Five best bets to stream on HBO Max for spooky season

The Witch - Courtesy A24
The Witch - Courtesy A24 /

HBO Max of course has films from every genre, but everyone wants to watch horror in October, right? I mean, I watch it year-round, and if you are reading this, you probably do too, but the average movie watcher mainly seeks it out for Halloween viewing.

I browsed through the HBO Max Halloween collection in an effort to pick out my best recommendations, and I was surprised at the content that was available. It’s also broken down by categories such as Spirit of the Season, Family-Friendly Frights, Scary, but Not Too Scary and Very Scary. For the purposes of this article, I stuck with the Very Scary section.

I didn’t see a whole lot of original content that interested me, so most of these films will probably be familiar to you, but maybe I can convince you to check one or two out if you have been avoiding them.

The Blair Witch Project – Boy, do I love this one! It may not technically be the first found-footage horror film, but it is the one that made the sub-genre a hot commodity. I was fortunate enough to see it very early in its initial limited release, before it became a sensation, and I think that is key to truly appreciating it.

A group of three filmmakers goes into the woods in Burkittsville, Maryland to dive into the legend of the Blair Witch. Armed with a map and camping gear, Heather, Mike and Josh should be safe enough, but what they experience (filmed with their own equipment) is terrifying. They get lost in the woods and are tormented by something at night, all of which leads up to their disappearance. Unfortunately, our film makers are never seen again, but you get a pretty good idea of their fates if you watch this tense, scary film.

The Devil’s Backbone – Before the staggering success of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro brought us this creepy, somewhat emotional ghost story set in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. An inert bomb stands in the courtyard of the orphanage, a souvenir of the frequent attacks perpetrated by Franco’s troops.

A little boy named Carlos comes to the orphanage, where he is told stories about another boy named Santi, who, we are told, disappeared on the day the bomb fell. Carlos begins to hear whispers and see the ghost of Santi, and eventually we are told the full tale of what happened to the little ghost boy.

An orphanage, an unexploded bomb, hidden gold, a ghost and children who arm themselves to fight back…The Devil’s Backbone is part mystery, part adventure, and 100% perfect for Halloween viewing.

ANNABELLE WALLIS as Madison in New Line Cinema, Starlight Media Inc. and My Entertainment Inc.’s original horror thriller MALIGNANT, an Atomic Monster production, a Warner Bros Pictures release. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures. /

Malignant  (HBO Max original)– I only recently watched this crazy flick, and immediately fell in love with it. Though it starts out a little slowly, the story amps up to its bat-shi** crazy conclusion, leaving the viewer staring at the screen open-mouthed.

Pregnant Madison is battered by her abusive husband, which causes a head injury and, ultimately, the loss of her baby. She falls asleep and dreams of an evil, very strange-looking man attacking and killing her husband, then wakes up to find that it may not have been a dream.

As people tied to Madison begin to fall prey to the supernaturally strong being, the mystery begins to unravel violently. There is plenty of blood and action in Malignant, so don’t let the pace of the first quarter throw you off course; it’s definitely worth a watch.

The Night House – Grief and trauma play a huge part in this grim, slow burn of a film. When Beth loses her husband Owen to suicide, she begins to experience supernatural events at home. When she finds a reverse blueprint of her house, the puzzle pieces start to fall into place slowly.

As we begin to wonder if Beth is actually losing her mind, more strange things happen, including the discovery of another home identical to the one she and Owen had built for themselves. And we find out that Beth herself was declared clinically death after a car accident several years earlier. Though she obviously lived, she always said that her experience proved to her that there was nothing after death.

When watching The Night House, I suggest paying very close attention to details, because everything fits in to the story by the end. It’s a hair-raising, horrifying tale.

Rebecca Hall in the film THE NIGHT HOUSE. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved. /

The Witch – I know, I know. This is a film that you either love or hate, there really is no middle ground with it. Yes, it moves slowly. Yes, the 1630’s dialect is often hard to understand. But, this is a tale that just creeps under your skin an inch at a time and sets your nerves on edge with a growing feeling of dread.

English settler William, his wife Katherine and their children, Thomasin, Caleb, and twins Mercy and Jonas have been banished from their Puritan colony. They end up settling in the woods, where they build a farm and have a fourth child named Samuel. One day, baby Samuel disappears right under the nose of Thomasin, who was playing peekaboo with him.

There are so many creepy elements in this story, including a witch, a goat named Black Phillip and a chilling image involving a crow that I don’t understand why some people insist it wasn’t scary. I may be re-watching it on Halloween night, I think that would be the perfect time.

If you have an HBO Max subscription, take this short list and start streaming now! If you don’t currently have a subscription, check out the website, where new subscribers can save 40% off a one-year subscription.

dark. Next. Five best bets for Halloween streaming on Netflix

Do you plan to watch any of the films on our short list this October on HBO Max? Tell us which are your favorites in the comments section.