Welcome to Horrorscope, a monthly column keeping horror nerds and initiates up to date on all the genre content coming to and leaving from your favorite streaming services. Here’s a guide to all the essential horror streaming in January 2021.
As we careen into 2021, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I can’t stop replaying the ecstatic vision of Sally Hardesty’s roadside escape in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: wild-eyed, face flecked with viscera, victorious by the sheer fact that she gets to see another sunrise.
But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that premature celebration is quick to sour. And I’ve seen enough horror movie rug pulls to know when to hold my breath. I want to wholeheartedly embrace Sally’s triumphant grimace, her relief not in vanquishing her would-be-killer but in making it out in one piece. But ultimately, the bigger January mood is likely the bittersweet downer ending of The Descent: most of us are still stuck in our respective caves.
But, unlike our unfortunate spelunking heroine, our caves have wi-fi. And access to streaming services with plenty of horror offerings. So gear up gang, because while this new year may be more of a whimper than a bang, we’ll always have horror films.
This month sees the addition of an underappreciated dark fantasy flick unceremoniously smuggled into theaters last January. The new year also welcomes a smashing selection of spooky offerings starring one of the most recognizable figures in horror history. And then, for a bit of levity, I’ve singled out two very funny (and very different) horror comedies.
Be sure to peruse the complete list below, calendar in hand, for a full picture of what horror flicks are coming and going from your favorite streaming services this January.
Pick of the Month: Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Synopsis: A homicidal child who can see the future is banished to the woods. Years later, Gretel and her brother, (say it with me) Hansel, must enter the forest to find a way to support their family. Their mother warns them that if they do not find work, she will kill them. Which is a very normal and unsuspicious thing for a mother to say. After their search meets several dead ends, they find refuge in a sweet-smelling house. Could the kindness of their host be too good to be true? This is a horror column so…yes!
Oz Perkins‘ gothic directorial run continues to scamper through the woods. After the moody highs of The Blackcoat’s Daughter and the slower than molasses simmer of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, Perkins has established himself as a compelling genre director well-worth keeping an eye on.
Gretel & Hansel announces its revisionist fairy tale twist in its title: Hansel is on the back burner (literally, if the witch has her way), while Gretel takes a more prominent role. The film’s primary boons are Sophia Lillis‘ marvelous performance and a darkly fantastical atmosphere thicker than peanut butter. For those of you (all four of you) who saw Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa and thought “they should make this for teens,” I have good news: Gretel & Hansel plays in an adjoining sandbox. So if the idea of darkly lit A-frames surrounded by a menacingly lush forest speaks to you, check this one out.
Arrives on Amazon Prime and Hulu on January 7th.
A genuinely horrifying Amblin horror-comedy about eight-legged freaks
Synopsis: A prehistoric spider from the jungles of South America smuggles its way into California in the coffin of one of its victims. Once on US soil, the deadly arachnid mates with a local house spider. Soon enough their creepy-crawly offspring begin to decimate the surrounding population. The only person aware of the spreading infestation is the town’s new doctor who has become the scapegoat for the unexplained (and quickly mounting) deaths.
When people talk about “Spielbergian horror,” what they are talking about is Arachnophobia. The film is technically kid-friendly. But the atmosphere is…what does the IMDb Parents Guide call it? Ah yes: severely frightening and intense. I would imagine that this would be doubly true if one were afraid of spiders (they should really come up with a word for that). This film has many top-shelf performances, chief among them Jeff Daniels‘ supernova wife guy vibes and Julian Sands‘ genius portrayal of the dumbest man to hold a Ph.D. John Goodman also puts in a truly legendary supporting performance as the town’s eccentric exterminator. Ultimately, horrifying horror comedies are hard to come by. And any film with credits like “live spider coordinator” deserves a spot in your queue.
Arrives on Amazon Prime and Hulu on January 1st. Leaves Hulu January 31st.
Pay your dues to the gentlest gentleman of genre film: Peter Cushing
Synopsis: A young psychiatrist applies for a job at a mental asylum. To secure the position, he must pass a test that involves interviewing a handful of patients. After hearing their stories, he must identify which of the patients is the doctor he is set to replace.
The above synopsis is the plot of The Asylum, a textbook horror anthology from the fine folks at Amicus Productions. Much like its better-known counterpart, Hammer Film Productions, Amicus was all-too-familiar with the incomparable power of Peter Cushing. The veteran horror actor features in The Asylum‘s most haunting segment, “The Weird Tailor,” playing a father who commissions a garment from a mysterious fabric, which will, he hopes, bring his dead son back to life.
Cushing is, with no exaggeration, one of the most recognizable faces in horror history. He’s a legend in league with the likes of Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. If horror had a Mount Rushmore, he’d be on it. The man’s screen presence is the cinematic equivalent of a cup of tea. So if by chance you are only familiar with Cushing’s Star Wars outings, or if you’re looking to deepen your appreciation, Shudder’s got you covered.
In addition to The Asylum, Shudder’s “Starring Peter Cushing” collection includes the amazingly titled And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973), the werewolf mystery The Beast Must Die (1974), and The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), a retelling of the Burke and Hare murders.
Want extra Cushing credit (who doesn’t?). You can also seek out 1974’s Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell, which arrives on both Amazon Prime and Hulu on the first of the month.
The “Starring Peter Cushing” collection arrives on Shudder on January 18th.
A bloody good British satire about the sadism of the 1%
Synopsis: When the Earl of Gurney dies in a cross-dressing accident (yep) his schizophrenic son Jack inherits his title in the House of Lords. Jack believes he’s Jesus Christ. And his plan to spread charity and love across Britain appalls his fellow noblemen. However, after Jack is exposed to a round of shock thereby (at the hands of another paranoid schizophrenic who also believes he’s Jesus Christ), Jack announces that he is, in fact, Jack the Ripper. Which, murders aside, actually makes him a more popular politician.
The Ruling Class is, and I cannot stress this enough, an absolutely wild ride. Adapted from Peter Barnes’ stage play of the same name, the film is dark, absurd, and yes, a musical. Peter O’Toole gives an Oscar-nominated performance (no, really) as Jack/God/The Ripper. Personally, I think Marlon Brando’s ghost should posthumously concede. British satire has a gleefully dark gait to it. This film is no exception (O’Toole astutely called The Ruling Class “a comedy with tragic relief”). So: come for Jesus Christ exposing the ills of the aristocracy … and stay for Jack the Ripper exposing their entrails!
Arrives on The Criterion Channel on January 3rd.
Streamable Horror Incoming This Month
|Amazon Prime||Arachnophobia (1990)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Cloverfield (2008)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Legion (2010)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Premonition (2007)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Vampire In Brooklyn (2005)||January 1|
|Amazon Prime||Gretel & Hansel (2020)||January 7|
|HBO Max||Blade (1998)||January 1|
|HBO Max||The Conjuring (2013)||January 1|
|HBO Max||The Exorcist (1973)||January 1|
|HBO Max||Gremlins (1984)||January 1|
|HBO Max||Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)||January 1|
|HBO Max||Ma (2019)||January 1|
|HBO Max||Willard (1971) - HBO||January 1|
|HBO Max||Scream (1996)||January 8|
|HBO Max||Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)||January 12|
|HBO Max||Stephen King’s It (1990)||January 15|
|HBO Max||Poltergeist (1982)||January 15|
|HBO Max||The Mummy (1999)||January 30|
|HBO Max||The Mummy Returns (2001)||January 30|
|Hulu||Arachnophobia (1990)||January 1|
|Hulu||Cloverfield (2008)||January 1|
|Hulu||Constantine (2005)||January 1|
|Hulu||Cujo (1983)||January 1|
|Hulu||The Dead Zone (1983)||January 1|
|Hulu||Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)||January 1|
|Hulu||The Haunting (1999)||January 1|
|Hulu||The Relic (1997)||January 1|
|Hulu||Species (1995)||January 1|
|Hulu||Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift (1990)||January 1|
|Hulu||Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)||January 1|
|Hulu||Gretel & Hansel (2020)||January 7|
|Hulu||Lights Out (2016)||January 11|
|Hulu||No Escape (2020)||January 17|
|Netflix||Gothika (2003)||January 1|
|Shudder||Super Dark Times (2017)||January 4|
|Shudder||Fingers (2019)||January 4|
|Shudder||Before the Fire (2020)||January 11|
|Shudder||Cub (2014)||January 11|
|Shudder||The Pit (1981)||January 11|
|Shudder||Celia (1989)||January 11|
|Shudder||Hunted (2020)||January 14|
|Shudder||And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)||January 18|
|Shudder||Asylum (1972)||January 18|
|Shudder||The Beast Must Die (1974)||January 18|
|Shudder||The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)||January 18|
|Shudder||The Wolf House (2018)||January 19|
|Shudder||Nightbreed (1990)||January 25|
|Shudder||Rawhead Rex (1986)||January 25|
|Shudder||The Untold Story (1993)||January 26|
|Shudder||The Woman (2011)||January 26|
|Shudder||The Queen of Black Magic (2019)||January 28|
|The Criterion Channel||The Ruling Class (1972)||January 3|
|The Criterion Channel||Spirits of the Dead (1968)||January 10|
|The Criterion Channel||Kill List (2011)||January 29|
|Tubi||Legion (2010)||January 1|
|Tubi||Mara (2018)||January 1|
|Tubi||P2 (2007)||January 1|
|Tubi||Sleepy Hollow (1999)||January 1|
|Tubi||What Lies Beneath (2000)||January 1|
Horror Titles Expiring from Streaming SoonOn Their Way Out: These films have one foot in the grave—bump ‘em to the top of your January 2021 queue while you can!
|HBO Max||Blade (1998)||January 31|
|HBO Max||Blade II (2002)||January 31|
|HBO Max||The Children (2009)||January 31|
|HBO Max||Jeepers Creepers (2001) - HBO||January 31|
|HBO Max||Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) - HBO||January 31|
|HBO Max||Leprechaun (1993) - HBO||January 31|
|HBO Max||Leprechaun 2 (1994) - HBO||January 31|
|Hulu||Scream 4 (2011)||January 7|
|Hulu||Awaiting (2015)||January 24|
|Hulu||The Ghoul (2015)||January 24|
|Hulu||Arachnophobia (1990)||January 31|
|Hulu||Cloverfield (2008)||January 31|
|Hulu||Constantine (2005)||January 31|
|Hulu||The Blair Witch Project (1999)||January 31|
|Hulu||The Eye (2008)||January 31|
|Hulu||The Final Girls (2015)||January 31|
|Hulu||The Skull (1965)||January 31|
|Netflix||Casper (1995)||January 1|
|Netflix||Poltergeist (1982)||January 1|
|Netflix||Splice (2009)||January 1|
|Netflix||The Witches (1990)||January 1|
|Netflix||The Monster (2016)||January 6|
|The Criterion Channel||The Canterville Ghost (1944)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Devil-Doll (1936)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||Village of the Damned (1960)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Uninvited (1944)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Black Cat (1934)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Seventh Victim (1943)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Bad Seed (1956)||January 31|
|The Criterion Channel||The Masque of the Red Death (1964)||January 31|