Melinda Lavine column: 8 chilling picks for this Halloween season

Turns out, controlled fear experiences like these may help people cope. Here are the top horror series and movies that got me through all the things since 2020.

Clockwise from top left: "Midnight Mass"; "Yellowjackets"; "It Follows"; and "Lippy" are a few freaky picks for this year's Halloween season.
Contributed / Netflix / Showtime / Hulu
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DULUTH — I grew up on “Jaws” and “Poltergeist.” A latchkey kid and a younger sis, I needed to keep up with whatever my brother was watching because heck if I’ll be left behind!

Lavine, Melinda.jpg
Melinda Lavine

Through “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Predator” and “Carrie,” the straw that broke the camel’s back, oddly, was “Dr. Giggles” sometime pre-middle school. So, I set down my fascination with the genre, for the most part. Until COVID-19. And, everything that followed.

During the stream of terrifying events happening here, there, everywhere, a 90-minute scary movie felt strangely comforting because — regardless of how many circumstances paralleled — it was a solid distraction. An avenue for anxiety.

My long-lost zeal sparked, I’d sometimes watch solo ’cause my partner won’t join me. Turns out, controlled fear experiences like these may help people cope.

A study showed that horror fans fared better psychologically than non-fans during emotionally draining months of COVID-19, according to National Geographic . Can’t speak for the rest, but it worked for me.


Here are the top horror series and movies that got me through all the things since 2020.

'Black Box' (2020)

Phylicia Rashad and Mamoudou Athie in "Black Box."
Contributed / imdb

Single-father Nolan aims to regain his memory after a life-altering car accident. As he dives deeper into an experimental treatment, he uncovers nastiness about his past. I didn’t see this ending coming. Starring Mamoudou Athie (“Jurassic World”) and Phylicia Rashad. 1:40, not rated

  • Watch: Amazon

'Don't F**ck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer' (2019)

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Deanna Thompson is among the online sleuths in the documentary "Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer."
Contributed / Netflix

A group of amateur online sleuths track a deranged criminal’s disturbing, virtual breadcrumb trail that starts with the annihilation of cats and escalates. This true-crime Emmy winner is heartbreaking and infuriating, easily grabbing viewers determined to see justice. 3 episodes, TV-MA

  • Watch: Netflix

'Goodnight Mommy' (2014)

Susanne Wuest and Lukas Schwarz star in 2014's "Goodnight Mommy."
Contributed /

When their mother comes home bandaged after plastic surgery, tensions rise as twin boys Elias and Lukas become increasingly paranoid that she’s an imposter. This psychological thriller out of Austria is one for the books. A newly released American remake starring Naomi Watts is now available on Amazon, but I’ll stick with the O.G. 1:39, R

  • Watch: Tubi, Pluto, Amazon Prime 

'The Haunting of Hill House' (2018)

Three women scream, the middle one looks dead.
Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti and Elizabeth Reaser star in "The Haunting of Hill House."
Contributed / Netflix

Writer/director Mike Flanagan reimagines Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic novel into a rich family drama with a horror backdrop. Starring Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino and Victoria Pedretti ("You"), this one’s a keeper. 10 episodes, TV-MA

  • Watch: Netflix
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'It Follows' (2014)

A young woman looks at the camera with a run-down house in the background.
In "It Follows," Jay (Maika Monroe) searches for answers as she tries to outrun a lethal supernatural force.
Contributed / Netflix

After her date dumps her, literally, Jay (Maika Monroe) seeks answers as she and her friends try to outrun a lethal supernatural force. Steady walking never looked scarier. 1:40, R

  • Watch: Netflix, Amazon

'Lippy' (2018)

Kierston Wareing in "Lippy."
Contributed / Hulu

When a security guard catches two shoplifters, things get weird in the store’s underbelly. Clocking in at just 5 minutes, this one packs a punch. PG-13


  • Watch: Hulu

'Midnight Mass' (2021)

Hamish Linklater, center, and Samantha Sloyan in "Midnight Mass."
Contributed / Netflix

When a mysterious priest descends upon a remote island town, tensions rise as death and miracles follow. Writer/director Mike Flanagan’s latest horror series depicts the intersection of humanity’s misguided and monstrous instincts. Starring: Hamish Linklater, Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford. 7 episodes, TV-MA

  • Watch: Netflix

'Yellowjackets' (2021)

Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Tawny Cypress and Melanie Lynskey in Showtime's "Yellowjackets."
Contributed / Showtime

This Emmy-winning thriller traces the lives of a high school soccer team after their plane crashes in the wilderness. Show creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (“Narcos”) skillfully unfurl the survivors’ past and their current struggle to outrun what and who they left behind. Starring a powerhouse cast led by Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis with up-and-comers Ella Purnell, Sophie Thatcher and Sophie Nelisse, this one’s worth a subscription. 11 episodes, TV-MA

  • Watch: Showtime
Darin Bergsven shoots “Coffee & Guitar” from his living room-adjacent, home studio. “I can play all day and still be part of the family, not a reclusive dad down in the basement,” he said.

Related Topics: MOVIES
Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346,
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