Twelve Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in October
Make a couch date with season two of 'The White Lotus', creepy horror stories aplenty and new mind-bending sci-fi from the creators of 'Westworld'.
October 31, 2022
Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.
Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?".
Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to anything, we're here to help. We've spent plenty of couch time watching our way through this month's latest batch — and, from the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from October's haul of newbies.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL
CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY
When you've catapulted to fame as a fierce child queen in the biggest fantasy TV series of the past two decades, and you're next about to play perhaps the best-known teenage girl from a video-game franchise across the same period — so, when you're in-between starring in Game of Thrones and the television adaptation of the The Last of Us, that is — how do you fill the time? You make a magnificent medieval comedy that's also a coming-of-age film, a frank but irreverent look at history's treatment of women, and the third feature directed by Lena Dunham. That's the path that Bella Ramsey has charted, and she's as much of a delight in the marvellous Catherine Called Birdy as she was in the role that made sure everyone with a screen to stare at knows who she is. The energy that made such an impact as GoT's Lyanna Mormont bursts through here, too, albeit in a cheekier, scampier, bawdier and more humorous mode. That's what this version of Karen Cushman's 1994 novel calls for, and gets — and the end result is an utter charmer.
The eponymous Lady Catherine, who prefers to be called Birdy, is the 14-year-old daughter of Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott, The Pursuit of Love) and Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper, I Hate Suzie), and is accustomed to spending her days inciting mischief around their Lincolnshire manor — much to her nurse Morwenna's (Lesley Sharp, Fate: The Winx Saga) dismay. But the family is now broke thanks to Rollo's poor handling of their finances, and only marrying off the reluctant Birdy looms as a solution to their money troubles. It's the done thing in the 13th century, but Dunham directs this tale with a firmly 21st-century mindset and spirit as her titular character does whatever she can to avoid basically being sold off to whichever gentleman of means has the most lucrative offer. The movie's thoroughly modern vibe and outlook doesn't just come through in its narrative, themes and lively lead performance, or its witty narration and all-round attitude, but with smatterings of pop songs on the soundtrack — Piper's own 'Honey to the Bee' included. If Girls was set eight centuries back, was about a teen, and also featured Joe Alwyn (Conversations with Friends) as a favourite uncle, this'd be the dream end result.
Catherine Called Birdy streams via Prime Video.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES
Whether he's dallying with vampires, haunted houses, creepy carnivals, eerie orphanages, rampaging kaiju or romantic amphibious creatures, Guillermo del Toro has thoroughly proven himself an avid collector. You don't amass a resume like his without actively endeavouring to curate an on-screen compendium — with his movies stuffed full of ideas, themes, motifs and images that just keep fascinating the acclaimed filmmaker. So far, the proof has beamed into theatres for cinema-goers to revel in; however, new TV horror anthology Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is a natural addition to his filmography. Across eight chapters helmed by eight other directors — including The Babadook and The Nightingale's Jennifer Kent, Mandy's Panos Cosmatos, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon's Ana Lily Amirpour, and Cube's Vincenzo Natali — del Toro keeps compiling, curating and and dissecting the unsettling, unnerving, mysterious and curious, whether Cabinet of Curiosities is getting grim and cautionary, stomach-churningly gory and grotesque, sporting soulful restraint, unleashing a stunning display of phantasmagoria or delighting in being off-kilter.
Boasting a cast spanning everyone from Harry Potter's Rupert Grint and I'm Your Man's Dan Stevens to Mythic Quest and Moon Knight's F Murray Abraham and RoboCop's Peter Weller, there are no disappointing drawers in this Alfred Hitchcock Presents-meets-The Twilight Zone series; the tone varies, but del Toro and his colleagues are committed to contemplating what scares us and why. In Lot 36 by Guillermo Navarro, cinematographer on six of del Toro's features, that means a dark rumination on xenophobia — and while Amirpour's The Outside is noticeably lighter than its counterparts, squeezing out a satirical, The Stuff-esque, Christmas-set satire on consumerism, conformity and beauty, it too is sinister and disquieting. Other standouts include the show's two most grisly episodes: Natali's Graveyard Rats and David Prior's (The Empty Man) The Autopsy, both of which have descriptive titles. Or, there's Cosmatos's The Viewing, a wild, dazzling, synth-scored trip in the best possible way — and Kent's The Murmuring, reuniting her with The Babadook's Essie Davis for another stirring and striking haunted-house tale about grief and motherhood.
Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is available to stream via Netflix. Read our full review.
THE FIRE WITHIN: A REQUIEM FOR KATIA AND MAURICE KRAFFT
The twin film phenomenon strikes again — so if The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft gives you a hefty dose of déjà vu, there's a reason for that. You may indeed have seen a movie about the French volcanologists already this year, and with a similar title, all courtesy of big-screen release Fire of Love. If you did catch that also-stunning flick, then you've glimpsed plenty of the imagery showcased here as well. Keep it all coming, please. However many documentaries that however many filmmakers want to craft about the Kraffts, their lives, work and impact — and using their sublime footage from decades spent surveying lofty and dangerous peaks, too — audiences should lap each and every one up. Of course, this particular doco hails from the great Werner Herzog (Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds), who already showed Katia and Maurice ample love in 2016's Into the Inferno, so it was always going to be a must-see. Narrated with his distinctive tones and inimitable perspective on existence, The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft truly feels like the movie that the iconic German director (and one-time Parks and Recreation star) was born to create.
Whether undulating hypnotically with red lava flows or inciting gut-wrenching terror with towering, billowing grey explosions projecting into the heavens, the imagery captured by Katia and Maurice is mesmerising, revealing and astonishing — no matter how many times you watch it. It's little wonder, then, that Herzog states from the outset that his aim with The Fire Within isn't to give the world another Krafft biography (because plenty of those already exist) but to do justice and pay tribute to their recorded materials. His voiceover still provides the necessary basic details for first-timers to the pair's story, however, including beginning with visuals from the 1991 Mount Unzen eruption in Japan that claimed their lives. But Herzog knows what anyone who's ever come across the Kraffts before knows, and everyone watching this movie quickly learns: that their otherworldly footage makes a helluva impact all by itself, including inspiring thoughts about nature, humanity, how humbled the latter is by the former, the earth's longevity, life's oh-so-brief run, passion and the importance of doing something you love. Herzog's own observations are a fantastic bonus, though.
The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft streams via Docplay.
THE MIDNIGHT CLUB
New year, new spooky season, new Mike Flanagan series. Yes, that's as great a tradition as any. It hasn't quite happened every 12 months since 2018's The Haunting of Hill House — 2019 is the outlier — but 2020's The Haunting of Bly Manor, 2021's Midnight Mass and now 2022's The Midnight Club have kept the trend going, serving up a fresh dose of frights from the filmmaker also behind Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald's Game and Doctor Sleep. Co-created with Bly Manor alum Leah Fong, The Midnight Club offers a bit of a departure, however, this time going down the teen-centric route. Happily nodding to The Breakfast Club but shifting to a decade later and an evening hour, the series hails from the books by author Christopher Pike, and takes its name from a group of cancer patients getting treatment at a fancy hospice centre. After dark, they secretly meet to share spooky stories, and try to freak each other out. But there's another caveat attached to their tale-telling: whichever one of the terminally ill teens passes away first, they have to promise to try to contact the rest of the cohort from the other side to let them know what it's like.
While The Midnight Club's moniker directs its focus away from its setting, another eerie abode is at the heart of the show — so, yes, it's classic Flanagan. Also thoroughly in the writer/director's wheelhouse: pairing chills, thrills, bumps and jumps with fleshed-out characters, and musing on the power of horror, the terrors of mortality and the inevitably of death in tandem. The cast should all use the series as a launchpad, too, especially Iman Benson (#BlackAF, Alexa & Katie) as Ilonka, the newest arrival at Brightcliffe Home. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer just as she's preparing to go to college, the bright student finds the hospice online, researches its past and is determined to use it as a path to actually having a living future. If the narrative was that straightforward, there wouldn't be a series, though — and if you're hanging out for Flanagan's 2023 effort The Fall of the House of Usher, this'll fill the gap nicely.
The Midnight Club streams via Netflix.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT
Running for 53 minutes, Werewolf by Night is more a standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe special than a movie. It's the first release of its type for the sprawling comic book-to-screen behemoth, and it makes the case for more like it. In fact, if you've been feeling fatigued by average big-screen MCU releases lately, it also makes the case for more variety and experimentation in the Marvel blockbuster realm in general — because when the usual mould gets tinkered with in a significant way, and not just with a goofy vibe like Thor: Love and Thunder, something special like this can result. The mood is all horror, in a glorious throwback way, complete with gorgeous black-and-white cinematography. The focus: hunting for monsters, which does, yes, involve bringing together a crew of new characters with special traits. Thankfully, that concept never feels formulaic because of how much creepy fun that Werewolf by Night is having, and how much love it splashes towards classic creature features.
That monochrome look, and the shadowy lighting that comes with it, clearly nods to the ace monster flicks of the 1930s and 1940s; composer-turned-director Michael Giacchino (who provided Thor: Love and Thunder's score, in fact), must be a fan, as we all should be. His filmmaking contribution to the MCU takes its name from comic-book character Werewolf by Night, which dates back to the 70s on the page — but if you don't know that story, let the same-titled flick surprise you. The plot begins with five experienced monster hunters being summoned to Bloodstone Manor following the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, and told to get a-hunting around the grounds to work out who'll be the new leader (and also gain control of a powerful gem called the Bloodstone). That includes Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal, Station Eleven), plus Ulysses' estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly, The Nevers). Everything that happens from there — and before that — instantly makes for pulpy and entertaining viewing.
Werewolf by Night streams via Disney+.
Horror remakes and sequels are a bit like Halloween itself: even if you're not a fan, they always keep coming. First, a key rule about giving beloved old flicks a do-over or a years-later followup: the originals always still exist, no matter how the new movies turn out. Now, a crucial point about Hellraiser circa 2022: it's never going to be the OG picture, but it's still visually impressive, eager to get gory in bold and inventive ways, well cast and also happy to muse thoughtfully on addiction. And yes, there's a note of warning included in that above assessment of a film that arrives 35 years after Clive Barker's first stab at the series, and following nine other sequels. Directed by The Night House helmer David Bruckner, the new Hellraiser is stylish with its violent, bloody imagery, but it also still loves ripping flesh apart — and serving up a grisly nightmare.
For newcomers to the Hellraiser fold, beware of puzzles. The moving box here is oh-so-enticing — that's how it gets its victims — but it's also a portal to a hellish realm. That's where demonic, frightening-looking beings called Cenobites dwell, and they're eager to haunt and terrorise the living. (Yes, that includes the ghoulish Pinhead, whose aesthetic really is all there in the name.) Accordingly, this Hellraiser movie kicks off with millionaire Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic, The Boys) obsessed with the box, and his lawyer Menaker (Hiam Abbass, Ramy) luring in new people to get torn to pieces. Then, six years later, recovering drug addict Riley (Odessa A'zion, Good Girl Jane) and her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey, The Terminal List) find the cube in their possession. When it claims the former's brother Matt (Brandon Flynn, Ratched), she's determined to work out what's going on — and, while never full of narrative surprises, the brutal imagery sears itself into viewers' memories.
Hellraiser streams via Binge.
Two couples, one church, six years of baggage and two absent children. That's one of the equations at the heart of Mass. Here's another: four phenomenal performances, one smart and affecting script that tackles a difficult subject in a candid and thoughtful way, and one powerful directorial debut by actor-turned-filmmaker Fran Kranz. Best known for on-screen roles in Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods, Homecoming and Julia, the latter guides gripping portrayals out of Reed Birney (Home Before Dark), Ann Dowd (The Handmaid's Tale), Jason Isaacs (Operation Mincemeat) and Martha Plimpton (Generation) — and crafts a harrowing yet cathartic drama out of the aftermath of a far-too-familiar tragedy, too. The reason that Richard (Birney), Linda (Dowd), Jay (Isaacs) and Gail (Plimpton) are in the back room at a place of worship, discussing their kids with heartbreak etched across their faces? Richard and Linda's son Hayden was a school shooter, killing Jay and Gail's son Evan in his spree, then turning the gun on himself.
What can anyone say in that situation? Kranz, who both writes and directs, keeps his screenplay simple — but as loaded with emotion as the scenario obviously requires. He keeps his filmmaking flourishes just as restrained as well; that's a craft in itself, but the cast rather than the technique is the focus here. At first, they utter loaded lines with weighty awkwardness, aka the kind that fills and silences a room. Then, each in their own way, they unleash the hurt, anger, regret, sorrow, misery and more that's festering inside their characters, and that no amount of talking can ever completely capture. Mass is a musing on that very fact, too: that even the most spirited of dialogues, slinging about both carefully chosen and heatedly spur-of-the-money words, can't fix, explain or do justice to the pain that Richard, Linda, Jay and Gail are going through. The end result would make an exceptional, albeit unshakeably distressing, double with We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Fallout or Vox Lux, or even Elephant or Polytechnique as well.
Mass streams via Stan.
NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
THE WHITE LOTUS
Lives of extravagant luxury. Globe-hopping getaways. Whiling away cocktail-soaked days in gorgeous beachy locales. Throw in the level of wealth and comfort needed to make those three things an easy, breezy everyday reality, and the world's sweetest dreams are supposedly made of this. On TV since 2021, HBO's hit dramedy The White Lotus has been, too. Indeed, in its Emmy-winning first season, the series was a phenomenon of a biting satire, scorching the one percent, colonialism and class divides in a twisty, astute, savage and hilarious fashion. It struck such a chord, in fact, that what was meant to be a one-and-done limited season was renewed for a second go-around, sparking an anthology. That Sicily-set second effort once again examines sex, status, staring head-on at mortality and accepting the unshakeable fact that life is short for everyone but truly sweet for oh-so-few regardless of bank balance — and with writer/director/creator Mike White (Brad's Status) still overseeing proceedings, the several suitcase loads of smart, scathing, sunnily shot chaos that The White Lotus brings to screens this time around are well worth unpacking again.
Here, another group of well-off holidaymakers slip into another splashy, flashy White Lotus property and work through their jumbled existences. Another death lingers over their trip, with The White Lotus again starting with an unnamed body — bodies, actually — then jumping back seven days to tell its tale from the beginning. Running the Taormina outpost of the high-end resort chain, Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore, Across the River and Into the Trees) is barely surprised by the corpse that kicks off season two. She's barely surprised about much beforehand, either. That includes her dealings with the returning Tanya McQuoid-Hunt (Jennifer Coolidge, The Watcher), her husband Greg (Jon Gries, Dream Corp LLC) and assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson, After Yang); three generations of Di Grasso men, aka Bert (F Murray Abraham, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities), Hollywood hotshot Dominic (Michael Imperioli, The Many Saints of Newark) and the Stanford-educated Albie (Adam DiMarco, The Order); and tech whiz Ethan (Will Sharpe, Defending the Guilty) and his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza, Best Sellers), plus his finance-bro college roommate Cameron (Theo James, The Time Traveller's Wife) and his stay-at-home wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy, The Bold Type).
The White Lotus streams via Binge. Read our full review of season two.
For four seasons on Westworld so far, viewers have been asked to ponder humanity's potential future with robots and simulations. A key question driving the hit film-to-TV HBO series: how might the years to come unfurl if people use mechanics, artificial intelligence and elaborately fabricated worlds as playthings and playgrounds? In The Peripheral, a similar query arises, also musing and hypothesising on what lies ahead — and how flesh, machines, the real and the digital might coexist. The latest question, in another twisty series, as fronted by Chloë Grace Moretz (Mother/Android): what happens if robots and virtual reality become humanity's conduit through time? Bringing Westworld to the small screen and now executive producing The Peripheral, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy clearly have a niche. Indeed, if you didn't know that the latter series comes from the same minds as the former — adapting a 2014 book of the same name by cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, and with Scott B Smith (The Burnt Orange Heresy, A Simple Plan) as its showrunner — you'd easily guess while watching this new tech-, robot-, avatar- and dystopia-obsessed effort.
When storytellers speculate on what the upcoming years might hold, they theorise about choices and ramifications. The Peripheral has many to ruminate upon. In the process, it also serves up two visions of the future for the price of one, both riffing on aspects of life circa 2022 that could easily evolve as predicted. When the series begins in 2032, 3D print shop worker Flynne Fisher (Moretz) simply decides to assist her military-veteran brother Burton (Jack Reynor, Midsommar) by slipping into his avatar to make cash in a VR game — which she's better at than him, but sexism in the industry still reigns supreme. Then, when he's tasked by a Colombian company with testing a new virtual-reality headset that looks lower-tech, doesn't come with a glasses-like screen but exceeds the competition in its realism, she does the honours again. Flynne hasn't just plugged into a better simulation, though. Via data transfer, her consciousness is time-travelling to the future — to 2099, and to London — and inhabiting the robot body that gives the series its title while on an industrial-espionage quest.
The Peripheral streams via Prime Video. Read our full review.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
When Louis de Pointe du Lac met Lestat de Lioncourt, his life forever changed. His death did, too. That's the story that Interview with the Vampire tells and, by committing it to the page in 1976, Anne Rice's existence was altered for eternity as well — although not quite in the same way, naturally. The author has been known for her Vampire Chronicles series ever since, and its debut entry was adapted into a Brad Pitt- and Tom Cruise-starring 1994 movie before getting a do-over now as a television series. Obviously, the late Rice doesn't share her characters' lust for blood, or their ability to thwart ageing and time. Still, her famed works keep enticing in both readers and viewers — and this latest novel-to-screen version is a gothic series worth sinking your teeth into, especially thanks to its willingness to take on race, to embrace queer themes, to get playful and humorous, and to splash a sweepingly rich iteration of its now well-known tale across streaming queues.
If you've seen the film, you'll know Interview with the Vampire's basic gist, although there has been some tweaking. Nonetheless, Louis (Jacob Anderson, aka Game of Thrones' Grey Worm) and Lestat (Sam Reid, The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson) meet in New Orleans, where they're both drawn to each other — and soon the former joins the latter in sleeping in coffins, avoiding daylight and (reluctantly) feeding on people. The series has the titular chatting happen in today's times, however, as a continuation of the movie's first conversation. Yes, this version of Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian, Succession) has been there and done this before. That didn't turn out so well for him, so he's reluctant about a repeat discussion, this time in Dubai. But Louis still has quite the story to unfurl, including covering been a Black man trying to make his way in the bayou at the turn of the 20th century, what it's meant to join the undead, his complicated relationship with Lestat, and the arrival of Claudia (Bailey Bass, Psycho Sweet 16) as part of their bloodthirsty family.
Interview with the Vampire streams via AMC+.
2022 CINEMA HIGHLIGHTS WORTH CATCHING UP WITH AT HOME
It might sound crazy, but it ain't no lie: Red Rocket's *NSYNC needle drops, the cost of which likely almost eclipsed the rest of the film's budget, provide a sensational mix of movie music moments in an all-round sensational picture. A portrait of an ex-porn star's knotty homecoming to the oil-and-gas hub that is Texas City, the feature only actually includes one song by the Justin Timberlake-fronted late-90s/early-00s boyband, but it makes the most of it. That tune is 'Bye Bye Bye', and it's a doozy. With its instantly recognisable blend of synth and violins, it first kicks in as the film itself does, and as the bruised face of Mikey Saber (Simon Rex, Scary Movie 3, 4 and 5) peers out of a bus window en route from Los Angeles. Its lyrics — "I'm doing this tonight, you're probably gonna start a fight, I know this can't be right" — couldn't fit the situation better. The infectiously catchy vibe couldn't be more perfect as well, and nor could the contrast that all those upbeat sounds have always had with the track's words.
As he demonstrates with every film, Red Rocket writer/director/editor Sean Baker is one of the best and shrewdest filmmakers working today — one of the most perceptive helmers taking slice-of-life looks at American existence on the margins, too. His latest movie joins Starlet, Tangerine and The Florida Project on a resume that just keeps impressing, but there's an edge here born of open recognition that Mikey is no one's hero. He's a narcissist, sociopath and self-aggrandiser who knows how to talk his way into anything, claim success from anyone else's wins and blame the world for all his own woes. He's someone that everyone in his orbit can't take no more and wants to see out that door, as if *NSYNC's now-22-year-old lyrics were specifically penned about him. He's also a charismatic charmer who draws people in like a whirlwind. He's the beat and the words of 'Bye Bye Bye' come to life, in fact, even if the song wasn't originally in Red Rocket's script.
Red Rocket streams via Binge and Prime Video. Read our full review.
Following a high-stakes Los Angeles bank robbery that goes south swiftly, forcing two perpetrators to hijack an EMT vehicle — while a paramedic tries to save a shot cop's life as the van flees the LAPD and the FBI, too — Ambulance is characteristically ridiculous. Although based on the 2005 Danish film Ambulancen, it's a Michael Bay from go to whoa; screenwriter and feature newcomer Chris Fedak (TV's Chuck, Prodigal Son) even references his director's past movies in the dialogue. The first time, when The Rock is mentioned, it's done in a matter-of-fact way that's as brazen as anything Bay has ever achieved when his flicks defy the laws of physics. In the second instance mere minutes later, it's perhaps the most hilarious thing he's put in his movies. It's worth remembering that Divinyls' 'I Touch Myself' was one of his music-clip jobs; Bay sure does love what only he can thrust onto screens, and he wants audiences to know it while adoring it as well.
Ambulance's key duo, brothers Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Matrix Resurrections) and Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal, The Guilty), are a former Marine and ostensible luxury-car dealer/actual career criminal with hugely different reasons for attempting to pilfer a $32-million payday. For the unemployed Will, it's about the cash needed to pay for his wife Amy's (Moses Ingram, The Tragedy of Macbeth) experimental surgery, which his veteran's health insurance won't cover — but his sibling just wants money. Will is reluctant but desperate, Danny couldn't be more eager, and both race through a mess of a day. Naturally, it gets more hectic when they're hurtling along as the hotshot Cam (Eiza González, Godzilla vs Kong) works on wounded rookie police officer Zach (Jackson White, The Space Between), arm-deep in his guts at one point, while Captain Monroe (Garrett Dillahunt, Army of the Dead), Agent Anson Clark (Keir O'Donnell, The Dry) and their forces are in hot pursuit.
Ambulance streams via Binge and Prime Video. Read our full review.
Need a few more streaming recommendations? Check out our picks from January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September this year.
You can also check out our running list of standout must-stream 2022 shows so far as well — and our best 15 new shows from the first half of this year, top 15 returning shows over the same period and best 15 straight-to-streaming movies up until June.
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