Netflix is doing some awesome things in terms of original programming aimed at horror fans, but their back catalog of genre titles has dwindled significantly since the streaming giant’s heyday. If you’re wondering where all the foreign, cult and indie horror went, you might want to take a gander at the selection available on Shudder; many of the titles I first saw on Netflix “back in the day” now live in this spooky stable.
This is not a paid or sponsored article; just an honest recommendation from a horror fan who “grew up” on Netflix only to see their genre offerings lessen month-by-month. In addition to the hundreds of films available on Shudder, they’re also producing original programming that’s top notch and terrifying.
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Below, in no particular order, are my picks for the Top 20 Horror Movies Currently Streaming on Shudder. It’ll give you some insight into the diversity and quality of films that await subscribers at an extremely reasonable price. Have a look and let us know what you think in the Comments section!
Are you also disappointed with the state of horror affairs at Netflix? Have you investigated what Shudder has to offer and, if so, do you agree with my choices for their Top 20? What are the best films you’ve seen on Shudder? Let’s discuss!
Prevenge (2017, Directed by Alice Lowe)
Official Synopsis: Follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood.
Prevenge is a horror comedy on the surface, but this is a laugh-now- cry later experience. A metaphor for the hijacking of female bodies by a fetus, pregnancy is a jumping-off point for larger explorations of karma, vengeance, and grief. Written, directed, and starring Alice Lowe (the star/writer of Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers) who shines in every respect. One of 2017’s best so far. Prevenge is a Shudder Exclusive you won’t find anywhere else.
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Devil’s Pass (2013, Directed by Renny Harlin)
Official Synopsis: To determine what happened to some Russian hikers, five U.S. college students go back to where the hikers were found dead. The students don’t return from the expedition, either, and the recovered footage is deemed too disturbing for public viewing.
Devil’s Pass might just restore your faith in found footage horror movies. The story is absolutely compelling, and the FX are real (in other words: Devil’s Pass doesn’t rely on shaky cams and out of focus shadows to produce anxiety). The fact that this film is based on a “real life” enduring paranormal mystery only adds to the engrossing experience and incredible atmosphere this film creates. Devil’s Pass was once available on Netflix.
Frailty (2002, Directed by Bill Paxton)
Official Synopsis: Set in present day Texas, “Frailty” centers on the FBI’s search for a serial killer who calls himself “God’s Hands.” Matthew McConaughey plays Fenton Meeks, a young man who approaches the lead investigator, one night, claiming he knows the identity of the killer. The FBI agent is curious, but unimpressed until Fenton reveals that the killer is his younger brother Adam. This is a film about faith, family and the end of innocence.
As the film’s director and star, Frailty is Bill Paxton’s opus; an atmospheric and moody psychological horror with plenty of supernatural flare. Matthew McConaughey is anything but the stereotypical “dude” he’s played in so many of his other films. Frailty will terrify you, disturb you, and tug at your heartstrings; it also stands as a brilliant remembrance of Paxton’s talent and untapped potential behind the camera. Frailty only recently disappeared from Netflix’s catalog.
Related Article: Here’s Why “Frailty” is One of the Most Underrated Horror Films of the 21st Century
We Go On (2016, Directed by Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland)
Official Synopsis: A man offers a reward to anyone who can prove there is an afterlife. He embarks on an adventure through Los Angeles to meet with three viable candidates, and he has no idea he is about to experience an unthinkable nightmare.
We Go On was an unexpected surprise and will appeal to fans of smart, cerebral ghost stories. Viewers will identify with the main character’s obsessive search for answers and the excitement & fear that accompany quests into paranormal mysteries. There’s a midpoint shocker that will make your head spin and a resolution that might have you looking nervously over your shoulder—forever!
Fright Night (1985, Directed by Tom Holland)
Official Synopsis: Teenage Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a horror-film junkie, so it’s no surprise that, when a reclusive new neighbor named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves next-door, Brewster becomes convinced he is a vampire. It’s also no surprise when nobody believes him. However, after strange events begin to occur, Charlie has no choice but to turn to the only person who could possibly help: washed-up television vampire killer Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall).
Before there was Child’s Play, Tom Holland thrilled horror fans by helming the sexy vampire thriller Fright Night. It’s a combination of classic and 1980s era tropes where a Bella Lugosi aesthetic meshes with punk rock irreverence. Forget about the heartless remake from 2011 and go straight to the source. You’re So Cool, Brewster, the definitive Fright Night documentary, is also available on Shudder.
Lake Mungo (2010, Directed by Joel Anderson)
Official Synopsis: Alice drowns while swimming and her family begins experiencing inexplicable events in their home. The family hires a parapsychologist whose investigation unveils Alice’s secret double life and leads them all to Lake Mungo.
Lake Mungo is the most convincing mockumentary horror movie I’ve ever seen; it’s also a poignant examination of loss, grief, and resolution. There’s a genuine human drama at the core of this film (a family banding together in crisis) that will draw you in with empathy. Part of what makes Lake Mungo so effective is the way the pendulum swings between disbelief and acceptance before delivering a subtle yet chilling conclusion you won’t soon forget.
Frontier(s) (2007, Directed by Xavier Gens)
Official Synopsis: A gang of young thieves flees Paris during the violent aftermath of a political election, only to hole up at an Inn run by neo-Nazis.
In the late 2000s, Netflix was the best place for the now-defunct New French Extremity subgenre of horror; it’s where I first saw Inside, High Tension, Martyrs, Them, Sheitan, and many others. Frontier(s) is one of the best in the bunch; take the most terrifying aspects of Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Decent and you’re still not close to the terror contained within Frontier(s). Xavier Gens English-language follow-up, a brutally nihilistic film called The Divide, is also available on Shudder. PS: Don’t bother looking for examples of New French Extremity on Netflix, because you won’t find any; they’re gone.
The Exorcist III (1990, Directed by William Peter Blatty)
Official Synopsis: Police Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott) notices similarities between his current murder investigation and the methods used by the “Gemini” killer (Brad Dourif) who was executed 15 years before. He soon discovers a hospitalized mental patient (Jason Miller) claiming to be the dead serial killer, but who looks uncannily like a priest Kinderman knew who died during an exorcism. As more bodies are found, Kinderman looks for connections between the two supposedly dead men.
The Exorcist III enjoyed a nice resurgence in popularity in 2016 thanks to a beautiful Blu-ray/DVD reissue from the folks at Scream Factory. Written and directed by original Exorcist scribe William Peter Blatty, the third film in the franchise features incredible performances from George C. Scott and Brad Dourif (the voice of Child’s Play villain Chucky). The 1990s aren’t regarded as horror’s greatest era, but The Exorcist III is one of the decade’s best; it also includes one of the most effective jump scares in modern cinematic history.
Night of the Living Dead (1990, Directed by Tom Savini)
Official Synopsis: For reasons unknown, the recently deceased are rising from the grave as flesh-hungry zombies. Fleeing from the undead horde, a small group of survivors, including Barbara (Patricia Tallman), Ben (Tony Todd), and Harry (Tom Towles), sequester themselves in a remote farmhouse. With the zombies outside the house multiplying, tensions flare, as the group argues over the best way to escape their increasingly dire situation before they are overrun completely.
Tom Savini and Candyman star Tony Todd make for a dynamic duo in this true-to-the-source remake of George A. Romero’s seminal classic Night of the Living Dead. This one deserves a spot on any list of Best Horror Remakes. It’s also one of the best genre films of the 1990s.
Official Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.
Official Synopsis: A doctor and a SWAT team enter a quarantined building where a virus has turned the residents into a pack of ravenous monsters.
Both [REC] and [REC] 2 share a spot, as the sequel picks up literally moments after the first one and continues with a continuity and pacing rarely achieved in sequels. Both films play out over just one night, and the second brings Angela’s (Manuela Velasco) story full circle, tied up in a twist ending that will leave you gasping. [REC] 3 & 4 are also available on Shudder, but those films stray far from the winning formula of the first two.
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Digging Up the Marrow (2014, Directed by Adam Green)
Official Synopsis: A filmmaker (Adam Green) sets out on a bone-chilling odyssey after meeting a man (Ray Wise) who says that he can produce hard evidence that monsters are real.
Digging Up the Marrow is a meta film that will definitely strike a chord with horror fans familiar with the conventions circuit. Director Adam Green (Frozen, Hatchet) plays himself, and the film tells of his dealings with an obsessed paranormal investigator who claims proof of underground societies comprised of monsters. There’s a loose, improvised style to the project that may dissuade those looking for a more straight-forward type of horror story. Still, it’s a fun romp with plenty of cameos sure to get your inner horror geek squealing.
The Innkeepers (2012, Directed by Ti West)
Official Synopsis: The last two employees (Sara Paxton, Pat Healy) of a century-old haunted hotel go on the hunt for ghosts.
A product of the Paranormal Reality Show craze of the early 2010s, The Innkeepers is an extremely effective creeper that unfolds without unrealistic pretenses or exaggerated fear tactics. It’s this slow unraveling that makes the film so effective and leads Sara Paxton and Pat Healy give believable performances with plenty of honest chemistry between them. Expect real suspense and genuine, organic scares.
They Look Like People (2015, Directed by Perry Blackshear)
Official Synopsis: A troubled man suspects people around him are turning into evil creatures, and wonders if he should protect his only friend from an impending war or from himself.
They Look Like People is an under-the-radar indie that’s an absolute treasure, and the fact that you can’t get the film on DVD yet makes Shudder the only place you can see it. Completely character driven and anchored by intense exchanges between the film’s leads (MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel), this is an alien invasion movie unlike any other. It won’t appease gorehounds or anyone looking for CGI sci-fi action, but fans of The Twilight Zone and the horror of Alfred Hitchcock will applaud.
The Collector (2009, Directed by Marcus Dunstan)
Official Synopsis: Desperate for money to pay off a debt, a man targets a wealthy family’s home and plans to break in and steal a valuable gem. He soon learns that he picked the wrong night to carry out his plans, for a masked madman has gotten there first, imprisoned the family, and lined the mansion with deadly traps.
If you see similarities between the film’s titular Collector and the Jigsaw Killer from the Saw franchise, there’s a logical reason for that: The Collector was produced by many of the creative minds behind several Saw sequels. Still, The Collector is more sadistic and chaotic than Jigsaw, inflicting pain of the karma-challenged and innocent alike with truly cringe-inducing methods of torture. There’s something purposely arachnoid about The Collection, especially his eyes which are black and devoid of humanity. No one escapes this spider’s web.
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We Are Still Here (2015, Directed by Ted Geoghegan)
Official Synopsis: Every 30 years, a lonely old house in the fields of New England wakes up and demands a sacrifice.
A retro haunted house story with an occult twist you won’t see coming, We Are Still Here featured prominently on many Best Horror Movies of 2015 lists. Barbara “Don’t Call Me a Scream Queen” Crampton propels the film with the emotional intensity that made her an enduring icon since the 1980s. The supernatural manifestations are exceptionally creepy and original, brimming with glowing embers as they peer through white sightless eyes. The hair on my neck is standing on end just thinking about it!
Related Article: Top 15 Most Terrifying Haunted House Horror Movies
Exit Humanity (2011, Directed by John Geddes)
Official Synopsis: A man (Mark Gibson) chronicles his battles with the walking dead in post-Civil War America.
A Civil War-era zombie movie might seem like a joke, an unlikely mashup like Sharknado or Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer, but Exit Humanity is legit and, unless you’re a heartless monster, it will devastate you emotionally. The film blends straightforward cinematic storytelling with animated illustrations to create an original multi-media experience. Exit Humanity also includes Bill Moseley (Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) in one of his most under-recognized and underappreciated roles; he plays apocalyptic profiteer General Williams, a villain who could go toe-to-toe with The Walking Dead’s Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan).
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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006, Directed by Scott Glosserman)
Official Synopsis: Nice, normal-looking Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) has an obsession with movie-style slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger. Leslie decides to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, and, ever the self-promoter, invites a documentary filmmaker (Angela Goethals) and her crew to follow him around as he constructs his own grisly legacy.
10 years after its initial release, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is more popular than ever with a cult following that grows larger every year. The film breaks all molds and demolishes the barriers between subgenres utilizing elements of found footage, comedy, and established slasher tropes. At the same time, the subtext is miles deep, exploring the relationship between movies and “real life” violence, as well as the culpability of filmmakers who cater to the gore-hungry masses. The titular Leslie Vernon (played by Nathan Baesel) is one of the few firmly established horror icons born in the 21st Century.
Excision (2012, Directed by Richard Bates Jr.)
Official Synopsis: An outcast teenager (AnnaLynne McCord) practices surgical skills and has weird, and increasingly violent, psychosexual fantasies.
This film recently made my list of emotionally devastating horror movies (link below); still, Excision is an enduring favorite I keep coming back to. The film features a cast of well-knowns you didn’t even realize made a movie together (including Ariel Winter, Traci Lords, and Roger Bart) with killer cameos from Ray Wise and John Waters. Yes, Excision is 90% black comedy, but it’s that last 10% that will eviscerate your emotions. Tissues, please.
Related Article: Top 15 Horror Movies That Will Devastate You Emotionally
Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987 & 1988, Directed by Clive Barker & Tony Randel)
Official Synopsis: Sexual deviant Frank (Sean Chapman) inadvertently opens a portal to hell when he tinkers with a box he bought while abroad. The act unleashes gruesome beings called Cenobites, who tear Frank’s body apart. When Frank’s brother (Andrew Robinson) and his wife, Julia (Clare Higgins), move into Frank’s old house, they accidentally bring what is left of Frank back to life. Frank then convinces Julia, his one-time lover, to lure men back to the house so he can use their blood to reconstruct himself.
Official Synopsis: Confined to a mental hospital, young Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) insists her supposedly dead father is stuck in hell, controlled by sadomasochistic demons after being betrayed by his evil, occult-obsessed wife, Julia (Clare Higgins). Few believe Kirsty, except the thrill-seeking Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who is intrigued by S&M and the young woman’s lurid stories. So when Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) head to hell for a rescue, Channard and Julia are close behind.
Like [REC] and [REC] 2 above, the consistency and tone between Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II is nearly impeccable, making them feel like 2 sides of a single coin. Both feature the original quartet of Cenobites, led by the iconic Hell Priest dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradly). Special FX have come a long way since the 1980s, but the overall dark aesthetic, haunting soundtracks and commitment to brutality make these two films both classic and infinitely entertaining.
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House of the Devil (2009, Directed by Ti West)
Official Synopsis: Desperate to make some money so she can move into a new apartment, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes a mysterious babysitting job. When she arrives at the house, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) mentions a full lunar eclipse and explains there is no child, but that Samantha will be watching his mother instead. After exploring the sinister-seeming house, Samantha soon comes to realize that her employers are hiding a horrifying secret and have plans to use her, dead or alive.
With House of the Devil, Ti West is the only director on this list with multiple entries. This one is a brilliant retro horror, made to resemble the aesthetic of 1980s era films produced during the first “Satanic Panic”. House of the Devil delivers slow burn that smolders, meaning the action builds slowly but with serious tension throughout. The 3rd Act is as terrifying as it is chaotic and cathartic.
Related Article: 21st Century Masters of Horror
The Stylist (2016, Directed by Jill Sixx Gevargizian)
Official Synopsis: When we first meet Claire (Najarra Townsend), she seems like a normal hairstylist, decompressing at the end of a stressful day while waiting for her last appointment. But when her client finally arrives, it’s clear there’s something much darker going on. As Claire’s intentions become clear, we realize her client isn’t the only one who wants to look perfect. Jill Gevargizian’s gory short uses horror to offer a powerful statement on the internal and external pressures women face over their appearance. Townsend deservedly won the Best Actress prize at Fantastic Fest 2016. Contains violence and gore.
The Stylist, starring Najarra Townsend (Contracted) is an award-winning horror short by up-and-coming fear practitioner Jill Sixx Gevargizian. Since it’s a short film, I won’t spoil anything with additional exposition; at 15 minutes, it’s got plenty of bang for the buck, so give this winner a spin.