Unsurprisingly, this pre-Halloween weekend is bursting with thrilling suspense in films like The Lighthouse and Parasite, plus many classic scary movies, including in Cinerama's Horrorama fest. But that's certainly not all that's playing—there's also Guy Maddin's Séances, a beguiling experiment in interactive film; NFFTY, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth; and the gorgeous, ever-beloved Miyazaki film Spirited Away. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you've got a special taste for the macabre, click here to find all the spooky movies you can watch until Halloween. If you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings (which are now location-aware!).
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted
Writer/director James Grey's follow-up to 2016's excellent, underrated The Lost City of Z is a clunkier affair, with sad-sack Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) embarking on an almost-certainly doomed voyage through the solar system to track down his MIA astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones). Along the way, he fights battles both external (space pirates!) and internal (daddy issues!), and he also spends a whole lot of time monologuing, thanks to an unnecessary, on-the-nose voiceover. But it's when the movie shuts up—when Gray's camera skims the plains of the Moon, when an antenna towering into Earth's atmosphere begins to shudder, when the screen is filled by the shadow-blue rings of Neptune or the churning storms of Jupiter—that Ad Astra hits the profundity and scope that all McBride's monologuing fails to get at. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Guy Maddin's strange, comedic World War I-era melodrama takes place in the Siberian town of Archangel, where Bolsheviks, White Russians, and Huns fall in love.
Northwest Film Forum
Guy Maddin in attendance
An Autumn Afternoon
An Autumn Afternoon adheres to Yasujiro Ozu's specific style, a style that can seem overly simple, even lazy, at first glance, but one that reveals itself to be surprisingly intricate the more that you watch it. Ozu rarely moved his camera (especially later in his career), choosing instead to keep it static and close to the floor; his characters often look directly into the lens, causing each conversation to feel extremely intimate, as if the audience is itself involved. It is a clean, trouble-free vision, void of flair but so perfectly realized that its apparent simplicity can obscure just how beautiful the images really are. BRADLEY STEINBACHER
Ram Dass, the spiritual teacher, author, and former colleague of Timothy Leary, converses on camera with director Jamie Catto (who'll be in attendance at NWFF on the first night of the film's run). The interview is intercut with archival footage.
Northwest Film Forum
Be Kind, Rewind: 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge'
In this special Halloween episode of Be Kind, Rewind, hosts Uh Oh and SHE continue their new tradition of performing pop-up drag during screenings of queer classics with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Freddy Krueger is the ultimate nightmare daddy, a killer on a mission to turn us all into his children. Will SHE and Uh Oh submit to his freaky demands? Chances are probably 90 percent yes, and happily. Who knows?! I do know that there will be spooky drink specials, lots of popcorn, hilarious commentary, and a whole lotta butt. Full disclosure: Uh Oh daylights as Chase Burns, my Slog editor, but he doesn't know I'm writing this preview because I enjoyed myself so much at the last Be Kind, Rewind, so really the joke's on him. RICH SMITH
The Best You've Ever Seen: The Addams Family with Dark Smith, Da Qween, T.Wan
Every month, Parliament Tavern hosts The Best You've Ever Seen, a mash-up event that brings together one band and one DJ to collaboratively reimagine a score for whatever movie they've chosen to screen that night. For October, the TBYES crew is pulling together queer punk group Dark Smith, TUF standout T.Wan, and hard femme wordsmith Da Qween to breathe new life into the spooky classic The Addams Family. This rowdy costume party and live show will also host the visuals of Morty Arts and Blazinspace.
The Boxer's Omen
Produced by the notorious Shaw Brothers Studio, Kuei Chih-Hung’s 1983 Hong Kong horror film The Boxer’s Omen will stun you as if hit with a flurry of punches from Muhammad Ali’s LSD-soaked gloves. Simply viewing the two-minute trailer will stagger you with its barrage of surreal violence, grotesque mutilations, supernatural capers, and WTF? imagery that makes Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain look like a Hollywood blockbuster. One critic called The Boxer’s Omen a cross between Rocky and Hausu, but that merely scrapes the surface. The plot revolves around a battered boxer who tries to avenge himself and locate an omen that he believes will save his family from an ancient curse. However, you won’t care much about that amid the hysterically over-the-top fights, baffling mysticism, and maniacal, quick-cut action sequences. Gird your psyche—and stomach—for one of the most infernal cinematic mindfucks ever. DAVE SEGAL
Part of the Guy Maddin retrospective accompanying the interactive Seances screenings, Careful is an early work about sexual mania threatening the equilibrium of an Alpine village where any sound can set off an avalanche.
Northwest Film Forum
Guy Maddin in attendance
Dolemite Is My Name
Of the many stars of the Blaxploitation genre of the early ’70s, Rudy Ray Moore may not be the most famous, but he was certainly the most original. After recording several comedy albums, he used the money to self-produce his starring vehicle, 1975’s Dolemite—about a rhyming pimp trained in kung fu who takes revenge on the rival who put him in jail. In Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy plays Moore from his days as a struggling comedian/singer/dancer who worked as a record store manager, to making comedy albums and eventually willing his cinematic visions to life. The film deftly captures the hardship of inner-urban life in the ’70s, where classism and privilege kept Black entertainers who were unwilling to play the game out of the mainstream. Dolemite Is My Name is a bittersweet, filthy-mouthed comedy that also sneakily educates its audience in the Black experience. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Ark Lodge Cinemas
The winner of SIFF's Golden Space Needle Audience Award for Best Documentary, Peter Bratt's Dolores follows the life of civil-rights icon Dolores Huerta, the "most vocal activist no one has ever heard of." SIFF explains further: "She was eventually pushed to defend her rights as a woman when she was subsequently forced to leave the union she helped establish. Juggling her responsibilities as a mother of 11, she was a key leader in the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, which compelled 17 million Americans to boycott grapes to bring attention to the plight of farm workers." Not just well loved by audience members, the film has also received wide critical acclaim, including from Roger Ebert: "Huerta is such a commanding figure, and the array of historical footage marshalled on behalf of her story is so impressive, that the film makes a strong impression." Enjoy snacks and stay afterward for a discussion with Indira Trejo from United Food and Commercial Workers 21.
Mount Baker Presbyterian Church
Fatal Exposure imagines the great-grandson of Jack the Ripper (also named Jack) as a handsome, wealthy, American serial killer who loves photographing his female victims as he murders him. He drinks the blood from his victims in order to stay sexually potent so that he can impregnate the right woman with his murderous seed. Wooo boy. He finally meets his match in a girl with absolutely no danger-radar named Erica, who unwittingly helps him lure women into his house. But Jack—in his drive to murder, fuck his girlfriend (awkwardly), and procreate—starts making mistakes that could expose him. Delightfully low-budget and campy, it seems like all the film's money went toward its gory visual effects. They're pretty fucking disturbing, like when the camera lingers on blood squirting out of a recently decapitated head, or the way skin bubbles when injected with hydrochloric acid. It's not a masterpiece, but it's smutty and bloody and culty. You can catch this baby in theaters: VHS Über Alles is doing a late-night screening. Go and get spooked! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Finding Hygge: A Documentary
The Danish word hygge is fuzzy both in texture and definition, but a quick Google search pegs it as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)." Take in a documentary on the concept and snack on "cozy treats" for purchase.
Seattle Danish Center
There’s a budding relationship at the heart of First Love—a tender, tentative romance between Leo (Masataka Kubota), a boxer with a brain tumor, and Monica (Sakurako Konishi), a young, drug-addicted woman forced into prostitution to pay off the debts of her abusive father. And as it progresses, First Love follows the traditional beats of a cinematic love story, starting with a meet-cute and ending with a happily ever after. But this is a Takashi Miike movie, after all, so there's also an ongoing war between Japanese and Chinese gangs, along with a bumbling gangster, a crooked cop, and stolen drugs. Which means every moment of the duo’s courtship is punctuated by a moment of violence. Here for the romance? Great. Not here for the romance? Brush it aside, and focus instead on every other tense, brutal moment. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. ROBERT HAM
Ishiro Honda's original Godzilla in its Japanese version, believe it or not, is a sad, elegant drama of sacrifice and hubris that just so happens to have a man in a monster suit tromping through Tokyo. If you've only seen the sequels or remakes or the bowdlerized American cut, go back to the newly restored source, the Ur-kaiju.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Godzilla returns, but he's on our side now! Yoshimitsu Banno's 1971 Godzilla sequel pits the King of Monsters against a deadly smog monster that feeds on toxic waste. This one gets trippy.
Guy Maddin's Seances
The great Canadian and art house director Guy Maddin presents a performance that connects silent-era films with the latest technology (cloud computing), and the past with the future of the image. Seattle is a cloud city. Northwest Film Forum is one of Seattle’s top art houses. Seances will be a cinematic experiment that can’t go wrong because Maddin will there (for every show), and he is really a great director, and seeing him do his thing (clouds and images) will definitely be fun. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
This beloved fantasy/comedy film features a badass trio of witches (played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) who want to suck out children’s souls.
Honoring Licton Springs
In this documentary, the Clear Sky Native Youth Council interviews local Indigenous elders and explains why Licton Springs, Seattle’s last publicly known Native sacred site, is worth honoring and protecting.
Get your senses sharpened for scary Halloween happenings at Cinerama! This weekend, it starts with Ghostbusters (1984), The Thing, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and more on the biiiiiig screen.
House on Haunted Hill
This extremely silly film is kind of worth it for Vincent Price in the role of a creepy millionaire who offers a group of strangers a jackpot to stay in his haunted house.
In the Mouth of Madness
Seattle in October is blessed: there are not one but TWO horror movies this month starring the eccentric New Zealander Sam Neill (see Possession below). The third installment in John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy is a Lovecraftian psychological horror exploration of the line between truth and fiction—in this film, a powerful book destroys the minds of its readers and unleashes real monsters. Sam Neill's insane laughter alone is worth the price of admission.
Joker isn’t really the story of a good man gone bad; clown for hire Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is troubled from the outset. He’s barely scraping by, living with his mother (Frances Conroy), and coming undone due to cuts in social services. Sure, Phillips overdoes it with long, panning explorations of Fleck’s bruised, skinny ribs, but then again, men with insecurities about being skinny are presumably the film’s target audience. The first half hour unfolds like a dog-whistle symphony for insecure guys who think they have it bad. Fleck berates his black social worker (Sharon Washington) for not listening to him when she’s obviously doing her best. He fixates on a black single mother (Zazie Beetz) after the briefest sign of camaraderie. Yet there are a series of trap doors throughout Joker that unexpectedly drop its audience into new perspectives. Early on, an obvious foreshadow shifts Fleck onto a new path, and as that plotline plays out, Joker offers some surprisingly rewarding reflections on the relationship between the villain and Batman. (Oh yeah! This is a Batman movie, remember?) Both men, Joker suggests, might be equally deranged, making sweeping moves against the world without regard for those who become collateral damage for their respective manias. SUZETTE SMITH
A biopic about the last months of famed entertainer and Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland, Judy features an uncanny, spot-on performance from Reneé Zellwegger that’s unfortunately paired with a script that veers from affecting to eye-rollingly ham-fisted. Bouncing back and forth from Judy’s famed London Palladium gigs six months before her death and her childhood that was crushed under the abusive thumb of Louis B. Mayer while filming The Wizard of Oz, Zellwegger gives an honest, raw performance that lays bare Garland’s crippling depression and addiction. However, her valiant attempts at subtlety are betrayed by a shallow script that relies too heavily on emotional manipulation. That aside, Zellwegger’s gloriously accurate hair and makeup is almost reason enough to see this film, and when she belts out “The Trolley Song,” you'll long for the days when consummate pros like Garland pushed past their personal demons to bring audiences to their feet. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Timothée Chalamet stars as Prince Hal, forced to abandon his carefree ways and ascend the throne, in this non-Shakespeare film about Shakespearean material. It takes some chutzpah to revisit a history already dramatized by the most famous writer of the English language, but reportedly,a zany Robert Pattinson as the sneering French Dauphin makes it fun. (Tip: See more of RPattz directly below!)
Fans of the delicious-as-butter historical horror The VVitch are downright salivating for director Robert Eggers's follow-up, in which Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play lighthouse keepers losing their minds in isolation. Film festival critics have been ecstatic, so don't miss this one.
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Regal Meridian 16
The Lost Boys
Kiefer Sutherland has never been sexier on the big screen than when he played the leather-wearing moto-riding leader of the vampire gang terrorizing a small California beach town in The Lost Boys. It's your classic '80s-era horror movie, with plenty of camp, some ill-fated romance, and a couple of stake-and-garlic-wielding pre-teens in classic '80s duo Corey Feldman and Corey Haim (RIP). LEILANI POLK
Most of Guy Maddin’s films have been at least modestly self-referential. But Maddin never tipped quite so far in the direction of autobiography as with My Winnipeg, and the effect is unexpectedly charming. Finally, a movie that’s actually about the inside of Guy Maddin’s perverse little brain! My Winnipeg is framed by the narrator—named Guy (Darcy Fehr), naturally—as a recitation of the history of a city, a sort of emotional exorcism conducted before leaving the place behind. But this history is so idiosyncratic and personal that you're soon convinced that Guy can never leave his hometown—assuming such a place even exists outside his head. The civic and personal milestones Guy recounts are colorful, bizarre, and often dubious. The facts are as embellished as Maddin’s style is hyperventilated, and it works brilliantly. ANNIE WAGNER
Northwest Film Forum
Guy Maddin in attendance
The "young filmmaker's Cannes"—Charles Mudede called it "world-class"—the National Film Festival for Talented Youth assembles the best films made by directors under 25. See works by promising cineastes who will make you feel very old.
Don't miss the Seattle Art Museum's annual revisitation—billed as "the world's longest-running film noir series"—of some of America's darkest cinematic delights, full of crime, smoke, and sex appeal. See Marilyn Monroe as a vulnerable femme fatale in Niagara, a rare technicolor noir in which an innocent pair gets caught up in a self-destructive married couple's machinations.
Seattle Art Museum
Horror flick fiends can get their fix of frightful short films at this festival.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven created one of the most memorable—and ubiquitous—baddies of pop culture in the ever-morphing Freddy Krueger.
Nocturnal Emissions: Ginger Snaps
Dark-minded burlesque maven Isabella L. Price and Clinton McClung of Cinebago Events will return with their cheeky, sexy, macabre series Nocturnal Emissions, which prefaces an unusual horror classic with "phantasmagoric" burlesque performances and other fun. The second film in the series will be the teen werewolf horror Ginger Snaps, in which two teen sisters with an unhealthy obsession with death find their relationship shifting radically when the elder girl is bitten by a werewolf. JOULE ZELMAN
Northwest Film Forum
Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It's a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it's no less concerned with the state of society today. Set in Seoul, South Korea, the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening. Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit. JASMYNE KEIMIG
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
The playwright August Strindberg once wrote, “Could there be anything more terrifying than a husband and wife who hate each other?” Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 film Possession, set in a drab and chilly West Berlin, asks and answers the same question. Sam Neill (yes, of Jurassic Park) plays Mark, a businessman and possible spy who goes mad with hurt and fury when his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani, Queen Margot) unexpectedly demands a divorce. Almost immediately, the two lock in a desperate, hysterical, bloody clash, and things only get more intense from there. Anna is having an affair, but she’s hiding something far more grotesque. A curdled relationship morphs into a domestic nightmare of doppelgangers, monsters, and murder. This is not the type of horror movie you take your friends to for a laugh; this is what you watch with your ex and realize how much worse things could have been. JOULE ZELMAN
Roman Polanski’s 1968 maternal-jitters flick is simultaneously one of the scariest horror movies ever made and one of the funniest black comedies of all time. Mia Farrow plays an expectant mother who fears a clan of Satanists has an eye on her unborn child. Is she hormonal? Paranoid? OR IS SHE RIGHT? Rosemary’s Baby is wonderfully creepy (and pretty hilarious), proving that despite his real-life creep factor, Polanski knows what he’s doing behind the camera. NED LANNAMANN
Sámi Film Festival
Spend a day acquainting yourself with Sámi (indigenous Northern Scandinavian) culture with documentaries and short fiction films from Norway, Sweden, and Finland Sápmi (the name given to traditional Sámi territory). See the feature-length Gallók, in which activist Tor Tuorda (who will attend the festival!) tries to rally resistance against a mining company, plus short films collected under the name The Last Walk. Stay after the screenings for panel discussions, filmmaker talks, and a happy hour.
Save the Waves Film Festival
Do your part in protecting coastal ecosystems around the world at this film festival featuring surf, adventure, and environmental documentaries benefiting Save the Waves. Bring your own reusable cup and hit up a cash bar.
Jack Hill's notoriously strange 1967 horror comedy stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the caretaker to three regressing, murderous children.
Seattle Public Libraries, University Branch
Hayao Miyazaki's creepy, visually enthralling film follows Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl, whose parents are magically transformed into pigs after eating bewitched food. Chihiro works in a bathhouse for the scary Yubaba, trying to save her parents from the spell and the slaughterhouse. Along the way, she makes allies and encounters gloriously drawn demons, animals, and supernatural spirits, as well as a handsome boy who might actually be a river. No other film will make you love sootballs with eyes.
Tears of the Black Tiger
In this wildly colorful Thai western, a poor boy and a rich girl fall in love and face down her disapproving family...and bandits. Scarecrow will screen this film as part of its "Best of SIFF" series.
Often listed as one of the most disturbing movies ever made, Mick Jackson's horrifyingly realistic BBC TV feature follows a young couple in Sheffield, UK who try to survive in the wake of nuclear war. Recommended only for those with strong constitutions (and maybe a nuclear fallout shelter in the cellar, just for peace of mind).
Bruce Springsteen performs his latest album, Western Stars, in entirety, complete with band and orchestra backing. What more need be said?
Regal Meridian 16 & Thornton Place
Where's My Roy Cohn
The once-famous Roy Cohn has faded from the public consciousness, but the lawyer had a hell of a career, beginning with doing his part to destroy America alongside Joseph McCarthy and ending with doing his part to destroy America by representing a young Donald Trump. The documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? spends much of its runtime examining Cohn’s arrogant, confrontational, and self-promoting public image, making a strong case that Cohn’s shiftiness and shittiness paved the way for today’s political belligerence. Cohn was also gay, though he never came out (he died from AIDS-related causes in 1986, shortly after being disbarred for unethical conduct), and his relationship with Ronald Reagan, even as Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis, is just one of a dozen eye-widening, stomach-sinking elements in director Matt Tyrnauer’s film. But by the time Cohn’s crazy, furious tale ends, one’s feeling isn’t of enlightenment so much as weary resignation: Terrible people have always existed, and they’ve always helped other terrible people be terrible, and a whole lot of these terrible people are also very powerful. Ugh. Sigh. Fuck all these motherfuckers. ERIK HENRIKSEN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Wicker Man (Final Cut)
Not the "NOT THE BEES" version, but the vastly more bewitching and less laughable (though plenty campy) 1973 original. A tight-arse policeman (Edward Woodward) searches for a missing child on the estate of the pagan Lord Summerisle (a superbly sinister Christopher Lee) and finds himself at the center of a horrifying plot. Yes, there are plenty of ridiculous moments, like a sexy dance that will have you giggling, but that Shirley Jackson-esque ending still has the power to shake you up. Lhude sing cuccu! JOULE ZELMAN
Thursday & Saturday
The Wild Pear Tree
The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has finally made a masterpiece. It’s also a comedy—not the kind that makes you belly-laugh, but one that rouses a small smile now and then. The Wild Pear Tree is about a young man, Sinan, who has just finished college and wants to become a writer of literary or serious novels. But his small town, his father and family, and his community keep holding him back. Sinan reads a lot, and flirts with a local girl who is also oppressed by small town life. As expected, there are sequences in this movie that break with the plot and enter the region of pure cinematic poetry. Ceylan’s movies are always gorgeous. CHARLES MUDEDE
Zombieland 2: Double Tap
The problem with comedy sequels is that it's hard to tell the same joke years later, but funnier. Despite the ravages of time and changing tastes, filmmakers must suplex the lightning back into that bottle. But despite lurching into theaters a full decade after the original, Zombieland: Double Tap avoids those pitfalls while delivering a suitably zany Zombieland experience with the easy charm of an off-brand Mike Judge picaresque. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone all return to banter and blast zombies, and their wry camaraderie speaks a seemingly genuine desire to play in this viscera-splattered sandbox again (rather than, as with many long-delayed sequels, simply the desire for a new beach house). Added to the mix are a spate of goofy newcomers, including a delightfully unapologetic flibbertigibbet (Zoey Deutch) and a pair of dirtbag doppelgangers (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch). It's more a live-action cartoon than a serious entry in the zombie canon, but as a low-key genre comedy, it totally works. BEN COLEMAN
Our critics don't recommend these films, but you might like to know about them anyway.