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More frights await in theaters this fall

Summer’s almost over. The days are getting shorter. Pumpkin spice is in the air. Orange-and-black-themed stores are opening in once-vacant buildings.

Yep. It’s nearly Halloween. And while that most certainly means plenty of candy, pumpkins and tomfoolery on the way, there’s another tradition to get excited for: new horror movies. Pumpkin spice popcorn optional.

Chief among them is the sequel to 2017’s mega-hit “It,” which closed at about $700 million worldwide when it was released two Septembers ago, enjoying the biggest opening ever for the month and becoming the highest-grossing horror movie domestically.

Two years later, and “It Chapter Two” doesn’t look to be slowing down, with a predicted box office close to its predecessor thanks in part to mostly positive reviews.

But It’s (pun intended) not the only frightening film in the horror chamber.

Here’s a look at a few other scary stories set to release during and a bit after this spooky season – some big, some small.

‘Doctor Sleep’

Release date: Nov. 8

It only took Stephen King 36 years to write a sequel to his beloved horror classic “The Shining.” Released in 2013, the book “Doctor Sleep” follows an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggling with lasting demons from the bucolic Overlook Hotel until he becomes psychically linked with a young girl who shares his “shining” powers.

Early last year, writer/director Mile Flanagan – fresh off his massive popular show “The Haunting of Hill House” released to Netflix last October – was tapped with adapting the book for the silver screen.

To anyone familiar with his filmography, it’s a match made in heaven. Ever since his criminally underseen “Absentia” was released in 2011, Flanagan has been one of the most consistent directors working in the horror medium.

He hit mainstream success in 2013 with his smart and effective “Oculus,” adapted from his own short film, and saved the “Ouija” horror franchise from embarrassment with his 2016 sequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil.”

And in 2017, he first dabbled in adapting King’s work with the Netflix gem “Gerald’s Game,” perhaps the best King adaptation since Stanley Kubrick’s film version of “The Shining” – a transformation of King’s work that varied heavily from the source material, much to the author’s dismay.

That’s what makes the film sequel so interesting. If trailers are anything to go by, Flanagan is making a follow-up that incorporates elements from the book and and film versions of the story. Whether he can pull it off is anyone’s guess.

But if you’re like me, you won’t mind sitting along for the ride. After all, who doesn’t want to follow McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson through two hours of mind-bending horror?

‘The Lighthouse’

Limited release date: Oct. 18

Anyone who’s seen Robert Egger’s “The Witch” in 2015 has been counting down the days until they can feast their eyes on his latest project.

Lucky for us, the wait is almost over. Shot in black and white, and with a squished aspect ratio, “The Lighthouse” looks and feels like a movie made a century ago, with a pair of performances by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson already generating Oscar buzz.

Set on a desolate New England rock (with, what else, a lighthouse), the story follows lighthouse keepers Dafoe and Pattinson as they descend into madness. The trailer hints at paranoia, a nautical bromance set to the tune of a raucous sea shanty and perhaps an ocean creature or two. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it received overwhelmingly positive reviews (it’s currently at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes). In its write-up of the film, Time Out said, “ ‘The Lighthouse’ leaves you dazed, terrified and elated, and it signals Eggers as one of the most exciting directors working today.”

I find that hard to disagree. “The Witch” was easily the best horror movie of 2015, and, for my money, the best movie released that year. It was directed with such restraint and subtlety, you figured Eggers had been making movies for decades.

Alongside his indie contemporary Ari Aster (“Hereditary,” “Midsommar”), he’s the type of young filmmaker working in horror whose movies demand a theater ticket and thorough attention no matter how well he sticks the landing.

‘The Lodge’

Release date: Nov. 15

If there’s a theme here, it’s that I probably have a preferred subgenre in horror. Forget zombie movies. Cliché ghost stories. Or – yuck – gross-out exploitation films such as “Hostel” and “Saw.”

Give me psychological horror, please, with a bit of mystery. If the plot takes place in an isolated environment, even better.

Much like “The Lighthouse” (you can’t get much more isolated than an island), “The Lodge” looks to scratch all of those itches. It’s set in a remote village during winter, with nearly every square inch of the place covered in a foot of snow.

It stars Riley Keough (“Hold the Dark,” “Under the Silver Lake”) who looks to be over her head when left alone with her fiance Richard Armitage’s (“The Hobbit” trilogy) children played by Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell (2017’s “It”).

Or are the children over their head? The trailer mentions Keough’s past with a cult, so it’s anyone’s guess. I’m betting the truth is even more complicated.

It’s a premise similar to Austrian writers/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s breakout film “Goodnight Mommy.” The story follows two young boys who become increasingly convinced that their mother is someone they no longer recognize. Without getting into spoilers, the same could be said from the mother’s perspective.

With that film, Fiala and Franz, a nephew and aunt filmmaking tandem, were able to squeeze palpable tension and terror from a simple plot, told effectively through incredible child performances and restrained direction.

“The Lodge” may do the same, but, if the trailer is to be believed, it may incorporate elements of the supernatural. Or maybe it’s all in their head.

Who knows? We’ll have to wait until November to find out.

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