TORONTO — Who’s scarier to watch: Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great or Halloween serial killer Michael Myers?
Viewers can decide for themselves in October, a month that’s shaping up to be packed with must-see programs on streaming platforms.
HBO will launch its vigilante comic book reboot “Watchmen” (Crave/HBO, Oct. 20), while Paul Rudd sees double in the clone comedy series “Living With Yourself” (Netflix, Oct. 18). And there’s also Meryl Streep’s foray into insurance fraud with the satirical film “The Laundromat” (Netflix, Oct. 18), as well as “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (Netflix, Oct. 11).
Here’s a look at several film and TV series beyond the marquee titles that are worth adding to your streaming queues:
“Catherine the Great”
Helen Mirren delivers a chilling performance as the titular Russian empress whose reign in the late 18th century amplified the nation’s power. Against the backdrop of a lush palace, the four-part limited series explores the leader’s unforgiving relationship with her son, and the passionate affair she embarked on with count Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke). It’s a scandalous tale that’ll stoke the interests of royal-watchers and political intrigue aficionados alike. (HBO/Crave, Oct. 21)
Whether it’s Leatherface, Michael Myers or supernatural spirits, the scare factor will be ramped up to exceptional levels heading towards Halloween. Starting on Oct. 1, Amazon Prime Video stacks its library with iconic serial-killer sagas, including “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” “Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers,” and “Halloween: Resurrection,” as well as ghost story franchise “The Haunting in Connecticut” and its sequel. Several horror favourites also land on Crave’s Starz service, among them the original 1982 “Poltergeist,” a remake of “Evil Dead” and Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands,” all on Oct. 25.
Eve Fletcher isn’t comfortable with the empty nest that’s left behind when her only son enrolls in college, but this single mom is about to get an unexpected new lease on life when she enrolls in a writing class. New friends, a potential dating life, and other unexpected relationships bring a new sheen to Fletcher’s dull routine, but with the surprises come new questions about her own direction. Kathryn Hahn shines as a woman exploring a newfound freedom at middle age. (Crave/HBO, Oct. 27)
The Val Lewton Collection
Maverick 1940s horror producer Val Lewton takes a Criterion Channel spotlight with a selection of films that plunge deep into the heart of his short career. The former head of RKO studio’s horror division is credited for popularizing the low-budget atmospheric thriller, starting with 1942’s sexually tense “Cat People.” His eerie follow-up “I Walked with a Zombie” tells the story of a Canadian nurse who finds herself trapped on an island where voodoo rituals are practised when she’s hired to care for the wife of a plantation owner. Other memorable films “The Leopard Man” and “Bedlam” are among the nine titles, plus the Martin Scorsese-narrated documentary “Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows,” which frames his career in the bigger Hollywood picture. (Criterion Channel, Oct. 1)
Two young women devise a plot to escape their rural Ontario town and resettle in New York City, but their dreams are crushed when a male friend catches wind of their ambitious plan on the eve of the escape. That sets the wheels spinning for director Jasmin Mozaffari’s guttural scream against misogyny which pits the lone pair against a world determined to keep them down. Michaela Kurimsky and Drake music video director Karena Evans play the lead roles with a hot-headed authenticity that adds an extra spark to an already combustible storyline. (Crave/HBO, Oct. 10)
In Case You Missed It (titles already streaming):
When a freak car accident sends Alma (Rosa Salazar of “Alita: Battle Angel”) into the hospital, she learns her relationship with time has opened doors to the mysteries of her own past. The trippy concept frames the latest project from “BoJack Horseman” creators Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who’ve made the first serialized TV series told using rotoscope animation. The process involves animators painting over video footage to create surreal images similar to Richard Linklater’s films “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.” Here, the process heightens the experience of drifting through Alma’s shattered world. (Amazon Prime Video)
“Girl With All the Gifts”
M.R. Carey’s zombie apocalypse novel gets an unsettling adaptation with Glenn Close playing an American scientist who’s hunting for a cure. Alongside a convoy of survivors, she’s tracking a fungal infection that’s wiped out much of society, but there’s hope in a pre-teen girl who seems to hold the antidote. Tense and twisty, this British production is a great horror film for audiences who prefer science fiction over scares. (Netflix)
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David Friend, The Canadian Press