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As a die-hard fan of horror movies, I am constantly scrolling through all the top tier streaming services in search of my next good scare. However, I can honestly say that most of 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 streaming platform for the best in all things monstrous, maniacal, and macabre from both the small and big 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 its own exclusive content has achieved acclaim that some Netflix original horror movies have only dreamed about.
Admittedly, we have put the spotlight on Shudder’s finest selections once before, but some of those titles have expired while new ones have emerged. Thus, the time has come to provide you with our updated and upgraded list of 20 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, starting with a quintessential staple of the genre.
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 (from Carpenter’s chilling score, Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ star-making final girl role, and the Michael Myers’ mysterious embodiment evil) is indisputable.
Stream Halloween on Shudder here.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Tiresome slash 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.
Stream The Slumber Party Massacre on Shudder here.
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.
Stream The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Shudder here.
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.
Stream Cannibal Holocaust on Shudder here.
Hell House LLC (2015)
Speaking of found footage, one of the most impressive examples of the 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.
Stream Hell House LLC on Shudder here.
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 during 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.
Stream Host on Shudder here.
The House Of The Devil (2009)
While we are on the subject of seances and other “devilish” things, we have this slow-burn shocker about a financially desperate collegian (Jocelin Donahue) who quickly comes to regret her latest babysitting gig. Set in the 1980s and harboring the same B-movie aesthetics of the era, The House of the Devil made writer and director Ti West a hero of modern indie horror as both a classic throwback to the satanic panic thriller and a complete redefinition of it.
Stream The House of the Devil on Shudder here.
While we are on the subject of the retro and the revolutionary, 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.
Stream Luz on Shudder here.
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.
Stream Hellraiser on Shudder here.
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.
Stream Mandy on Shudder here.
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 perfect match for this adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story.
Stream Color Out of Space on Shudder here.
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 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 your age.
Stream Absentia on Shudder here.
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.
Stream Zombie on Shudder here.
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 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.
Stream Train to Busan on Shudder here.
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 class, per the suggestion of his film producer film. 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 (Eihi Shiina) is far from happily ever after.
Stream Audition on Shudder here.
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 great, 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.
Stream The Collector on Shudder here.
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 a on dazzling and morbidly funny treat.
Stream The Mortuary Collection on Shudder here.
La Llorona (2020)
This fellow 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 The Conjuring Universe installment from 2019, 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 your typical supernatural thriller.
Stream La Llorona on Shudder here.
Watching all 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 just "love."
Stream Spring on Shudder here.
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2007)
If Spring get 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 documentary 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. However, we might save that list for another day. In the meantime, for any loyal, bloodthirsty subscribers of the all-horror service, what is your favorite choice among its available titles?