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As a die-hard horror movies fan, I am constantly in search of my next good scare. However, the flicks streaming on Shudder come through for me more often than most. Since it was first launched by AMC Networks in 2015, Shudder (which you can subscribe to now right here) has acquired a bit of a reputation as the premier platform for the best in all things monstrous, maniacal, and macabre from the big and small screen. The price (about $6 a month) is pretty decent, too, especially for the Golden Age classics, cult favorite essentials, and underrated gems in its catalog.
In fact, some of Shudder’s own exclusive content has achieved acclaim that some Netflix original horror movies have only dreamed about. The time has come to provide you with our updated and upgraded list of thrillers that chilled us to our core, haunted our dreams, or even made us laugh the most since streaming them on the all-horror platform.
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Michael Jackson hired director John Landis to helm his iconic music video for “Thriller” after seeing his instant classic in which two American students backpacking in the English countryside suffer a vicious and mysterious animal attack. One of them (Griffin Dunne) dies, but visits his surviving friend (David Naughton) from beyond the grave to warn him of the dangerous creature he has become. Featuring unforgettably terrifying, Academy Award-winning makeup effects by Rick Baker, An American Werewolf in London is one of the most beloved horror-comedy movies of all time for playing the legend of lycanthropy straight, but not always with a straight face.
Anyone who has ever claimed to have a “horrifying” car trip story cannot say shit until they bear witness to this collection of stories all taking place on the same damned desert road. Follow a struggling punk band, a man searching for his missing sister, and other distressed travelers into Hell with Southbound, one of most clever and satisfying horror anthology movies in recent memory featuring Radio Silence, directors of Ready or Not and Scream 5, both behind and in front of the camera.
The theme of isolation is common in many of the most disturbing films ever made, such as the Saw movies or 2011’s Buried, which sees Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box six feet underground. Never has the theme been so fun before the release of Housebound - a New Zealand import from writer and director Gerard Johnstone about a woman (Morgana O’Reilly) forced to be held under house arrest in her childhood, which she begins to suspect could be haunted.
Few authors are credited with influencing the horror genre as strongly as H.P. Lovecraft, whose work has been adapted and reimagined on screen many times, such as with the hit HBO series Lovecraft Country in 2020. However, one of the strangest and undoubtedly looniest interpretations of a Lovecraft story is writer and director Stuart Gordon’s cult favorite Re-Animator, starring certified Scream King Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West - a truly mad scientist whose discovery of how to bring the dead back to life spirals into an uncontrollable nightmare.
Tales Of Halloween (2015)
A babysitter and her boyfriend learn an important lesson about gluttony, a battle for the best neighborhood decorations gets out of hand, and a jack-o-lantern carving session that gives “safety first” a new meaning are just three of the 10 inventive, unsettling, and often hilarious stories in Tales of Halloween, which features the likes of The Descent’s Neil Marshall and Spiral’s Darren Lynn Bousman in its assortment of directors. Not since Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat has a horror anthology offered such a fun celebration of the spookiest time of the year.
Whether or not director John Carpenter’s hit about an escaped psychopath stalking babysitters on one fateful October 31st gave birth to the modern slasher is up for debate. Yet, the lasting influence of Halloween as one of the best horror movies of all time (from Carpenter’s chilling score, Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ star-making final girl role, and the Michael Myers’ mysterious embodiment evil) is indisputable.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Tiresome slasher tropes (particularly excessive sexual content) heavily influenced this Roger Corman-produced flick about attractive high school students stalked by a mad escapee during a sleepover, but not in the way critics and audiences expected… or comprehended, for that matter. Despite its groan-inducing title, The Slumber Party Massacre (from a female writer-director duo) is a clever commentary on female stereotypes in the genre way ahead of its time… unlike its ridiculous sequel that throws all subtext (or logic) out the window.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
One argument against Halloween as the “first slasher” is that it is preceded by this relentless, visceral nightmare transferred to celluloid. Once believed to be based on a true event but really the brainchild late writer and director Tobe Hooper (with some inspiration from Ed Gein), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the grueling tale of five traveling college students who make a stop at the Lone Star state, only to fall prey to leather-faced, power tool-wielding freak and his family of cannibals.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Speaking of movies about cannibalism with a legacy for trend-setting and questionable accuracy, Cannibal Holocaust is often credited as the first found-footage horror flick, even though its documentary style footage of a crew’s ill-fated tribal studies in the Amazon rainforest makes up less than half of its runtime. However, this infamous, Italian-produced exploitation piece with a surprisingly thoughtful message was so shockingly realistic for its time that the director had to appear in court to prove no one died on set.
Hell House LLC (2015)
One of the most impressive examples of the found footage horror subgenre that I have ever seen is this low-budget mockumentary chronicling the events leading up to a haunted house attraction’s tragic opening night. The first of a trilogy whose preceding installments are exclusive to Shudder, Stephen Cognetti’s Hell House LLC is a smartly crafted, thrilling exercise in slow-building, thoroughly engrossing dread.
From the woodwork of found footage horror, a newer subgenre has emerged that I like to refer to as “video call horror,” the finest example of which I have seen is this hour-long feature about friends who discover social distance can’t save them from the disastrous results of a virtual seance. Written, shot, and distributed on Shudder at the height of Covid-19, Host could be the most frightening film of 2020 and one of the few I would ever recommend watching from your computer monitor instead of a TV.
Never have I seen a film that technically qualifies as a possession movie quite like this overlooked gem about a young Chilean cabbie (Luana Velis in the title role) and her disturbing encounter with an old “friend.” Luz (quite successfully) aims to be a lot of things, including a visually accurate recreation of a European '80s art house thriller, a dense but thoroughly engrossing mind trip, and, most surprisingly, a unique meditation on unrequited love.
Someone who mastered the combination of trippy and horrific with thought-provoking and romantic in the '80s was Clive Barker in his directorial debut based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. In addition to being a thematically absorbing and visually strikingly supernatural thriller, Hellraiser also made Doug Bradley's character, who came to be known as "Pinhead," a beloved icon of cinematic villainy.
Lately, Nicolas Cage has managed to reinvent himself as a horror icon of sorts, which began with this acid-dipped revenge fable exclusively available to stream on Shudder. The Oscar-winner takes on a cult that makes the Manson Family look friendly in Panos Cosmatos' Mandy - which grants every '80s metalhead's wish to see their favorite album covers brought to glorious life.
Color Out Of Space (2019)
Nicolas Cage would continue his horror hero reputation as a man whose family and their secluded farm undergo a strange evolution after finding a mysterious meteorite. Color Out of Space also sees the long-awaited return of director Richard Stanley, whose eye for wondrous and disturbing visuals is a perfect match for this adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story.
Future Doctor Sleep and The Haunting of Hill House maestro Mike Flanagan proved his worth as one of horror cinema's greatest storytellers with this early effort that otherwise reeks of a. shoestring budget. Absentia, about a young woman (Katie Parker) who learns the unthinkable truth behind her brother-in-law's disappearance, is a heartbreaking and terrifying adult bedtime story that I actually would advise against watching right before bed, no matter how old you are.
Lucio Fulci is a director who had an eye for the gruesome and absurd, which he perfected in his aptly-titled favorite of the zombie genre. Zombie (marketed overseas as a sequel to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead) may even be the Italian filmmaker's crowning achievement for its anatomically correct depictions of bodily dismemberment and rotting flesh, but more importantly for its epic, underwater shark vs. zombie battle.
Train To Busan (2016)
Sang-ho Yeon's more recent take on the apocalyptic uprising of reanimated corpses is certainly gruesome, but trades absurdity for a refreshing dose of logic and high stakes with real consequences. If you have not seen Train to Busan, in which a train ride through Korea becomes the site of a relentless battle against the dead, be sure to before its highly anticipated follow-up, Peninsula, exclusively hits Shudder in 2021.
Let's take a trip to another corner of Asia with Japanese auteur Takashi Miike's acclaimed masterpiece about a widower (Ryo Ishibashi) who plots a scheme to find a new lover by inviting women to a fake casting session, per the suggestion of his film producer friend. Without giving too much away for those who have yet to endure the bloodcurdling experience that is Audition, I will just say that what our protagonist shares with his chosen bride (Eihi Shiina) is far from a happily ever after.
The Collector (2009)
Ya know what? Allow me to explain Audition in another way: Eihi Shiina's character and the titular antagonist of this amusingly absurd celebration of gonzo B-movie depravity might get along quite well, with the exception of the latter being more mechanically inventive with his horrifying tricks of fate. From writer and director Marcus Dunstan, The Collector kind of puts a grisly spin on Home Alone which leads to you empathize with the intruder (Josh Stewart) once he discovers he has walked into a maze of increasingly deadly traps.
The Mortuary Collection (2020)
Speaking of collecting things, Shudder released a number of original anthology horror films in 2020 - the best of which, in my opinion, is writer and director Ryan Spindell's The Mortuary Collection, in which a young woman seeking a job at a funeral home learns a few lessons in its bizarre history from its eccentric director (Clancy Brown, who also produces). Each tale offers a brutal lesson to be learned, all cultivating in one dazzling and morbidly funny treat.
La Llorona (2020)
This other recent Shudder exclusive received more than common praise from horror fans, but even earned itself a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Not to be confused with a certain 2019 spin-off of The Conjuring, La Llorona takes inspiration from true events of political strife in Guatemala and a traditional story of Spanish folklore, resulting in a film more haunting than your typical supernatural thriller.
Watching all of these frightening favorites may put you in need of something a little lighter, but still disturbing, nonetheless. I cannot think of a better example than Synchronic director Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's international drama Spring, in which an American tourist (Lou Taylor Pucci) falls in love with a woman (Nadia Hilker) while vacationing in Italy, where they share a romance that is more Lovecraftian than it is just "love."
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2007)
If Spring gets a little too heavy for you, try this mockumentary style cult favorite that offers the most clever and hilarious deconstruction of the slasher genre since Scream. Set in a world in which Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are real infamous killers, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon follows a camera crew documenting the titular character's (Nathan Baesel) aspirations to follow in their footsteps.
Another cool thing about Shudder: even if horror is not necessarily your bag, the platform has a wide selection of films and TV shows from other genres, such as sci-fi or even grounded crime thrillers. In the meantime, for any loyal, bloodthirsty subscribers , what is your favorite choice among its available titles?
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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