The best scary movies you can stream for free this Halloween


Whether you’re venturing out this Halloween or sheltering in place as the pandemic continues, there is no better way to celebrate the holiday than with some popcorn, a rubber skeleton, perhaps some cotton cobwebs, and a great scary movie or two.

For those watching their pennies, we’ve selected a wide range of slashers and moody, spooky chillers, all available to stream for free, either on ad-based services like Tubi, Vudu, Roku, Redbox, Pluto TV, and others, or the public library-based services Hoopla and Kanopy. Stay safe this Halloween, but also: be afraid… be very afraid.

Alice, Sweet Alice

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A scene from ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ Anchor Entertainment

After a childhood trauma, a masked killer is on the loose in the horrific Alice Sweet Alice.

Alfred Sole’s Alice Sweet Alice (1976) should have catapulted its maker into the annals of horror, but the movie suffered from terrible luck. It was a flop when it was first released as Communion, and then actress Brooke Shields, who, at age 12 is in the movie for about 20 minutes, became a huge star for her blue jeans adds. So, the distributors changed the title and raised Shields’ name above the title, trying this gambit more than once; needless to say, viewers were nonplussed.

But Sole’s film, viewed in its restored director’s cut, is an incredible piece of work, a brilliantly sustained, canny use of color, sound, mood, and tension. There’s a mysterious killer in a yellow raincoat and a creepy, translucent mask, a little girl blamed for the killings, and a rash of very strange, off-kilter characters. Though Shields’ role is small, her angelic presence is important, given that she’s the kindest character in the story. (She’s the soul of the movie, really.) Enthusiastic critics and filmmakers at the time proclaimed Sole the next Hitchcock or Polanski, but he only made two more films after this.

Black Sunday

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Black Sunday Redemption

Barbara Steele tangles with the spirit of a murdered, malevolent witch in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.

Spending most of his career on low-budget horror films, the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava was nonetheless one of the greatest stylists and one of the most intuitive directors in history. He began as a cinematographer, learning how to light and move the camera before making his directing debut with this exceptional horror film. Based, more or less, on a Nikolai Gogol story, and originally titled La maschera del demonio (The Mask of Satan), Black Sunday (1960) tells the story of a 17th century witch (Barbara Steele) who is sentenced to death, and a mask of spikes is hammered into her face. Two centuries later, two travelers (Andrea Checchi and John Richardson) accidentally revive her, and then meet the beautiful Katia (Steele again), who lives in a creepy castle nearby.

The plot, which eventually involves blood-drinking vampires as much as it does witches, isn’t exactly air-tight, but Bava’s incredible black-and-white moods and rhythms more than make up for it; many images from this film are not easy to forget. This is the English-language version, which is slightly different from Bava’s cut and contains a musical score by Les Baxter. (Also seek out Bava’s Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace, and Bay of Blood.)


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