Halloween scares worth seeing, with plenty of monsters and mayhem

October is the perfect time to watch a scary movie with friends. Photo: Miodrag Ignjatovic / Getty Images

Halloween is a little more than a month away, and film fans know what that means: Monsters! Mayhem! Lousy movies!

Well, maybe not that last thing this year.

Though the horror genre, beloved as it is, traditionally grinds out more terrible product than good, 2021’s Halloween season of scary cinema provides a slate that is unusually packed with critical darlings and film festival favorites.

Blame it on a backlog of quality productions in every genre that got their releases delayed due to the pandemic. Or the recent rise of what’s called “elevated horror” — in the form of sophisticated films like 2014’s “The Babadook” and “It Follows,” “Get Out” (2017), and “Saint Maud” (2021) — that aim to make audiences do more than just shriek. Or general nostalgia for the perceived superior quality of the fright films that got us in our youths, like “Halloween,” “Paranormal Activity” and “Candyman,” all of which have or will unleash new editions this year.

The following is a list of the finest-looking horror movies scheduled for release in October. We can’t guarantee they’ll all be free of jumping cats, stupid people going into dark basements or incoherent nightmare sequences, but we predict some satisfying scares and artistic quality in this year’s bag of tricks and treats.

‘Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster’

We’ve seen no better way to sharpen your teeth for high-quality horror than with this loving and informative documentary about the genre’s greatest actor. Film scholars and adoring genre directors, such as Joe Dante of “Gremlins” fame and “The Shape of Water” auteur Guillermo del Toro, add informed insights to clips of Karloff’s work as the most iconic Frankenstein monster, as well as his work in Howard Hawks’ original “Scarface,” “The Mummy,” “The Black Cat,” “The Body Snatcher,” “The Terror,” “Black Sabbath,” “Targets” and many other dark gems.

Director Thomas Hamilton could have included a wee bit more about Karloff’s personal life, but the movie still provides a perceptive picture of what moved William Henry Pratt, the son of an Anglo-Indian diplomat, to change his name and scare his way into the hearts of millions.

Oct. 1 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Center, S.F., and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. www.landmarktheatres.com

‘The Addams Family 2’

The kid-friendly, 2019 animated feature about our favorite morbid clan got mixed reviews. It seemed to me, though, that the CG film captured the macabre look of the source material, Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, better than any previous show or movie. In this follow-up, Gomez (voiced by Oscar Isaac), Morticia (Charlize Theron), Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the rest of the gang — with the vocal stylings of Snoop Dogg as It — leave their haunted mansion on a slapstick road trip, terrorizing other tourists.

In theaters and video on demand Oct. 1.

‘Titanium’

There’s nothing classier than winning the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which this French body horror extravaganza did in July. If director Julia Ducournau’s previous movie, “Raw” (about a veterinary student who gets into cannibalism), is any indication, this tale of serial killing, sex and automobiles should go to provocative extremes that could make David Cronenberg blush.

In theaters Oct. 1.

‘Lamb’

Another European mind-bender that played at Cannes, this fable about an isolated Icelandic shepherding couple who adopt a very unique baa baby is not so much disturbing as it is ominously weird, deadpan wacky and, in places, rather warm. Until, that is … well, let’s not spoil the film here.

Inspired by local folklore, “Lamb” stars the original girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace.

In theaters Oct. 8.

‘Halloween Kills’

This sequel to director David Gordon Green’s hit resuscitation of the slasher franchise finds Laurie Strode — whom Jamie Lee Curtis so indelibly played in the original 1978 “Halloween” and reprised for Green 40 years later — back again, if mostly hospitalized, while indestructible masked killer Michael Myers rampages.

The middle installment of a trilogy scheduled to conclude with “Halloween Ends” next year, “Kills” is awash in bloody flashbacks, traumatic memories and mass psychosis. Series creator John Carpenter also returns as an executive producer and co-composer. It’ll make you feel like a kid again — a kid who can’t sleep.

In theaters and available for streaming on Peacock starting Oct. 15

‘Antlers’

Originally scheduled for release in the first half of 2020, this Guillermo del Toro-produced supernatural creature feature set in a small Oregon town stars Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Jesse Plemons (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). The in-demand Plemons appeared in director Scott Cooper’s earlier “Hostiles” and “Black Mass,” both performance-conscious thrillers that indicate “Antlers” will have above-average acting for the genre.

As for scares, well, we’ve been seeing trailers for the better part of two years. Looks eerie.

In theaters Oct. 29.

‘Last Night in Soho’

Fresh from the Venice Film Festival, this time-traveling psychological thriller stars “Queen’s Gambit” it girl Anya Taylor-Joy as a Swinging ’60s London singer, and potential next it girl Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit”) as the contemporary fashionista possessed by Taylor-Joy in more ways than one.

Though British director Edgar Wright has gone on to wild acclaim for “Baby Driver” and cult hero status for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” there are those among us who feel he’s never topped his second feature, the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead.” Though “Soho” is clearly a more serious effort, hopes are high that this visually sumptuous return to terror will bring out Wright’s best.

In theaters Oct. 29.

Netflix and Chills

In addition to theatrical releases, streaming services are presenting multi-film packages throughout the scary season.

Netflix and Chills includes series and family-friendly shows, but here are feature-length movies that could be worth watching:

‘No One Gets Out Alive’: Mexican actress Cristina Rodlo plays an immigrant whose American dream turns to a nightmare in a haunted women’s boarding house. Begins streaming Sept. 29.

‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’: Sydney Park is a transfer student to a Nebraska town where her new classmates are getting stalked — and worse. Streaming Oct. 6.

‘Fever Dream’: A Spanish-language drama about maternal anxiety, aggravated by bad things in the environment and spirit world. Starts streaming Oct. 13.

‘Night Teeth’: Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney (“Euphoria”) hit Los Angeles’ glam vampire scene in this frightening, funny and maybe even a little romantic film. Starts streaming Oct. 20.

‘Hypnotic’: Don’t go to a hypnotist for self-improvement help. Stars Kate Siegel of “Midnight Mass” and “Haunting of Hill House.” Starts streaming Oct. 27.

‘Army of Thieves’: Though not officially in the Netflix and Chills promotional bucket, this heist prequel to the streamer’s “Army of the Dead” boasts “More safes. Less zombies.” Starts streaming Oct. 29.

Welcome to the Blumhouse on Amazon Prime Video

For the second year in a row, prolific genre producer Jason Blum’s company drops four fright features that emphasize diversity:

‘Bingo Hell’: A low-income retirement community is threatened by gentrification and strange, new life-and-death stakes for the residents’ favorite game. Starts streaming Oct. 1.

‘Black As Night’: Teenagers battle vampires who have targeted the displaced people of New Orleans. Starts streaming Oct. 1.

‘Mothers’: A young Mexican American couple discover alarming things on the California ranch they move to in the 1970s. Starts streaming Oct. 8.

‘The Manor’: Barbara Hershey plays a stroke victim who moves into a haunted nursing home. Starts streaming Oct. 8.

61 Days of Halloween on Shudder

The streaming service dedicated to horror has been celebrating since the start of September. Features still to come include two anthologies, the found-footage “V/H/S/94” (Oct. 26) and Black creators’ “Horror Noire” (Oct. 28).

Paramount+

‘Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin’: They’re calling it a reboot of the funky, found-footage franchise. Starts streaming Oct. 29.