Where to Catch Classic Scary Movies This October in Greater Cincinnati

October is just around the corner and local theaters, parks and, yes, even cemeteries are pulling a few classics from the vault to celebrate

Sep 18, 2019 at 4:11 pm
click to enlarge Spooky season is upon us. - David Menidrey // Unsplash
David Menidrey // Unsplash
Spooky season is upon us.

Like the well-adjusted individual I am, I start anticipating Halloween in September and don't take down my decorations until well into November. And while this spooky holiday means trips to the pumpkin patch, haunted attractions and ghoulish parties are in order, my favorite aspect of All Hallows' Eve has to be the movies — from campy to supernatural to downright scary — that surround it.

Greater Cincinnati theaters, parks and, yes, even cemeteries are pulling a few classics from the vault to celebrate. From Hocus Pocus to A Nightmare on Elm Street, here’s a guide to all the spooky, scary movie screenings that will send shivers down your spine.

Fright Night Weekend 

Bring a blanket and get cozy in the first week of October with a trio of spooky (but not scary) flicks at Washington Park. All three films in the lineup — Hocus Pocus (see below) on Thursday, Oct. 3; Halloweentown on Friday, Oct. 4; and Beetlejuice on Sunday, Oct. 6  — are campy, spook-infused childhood classics fit for the whole family.

Cinema in the Cemetery: Hocus Pocus 

In Hocus Pocus, a coven of three over-the-top witches (played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) from 17th century Salem, Massachusetts aim to steal the youth from unsuspecting children to regain their own. Set in 1993, the trio were freed by new kid Max Dennison, despite the horrific tales of his friend (and crush), Allison. Lit by a full moon, Max and Allison — along with the former’s younger sister, Dani — fight for their lives on Halloween night, led by an immortal black cat named Binx. 

Fittingly, this cult classic will be screened at Covington’s historic Linden Grove Cemetery and Arboretum on Oct. 4. The movie starts at 7:30 p.m. but guests can come early for cemetery tours guided by staff from the Kenton County Public Library’s local history and genealogy department. Tickets are already sold out, but keep an eye on their Facebook for updates.

Horror Film Fest: An Evening of Vampires 

Cincinnati Art Museum gets in on the festivities with a triple-header of arthouse horror films on Oct. 11. Each film, all from different decades and cultures, hone in on vampiric lore through varying lenses. Let the Right One In, the 2008 film based on Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name, starts things off at 5 p.m. The disturbing and squeamish story follows a bullied 12-year-old boy, Oskar, who finds a friend in Eli, a strange girl who only comes out at night and is seemingly unaffected by the cold. You see where this is going. (In Swedish with English subtitles.) 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is next up at 7 p.m. Persian with English subtitles, this 2014 film is described as the first “Iranian Vampire Western.” Extra cool? The vamp in question is also a skateboarder. Her victims? Men who disrespect women.

Taking it back to 1979 is Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre at 9 p.m. A homage to F.W. Murnau’s silent film, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Herzog’s take unfolds in color to tell this bloody classic.

For more info, visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org

Esquire Theatre’s Spooktober 

Calling all horror fiends: Clifton’s Esquire Theatre will be screening movies all October to gear up for Halloween, starting with showtimes for Creepshow Oct. 1-2. Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, five horror stories are rolled into this 1982 feature. Since Creepshow was recently revived as a TV show via streaming platform Shudder, it’s as good a time as any to revisit it. 

Frank Capra’s 1944 dark comedy Arsenic and Old Lace is up next with showtimes Oct. 3 and 5. Also darkly funny is Shaun of the Dead, a buddy horror comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two directionless flatmates living in London… in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. (Showtimes Oct. 4-5). 

Later in the month, slapstick and gore-fueled Evil Dead 2 will play Oct. 13 and Oct. 26 at 5 p.m., followed both nights by the third film in Sami Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness

Visit your ol’ pal Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s 1984 masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street, oozing nightmare fuel for viewers now for decades. With only one showtime on Oct. 4 at 10 p.m, you'll get out just before midnight. But good luck getting to sleep. 

For lighter fare, there’s Tim Burton’s whimsically weird Corpse Bride (Oct. 6) and later in the month, theater-goers can get nostalgic with Steven Spielberg’s not-particularly-scary-but-OK E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Oct. 19 and 20). 

Channel your inner teenage angst on Oct. 9 with Carrie — the original 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek in the titular role as a teen suffering extreme abuse, both at home and at school, who discovers that she may have supernatural powers. She attends prom but, as you can imagine, things go horrifically and violently wrong. In a somewhat similar vein is Donnie Darko, the sci-fi thriller about a teenage boy (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) grappling with visions of a demonic manipulative bunny (or a man in a rabbit suit) named Frank. Twisty, edgy and strange, you can catch it Oct. 19.  

There's also The Craft (Oct. 18) — think Heathers meets Sabrina the Teenage Witch — which hones on four outcast teen girls who form a coven. It's stated early on in the movie that whatever energy a person puts into the world will be returned to them three-fold, a concept derived from Wicca that drives this narrative home. Replace '90s witches with a gang of new wave vampire punks and you've basically got The Lost Boys. Showtimes are on Oct. 11 and 12; the latter showing at 10:20 p.m. includes a vampire costume contest and trivia. Showing the same weekend (Oct. 11-13) is Roman Polanski's iconic Rosemary's Baby, in which a young woman begins to believe her unborn child is the son of the devil. 

If you want to get extra-weird, David Lynch's 1977 Eraserhead will deliver. Surreal, experimental and creepy, the black-and-white film marked Lynch's debut feature. It follows Henry, a man living in a bleak industrial environment who finds out his girlfriend his pregnant. When born, the child appears inhuman, its wails never ceasing. 

Rounding Spooktober out is John Carpenter's The Fog on Oct. 25 and 26. And screening on Halloween night at 7 p.m. is a film that many regard as the scariest movie ever: The Exorcist, the story of a demonically possessed young girl and the two priests who attempt to save her. The first horror film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, it won Oscars for best-adapted screenplay and sound design. This showing will feature an intro by University of Cincinnati film professor Joe Horine. 

For tickets and exact showtimes, visit esquiretheatre.com

Mini Microcinema: Vincent Price and The Descent

Head over to Over-the-Rhine's The Mini Microcinema to celebrate spooky szn and the 60th anniversary of two Vincent Price classics — House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, both directed by William Castle. The double feature on Oct. 24 is a part of The Mini's ongoing "Anniversary Show" fundraiser series. Tickets are $25, doors open at 7 p.m. and the movies start at 7:30 p.m.

The scares keep coming at Mini Microcinema on Halloween night with The Descent at 7:30 p.m. Directed by Neil Marshall, the 99-minute 2005 flick is backed by an all-female cast. A group of women decides to take a trip to North Carolina and explore caves there, but they soon find out they are not alone — and whatever lurks in the shadows might just have a taste for human flesh. Doors open at 7 p.m. The screening is free with a suggested donation of $5.