In earlier iterations of this website, I always kept an event calendar that I manually filled in with the notable dates of that year’s September-October Halloween season. I included the dates of the parties I was hosting, the openings of local haunted attractions, and the release dates of every horror movie of those 60 days. I stopped doing this, because I’m pretty sure nobody found the information useful, but I enjoyed researching the movie releases in particular, because it gave me cause to take the temperature of the health of the horror movie market at the time. It also gave me fuel to feed the continued irritation that Hollywood was completely wasting the Halloween season and the horror cravings it brings with it.
But now that we’re officially in one of the finest decades for horror cinema ever seen, it seems appropriate to take a bit of time now and examine the Phase I and II theatrical release schedule, because it is a DOOZY. We’ve already been blessed with TWO critically acclaimed horror hits in A Quiet Place and Hereditary in the Spring and Summer, as well as The Strangers: Prey at Night, The First Purge and Unfriended: Dark Web holding up the more populist end.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and even this late, release dates are subject to change. What I tried to do is list the horror releases that are relevant to us as Halloween fanatics, and only those broadly accessible. Meaning, there are always limited releases and same-day-on-demand/handful of theaters titles that won’t be covered here. But for once, I’m pleased as punch to declare that horror fans will have no shortage of material in theaters when Halloween season officially hits in (GASP!) 30 days(!)
Slender Man (August 10th)
In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, his latest victim.
So I’m cheating here including an August release, because Slender Man, the internet-sourced urban myth that peaked about seven years ago, has been waiting to be made into a feature film for what seems like forever, and we’re finally getting it this year. If I’m being honest, the trailer doesn’t give me much hope quality-wise, but the mere existence of a legitimate Slender Man movie is worth trumpeting for.
The Nun (September 7th)
When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun that first terrorized audiences in The Conjuring 2, as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.
The third spinoff in the ever-expanding Conjuring franchise, which has inexplicably been made into a proper “cinematic universe”, The Nun appears to be shaking things up by setting the action farther in the past than the other films in this series (every Conjuring-related film so far has been a period piece). All these movies have been at least decent so far, so chances are good this will deliver as well.
The House With a Clock in its Walls (September 21st)
10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.
One of the coolest things about this year’s Halloween season releases is how many of them are explicitly Halloween-centric. This family horror tale is directed by Eli Roth (yes, Eli Roth) and prominently features jack o’ lanterns, witches, monsters and other classically Halloween iconography. And it’s not even the only family-friendly, Halloween-based movie coming out this season!
Hell Fest (September 28th)
A masked serial killer turns a horror themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show.
Certainly not the first time we’ve seen the “killer inside of a haunted attraction” plot, but these things typically take place on or around Halloween, as this does, so here you go. Usually films with this premise don’t turn out all that well though, so take this with a grain of salt.
Phase II (October)
Bad Times at the El Royale (October 5th)
Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell. Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cynthia Erivo lead an all-star cast in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE.
It’s not entirely clear how “horror” this movie will actually be, but another feature film from Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard is guaranteed acknowledgment around these parts. At the very least, it seems to be a thriller, but I’d wager there’s more going on than the trailer is willing to reveal…
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (October 12th)
Halloween comes to life in a brand-new comedy adventure based on R.L. Stine’s 400-million-selling series of books.
OK, so this kind of weird. Jack Black stars in the other family-friendly Halloween-based horror movie of the year, but not (as far as we can tell) in this sequel, even though he was the star of the original. In other words, people are going to be confusing the SHIT out of these two movies this year. From the looks of things, it’s a bit of a lower-budget cash-in sequel, but who cares? Look at that jack o’ lantern on the poster! And those classic Goosebumps characters! Don’t know if I’ll see it, but I’m sure glad it’s coming.
Halloween (October 19th)
Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Here it is. The one we’re all waiting for. My expectations are perilously high considering the rocky past of this franchise, but early buzz is VERY promising. If this delivers, 2018 is a lock for an all-time golden year for horror.
Overlord (October 26th)
On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion’s success. But as they approach their target, they begin to realize there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. They find themselves fighting against supernatural forces, part of a Nazi experiment.
It’s a little strange that this sci-fi/action and possible stealth Cloverfield entry is the one horror-related wide theatrical release coming on that coveted last-weekend-of-October spot. For the past couple decades, this slot has always been reserved for the current dominant horror franchise’s latest sequel, which makes me think this IS another Cloverfield movie and they’re just pulling the wool over our eyes. Still, there’s something awfully Tales From the Crypt-y about the synopsis, so I’m interested.