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It’s time for witching and watching 🎃

Olivia O'Neill and Lidya Jewett play demon-possessed girls in “The Exorcist: Believer.”

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Halloween comes just once a year, but the Oct. 31 shudder can be felt long outside the day thanks to the enduring popularity of horror films.

The year to date has already seen frightfully good box office for “M3GAN,” “Talk to Me,” “Evil Dead Rise,” “Scream VI” and, most recently, “The Nun II” and “A Haunting in Venice.” There are more hits to come — including new chapters of “The Exorcist” and “Saw” franchises — as we head into pumpkin month and the thick of traditional fright-flick season.

The cost-conscious horror genre is thriving at a time when the big-budget action genre seems to be driving over a cliff. Underperforming actioners like “The Flash,” “Indiana Jones 5,” “Mission: Impossible 7” and “The Expendables 4” have had trouble recouping their enormous production costs.

“Horror films are a tried-and-true genre that have delivered huge dividends for Hollywood throughout its history by providing the chills and thrills that are best experienced in the communal environment of the movie theatre,” said box office expert Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, a U.S. global media measurement firm.

“The lo-fi appeal of horror films has not wavered over the decades … (there’s) an enviable consistency that even blockbuster brands, mainstream stars and so-called reliable genres cannot match. Truly remarkable.”

What is it about horror films that make them perennial favourites of moviegoers? Mary Louise MacDonald, 58, a Toronto marketing account supervisor, explained her spooky obsession.

“I’ve loved creepy stories, ghostly hauntings and the unexplained since I was little. My favourite Dr. Seuss book was ‘What Was I Scared Of?’ which was an early sign of my entertainment taste,” she said.

Even art houses aren’t immune to jump scares and things that go “eek!” in the night. The newly announced fall season at the TIFF Bell Lightbox includes a Halloween-themed program, beginning Oct. 13 with TIFF ’23 hit “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” the debut feature by Quebec’s Ariane Louis-Seize. The program also includes a Midnight Madness Presents screening of Dario Argento’s 1987 slasher film “Opera” (Oct. 28) and a TIFF Family Films presentation of comedy/horror “Hocus Pocus” (Oct. 29).

Here’s my Frightful Five list of the most anticipated films of the current horror season. Release dates are subject to change:

(Originally published in the Toronto Star.)

Clockwise from left: “The Exorcist: Believer,” “Saw X,” “Foe,” “Five Nights at Freddy’s” and “Thanksgiving.”


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