The countless number of streaming services offering an eclectic variety of films at our fingertips can actually feel more like an overwhelming curse than a blessing, especially if all you are in the mood for is horror movies. Fortunately, there exists one streaming service that specializes in monsters, murder, and Mayhem known as Shudder.
Launched in 2015 by AMC Networks, Shudder offers an eclectic variety of films and TV series from all over the world that intend to thrill, ranging from chilling classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age, essential cult favorites, modern overlooked gems, and even dark comedies, some of which can only be found on the streaming service. It is especially frightening how fast time can fly as you endure a binge of even its cheesiest, more forgettable selections, but at less than $5 a month, never does a moment feel wasted.
Admittedly, not all the best available on Shudder technically qualify as horror, such as John Carpenter’s dystopian action thriller Escape From New York or Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece in shock Oldboy, but the rest are 100% not for the faint of heart. Take it from a longtime subscriber, these 12 iconic chillers are the top tier of that selection."
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
The beginning of the modern incarnation of the zombie can only be traced back to the late George A. Romero’s groundbreaking feature-length debut that bears a dark reflection of human nature arguably more powerful than preceding thrillers that aim to incite social commentary. Night of the Living Dead, the first in a series that continued for decades offering timely messages or real-life issues through the eyes of apocalyptic survivors. The thriller also made history as the first horror film with a black lead protagonist, played by Duane Jones, who is one of several strangers holed up in a house where a growing army of the dead threaten to make them their last meal. Stream it here.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Years ago, during the Holiday season, the late Tobe Hooper stood with his wife in a grossly overcrowded department store when he noticed a chainsaw sitting on a nearby shelf and could not help but think, Well, if I pick this damn thing up and start it, they’ll part like the Red Sea and I can get out of here. Thus, with some inspiration from serial killer Ed Gein, the concept for the filmmaker’s breakout hit, about vacationing youths stalked by cannibalistic citizens of the Lone Star state, was born. What keeps the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which introduced horror fans to the iconic power-tool wielding villain Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), so relentlessly terrifying is how Hooper structures it to resemble the visceral nature of a nightmare, from which waking up is not enough to save you. Stream it here.
The temporary death of the slasher genre was the product of tiresome repetition of a formula that, arguably, should be credited to director John Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill. The duo managed to preserve their story of a trio babysitters in grave danger on one fateful October 31 as a timeless classic despite many preceding imitators (its sequels included) by the clever use of narrative and atmospheric elements that would later become cliche. The ambiguous origin of Michael Myers’ murderous lust, Carpenter's heart-racing score, and supreme scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ perfect balancing act of vulnerability and resilience under pressure makes Halloween a masterpiece of killer thrillers passionately and successfully crafted to stab fear into its audience. Stream it here.
Fans of gore will find more than enough of that from Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci, whose medical studies came in handy when crafting disturbingly accurate depictions of bodily dismemberment, especially in his iconic Gates of Hell Trilogy, all of which are on Shudder. However, his crowning achievement might be Zombie, which, for its time, offered the most visually authentic depiction of an uprising of reanimated corpses with flesh that looks like its rotting right in front of you, but still succeeds as a joyously absurd B-movie, thanks to its most unforgettable moment: an underwater battle between a shark and a zombie. Stream it here.
Taking a suggestion by his film producer friend, a grieving widower (Ryo Ishibashi) holds a series of fake casting sessions in hopes to find a new wife, only to discover that the woman of his choosing (Eihi Shiina) has a hidden agenda of her own. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that Eli Roth’s Hostel owes a lot to Japanese auteur Takashi Miike’s acclaimed masterpiece that proves there is a worse fate than death. Stream it here.
The Collector (2009)
In another use of comparing one film to a similar work, Marcus Dunstan’s feature-length debut owes a lot to James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s Saw, but less in a manner of existential commentary and more for pure gonzo, B-movie depravity. When a former thief breaks into his employer’s home to steal a debt he repays to his ex-wife, he discovers he is not the first one to break in and soon falls prey to the titular villain of The Collector, who has turned the house into a maze of increasingly deadly traps. Stream it here.
The House Of The Devil (2009)
Writer and director Ti West made a name for himself as an indie horror hero with this early ‘80s-set period piece about a broke college student (Jocelin Donahue) who accepts a babysitting job that she quickly comes to regret, suspecting she may not be alone. The House of the Devil, also starring future Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greta Gerwig, is a bit of slow burn, but you would be wrong to miss out on the unspeakable terror it leads to. Stream it here.
Starry Eyes (2014)
What aspiring actress does not fear the day she will land an audition for her dream role only to become a pawn in a cult sacrifice? If you want to know how Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, the writing and directing duo behind 2019’s Pet Semetary remake, got that job, the answer is this stomach-churning nightmare about a hopeful starlet’s (Doctor Sleep’s Alex Essoe) transformative odyssey to achieve her ultimate dream. A throwback to satanic panic fused with body horror turned up to the most treacherous degree, Starry Eyes is just the unfiltered, unsympathetically bleak cautionary tale that it should be. Stream it here.
Train To Busan (2016)
Seok-woo’s (Yoo-Gong) journey by train to take his daughter (Su-an Kim) to her mother’s home becomes a fight for survival on wheels when an infection turning passengers into ravenous flesh-eaters breaks out on board. The scariest thing about Korean filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon’s smart and thoroughly entertaining live action debut, Train to Busan, is how it forces you to confront how far you would go to protect loved ones and strangers alike in a deadly situation from which there is no escape. Also, be sure to check out Seoul Station, the animated short that precedes the film, also available on Shudder, and keep on the look out for the upcoming follow-up, Peninsula. Stream it here.
The Void (2016)
I actually have a personal connection to Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostaski’s interdimensional nostalgia trip, having almost donated to their IndieGoGo account to support the production when I first heard about it, but failed to take the leap. Fortunately, as my initial viewing of the final product convinced me, they did not even need my help to reach their goal (financially or artistically) because, as far as I am concerned, they freaking nailed it. The Void, set during an understaffed hospital’s graveyard shift where an otherworldly evil begins to emerge, is pure Lovecraftian bliss, using practical effects that lovingly pay tribute to creature feature masterpieces of the ‘80s and make it clear this is a tale told for horror fans by horror fans. Stream it here.
The title of French writer and director Coralie Fargeat’s feature-length debut says it all, chronicling Jen’s (Maya Lutz) metamorphosis from aimless mistress to fierce warrior after her wealthy boyfriend (Kevin Janssens) and his colleagues/hunting buddies (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède) leave her for dead in the desert outside his Moroccan weekend home. Revenge, a Shudder exclusive, endures a metamorphosis of its own, too, transitioning from #MeToo-era commentary, to harrowing survivalist drama, all the way to a bloody massacre, translating to an intense epic of female empowerment in its completion. Stream it here.
Trust me, you have never seen a more fittingly manic performance from the great Nicolas Cage than in Mandy, the much-buzzed about revenge tale on acid exclusively available for streaming on Shudder. Watch Cage as the film’s tragic hero, Red, as he takes on a Manson Family-esque cult in this ‘80s heavy metal album cover brought to life from master of surrealist shock Panos Cosmatos, whose supposed affinity for neon is made apparent in every stunning frame. Stream it here.
Have we covered all the best scares Shudder has to offer, or are you frightened by how we left off your personal favorite? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for more updates on the horror streaming service and other movie recommendations here on CinemaBlend.