New Movies to Watch This Week: Halloween Offerings ‘The Craft: Legacy,’ ‘Come Play,’ ‘Spell’


New Movies to Watch This Week: Halloween Offerings ‘The Craft: Legacy,’ ‘Come Play,’ ‘Spell’

A few movies may have been scared off by the pandemic (like Blumhouse’s “Halloween Kills” and MGM’s “Candyman” reboot), but Hollywood’s spooky season comes to a crescendo all the same this weekend with several new horror offerings.

While Sony is charging $24.99 to rent its watered-down teen-witch sequel “The Craft: Legacy,” theatergoers can see Amblin-produced haunted-iPad chiller “Come Play” in theaters for less. Paramount is giving audiences a choice with hoodoo horror movie “Spell”: See it in theaters or via PVOD.

Netflix subscribers have options as well, with new releases including Sundance midnight movie “His House” and Polish import “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight.” (The streamer is still pushing Adam Sandler trick-or-treat comedy “Hubie Halloween,” and just dropped “Holidate” this week as well.)

To recap the other horror options that have come out this month, there are four “Welcome to the Blumhouse” movies on Amazon (depending on how you look at it, these collectively represent either shelved leftovers too dull to go the theatrical route, or daring gambles with diverse protagonists and uncommon thrills). Hulu had “Bad Hair” and “Books of Blood.” “Saw” co-creator Darren Lynn Bousman made “Death of Me,” while “Final Destination” creator Jeffrey Reddick made “Don’t Look Back.”

Still, with the presidential election just days away, most Americans can probably agree that political uncertainty is the scariest thing on their minds right now, and docs continue to feed that anxiety. While Steve Bannon tries to sell his conspiracy theories to right-wing radio, Topic is the only place to see Errol Morris’ profile of the man, “American Dharma.” And Alamo-at-Home is raising attention on the gun-control debate by making “Us Kids” available for free through Nov. 3.

Here’s a rundown of those films opening this week that Variety has covered, along with links to where you can watch them. Find more movies and TV shows to stream here.

Come Play
Jasper Savage / Amblin Partners / Focus Features

New Releases in Theaters

Come Play (Jacob Chase)
Distributor: Focus Features, Amblin Partners
Where to Find It: In theaters now
While expanding a short film into a feature may not be a new invention, what matters is how the filmmaker innovates, fashioning a full garment out of the scrap of existing cloth. In “Come Play,” writer-director Chase takes the titular creature of his five-minute short “Larry” and imagines him as the primary instigator in fracturing a family — think “E.T.” if the kind-hearted alien wanted to kidnap Elliot. But for all the ingenuity Chase brings to subverting the traditional “boy and his dog” formula, spinning it into a horror-fueled “boy and the dog he doesn’t want” story, the end result yields little more than a shrug. — Courtney Howard
Read the full review

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Kelly Walsh

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Blumhouse’s The Craft: Legacy (Zoe Lister-Jones)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and virtual cinemas
Cult horror classic “The Craft” was creaky even by 1996 standards, but its Goth-grunge attitude was hella edgy by comparison with “Clueless” and other clean-scrubbed YA offerings of the time, and one would hope that a Blumhouse follow-up made in the year 2020 might find a way to feel similarly avant-garde. Instead, this Blumhouse sequel comes across as “The Craft: Lite,” a watered-down, PG-13 reboot in which the outsiders are no longer treated as freaks, and their mission amounts to enlightening Neanderthal classmates and other assorted chauvinists about the risks of underestimating young women. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

City Hall (Frederick Wiseman)
Distributor: Zipporah Films
Where to Find It: Watch via Film Forum virtual cinema
Seven years after the Boston Marathon bombing, its community-wide burden of grief, caution and a shared responsibility to rebuild is felt throughout Frederick Wiseman’s typically sprawling, inquisitive and inclusive anatomy of the city’s inner workings. Putting his hometown under the lens for the first time in his vast career, the 90-year-old documentarian finds it in imperfect but hopeful flux. The result is both sober and inspiring: an urban progress report taking into account a plethora of government services, scutinized by Wiseman’s patient but unblinking eye. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

The Donut King (Alice Gu)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and virtual cinemas
The surprising story of how Cambodian immigrants came to run the West Coast donut industry, and what it says about the American Dream are the real drivers of Gu’s drool-inducing debut, which assumes that everyone loves the sweet snacks, but most don’t think about who actually does the dunkin’. Buoyed by flashy editing and a West Coast hip-hop score, “The Donut King” alternates between the sugar-high hyperbole of a Food Network special and something far more sobering — a History Channel lesson about the horrors many of these refugees endured at the hands of the Khmer Rouge back home. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Madre (Rodrigo Sorogoyen)
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It: Watch via Angelika virtual cinema
Sorogoyen’s Oscar-nominated 2017 short “Madre” placed audiences inside the head of a single mother freaking out over a phone call from her young son, who’s abandoned and imperiled on an unidentified beach neither she nor he can pinpoint. A parent’s worst nightmare of the most tightly wound order, it seemed an obvious candidate for feature treatment. Yet Sorogoyen’s teasing, technically vertiginous and identically titled expansion is a wide, whopping curveball: What was a palpitating mystery gives way to a kind of metaphysical love story, eliding the roles of parent, child and lover. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

Spell (Mark Tonderai)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Where to Find It: Now playing in drive-ins, and via Premium VOD and digital
“Spell” adds to the significant recent growth of African American horror cinema, though really only in casting terms. Otherwise, this reasonably suspenseful if implausible tale is just another variation on the familiar formula of “city folk” making a big mistake going to the country, where every primitive peril awaits them. Here, instead of homicidal hillbillies à la “Texas Chainsaw” and “The Hills Have Eyes,” it’s an Appalachian enclave of Black hoodoo practitioners, with upwardly mobile Omari Hardwick at the “Misery”-esque mercy of witchy Loretta Devine. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

The True Adventures of Wolfboy (Martin Krejcí)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: Available via VOD and digital
Most teenage boys would kill for a few whiskers, but not Paul. At 13, he already has a full face of hair, and his peers treat him like a freak for it. So, too, does Martin Krejčí’s “The True Adventures of Wolfboy,” although the movie argues that perhaps being a freak isn’t such a bad thing. You just have to learn to ignore what other people think and embrace your inner other. Working from a screenplay by playwright Olivia Dufault, Krejcí conjures a vision of Middle America in which magic and myth seem to exist alongside his characters, amplifying the interior struggle of his young protagonist, played by “It” star Jaeden Martell. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Us Kids (Kim A. Snyder)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: Watch for free on Alamo-at-Home
The nonstop drama of the Trump White House has succeeded, among other things, in largely pushing gun control from the forefront of the news cycle. As a result, and perhaps unfairly, Kim A. Snyder’s “Us Kids” feels a bit like old news, as it focuses on a school massacre and the subsequent activist tide that occurred less than two years ago, yet somehow already feel distant. Nonetheless, this Sundance-premiering documentary offers a potent testimony to the impact of citizen protest — even, or perhaps particularly, when those citizens include youths who themselves just survived a school shooting. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

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His House
Courtesy of Aidan Monaghan/Netflix

Exclusive to Netflix

His House (Remi Weekes)
Where to Find It: Netflix
For a husband-and-wife pair of Sudanese refugees, every stage of their journey from their war-torn African village hometown to the dehumanizing limbo of a U.K. detention center via a perilous ocean crossing that claims the life of their little girl, seems progressively more fraught than the last. In this potent if unbalanced mashup of social-issues polemic and haunted-house horror, it’s the final move that cues the greatest evil of all. After a few good creepy scares earlier on, the scenes of supernatural menace start to seem a bit rote. Yet in its real-world sections, “His House” is twisty, absorbing and full of high drama. — Jessica Kiang
Read the full review

Holidate (John Whitesell)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Holidate” won’t change your mind about the tread-worn challenges of romantic comedies, but its leads leverage their charms nicely. How much “Holidate” delights will depend on whether you take a rooting interest in these presumptive beloveds. Roberts has a wide-mouth smile that evidently runs in the family. Bracey has a beckoning dimple so deep his stubble can’t conceal it. The audience, having been duly programmed for decades by the genre, knows where things will likely end. So it’s the pair’s zigs and zags getting there that intrigue. — Lisa Kennedy
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American Dharma

Exclusive to Topic

American Dharma (Errol Morris)
Where to Find It: Topic
If you walked into Errol Morris’s documentary about Stephen K. Bannon knowing nothing about Donald Trump’s former adviser (who he is, what he’s done, what he stands for), you’d probably find him to be a fascinating, compelling, and at times even charming figure. If that sounds like a swipe against the movie, it is. Bannon, apart from his former boss Donald Trump, may be the most combative political figure of his era, but in “American Dharma” he’s no raging fire-breather. He’s an avuncular and cultivated presence, with barely a hint of defensiveness; he seems to be playing the role of alt-right Teddy bear. — Owen Gleiberman
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