High School Musical 3: Senior Year
directed by Kenny Ortega

Tweens will most likely be lined up around the block for this third installment of the wildly successful Disney franchise. The story concerns a spring musical staged by the HSM gang (Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, et al.), now in their senior year and struggling with the fact they’ll soon be separated as college approaches. While normally the big-screen transition could be a risky proposition (the previous two High School Musicals were Disney Channel TV movies), considering the huge built-in audience, High School Musical 3 will probably sweep the box office. Who knows, it might even give The Godfather trilogy a run for its money.

directed by Clint Eastwood

This dark mystery isn’t a horror flick, despite its title, but a 1920s period piece primed for award season. Angelina Jolie stars as a distraught mother reunited with her once-missing son. But there’s a problem—she insists the child isn’t hers. As she desperately hunts for answers, she unravels a conspiracy that reveals the shocking truth. The movie is based on actual events and seems reminiscent of other Los Angeles-set mysteries like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. Whether Changeling can stand side by side with those classic movies remains to be seen, but with veteran moviemaker Eastwood at the helm of a strong cast (John Malkovich, Amy Ryan, Geoffrey Pierson), it certainly has a fighting chance.

Saw V
directed by David Hackl

Jigsaw is back for a fifth killing spree this Halloween. The latest entry in the franchise that refuses to die (a new sequel has popped up every Halloween since the original movie’s release in 2004), centers on forensics expert Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who must go on the hunt in order to prevent being identified as the newest person to carry on Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) legacy. Viewers can expect the usual array of creative kills and unbridled bloodshed. Other than the über-popular series, there has been a disturbing lack of genuine horror movies being released in October the last few years, but audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the Saw saga—and the fifth entry looks likely to be another murderous moneymaker.

directed by Rodrigo García

And the award for most versatile actress of the year goes to…Anne Hathaway? Despite her previous image as a clean-cut Disney princess, Hathaway has spent the year changing her reputation to that of an impressive risk-taker. First came her smart, seductive turn as lethal super-spy Agent 99 in the hugely successful Get Smart reboot, which she then followed with her raw, brave performance as a recovering drug addict in Jonathan Demme’s critically acclaimed Rachel Getting Married, which is already garnering Oscar buzz for the actress. Now, Hathaway has switched gears yet again with this supernatural thriller. As a grief counselor working with a group of plane-crash survivors Hathaway’s character finds herself caught in a mystery when her clients begin to disappear. With an impressive supporting cast, including Patrick Wilson, David Morse and Dianne Wiest, this hopefully creepy movie has a chance of being another interesting turn in Hathaway’s enjoyably unpredictable career.

Pride and Glory
directed by Gavin O’Connor

On paper, Pride and Glory looks like a sure bet. The movie concerns a family of New York City cops, one of whom (Edward Norton) discovers a police corruption scandal involving his own brother-in-law (Colin Farrell). Yet despite its top-notch cast, which also includes Jon Voight as the family’s patriarch, the movie has been beset with problems, including re-shoots and a constantly changing release date. Whether Pride and Glory can prove to be a unique, gritty crime tale and stand out from other recent, similar movies (such as We Own The Night) remains to be seen.

Synecdoche, New York
directed by Charlie Kaufman

Innovative screenwriter Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) makes his directorial debut with yet another offbeat tale. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a struggling theater director who attempts to create a life-size replica of New York City inside an empty warehouse as part of his new play. The outstanding cast also includes Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Michelle Williams, Dianne Wiest, Samantha Morton, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis and Tom Noonan. Despite the acclaim Kaufman’s previous work received, Synecdoche (with its odd, hard-to-pronounce title) was greeted with a mostly mediocre reception at Cannes this year; it was sold two months after the festival ended. Regardless of whether the movie proves to be a misunderstood masterpiece or a self-indulgent mess, it will undoubtedly be another strange, unforgettable trip into Kaufman’s visionary mind.

I’ve Loved You So Long
directed by Philippe Claudel

Kristin Scott Thomas stars as unlikely ex-con Juliette who, after serving a 15-year prison sentence for an undisclosed crime, comes to live with her sister and family. Some inside reports claim Scott Thomas already has a lock on a Best Actress nomination, though that probably depends on whether this leisurely character study receives the word-of-mouth buzz that could make it an indie hit.

Let the Right One In
directed by Tomas Alfredson

This offbeat Swedish import, just in time for Halloween, concerns a bullied 12-year-old boy who falls in love with a beautiful yet peculiar girl who, unbeknownst to him, is actually a vampire. The movie is supposedly more of a love story between two misunderstood loners than a straightforward horror tale. With its quirky, original tone, it might just break out to be the biggest indie/foreign horror hit of the year—a niche honor, but an honor nonetheless. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll be sure to see it in another form soon enough. The movie’s already set for a Hollywood remake, with Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves at the helm.

Fear(s) of the Dark
directed by Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire

In the mood for subtler, more inventive scares than what Saw V offers this Halloween? Then check your local listings to see if Fear(s) of the Dark is playing near you. This animated black-and-white movie features blood-curdling stories presented by six graphic artists from around the world, eager to share their distinctive, terrifying visions. This ambitious film will surely appeal to fans of independent horror cinema as well as those who appreciate artistic quality along with their scares.