character (Noemi Taboada) that updates the typical gothic heroine, this novel rewrites what the gothic genre can do. Including a range of subtopics such as race, gender roles, and ecocriticism Mexican Gothic does more than frighten the reader; it also makes the reader think on a much deeper level. The novel saw sweeping success this year, topping many bestseller lists including the New York Times Bestseller List. The novel's success isn't slowing down either with the latest news that it will be turned into a Hulu mini series.
I was initially drawn to Mexican Gothic because as a Latina I loved the fact that it gave a Latinx take on a genre often dominated by white stories. Moreno-Garcia is not only Latina herself, but her main character Noemi is a Latina and the setting takes place in Mexico. Moreno-Garcia does not shy away from difficult topics either. In the span of the novel she tackles things such as eugenics, sexism, and colonization. Moreno-Garcia does all of these things and more without ever taking the reader out of the gothic aspects of the novel. While her main character is navigating the horrors of her situation she simultaneously is navigating the realities of being a Latina in the 1950s.
As I read the novel, I found myself getting more invested with each turn of the page. After a few chapters it became difficult for me to put the book down as it slowly builds to its climactic and terrifying ending. Noemi is an epic gothic heroine equal parts fierce and fun. The novel begins when Noemi gets a suspicious letter from her cousin Catalina and her life is turned upside down. Noemi is sent to the countryside to check on Catalina by her businessman father. Catalina is living at her new husband’s familial country home (High Place) that is reminiscent of the great gothic homes in literature. Catalina’s new husband Virgil Doyle and his family compiled of his creepy grandfather, evil aunt, and meek younger cousin are all that is left of the family that emigrated from Britain. Struggling to hold onto the little bit of power they have left in Mexico, the Doyles are desperate and their home (High Place) is eerily dangerous. With the help of Virgil’s cousin Francis, Noemi fights to save her cousin and get to the truth of what is really happening at High Place. As Noemi gets closer to the truth the novel gets scarier leading up to an epic and captivating end. Mexican Gothic has it all and most importantly gives readers an important update to the gothic genre.
This Fall, get in the spooky spirit and read Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. I guarantee it will not disappoint!
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.