It’s been a few months since my first round of recommendations for the horror streaming service Shudder so I thought I’d throw together another five films to watch if you’re looking for some clever entertainment off the beaten path. Most of these are either Shudder Originals or exclusive to the streaming site, but a few are also on Amazon Prime or available to rent, so check around.
I watched this one prior to its appearance on Shudder, but I was happy to see it show up there. More of a suspenseful sci-fi drama than a horror movie, Coherence follows a group of friends at a dinner party that just happens to coincide with the passing of a comet that turns out to have the ability to shatter the walls between parallel universes. Past wrongs, personal failings, and dark secrets collide in this creative and well executed indy film. Fans of Buffy may get a kick out of Nicholas Brendon’s performance, especially if they’re familiar with the actor’s personal history. Looks like this one is also available on Amazon Prime, and can be rented.
The Mortuary Collection
A movie so fun I watched it twice. Within a week. A great anthology film with an even better framing sequence tying it all together. Excellent writing, directing, acting, and music… yeah, it’s basically perfect. Fans of the original Creepshow movie will love this one. Evidently my opinion is not an island, as there are rumors of a sequel – or even a franchise – in the works. Yes, please.
Probably the weakest entry on this list, it is still a film worthy of your time, but to explain why I feel that way might require a short rant. (This is a blog, after all.) My biggest peeve when watching a movie is bad writing. This isn’t, as you might suspect, because I’m a writer. It is a pure economic objection. Beyond a doubt, when it comes to filmmaking the absolute cheapest component is the script. To hire even three actors will generally cost more than the script. The time investment of the cast and crew is immense. Supplying sets? Expensive. I contend that this scales. Big budget movies are built on big names and big set pieces. Small movies are built on small names and small sets. No matter the scale though, the writing is the cheapest part, and is only limited by one or more people sitting around imagining and typing. Knowing that immense time and money is going to go into filming the script, what’s the justification for a crummy one? I’ve seen five minute films that were better than some two hour Hollywood “blockbusters.”
Okay, so Head Count. This is not a perfect movie, and to be honest I didn’t love the ending. That being said, I have a soft spot for any film that even closely approaches a one room drama (it is probably worth mentioning that Coherence also fits into this category). Head Count largely takes place in an Air BnB vacation home occupied by a bunch of college kids. The college kid drama is actually minimal, and we’re shown a generally welcoming group of young adults who are partying on spring break. Into this scene comes a supernatural entity, invited through a minimalistic – though clever – plot technique. What ensues is a fun head scratcher with lots of enjoyable twists and turns, with quality writing and directing. Also available on Amazon Prime.
Color Out of Space
Adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories are perhaps more numerous than the stories themselves, but good adaptations are more rare than an unracist Lovecraft story. One exception to the quality aspect is adaptations of The Colour Out of Space. It is undoubtedly one of his best stories, and easy to adapt while still being true to the original. The basic premise is that a weird-noncorporeal-space-thing comes down from the stars to live in a farmer’s well, poisoning the land and his family. Of course, we’re talking Lovecraft here, so the poisoning is of their minds and souls. That story presents a very fertile ground (pun intended) to play in. Add to that setup the possibility of another film featuring a screaming mad Nicholas Cage (re. Mandy, also available on Shudder) and you have the makings of one hell of a crazy ride. This one is classic Lovecraftian fun, and is actually a great movie on its own.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another outstanding Colour adaptation which precedes this one. Die Farbe is an underappreciated German adaptation which delivers a much more toned down and sinister experience. To my knowledge this one can only be seen if purchased as a DVD from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society store, but if you’re a die hard Lovecraft fan and movie buff it’s worth it.
One Cut of the Dead
My opinion of this film is summed up in two points. First, it is a perfectly executed ode to passionate filmmaking that is practically a masterpiece. Second, this is not a zombie movie. It’s hardly even a horror movie, but given the fact that humans like categories a horror streaming service is the natural home for this film. This Japanese film was made on a slim budget of $25,000 with an unknown cast. At last estimate it had grossed nearly $27,000,000 internationally. This is exactly what I was ranting about: it has a stellar script, quality acting (from prior unknowns), and skilled directing. One of its claims to fame is that the movie starts with a single camera – uncut – 37 minute long zombie film. This is a real uncut sequence, not some camera trickery, and it is incredible. That gets you about 40% of the way through the film, so what is the rest of the runtime about? That’s where the genius of this movie comes in. I’m not going to spoil it because I knew nothing but the above going in, and the discovery was a lot of fun for me. What I do think has to be said is that there are no “real” zombies in this movie, since we’re talking about a movie about making a zombie movie. This means that all the tropes familiar to zombie movie fans don’t play out, but I can’t hold that against such an amazing accomplishment. Highly recommended.
That’s all for now, but I managed to sneak more than five movie recommendations into this post, so I’ve left you all with plenty of extra credit work.
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.