I finally signed up for Shudder, the niche streaming horror service, when they ran a crazy promotion on Halloween. The platform has quickly become one of my favorite streamers, with a wide selection of films broadly classed as horror that range from the mainstream, to the iconic, to the rare. I thought I’d round up a few of the favorites I’ve found on the service in the last few weeks. All together these are definitely worth a one month subscription and binge.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
This was actually a rewatch for me, but in the decade-plus since its release it has not lost a bit of brilliance. Behind the Mask is a smart deconstruction/subversion of the slasher genre with lots of subtle comedy. Set in a world where classic movie slashers actually exist, a documentary film crew follows Leslie Vernon on his quest to become the next Jason. What preparation must someone go through to achieve this goal? According to Leslie its lots of reading Gray’s Anatomy, studying psychology, and doing a lot of cardio. So much cardio. Highly recommended if you’re in the mood for a fun and smart horror flick. There are plenty of smarts to outweigh the violence and diffuse the tension, so the squeamish can have fun with this one.
Blood Vessel (Shudder Exclusive)
Shudder was pushing this one hard around Halloween as it was a new exclusive film to the service. A Nazi battleship infested with vampires? Yes, please! The addition of an international cast of Allies helps heat up the interpersonal tension to a nice temperature before throwing us head first into a family of Nosferatu-style vampires. Fun and just creepy enough to qualify as a solid B-Movie. Recommended if you like good-bad movies. Also, mad props to the double meaning of the title.
A Tale of Two Sisters
I admit I didn’t actually watch this one on Shudder, but I was pleased to discover it was on there. I watched this on DVD in early October at a friend’s mad insistence after I showed him Crimson Peak (which he loved). A Tale of Two Sisters is a slow burn Korean gem that leaves you confused until the climax, then leaves you with a few satisfying questions. Highly recommended if you’re interested in a cerebral WTF-fest.
The Monster Club
I’ve been trying to get ahold of a copy of this film for over a year, so I was overjoyed when I found it on Shudder. Released in 1981 but with the definite feel of a late 1970s horror comedy, this surreal beauty tells three short stories tied together by a framing sequence staring the incomparable Vincent Price. Between each vignette a different band performs a different – but very 1970s – rock song about monsters. This one has to be seen to be believed. Recommended if you love non-sequitur comedy and 1970s horror (that’s a double yes for me).
Host (Shudder Exclusive)
I’ve got to close out this list with Host, which was one of the main reasons I wanted Shudder in the first place. This film exploded in the press in August, and the accolades are well deserved. Filmed over 12 weeks and entirely on Zoom, this 60 minute film follows a group of friends on a seance conducted over Zoom. Based on reviews I was expecting a good ride, but holy shit is this a masterwork! Everything is on point from the dialog, to the interpersonal dynamics, to the perfect foreshadowing, to Easter eggs for horror aficionados. One high point was when the wife and I were staring at the screen looking for classic paranormal stuff and she exclaimed, “I can’t tell if that’s a ghost or Zoom pixelation!” I’m convinced that was 100% intended; that’s how well this film mastered its medium. A film that could not have existed a year ago, Host is a horror story for our time, based on our shared trauma. For an added freakout effect, watch it on a laptop. Be warned though, this one goes to eleven really fast.
That’s it for now, but I expect I’ll return with more niche movie recs as unending quarantine stretches into the dark winter.
Dr. Andrew Porwitzky is a scientist and freelance writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the author of numerous works of fiction, scientific articles, and essays.