Happy October, fellow creeps! In honor of this, the most macabre of months, I shall be your spooky sommelier, offering delectable pairings of horror movies and stories by contemporary horror authors to quench a variety of wicked thirsts. Join me as we explore zombies, cannibals, aliens, slashers, hauntings, and vampires, and then close out the month with a song on your lips and a dance in your hips!
This list is but the tip of the bloody iceberg, when it comes to horror, but I hope you find something new to love, whether that’s a movie, director, story, or author; I certainly did. A final note: I did not include content warnings here, since everyone has different triggers, but I recommend you check Does The Dog Die and/or Unconsenting Media before watching if you have specific concerns, since horror can be an especially intense genre.
Scroll to the bottom for a downloadable calendar version of this list. Happy haunting!
Many zombie movies explore how communities react to conflict and crisis, including the ways in which our governments can obscure information or respond ineffectively or inappropriately to disasters (but we wouldn’t know anything about that!). Whether the dead rise due to mysterious Russian radiation, an airborne virus, or a protest by the Earth herself, all three of these first films explore the tension between collectivism and individualism in extreme circumstances.
Film: Night of the Living Dead (1968). Dir. George A. Romero
Published in Apex Magazine, 2023
Start the month strong with the most-classic of zombie films, paired with a story that, like Night of the Living Dead, explores how conflict can encourage people to see their enemies as a faceless horde.
Film: Train from Busan (2016). Dir. Yeon Sang-Ho
Published by Electric Lit, 2020
I’ll tell you now, Train to Busan hits differently mid-pandemic! Both these stories are about the deadly effects of late-stage capitalism, and they ask the question: what makes one life worth more than the next?
Film: Blood Quantum (2019). Dir. Jeff Barnaby
Published by Granta, 2022
Blood Quantum, which begins with an “Ancient Settler Proverb” and takes place on a Mi’kmaq reserve during a zombie outbreak, thrums with humor, gore, and amazing needle drops and has quickly become one of my favorite horror films. Pair it with Morgan Talty’s “In a Jar” for two stories about boys coming of age under ghoulish circumstances.
The longer, more precise name for this subcategory is “Teen Girl Cannibal as Allegory for the Horrors of Adolescence and Having a Body,” and it’s dedicated to all my fellow Yellowjackets lovers. Buzz buzz!
Film: Raw (2016). Dir. Julia Ducournau
Published by Anathema Mag, 2019
Published in Triangle House
Fellow vegans, enjoy this gruesome and lushly-shot French film about a vegetarian teen who, after tasting meat, becomes ravenous for all the carnal delights that human bodies have to offer. Pair with L.D. Lewis’s “Moses,” for stories about girls and women horrified by their own powers, and also with K-Ming Chang’s “American Girls” for #SistersPissingStandingUp solidarity.
Film: Jennifer’s Body (2009). Dir. Karyn Kusama
Published in Uncanny Magazine
Enjoy these two stories about young women who are chaste–I mean, chased– –I mean, chase– and explore the disgusting, acerbic beauty of teen girlhood, homoerotic friendship, and bloody revenge. (BONUS! Can’t get enough body horror? Read Machado’s full-length collection, Her Body and Other Parties!)
Moody, shadowy spaceships with rapidly growing xenomorphs? Allegories for colonialism? Tales of hunting for the ACTUAL most dangerous game? This alien media has it all! As diverse as its otherworldly inhabitants, these stories will transport you to the past, the future, and the outer reaches of space; buckle up!
Film: Hellraiser (1987). Dir. Clive Barker
Short Story: An Incident at Hellpoint Prime by Norris Black
Published in Apex Magazine, 2021
For people who like their monsters WET! Hellraiser is a gooey, gorey film populated by deviant pleasure-seeking sadomasochists; pair it with “An Incident at Hellpoint Prime” if, after watching, you still want more alien skin-sloughing content.
Film: Alien (1979). Dir. Ridley Scott
Published in Clarkesworld Magazine, 2016
Alien is a gorgeously-shot classic of the deep space horror genre set on a ramshackle towing craft with a small, work-a-day crew that are picked off one-by-one by the ever-growing xenomorph they let onboard. Pair it with Nnedi Okorafor “Africanfuturist 419,” a very different story about a man stranded in space with a possibly deadly alien, whose situation is made public when his cousin tries to cash in on his misfortune by turning it into a 419 Nigerian scam.
Film: Prey (2022). Dir. Dan Trachtenburg
Short Story: Four Steps to Hunt a God by Athar Fikry
Published in Strange Horizons
Prey blurs the line between hunter and hunted as our protagonist, a young Comanche woman, must survive much more than the bloodthirsty Predator as her community is threatened by terrestrial colonists. For another story about snaring powerful prey, check out Athar Fikray’s “Four Steps to Hunt a God.”
Film: Slash/ Back (2022). Dir. Nyla Innuksuk
Short Story: Paper Girls (#1) by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Published by Image Comics, 2015
Enjoy these two stories side by side for a double hit of girls on bikes, alien invasions, gorgeous scenery, and badass tween antics, with Slash/ Back taking place in a remote Inuit community and Paper Girls taking place in an Ohio suburb in the late 80s.
Film: Nope (2022). Dir. Jordan Peele
From Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology, shared on Tor.com, 2023
Published in Lightspeed Magazine, 2015
Nope is a dense sci-fi Western jam-packed with cinema references which asks us to meditate on the relationship between film and viewers. For another story about eyes, perspective, and hunting big animals, read “Behind Colin’s Eyes” from the just-released collection Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology! Or, for another strange creature, read Amal El-Mohtar’s “Weialalaleia,” a story-in-artifacts about a translucent, grief-eating leech.
Perhaps because of the precedent set by Scream in the mid-90s, this subgenre contains more horror comedies and meta horror than any of the others. The gorey center of a slasher is revenge; find out who’s behind each of the masks (literal or proverbial) and how they’ve been wronged, and have a spooky Friday the 13th while you’re at it!
Film: Scream (1996) Dir. Wes Craven
Published in Granta, 2022
Don’t you watch scary movies? Scream is a meta-slasher that, at various times, mocks, subverts, and upholds the tropes of this bloody genre, and it’s one that I watch every single year! Pair it with Julia Armfield’s “Scream Queen,” the story of a woman trying to figure out why her partner, a famous horror actress, is appearing on social media doing abhorrent things across the globe even as our narrator can see her sleeping in the other room. (BONUS! For a book full of self-referential slashers and dripping with references, read Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart is a Chainsaw!)
Film: Happy Death Day (2017) Dir. Christopher Landon
Published on Tor.com, 2015
If you thought Groundhog Day didn’t have enough gore, then have I got the film for you! Happy Death Day follows Tree, a real asshole of a college student, as she keeps reliving the day that she dies, struggling to solve her own murder and beginning to question some of the choices she’s made up until this point in her life. For more nonlinear self-discovery, read Nino Cipri’s “The Shape of My Name” about a trans time traveler confronting the mother who abandoned him.
Film: Friday the 13th (1980) Dir. Sean S. Cunningham
Published on Tor.com, 2011
Happy Friday the 13th! Watch this classic summer camp bloodbath and then read “The Lake,” the story of another unlikely killer amidst a group of unsuspecting adolescent victims. (P.S. Why did no one ever tell me about this sweaty, shirtless camp director with a mustache and booty shorts??)
Film: Candyman (1999) Dir. Turi Meyer
Candyman (2021) Dir. Nia DaCosta
Short Story: The Thing in the Shadows by Gabino Iglesias
Published in Southwest Review, 2021I know this is two movies (TRICK), but they are both great (TREAT), and it’s a Saturday–live a little! Both of the Candymen, as well as the accompanying story, “The Thing in the Shadows,” explore the power of urban legends and the thin line between rumor and reality
Film: The Blackening (2023) Dir. Tim Story
Published in October Dreams, Reprinted in Nightmare Magazine, 2015
A loving but dysfunctional group of Black friends gather together in a cabin in the woods™ in this witty meta-slasher that had me laughing out loud, even watching alone! (#SAD!) Pair it with another clever and gorey story about old friends, Stephen Graham Jones’s “Universal Horror.”
Film: Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (2022) Dir. Halina Rejin
Published in Lightspeed Magazine, 2014Start with the psychological mind games of The Thing, add some wealthy, self-absorbed Zoomers, then throw them in a mansion with Lee Pace as a hot, grimy creep, and you’ve got Bodies, Bodies, Bodies! Though Sofia Samatar’s “How to Get Back to the Forest” hails from a different subgenre (creepy crawlers), read it here to enjoy another story about complicated and frightening young people in a remote location.
HAUNTINGS/ PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR
Alright, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, these next eight films are the most intense by far, exploring issues such as generational abuse, white supremacy, settler colonialism, asylum-seeking, and the effects of drug-related violence. Though these films and stories aren’t for the faint of heart, I urge you to watch on, as some of the most beautiful, original, and genuinely spooky movies on this list are here!
Film: Evil Eye (2020) Dir. Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani
Published in Flash Fiction Online, 2022
Both Evil Eye and “What Is Yours Is Yours” explore complicated mother-daughter relationships, cycles of abuse, and the things women and girls must do to survive in a hostile world.
Film: Get Out (2017) Dir. Jordan Peele
Short Story: The Venus Effect by Violet Allen
Published in Lightspeed Magazine, 2016
Ed. by Jordan Peele
If you like horror even a tiny bit, you have probably seen Jordan Peele’s modern classic Get Out, though with all the layers of references and dialogue that read differently when you know the ending, it certainly merits a rewatch. Pair that with Violet Allen’s “The Venus Effect,” a clever, devastating, genre-bending piece about a Black author’s struggle to write a fun sci-fi story that doesn’t end in tragedy for her protagonist. (BONUS! Want more amazing Black horror in your life? Snag a copy of Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horror, which is hot off the presses as of October 3rd!)
Film: Umma (2022) Dir. Iris Shim
Published in Interfictions, 2014
Today is Mommy Issues day! Umma is about a woman who has cut herself and her daughter off from her Korean roots to distance herself from the abuse she suffered at her own mother’s hands, but who finds their home haunted after her mother’s death. “Mothers,” meanwhile, is about a young queer woman raising a miraculously-conceived baby with her abusive partner.
Film: Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013)Dir. Jeff Barnaby
Set in the mid-70s on a Mi’kmaq reservation, Rhymes for Young Ghouls explores the horrors of residential schools. Part family tragedy, part heist, part revenge tale, and part haunting, Barnaby’s humor and voice, as well as stunning performances, make this a singular film that defies easy categorization. Pair it with “Bad Cree,” by Jessica Johns, which is also an exploration of inherited memory.
Film: Rebecca (1940) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Published in Strange Horizons, 2014Two very different stories about the dangers that plague “lost young things,” like the naive unnamed protagonist of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, and the narrator of “Nkásht íí,” a young woman whose best friend’s ghostly investigations lead the two of them to the edge of their own mortality.
Film: Eve’s Bayou (1997) Dir. Kasi Lemmons
Published in Apex Magazine, 2021
Today we venture into the Southern Gothic: humid, moody, atmospheric, and humming with psychics, witches, curses, and forbidden knowledge, whether that’s the information that 10-year-old Eve, like her biblical forebear, is privy to in Eve’s Bayou, or the secrets that a mysterious woman is feeding to a credulous boy in an attempt to break free from her generations-old bondage in “Cottonmouth.”
Film: His House (2020) Dir. Remi Weekes
Short Story: Commodities by Zebib K.A.
Published in Apparition Literary Magazine, 2021His House, the story of a couple who have arrived in London after fleeing conflict in Sudan, is a masterclass in tension, and the supernatural hauntings carry as much weight as the everyday horrors of life as a refugee in a hostile foreign country. Pair this with Zebib K.A.’s “Commodities,” another story about the sacrifices and burdens that people must bear when seeking asylum.
Film: Vuelven (English: Tigers Are Not Afraid) (2017) Dir. Issa López
Short Story: The Dirty Kid by Mariana Enríquez. Translated by Joel Streicker
Published in McSweeney’s #46, shared on Electric Lit, 2014Vuelven, like one of the many tigers that stalks its scenes, chewed up my heart and left me sweaty and shaking. It follows the stories of a small band of children orphaned by a powerful gang of narcos, and the life-or-death stakes that they are up against contrast starkly with scenes of them being goofy, thoughtful, creative kids. It’s visually stunning, confidently directed, and has amazing performances by young actors. Pair it with “The Dirty Kid,” another story about children, satanic narcos, and missing mothers.
Many of these vampire stories about power, and subverting or disrupting conventional notions of who is dangerous, and why. There is also a high romp-to-nonromp ratio here, since I knew we’d need a little bit of a breather after all those hauntings, and if there’s one thing I know about vampires, it’s that they’re queer, and if there’s another thing I know about them, it’s that they are fun!
Film: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Published on Tor.com, 2017As a certified bisexual with a penchant for Strange, Scary Women and Introspective, Sensitive Men, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was a homerun from the jump. Add in the moody black and white cinematography, eclectic soundtrack, and about 200% more weird dancing than I was anticipating, and you’ve got yourself a movie night! Pair it with a hamburger and home-pierced ears, and then read “Anabasis,” another story about a frightening woman in a frightening world.
Film: Blacula (1972) Dir. Bill Crain
Published in Nightmare Magazine, 2018
Happy Daddy Issues day! Blacula is a true romp, and, despite being filmed in 1972, features an interracial gay couple (or, as other characters describe them, “two faggot interior decorators”), some world-class scenery biting from our eponymous antihero, and a showdown in a chemical plant. What more could I ask for? (Fully-sequined leotards? It has those, too!) After you’re done watching, read “Ally,” which is all about what it means to be a dad, or a daddy. (And then go back and rewatch Hellraiser for more scary dads and daddies!)
Film: The Lost Boys (1987) Dir. Joel Schumacher
Published in Baffling Magazine, 2020
Happy Worm Issues day! Set in the beautiful seaside town of Santa Cruz–I mean, Santa Carla–The Lost Boys is all about what happens when the hot, cool kids you hang out with peer pressure you into becoming a blood-sucking fiend. Pair it with “Vanity Among Worms,” another story about abandoning the real world for eternal highs.
Film: Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020) Dir. Osmany Rodriguez
Short Story: They Were Wonderful, Once by Lily Watson
Published in Diabolical Plots, 2023
BONUS YA BOOK
Vampires are gentrifying the Bronx, and it’s up to Little Mayor and his buddies to stop them! For a glimpse into the horrible future that could await us if they fail in this mission, read “They Were Wonderful, Once.” Then, if you want another horror story about the evils of gentrification, read When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole, or, if you’re in the mood for more teens fighting supernatural forces, check out Vincent Tirado’s Burn Down, Rise Up.
Film: What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Dir. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Published in McSweeney’s, 2014
Another romp? I’m spoiling you guys! What We Do in the Shadows is a charming, bloody, and goofy good time, and “I Can See Right Through You” features two monsters who, like Vladislav and the Beast, just can’t seem to quit each other.
Film: Bit (2019) Dir. Brad Michael Elmore
Published in Apex Magazine, 2023
Today’s stories are both full of queer drama, mind control, and questions of power. Bit is a fun, biting (!) film about a girl gang of vampires that has the run of Los Angeles, and what happens when its new member isn’t sure about the ~lifestyle,~ and “But I Loved You” deals with the issues that arise when a trans man tries to resurrect a relationship by transferring his ex’s good memories into a cyborg.
I wanted to end the month with some queer joy, because that’s a great way to end all things, and because Halloween is the Gay Christmas.
Film: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Dir. Jim Sharman
Short Story: Femme and Sundance by Christopher Caldwell
Published in Uncanny Magazine, 2021
Sing along to Rocky Horror’s sweet, smoky Transylvanian transvestite tunes, do some pelvic thrusts, tear up during “I’m Going Home,” and then gift yourself the experience of reading “Femme and Sundance,” a modern queer Western with cursed masks, bussy jokes, and ride-or-die love.
I hope you have all had a wonderful ride with me; I’ll be doing a daily deep dive into each of these pairings on my Substack if you just can’t get enough. Comment below with other horror movies/ stories you’d like to smash together, and have a spooktacular October!