Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
Between Netflix and Hulu and Amazon, you may think you have enough streaming options in your life. But you don’t, especially if you’re a horror fan. If you’re in the market for a scary movie, you aren’t going to find much to get excited about amongst most of the major players. The handful of gems tend to be wedged between whatever schlock your streaming service of choice could buy on the cheap.
That’s why I was so intrigued by Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service that supplies all of the great horror options that are so painfully absent elsewhere. Browse through Shudder’s library and you’ll find untouchable classics and cult favorites, mainstream movies and eclectic curiosities from every corner of the globe. And it only costs five bucks a month, which makes me feel like I’m getting away with murder by subscribing.
Because I genuinely love Shudder and because you can sign up for a free trial before you commit to actually paying a dime, I combed through their archives and tried to find ten movies I could recommend to subscribers and curious newbies alike. I ended up narrowing it down to twenty titles and couldn’t bear to cut another one because I have zero discipline. So I decided to program ten double features, linked by filmmakers, themes, styles, and occasionally utter nonsense, that you can enjoy via Shudder.
So don’t let the lack of great horror options on Netflix bring you down. There is another way.
Sympathy For the Devil: Maniac (1980) and Sleep Tight (2011)
William Lustig‘s Maniac is a trash masterpiece, a grim and hopeless experience that flings you into a grimy hole of despair without a flashlight or a rope or a single kind word. And it’s pretty great. The low budget and rough edges only enhance the impact of the final film, as there’s nothing slick or beautiful to remind you that this is only a movie. In the end, you’re left with Joe Spinell‘s terrifying and unforgettable lead performance, anchoring a movie that plants you squarely on the side of a true psychopath.
Like Maniac, Sleep Tight asks you to walk a mile in the shoes of a dangerous and irredeemable mad man. The result is a film that toys with your emotions and tears your sympathies into ribbons. Luis Tosar‘s César is an unforgettable horror villain, an apartment concierge who has made it his mission to make everyone around him as unhappy as possible. Naturally, this often involves completely destroying the lives of innocent people. And while we should be rooting for this terrible man to be found out, to be caught, director Jaume Balagueró (of Rec and Rec 2) pulls a Hitchcock. As with Norman Bates before him, you find yourself accidentally rooting for César to get out of each tense predicament, to get away with unspeakable crimes. This is feel-bad horror at its finest.
Just Don’t Leave Your House: Rabies (2011) and Willow Creek (2013)
When directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado made Rabies, Israeli horror movies simply weren’t a thing. Now, they are their nation’s foremost genre filmmakers, having achieved next-level status with their jaw-dropping sophomore feature, Big Bad Wolves. But you should definitely venture back and check out their debut, a slasher movie where the slasher spends most of the movie unconscious. Even without his help, the woods where he’s hunting his latest victim explodes into violence as various characters cross paths and countless misunderstandings lead to shocking violence. The movie is vicious and hilarious in equal measure, a reminder that human beings will always find ways to kill one another, even when the “villain” is out for the count.
The only thing more surprising than comedian Bobcat Goldthwait turning out to be an insightful and angry filmmaker behind darkly comic gems like World’s Greatest Dad is that he’s also a fine horror director. Willow Creek is a found footage Bigfoot movie, following a couple whose relationship begins to crumble when they find themselves stranded in the wilderness while hunting for the Missing Link. Like most found footage movies, this is a slow burn, taking a long time to get where it’s going, but when it does get there, Goldthwait delivers the goods. The build-up to the scares is surprisingly entertaining, as Goldthwait utilizes his charming leads to maximum effect and populates the supporting cast with real-world Bigfoot aficionados, playing themselves. One scene, an uninterrupted 20-minute static take that finds the two leads taking cover inside their tent while something rummages around outside, has to be seen to be believed.
Impressive, on a Budget: The Corridor (2010) and Citadel (2012)
The Corridor is an effective chiller that feels like an adaptation of a long lost Stephen King story. Except that, unlike most Stephen King movies, this one is actually good. The plot is straightforward enough: a group of friends go to a cabin in the woods for a weekend excursion, encounter a “corridor” of supernatural light in the woods, and then start to tear each other to pieces as this unknown energy transforms them into maniacs. Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, every single frame of The Corridor looks just plain cold, transporting you to the icy north and sending unwilling chills down your spine. Also like The Thing, the violence is brutal, clever, and lingers in the back of your brain. Even when The Corridor pushes against the restraints of its budget, it’s an impressive and memorable film.
Ciarán Foy‘s Citadel is one of the more ambitious horror debuts of the past few years. Nasty and relentless, it’s an ode to single fathers, a strangely moving tale of confronting your greatest fears, and a borderline post-apocalyptic nightmare that treats a crumbling suburban neighborhood as a desolate wasteland. Aneurin Barnard is appropriately unhinged as Tommy, an agoraphobic widower whose attempts to raise his infant daughter are at odds with the local gang of murderous feral children that have taken over the neighborhood. Citadel isn’t as slick as other films mentioned here, but it’s raw and weird and concludes with abrupt-but-perfect climax that recalls the best Hammer horror films.