For horror fans seeking thrills—highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in between—there’s no better destination than Shudder, which is stuffed to the gills with classics, cult classics, and cult-classics-in-the-making, with a wide range of international titles and exclusive releases too. Here are seven to get you started!
Joko Anwar—writer of another recent Shudder release, The Queen of Black Magic, and one of Indonesia’s leading horror filmmakers right now—wrote and directed this supremely eerie tale of a young woman (Tara Basro) who travels to the isolated village where she was born, hoping to claim an inheritance. Instead, she finds a very uneasy community that’s been plagued by a curse for decades. From its very first scene, Impetigore builds suspense and terror, dropping little clues as to what awaits our naive heroine as she makes her ill-advised homecoming—and it does so with artistic flourishes that range from gorgeous (Indonesian shadow puppetry is a theme) to outright gory (let’s just say the effects of that village curse are extremely squishy).
Before he vaulted to the top of the horror A-list with projects like The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan wrote, edited, and directed this 2011 indie about a pregnant woman (Courtney Bell) whose long-missing husband returns from...somewhere very dark...just as she’s going through the process of having him declared legally dead, with an emotional assist from her younger sister (Bly Manor’s Katie Parker), a recovering addict.
By now, we all know Flanagan is the master of unsettling, almost subliminal imagery, and Absentia is a showcase for the techniques he’d later use in his blockbuster series. The film is full of terrifying “Wait, what did I just see out of the corner of my eye?” moments; it also makes wonderful use of its setting—a nondescript Los Angeles suburb that just so happens to have an eerie tunnel connecting it to another neighborhood—to build mountains of dread. But on top of that, it also crafts a compelling story with realistic characters as it examines themes of grief, loss, and guilt, not to mention the idea that redemption often doesn’t come easy, even for people who are really making the effort.
While Shudder has become an outstanding resource for new, cutting-edge horror films, the streamer also has quite a good selection of classics. Case in point: 1981's The Beyond, one of Italian macabre master Lucio Fulci’s best-known works that still manages to deliver stomach-turning shocks even after multiple viewings. How many ways can a human head be destroyed? Watch The Beyond and find out!
A naive New Yorker (Fulci favorite Catriona MacColl) relocates to swampy Louisiana to try her hand at refurbishing a dilapidated hotel—and discovers it’s rather inconveniently located over a doorway to hell that’s recently been re-opened. As you might expect, a thoroughly disgusting array of zombies and related bad vibes ooze into the land of the living, with some truly awful earthly horrors sprinkled in for good measure. Let’s just say if you’re an arachnophobe, well...you’ve been warned.
Horror movies don’t often get Oscar recognition, but Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante’s exquisite chiller recently made the Oscar shortlist for Best International Feature Film—so that should tell you something about its high quality right out of the gate. As the title suggests, La Llorona draws inspiration from the weeping woman depicted in Latin American folklore, but it puts its own spin on the legend that somehow makes it even eerier.
After he’s convicted for orchestrating the genocide of Guatemala’s indigenous people—and then uses his clout to swiftly reverse the charges—an aging dictator (Julio Diaz) retreats into his mansion with his family, with very few servants (who are all indigenous people) willing to stick around and tend to his needs. As protestors call for his head outside the gates, a deeply somber young woman Alma (a wonderful María Mercedes Coroy) arrives to join the household staff. Soon, it becomes clear—to the audience if not the dictator’s family—that there’s something distinctly otherworldly about her. Atmospheric and filled with dread that just keeps building and building, La Llorona draws on Guatemala’s own tragic history to tell its tale of grief and ghosts—and effectively explores the deep well of pain that inevitably connects the two.
New this month to Shudder is this Spanish-American production from Spanish B-movie specialist José Ramón Larraz; it melds two very 1980s narratives: a slasher on the loose in a small town, and the mysterious, newfangled world of personal computers. Set in a California mountain town but featuring obvious English dubbing, Edge of the Axe introduces us to an array of local folks—including the new guy in town Gerald (Barton Faulks), a confirmed computer geek—most of whom come under suspicion when a mysterious killer begins picking off members of the community. With its (unintentionally) hilarious dialogue, excited embrace of outdated technology, wildly uneven performances, and a plot so ludicrous its last-act twists drift into the surreal, nobody’s going to call Edge of the Axe a cinematic masterpiece—unless they’re looking for a very silly, intermittently horrific viewing experience. In that case, it’s a masterpiece.
Combine Die Hard (but without a central badass), every animal-attack movie ever (say hello to Shakma, a baboon whose rage has been scientifically amplified), a determined plot about immersive role-playing computer games, and gloriously unremarkable production values, and you’ll get Shakma—a 1990 B-movie populated with a cast of faces you might recognize but can’t immediately place (A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss; The Blue Lagoon’s Christopher Atkins; and, thematically appropriately enough, Planet of the Apes veteran Roddy McDowall). The bonkers premise makes the entire affair ridiculously enjoyable, and while you might lose a few brain cells before the end, you’ll at least understand why Shakma has earned its own cult-movie niche. (Arrives on Shudder March 15)
Does this one sound familiar? That’s because we’re just gonna keep bringing up this Buenos Aires-set movie until you watch it. It’s that good! And by “good,” we mean deeply frightening, with a highly original story and setting that Hollywood is currently trying to figure out how to replicate.
From Argentine writer-director Demián Rugna, Terrified explores a series of nightmarish incidents that all transpire in the same nondescript row of houses—including a gruesome death and an entirely separate, but equally gruesome, return from death. Despite its sinister themes and gore, the movie also has a macabre sense of humor, mostly thanks to a group of aging, kinda bumbling paranormal investigators who’re brought in to assist the over-their-heads local police. The plot is propulsive, the characters aren’t your typical horror genre types, and the monstrous imagery will leave you...well...there’s a reason it’s called Terrified.
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