Tim Curry, Richard O'Brien, and Patricia Quinn in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975).
(Courtesy 20th Century Fox)
Recreation & Sports

Screamin’ in Santa Cruz: Halloween film recommendations to curdle that pumpkin spice latte

If there’s one holiday I always aim to celebrate to the utmost, it’s Halloween — and what better way to do so than with a movie? Luckily for us cinephiles, there are many spooky, horrifying and utterly delightful films to choose from this holiday weekend in Santa Cruz County.

There’s nothing quite like a good movie to get you in the Halloween spirit. But what movie, exactly, can elicit those spooky vibes as we approach the end of the Season of the Witch?

Fortunately in Santa Cruz, there are a ton of new releases (and some beloved classics) that can scratch that haunting itch, and the theaters are here to help. Many of the mainstays — downtown’s Santa Cruz Cinema, the landmark Del Mar and CineLux — have a stacked lineup of everything from light fright to abject horror to indulge in.

Here are some of my recommendations to dive into the Halloween screen with a scream:

Thomasin McKenzie in "Last Night in Soho" (2021).
(Courtesy Focus Features)

“Last Night in Soho”
Rated R | Run time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

In director Edgar Wright’s return to the screen following “Baby Driver” (2017), he twists and turns the audience through a psychological thriller set in both present-day and 1960s London.

Fashion student Eloise (played by Thomasin McKenzie) moves to present-day London, seemingly going through the motions of homesickness. When she falls asleep, a whole new world emerges in her dreams — 1966 London, with all the glitz and glamour surrounding another young woman, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).

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As Eloise continues her journey into this decades-old past, not everything is as alluring as it first appears — and Eloise must discover what happened to Sandie as she awakens in an outworldly nightmare.

Keri Russell in "Antlers" (2021).
(Courtesy Florian Hoffmeister)

“Antlers”
Rated R | Run time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Guillermo del Toro has built a career on combining horror and fantasy into magically beautiful films — but with his latest production, “Antlers,” directed by Scott Cooper, the beauty has lost some of its shine.

The movie follows teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) through a mystery surrounding one of her students, Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), in small-town Oregon. She joins forces with her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, as she aims to save Lucas and other members of the town from an unsettling, man-eating creature hidden in the town’s shuttered mine.

Even just from watching the trailer, it’s obvious that “Antlers” is not for the light of heart or stomach. Prepare for gore and guts — or, if you think it will be too drastic, maybe trend toward some of the lighter Halloween options. “Hocus pocus,” anyone?

James Jude Courtney in "Halloween Kills" (2021).
(Ryan Green / Universal Pictures)

“Halloween Kills”
Rated R | Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

My first question when I saw that “Halloween Kills” was being released: How on earth has Michael Myers not died yet?

In the latest in the “Halloween” franchise — the 12th film, to be exact — we first see the original final girl Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) escaping a house fire with daughter Karen Nelson (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson Nelson (Andi Matichak). But, as we’ve seen throughout the franchise, a fire won’t necessarily kill the masked slasher (James Jude Courtney), and thus begins another adventure to survive through the night.

There’s nothing I love more than seeing Curtis continue her badass portrayal of Laurie Strode, and this film is no different. Just remember to close your eyes if you’re not a fan of gratuitous blood.

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Noomi Rapace in "Lamb" (2021).
(Courtesy New Europe Film Sales)

“Lamb”
Rated R | Run time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

The saying “gentle as a lamb” does not apply to the latest A24 venture by director Valdimar Jóhannsson, “Lamb,” in his first feature-length directorial debut. Instead, it might be time to lead the lambs — or the human protagonists — to slaughter.

Childless couple Maria and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) are tending to their flock in the remote Icelandic foothills when they make an unexpected discovery: a mysterious newborn human-sheep hybrid, whom they choose to raise as their own. But their furry friends start to turn on the couple, leading to a drastically anxiety-inducing spin between the human couple and their flock.

“Lamb” isn’t what a typical horror fan would expect to choose — and the animal itself isn’t the first choice for a scary creature. Yet Jóhannsson and the actors bring out the horror as we move through the story, and make the audience all the more terrified as the “child” grows.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Rated R | Run time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Every year, I am shivering with antici ... pation for that fateful time it’s appropriate to see a midnight showing of the 1975 classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” And what better night than Oct. 30?!

This year, downtown’s Santa Cruz Cinema will be the host of the horrifying, tantalizing and comedic antics of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) as he and the cast of incredible performers — c’mon, we love a Meat Loaf moment! — through the cult classic musical.

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As of now, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history, with limited releases still popping up 46 years after its premiere. Even as someone who’s not the biggest fan of musicals, I’ve got to admit how incredible that is! Remember your fishnets and corsets for the full immersive experience.

And while we’re nearly at the final tick of the witching hour, Del Mar Theatre manager Richard Garrett said there’s no reason to stop the spooky vibes. Beginning next weekend, the theater will launch its midnight showings calendar with — what else? — Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic, “The Evil Dead.”

Got other Halloween faves we might have missed? Drop us a line at news@lookoutlocal.com!