You Can Now Watch a ‘Harry Potter’ Horror Movie for Halloween!

in Harry Potter

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' Poster

Credit: Warner Bros.

Harry Potter is no stranger to scary things. Hogwarts itself is likely to terrify any student, whether it’s one of the ghosts who lives inside the castle or one of the ancient school’s many dark mysteries that’s waiting to be discovered by an unsuspecting first-year.

Even right outside the castle, there’s the Whomping Willow, a semi-sentient tree that almost always tries to kill anyone who gets too close. And don’t get us started on the Forbidden Forest. Giant spiders, werewolves, other deadly magical creatures, the list goes on.

Lupin as a werewolf in 'Prisoner of Azkaban'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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All sorts of deadly things inhabit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its grounds. That all said, the Harry Potter series, speaking specifically to the eight films and not the seven books, isn’t in any way considered to be outright horror.

While horror isn’t exclusively aimed toward mature audiences and doesn’t entirely depend on adult themes and violence, the genre is typically inaccessible to the masses. But at the same time, Harry Potter features many horror elements from start to finish.

Dementors approaching Hogwarts in the rain in 'Prisoner of Azkaban'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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The film series is made up of eight installments: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part II (2011).

But some entries in the film series are much darker than others.

Harry Potter screaming "he was their friend" in Prisoner of Azkaban
Credit: Warner Bros.

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In fact, there’s one film that celebrates all things spooky, despite not being as scary as the likes of Chamber of Secrets or as mature as later films like Goblet of Fire and beyond.

Shape-shifters, soul-sucking Dementors, blood-thirsty werewolves, and the Halloween-inspired orchestral number, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” it can only be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew in 'Prisoner of Azkaban'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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Prisoner of Azkaban, which finds the titular wizard (Daniel Radcliffe) in his third year at Hogwarts, is widely considered to be one of the best in the entire series (JK Rowling’s novel is also considered to be the best among the seven books).

But is it a horror? Let’s dive in. Per, here’s the official synopsis:

Harry, Ron, and Hermione return as teenagers for a third term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But Harry’s fate, and that of the entire community of wizards, looks bleak when the infamous Sirius Black–convicted of abetting evil Lord Voldemort by killing 13 people with a single curse–escapes from prison. The only clue to where Sirius is headed: The Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep “He’s at Hogwarts … He’s at Hogwarts.” Now, even within the walls of his magical school, Harry may not be safe from a convicted killer in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) watching Buckbeak die in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakban
Credit: Warner Bros.

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Now, in the latest issue of Total Film magazine (via Games Radar) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón talks about how he views his 2004 film as a horror, explaining that there’s a “horror film element” to JK Rowling’s book.

Here are his full comments:

“Well, definitely. When I read the book [Prisoner of Azkaban], there were two elements that I liked. There was the horror film element, but also the noir aspect of it. In a way, when I was doing it, the model was more of the German cinema at the end of the silent era, and the transition into the talkies, like Fritz Lang to Murnau. You can see that some of Fritz Lang’s films are kind of noir, but, at the same time, they have kind of horror elements to them. And, more importantly, particularly with Fritz Lang, through the genre, he was trying to convey – or just to project – the anxieties of his time. I think that what JK Rowling did with Potter, it was a reference of our times, of human behaviour.” 

Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) using the Time-Turner in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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It doesn’t get more official than the director himself saying the film is a horror. And Cuarón certainly isn’t wrong. Putting the themes aside, Prisoner of Azkaban is among the most atmospheric in the series, and serves as the stepping stone from the more family-friendly predecessors, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, to the darker side of the franchise.

The film is also the most “Halloween-y” of all eight installments. From the offset, there’s a dark whimsy that the subsequent films fail — or perhaps don’t even try — to recapture.

Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) looking shocked in 'Prisoner of Azkaban'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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It’s also responsible for the series’ stylistic overhaul, adopting European-inspired cinematography while making significant changes to Hogwarts and its surrounding grounds. And this reorganization is consistent in every film thereafter.

The film was also the first to introduce Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore, following the death of Richard Harris, who portrayed the character in the first two films. Gambon, who also recently passed away, would play Dumbledore in five more films.

Harry Potter sitting with Dumbledore in King's Cross in 'Deathly Hallows -- Part 2'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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All eight Harry Potter films are currently streaming on Netflix.

There’s no release date for the HBO reboot.

Will you be watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban through a new lens from now on? And will you watch it this Halloween? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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