Well this is a shame, isn’t it? Here I am, all dressed up (in my Halloween costume) with nowhere to go. Netflix’s modest horror offerings are slim as a rule, but seem all the slighter in light of all the great movies that they’ve been taking down from their streaming library as of late (and, to be clear, the replacements, while fun, are not quite getting the job done). It may very well be that I’ll need to go elsewhere to get my much-needed horror fix this month.
But in the meantime, Netflix is not bereft of things to watch. They may lack many killer titles for this… ahem, “hallowed”… time of year, but there are still a bunch of great new movies rotating into the streaming service in the month of October. And with nothing better to watch on it, there should be plenty of time to make your way through them over the next 31 days.
Raging Bull (1980) – Martin Scorsese isn’t just a great filmmaker, he is unquestionably one of the greatest to have ever graced the medium. He has been making stone-cold classic films on a consistent basis since the mid-1970s, and it looks like he’s ready to pull the same trick this year with The Irishman (2019). It’s hard to argue with the man when he keeps churning out movies like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), The King of Comedy (1982, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), The Departed (2006) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) one after another, to say nothing of still-admirable features like Cape Fear (1991), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), Shutter Island (2010), Silence (2016) and the rest interspersed between those more widely-revered movies. Without question, however, one of his crowning achievements was Raging Bull, a portrait of the kind of toxic, explosive and thoroughly violent masculinity emblematized by middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta. It’s a harder film to get into than something like Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, admittedly, but it is a richly layered and immensely rewarding experience if you can. Plus it features what are some of the hands-down best-shot scenes of all time.
Sinister 2 (2015) – Say what you will about the rather hit-or-miss record of Blumhouse, but when they’re firing on all cylinders, there are few outfits in the genre that can match them found-for-pound in terms of scares, atmosphere and inventive, high-concept features. The first Sinister (2012) – the movie which catapulted director Scott Derrickson, now of Doctor Strange (2016) fame – to the forefront of promising genre directors. Sinister 2… well, it isn’t quite that, but it is a fun, playful take on the original’s one-of-a-kind premise and mostly sticks the landing in the end. Plus it arrives perfet4ly-timed for Halloween, making it a welcome addition to Netflix’s admittedly sparse horror library.
Free Fire (2017) – Not that I had great expectations for a smarmy little B-movie that relished in every inch of its crass, lowbrow sensibilities, but I was always surprised that Free Fire didn’t do better than it did in its initial theatrical run. The premise is an absolute killer (a arms deal goes south in an abandoned factory, leaving the ne’er-do-wells caught in the crosshairs with nothing but a van full of high-grade firepower between them and the exit), the cast is thoroughly imprssive (sporting a barely pre-Marvel Brie Larson, a post-DC Cillian Murphy and the mostly dependable Armie Hammer) and the proceedings are conducted easily by practiced director Ben Wheatly (who, if we’re being honest, is probably much too good for the material he has to work with). It’s a white-knuckled, no-holds-barred, down-and-dirty shootout stretched to just barely over feature length, and is as lean and satisfying a piece of schlock as one could hope for. Definitely give this one a chance when it finally arrives.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019) – As ever, Netflix has some of the most exciting “straight to TV” movie offerings in the industry, and October comes with quite the double feature. The first (depending on how you want to look at it) is this dramatic callback to the heyday of blaxploitation icons from the 1970s, coming part-and-parcel with a long-overdue Eddie Murphy comeback. While the movie might seem a bit too middle-brow for its own good (lovers of the blaxploitation classics that this hearkens back too will doubtless want something grimier while those interested in the dramatic throughline will likely want something artier), it represents the kind of modestly-priced, middle-of-the-road “adult” movie that Hollywood as a whole just doesn’t seem to be all that interested in making these days, and speaks volumes to the need for Netflix (and other streaming services) in the current environment.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) – I think that it’s safe to say that Breaking Bad was THE signature TV series of the twenty-first century: a fiercely original (yet immediately relatable) depiction of a man on the brink, who discovers the lengths that he is willing to go to in order to get where he needs to be in life. Its absence was felt immediately when it gracefully bowed out at the end of its fifth season, despite Better Call Saul swooping in to try to fill the void (and, quite frankly, doing a fairly admirable job at it). But now, years later, we finally will be getting a proper follow-up to it in the form of this Netflix original, and I for one cannot wait to see the ways in which they choose to continue (or diverge from) where the O.G. series left off.