When people imagine what a horror streaming platform might have to offer, they probably gravitate toward well-known franchises and nostalgic hits from the decade of their choosing. When Shudder does acquire the rights to these better known films, it’s a rightful cause for celebration among subscribers. What they may not pay as close attention to are the platform’s originals and exclusives. There are a lot of quality films that you can only find on Shudder, and we’d like to share some of our favorites with you.
When Dan (Steve Zissis) discovers that his family’s house is haunted, he seeks out help from experts in the paranormal. He finds Os (Mark Proksch in a pre-What We Do In The Shadows role), a boastful investigator and exorcist who moves in with Dan to eradicate the evil. However, the haunting takes a very different turn as Os extends his stay longer and longer, treating Dan more like an old friend than a client and displaying questionable methods in pushing the ghosts out of the house. In a darkly funny character study, Another Evil cuts to the core of Os’s loneliness and seamlessly delivers us from awkward laughter to pity to terror.
The Blood of Wolves
The Blood of Wolves was released to Shudder with almost no fanfare whatsoever, which is a shame because it is one of the best films to be released in the U.S. this year. In a throwback to Yakuza cinema of yesteryear, the film follows straight-laced rookie detective Shuichi Hioka (Tôri Matsuzaka) as he is paired with wildcard veteran Shogo Ogami (Kôji Yakusho) to investigate a man’s disappearance and its possible connection to a rising feud between rival gangster factions. What starts as an absurdly hilarious demonstration of Ogami’s worst tendencies, such as womanizing, picking fights, and committing arson to illegally collect evidence, evolves into a gripping character study of what turns a man into someone like Ogami. It’s one of the best tonal shifts in recent memory, which is saying a lot from a film that opens with a man being forcibly fed pig shit.
Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that keep us going forward. Take a lifeboat full of Allied survivors in World War II, place them on a seemingly abandoned German ship in the middle of the ocean, then introduce vampires into the mix. Is Blood Vessel a silly idea for a horror movie? Absolutely. Is it a very fun idea for a horror movie? Also yes. There’s something charming about how unassuming and sincere the film is about its humble ambitions of making a gory mess of its historical setting, and who doesn’t love a good exploitation of the Nazis’ obsession with the occult? Even if its title weren’t a delicious pun, Blood Vessel would absolutely be worth checking out.
Downrange is another simple film, but it’s of a much meaner and leaner bent. What happens when a group of friends takes a road trip through the scrublands, only to have their tire blown out by an unseen sniper who is dead set on picking them off one by one? That’s the scenario writer-director Ryûhei Kitamura sets up and violently executes to tense, heart-pounding effect. The assailed college students must match their wits against an opponent they cannot see and can only hear once it’s too late. It’s hard to imagine a more harrowing scenario playing out in broad daylight.
Monstrum is the meld of creature feature and martial arts bonanza that you probably didn’t realize you were craving. In feudal Korea, a monster roams the countryside and threatens the rule of the reigning king by spreading a mysterious illness wherever it goes. But underneath the domineering creature design and fight choreography is a story that delves deeper into what makes a monster like Monstrum appear in the first place. There’s a surprisingly empathetic heart to the affair, and you’ll miraculously find yourself rooting against an entirely different kind of monster before the credits roll. Just keep this in mind: You’re going to fall in love with Sparkles.
One Cut of the Dead
You’re going to be tempted to turn One Cut of the Dead off before you get past the first thirty minutes. That is everyone’s experience going into it, and you should still go into the film with as little foreknowledge as possible. Believe me. It’s worth it. The story of a film crew making a zombie movie that inexplicably becomes beset by real zombies is a purposely rough experience at first, but once the film opens up and shows you what it was setting up, it turns into one of the most fulfilling pieces of outsider cinema to hit in quite some time. Just go watch it.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
Even casual fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise recognize that the series’ second entry is a bit of an outlier, treating Freddy Krueger as a spirit of possession instead of a dream stalker. It’s no big secret that this has a lot to do with the influence of its gay screenwriter David Chaskin and its gay star, Mark Patton. Scream, Queen! is the documentary of Patton’s rise to stardom in the series’ odd duck installment, his fall from grace in the midst of the AIDS crisis and the attendant gay panic in Hollywood, and his ascendancy as an icon of the queer horror community. It’s a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of persecution and rebirth, wrapped up in a reappraisal of a film that was unfairly derided in its time and is now a fan favorite.
Summer of 84
If you haven’t had your fill of 1980s horror nostalgia from Stranger Things, you might want to try Summer of 84, which follows a group of teenage boys as they suspect and investigate their neighbor (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) for being a serial killer that’s stalking their suburban community. It’s a twisty tale of adolescent chicanery that will constantly leave you doubting whether the boys are onto something, or whether their neighbor is just an innocent caught in their overactive imaginations. Creepy, suspenseful, and just a little bit goofy, Summer of 84 is a flash back to the bridge between childhood and adulthood, where you suspect that there might be more to the adults in your life than you took for granted.
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Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.