Thursday, July 30, 2015

13 Movies to Check Out on Shudder

by Patrick Bromley
There's a new horror streaming service you need to check out.

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.
1. Murder Party (2007, dir. Jeremy Saulnier) The idea for this column came to me a few days ago when our own Adam Riske posted in our Weekend Open Thread that he had signed up for Shudder and was looking for recommendations. I had a few titles I suggested, but they were a bit on the heavy side. Then I remembered that Jeremy Saulnier's Murder Party was available and immediately made that my recommendation. I only saw the movie a year or two ago (I watched it with Mike, who I then murdered), having tracked it down after loving Saulnier's second movie 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.
2. Deathdream (aka Dead of Night) (1974, dir. Bob Clark) As someone who grew up knowing Bob Clark because of A Christmas Story and Porky's and Baby Geniuses(!), it's been really cool to discover years later that he started out as a great horror filmmaker. A sort-of remake of "The Monkey's Paw," Deathdream is one of the best horror movies ever made about the Vietnam war and a really sad story about loss. It's so good.
3. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) (1974, dir. Jorge Grau) I wanted to try and include at least one 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.
4. The Battery (2012, dir. Jeremy Gardner) The super low-budget (reportedly about $6,000) debut feature from writer/director/star Jeremy Gardner knocked my socks off when I finally saw it (after lots and lots of hype) last year on Scream Factory's Blu-ray. It's a very different kind of zombie movie, which is exactly what we need at a time when the genre is so over saturated and played out. If you haven't yet seen it, you really should rectify that. Even if you don't love it -- and you really ought to love it -- you'll at least know you've seen something. And The Battery is something.
5. Spider Baby (1967, dir. Jack Hill) This is a favorite of many of us at F This Movie! after it it became the breakout surprise of a 24-hour Massacre 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.
6. Deadgirl (2008, dir. Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel) So I'm realizing that there are a lot of zombie movies on this list. But I'd also argue that no two of them are alike. Written by Trent Haaga, star of 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.
7. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972, dir. Armando de Ossorio) I just recently saw this for the first day of 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.
8. Red, White & Blue (2010, dir. Simon Rumley) Yikes. This is a really good movie, but one you should watch only when you feel up to something really, really dark and nasty. Try to know very little going in. And don't make any plans for afterwards.
9. The Stuff (1985, dir. Larry Cohen) One of the things I love about horror -- and it's well-represented on Shudder -- is just how varied it is. There's a different horror movie for every mood. After heavy and upsetting movies like Deadgirl and Red, White & Blue, you'll need to watch something light and fun. What better than Larry Cohen's 1985 satire of consumerism -- the only movie I can think of about a killer dessert. It's not the best '80s offering available on Shudder, but it's one that maybe more casual fans haven't yet seen. And if you have seen it, there's always Dead Heat.
10. Carnival of Souls (1962, dir. Herk Harvey) This is a really great, creepy low-budget effort from 1962 that our own Adam Riske has named his 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.
11. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003, dir. Kim Jee-woon) While I burned out on the Asian horror movement of the early 2000s as quickly as anyone else, the great Kim Jee-woon's Two Sisters stands apart from most of the films in that subgenre. Shudder has a decent offering of foreign films available and I wanted to be sure at least one was represented, so I'm glad that my selection could come courtesy of one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers. There is an image in the first half hour of this movie that's one of the scariest things I've ever seen.
12. 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.
13. Sleepaway Camp (1983, dir. Robert Hiltzik) Ok, so this is really on here just so you can listen to our 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...


  1. Oh man, I can't believe you recommended "Red White and Blue" - That's ballsy!

    I am ashamed that I haven't seen "The battery" yet. Will rectify that soon.

    "Tale of Two Sisters" is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen; one of my favorites.

    All in all a really good list! I mentioned before that I am really pulling for Shutter and I hope they expand more and more. With Vinegar Syndrome announcing it's streaming service, I'm super pumped that there are genre specific services popping up on the horizon and I hope it is a sign of things to come.

    My only gripe is that I refuse to watch movies on my computer so I hope these services get deals to be included on the numerous streaming boxes and sticks that are available. Is Shudder on Roku? I know I heard that it's coming to Chromecast soon which is a big plus for me as a Chromebook user.

    1. I had the exact same concern, but it has been added to Roku. There's even a free feature called Shudder TV, which just plays movies around the clock and you can drop in and watch whatever's playing.

      The Battery is really great. As a fan of super low-budget horror, I think you'll dig it.

    2. Sorry, Patrick, but I simply don´t understand what´s good on Red, White & Blue. There was just nothing in it for me.
      I saw it maybe 2 months ago, but it left me cold and totally bored to the point, that I now would have trouble to recall anything except that Noah Taylor was in it.
      To me it´s the definition of a very bad amateur movie created by people without the least bit of talent, so I rated it 1 out of 10 on IMDB. ;-)

    3. I really dug Red, White and Blue. Super intense. I can see people loving or hating it though and can't imagine an in-between. It definitely a tough watch.

    4. Yeah, maybe there´s just black or white on this one. I didn´t experienced anything intense there, but that´s ok. Not every movie works for everyone.

  2. Are there ads? I'm wondering since it's run by AMC and some other cable platforms have ads even if you're paying for the service. It sounds awesome regardless. I just don't want any surprise Ford F-150s flying out at me in the middle of a movie. Ugh

    1. There are no ads, not even in between movies on the 24/7 stream.

  3. Very nice to see Let Sleeping Corpse's Lie getting a mention, I live in Manchester and recognise some of the locations in the Manchester scenes, aka also Breakfast at Manchester Morgue. We dont get many movies where I live so this is kinda cool

    1. Seconded. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is somehow one of the first zombie movies I saw back in the VHS era. It's a top tier zombie movie for sure.

  4. Shudder has been pretty excellent so far. My podcast ( just reviewed Castle Freak and I watched it there--great, seamless watching experience between devices, and sooo much catalog to explore! Now they just need a search function.

  5. Thanks for the article PB! This is helpful, yo.

  6. Shudder kicks ass so far. They just need a search function and the ability to add movies to a list, like Netflix.

  7. Murder party was the worst thing I've seen in a while. These suggestions are clearly horrible.

  8. Murder party was the worst thing I've seen in a while. These suggestions are clearly horrible.