Halloween’s Not Canceled: Here’s How to Make It Spooky but Safe

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It’s not surprising that a staggering number of traditional Halloween festivities have been canceled or curtailed this year. Trick-or-treating? It depends on where you live. Haunted houses? Yes, but also no. A horror movie marathon at a theater? Forget it.

It’s not all bad news, though. The C.D.C.’s website provides advice for a “safer, alternative” Halloween, including outdoor costume parties and grab-and-go bags of candy. Streaming services have horror films galore. Haunted drive-through experiences are booming.

Here’s a guide to Halloween goings-on you can do in the flesh or from the couch, with a range of options depending on your taste for the macabre.

The Village Halloween Parade has been canceled — though there will be a virtual component. But other in-person treats are happening, many of them great for families itching to get out of the house. (Almost all have mask and social-distancing requirements.)

“Blood Manor,” one of a handful of haunted experiences open in New York City this year, has returned to its TriBeCa home with scares like the Killer Clown Room; protocols include masks, temperature checks, sanitizing stations and actors who will keep their distance from guests. The Headless Horseman Hayrides in Ulster Park, N.Y., have been replaced with a drive-through haunt called “Dare to Ride the Horseman’s Trail.” (You can still walk through the corn maze.) The Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, which goes virtual on Oct. 24, is also popular with children.

Pumpkins are the main attraction at two outdoor walks. More than 7,000 illuminated pumpkins: that’s the dramatic vista at the Great Jack-O’-Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. Chunky orange grins will also greet you at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where the Great Pumpkin Path, according to the garden, boasts some of the largest pumpkins in the world.

Socially distanced discoveries abound at local cemeteries. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in the Hudson Valley has walking tours focusing on Washington Irving and evening lantern tours of the resting place of William Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is celebrating the Mexican holiday El Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, through Nov. 1; visitors can place personal offerings on a large-scale community altar, designed by the artist Scherezade Garcia.

One of the most exciting words in moviegoing these days? Alfresco. The Queens Drive-In is hosting Horror Movie 101 double features through Halloween at its home at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Among the pairings are contemporary scares like “Get Out” and “The Babadook” as well as classics like “Halloween” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Juicy Lucy BBQ, a restaurant on Staten Island, has turned its parking lot into a drive-in theater for “A Flick & a Feast,” an outdoor dinner-and-a-movie series where the brisket, ribs and burgers are delivered, carhop style, to your vehicle. The family-friendly “Hocus Pocus” is on tap on Oct. 30.

Socially distanced theater arrives on the steps of Grant’s Tomb in Morningside Heights in Shakespeare’s bloody play “Titus Andronicus,” mounted by the Rogue Ensemble Theater Company through Nov. 1. Masks are required for both actors and audience, and seating is limited.

Citizens, a SoHo restaurant, hosts a weekly movie series that includes dinner and drinks. For Halloween weekend, it’s showing “Scream,” “Donnie Darko” and the 1978 (original) and 2007 (reboot) versions of “Halloween.”

This year’s lineup of new horror movies is scary good. Two standouts: “Synchronic” (in theaters and drive-ins), about the sinister effects of a time-traveling drug, and “His House” (on Netflix Oct. 30), about refugees from South Sudan who face a demonic presence in a small English town.

For animation fans, Shudder offers “The Creepshow Halloween Special,” a new fully animated episode of the service’s popular anthology series. It features adaptations of stories by Stephen King and Joe Hill and the voices of Kiefer Sutherland and Joey King. For kids, the new animated film “Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo!” is a holiday caper with colorful appearances by the Science Guy Bill Nye and the horror diva Elvira. It’s available for streaming on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video and other services.

Tour the odd corners of horror with the Criterion Channel’s collection of ’70s films that highlight renegade directors like David Cronenberg (“The Brood”) but also John D. Hancock, whose low-budget “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death,” about a young woman recovering from a nervous breakdown, messes with reality with dreamlike sweep. ARROW, a new service from the genre distributor of the same name, has classic and cult cinema as well as new indie films like “The Deeper You Dig,” a supernatural neo-noir about a young woman’s death in a small town.

If a subscription isn’t in your budget, several ad-supported streaming services have a phenomenal variety of free movies. Try Vudu for ’80s treasures like “Maniac” and “Prom Night”; Tubi has a great selection of horror with predominantly Black casts, including “Bones” and “Vampire in Brooklyn”; go to Crackle for classics like “The Blob” and “The Eyes of Laura Mars”; and check out Popcornflix for contemporary genre benders like “The Love Witch” and “Luz.”

New television shows offer horror fans more truth than fiction. Documentaries on the Travel Channel look at the chilling back stories of the films “The Amityville Horror” and “The Exorcist.” And on the El Rey Network, “Genre Graveyard,” a Latinx talk show with a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” vibe and a feminist outlook, focuses on representation in horror and other genre filmmaking.

Like the trippiest campfire stories, several podcasts and audio series tap into your imagination through your ears.

Celebrity voices lead the casts of two new fiction serials. “Halloween in Hell” stars the rapper and actor Machine Gun Kelly in a story about a demonic music competition. (Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee plays the devil.) Keegan-Michael Key plays a creepy caretaker of a haunted manor in “13 Days of Halloween,” a horror anthology series from Blumhouse Television, iHeartMedia and the horror podcaster Aaron Mahnke. Episodes are being released daily through Halloween.

Streaming for three nights starting Oct. 30 is “Macbeth: A Surround Sound Experiment,” an immersive soundscape by Will Padilla that features the voices of Derek Wilson and Tamara Tunie as the power-hungry couple of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The 90-minute production sounds as if it’ll be best appreciated through headphones in the dark.

Nonfiction podcasts are where underrepresented voices in horror are thriving. Check out new episodes from The Final Girls, which explores the intersection of horror and feminism; Horror Queers, about scary movies with L.G.B.T.Q.+ themes; and Nightlight, highlighting eerie stories by Black writers and interviews with Black creatives and academics who love the genre.

Alamo on Demand, the streaming service from the Alamo Drafthouse movie chain, is a one-stop shop for all things weird in horror. It’s also the place for a virtual Halloween themed-edition of Triviadome, the Alamo’s popular movie trivia night, which will take place Oct. 28 on Zoom. Halloween-themed dress-up is highly encouraged. (There will be prizes for best costumes, so step it up.)

For a more analog experience, there’s Hunt a Killer Horror: Blair Witch, a new tabletop game inspired by “The Blair Witch Project.” Over the course of six boxed episodes — shipped to your door as part of a subscription series — players search strange “woods” using elaborately designed, cryptic documents, including maps and police reports, as well as ominous audio recordings and brainy puzzles. The goal? To determine if the curse of the Blair Witch is behind the mysterious disappearance of a young man.

Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so if the thought of wading through crazies on the street sounds hellish, two streaming events that night will deliver shivers to your living room.

Theater for the New City’s popular Village Halloween Costume Ball, now in its 44th year, will take place virtually, with new programs featuring over 100 performers and appearances by downtown mainstays like Everett Quinton and Penny Arcade. There will be virtual cabaret shows, radio plays, a scream contest and — in person — the “Chop Shop Theater,” where socially distanced spectators can watch 10-minute plays from the sidewalk. (The plays will also be streamed live.) Events are free to stream, but donations are welcome.

Finally, the original half-hour scripted series “The Witching Hour,” produced by the musician Ryan Graveface, will be played Oct. 31 on radio stations and online starting at 10 p.m. EST. The tale is set on Halloween as a D.J. takes call-in ghost stories over the air, only to discover that real evil is happening outside. The piece is inspired by the “War of the Worlds” broadcast as well as “Coast to Coast,” an utterly bizarre call-in show about the supernatural that was hosted by Art Bell from 1989 to 2003.

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