by Patrick Bromley
Every week we run a column on F This Movie! suggesting stuff for you to stream on Netflix. As more and more streaming platforms are popping up, though, offering a lot more options to those willing to pay for multiple subscriptions (and no, this isn't an opportunity to tell us we should be recommending titles from across all of the streaming platforms -- people know that Amazon Prime is a thing and Hulu Plus is a thing and can investigate those in addition to Netflix), you've got more and more choices of how to spend your streaming dollars. But one new platform warrants special mention: Shudder, AMC's new all-horror streaming service that just came out of its Beta phase and is now live and available to everyone.
I've talked about Shudder a couple times on the podcast; first when it was just announced and I was wondering if I would have need for such a service given how many horror titles I've already seen and/or own and again when I checked it out during the Beta phase and fell for it hard. There's a lot of good stuff available on there. Like, a lot. Yes, much of it I have already seen, but even those titles are almost all good and/or interesting. It's not just a bunch of crap that was cheap to license, nor does it seem like the service bought a package from one specific distributor and dumped a bunch of their stuff onto Shudder regardless of its quality. There are a couple of Full Moon titles available for example, but only the really good ones -- they haven't made Dangerous Worry Dolls or Decadent Evil available just because they could secure the rights. Drew McWeeny wrote a good piece on HitFix this week about Shudder and the fact that it's clearly curated. It makes a big difference. I've investigated other horror streaming services in the past (and remain a subscriber to Full Moon Streaming) and was lucky if I could find a single title I'd want to watch to make it worth signing up. Not true with Shudder.
I recognize that if you're a horror fan, there's a good chance you've seen most or all of these movies. This list probably isn't for you. This is for the audience that has seen many of the classics but is looking to dig a little deeper -- to go beyond The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street and check out some smaller gems. It's one of the things that Shudder is great for, as it offers a wide variety of horror movies from the obvious heavy hitters like Evil Dead and Re-Animator to the really independent and esoteric. I could have made a list comprised of only those titles (Blood Car!), but a) it would alienate a lot of the readership and b) I still have a lot of them to see myself.
So this list (not comprehensive; it's only 13 movies) is intended to be a jumping off point should you decide to sign up for Shudder. It runs about $5 a month after a 30-day free trial. I think it's worth it.
Blue Ruin, but it has fast become one of my favorite horror comedies of recent years. Chris Sharp stars as a quiet, lonely schlub who, on Halloween, finds an invitation to a Murder Party lying in the street and decides to attend. What he discovers upon arriving (dressed in his own homemade knight costume, a visual joke that never stops being funny and weirdly sweet) starts out a gathering of pretentious artists and eventually gives way to more and more craziness. Go in knowing as little as possible and let this one pleasantly surprise you. The deadpan humor is great, as is the film's commentary on art and identity.
Italian horror film, and though this was a Spanish co-production it was shot almost entirely in Italy. It counts! Some hippies are framed for murders being committed by zombies; much carnage ensues. This one is accessible even for those left cold by Italian horror. It's bleak but really confidently made and solid. Such an underrated sleeper of a horror movie.
a few years back. It's a great, quirky, pitch black comedy with wonderful performances from a (very old) Lon Chaney Jr., Quinn Redeker and especially Jill Banner, who immediately becomes the crush of anyone who watches this one. RIP Jill Banner.
Terror Firmer and screenwriter of the great Cheap Thrills, the film follows two teenage boys who discover a female zombie and hold it captive while they do all kinds of terrible things to it. Like Lucky McKee's The Woman, Deadgirl is a movie that is called hateful and misogynist by people who don't understand what the film is actually indicting. This can be pretty rough going, but it's effective and well made and worth seeing if you haven't.
Junesploitation this year and immediately fell in love with it. The movie is creepy and atmospheric and a zombie movie unlike most other zombie movies. There's a whole series of sequels that followed this one, but only The Ghost Galleon (the third film in the "Blind Dead" series) can also be found on Shudder.
all-time favorite horror movie. It's on the list for two reasons: 1) it's great and you should watch it and 2) it's a testament to Shudder's quality control that they try to present the best possible versions of the titles they offer. I've been impressed with how everything I've watched has looked so far (though there's a weird sound issue on their version of Michele Soavi's The Church). Though Carnival of Souls has had dozens of shitty public domain releases in the past, Shudder is streaming the transfer done for the Criterion Collection release. That's how much they care about doing it right.
Castle Freak (1995, dir Stuart Gordon) Like I said, there are over a hundred Full Moon titles that could have been made available on Shudder, but only a few of the company's highest quality efforts can be found: the original Puppet Master, Tourist Trap and this one (plus a few other Empire titles). This is the result of deliberate choices made by someone with good taste -- if I'm not mistaken, Sam Zimmerman, who briefly took over Shock Till You Drop when Ryan Turek left, has just taken a job as the site's new curator. A few weeks ago, I wrote an appreciation of Stuart Gordon that championed this film as one of Full Moon's best. It's a dark, gothic family drama with the director's usual mix of violence and sexuality and features two strong, against-type performances by genre legends Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton.
2011 commentary track if you haven't already. If you have, don't worry! The 2008 sequel is also on Shudder, and it's almost every bit as lunatic as the original (despite being the fifth in the series, it's the only sequel written and directed by Robert Hiltzik). Perhaps the sequel would make for a good commentary too...