Movies & TV / Columns

Top 15 Horror Films on Shudder Right Now (Updated For April)

April 19, 2019 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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LAST UPDATED: April 17th, 2019

Have you heard of Shudder?

It’s a streaming service run by AMC that you can find on your Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One and other streaming devices. Why am I sounding like a shill to tell you about it? Because it’s curated specifically for hardcore horror fans like us and only runs at $4.99 per month. I’ve been subscribed for a long time and as you may have been able to tell from my top horror films of 2018 list, they get a lot of great exclusive content. Three of my favorite movies from last year are on the service, including Revenge, Summer of ’84 and Mandy.

They’re also the new home of Joe Bob Briggs, former host of TNT’s Monstervision and soon to be host of The Last Drive-In, a similarly-styled double feature series that has been kicking ass ever since it debuted at the end of March.

But more than exclusive independent horror films and returning horror hosts to their former glory, they also have a lot of curated content of new and classic movies for fans of all types to enjoy. That’s what this list is for. It’s a look at fifteen of the best that Shudder has to offer, a list that will be updated as Shudder does, as titles are dropped/added from the service regularly.

So here are the Top Fifteen Horror Films on Shudder! Movies are not ranked, but presented in alphabetical order.

Army of Darkness (1992)

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove

Story: A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home.

The cinematic culmination of the Evil Dead trilogy, this film sees the series go full screwball comedy and never look back. Whether or not that’s a good thing will depend on your own individual tastes, but it’s hard not to love our idiot hero Ash as he continually has to save the people he inevitably ends up dooming. Bruce Campbell has completely grown into the character at this point and works his stump off here, playing essentially multiple versions of Ash, including a makeup-heavy Evil Ash, to carry this thing on his back. Helping him along are the impressive special effects from KNB, one of the last movies of its kind to use this much practical and stop-motion effects after the likes of Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park changed the game. Army of Darkness is hilarious and fun, and a definite must for fans of over the top horror-comedy.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Director: Scott Glosserman

Cast: Robert Englund, Angela Goethals, Nathan Baesel

Story: A camera crew follows an aspiring slasher movie killer as he prepares to slaughter a group of teens. Leslie Vernon always dreamed of joining the ranks of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. But if he wants to become the next great psycho slasher, he’s got to do lots of preparation — from weapons practice to lots and lots of cardio.

One of the cleverest slasher movies you’ll ever see, Behind the Mask is something like the thinking horror fan’s version of Scream. It’s walks the fine line between parody and tribute, while also carving out its own legacy. Leslie Vernon doesn’t just pay homage to the likes of Jason and Freddy, he wants to make his own name and to a certain segment of genre fans, he has. The film has a great script, one that benefits from repeat viewings, and so many horror references and nods. It might seem like that would get tiresome, but it manages to have all of this and still be its own movie. The fact that it can pay homage, cleverly spoof common slashers tropes and still present a well-crafted story on its own makes this one of the modern classics.

Black Christmas (1974)

Director: Bob Clark

Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder

Story: During a festive Yuletide party, a group of sorority sisters receive a creepy call from someone who claims he’s going to kill them all. The girls soon realize the threats were serious, when one by one, they each fall prey to the mysterious maniac.

Before Halloween and Friday the 13th came along and really defined what the slasher film could be, there was Black Christmas. This is a movie that definied many of the tropes that other films would mock, from the “calls coming from within the house” to the use of red herrings and false endings. The best part of this movie is that it confines everything to a single location, giving it a sense of claustrophobia. Most of the cast are doomed because by the time they’re aware people are dying, it’s already too late. It also benefits from a truly bizarre series of phone calls that get under your skin, setting the tone for when Billy finally comes down from the attic to play. Black Christmas is not exactly Yuletide cheer, but it’s definitely should be a holiday tradition for horror fans.

Day of the Dead (1985)

Director: George Romero

Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Sherman Howard

Story: After a zombie apocalypse, scientists attempt to reverse the reanimation process and train zombies to abstain from eating people.

This may not be as iconic as Night of the Living Dead, which is also available on the service, but if you want a George Romero film that’s a ton of gory zombie fun, this is the one to go with. It definitely contains the best special effects of the entire series and arguably the best effects of Tom Savini’s career. There’s nasty gore for everyone here, from people getting ripped apart to heads being ripped off. The movie also features the great Joe Pilato as Captain Rhodes, one of cinema’s biggest jerks, getting the ending he deserves. It’s the unsung movie of Romero’s Dead series, especially when compared to Night and Dawn, but deserves just as much love as either one of those.

Demons (1985)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny

Story: When a young woman begins to suffer the same symptoms as the possessed subjects of the film, she attacks other patrons, turning them into murderous monsters too.

Demons is the heavy metal music video of the 80s horror world. It’s loud, colorful and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s definitely something you’ll remember long after watching it. This movie is the kind of horror film you can throw on during a Halloween party, because there’s always some nasty blood-soaked carnage going on, and there’s not much of a plot to follow. People go see a movie about demons. People become demons. People die. That’s all that happens for the length of this and it’s awesome. Demons burst out of people. Demons tear into people. A man rides a motorcycle through theater aisles while brandishing a sword to fight demons. Billy Idol and Motley Crue are on the soundtrack. What more do you need to know? Demons is awesome and the perfect B-movie for every fan of the genre.

Deep Red (1976)

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia

Story: A psychic who can read minds picks up the thoughts of a murderer in the audience and soon becomes a victim. An English pianist gets involved in solving the murders, but finds many of his avenues of inquiry cut off by new murders, and he begins to wonder how the murderer can track his movements so closely.

Before Michael Myers, there was the giallo. This stylized Italian murder mystery bridged the gap between the old style of horror and the slashers of the 80s for most horror fans. There were violent kills like the slashers we know, but they had more of a mystery than say, A Nightmare on Elm Street. There were plenty of giallos during the 60s and 70s, but arguably one of the best directors in the genre was Dario Argento. And depending on who you ask, Deep Red is his best giallo. It has all the trademark things that made Argento a star among his fans in later films like Suspiria, paritcularly his stylish direction, use of color and graphic kills. If that doesn’t sell you, maybe the great score from Goblin will. If you’re looking for more of a deep cut into the genre, then go for Deep Red.

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles

Story: Fifteen years after murdering his sister, Michael Myers returns to his hometown of Haddonfield and begins to stalk a group of young babysitters.

The one. The only. The classic. Halloween. What else can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Forty-one years later and it’s still being discussed and is still considered one of the greatest of all time. It’s a movie that defined what a slasher film is to the point that it is considered passe by many simply for inventing many of the cliches that those films use. Yet it’s still effective, from the score, to Michael Myers himself calmly hiding in the shadows as Laurie frantically moves in front of him, waiting to strike. Is it John Carpenter’s greatest film? That’s up for debate, but it’s definitely in the conversation. It popularized an entire style of horror filmmaking and led the way for decades of imitators and sequels, most of which could never hope to come close to its example. It’s beloved for a reason.

Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker

Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley

Story: A puzzle box reveals a realm of sadistic monsters led by a being named Pinhead, who torture the depraved man who unlocks it. Escaping Pinhead’s wrath, what remains of Frank hides out in his attic, until a chance encounter leads him to enlist his brother’s wife Julia, with whom he had a passionate affair, to lure victims home so Frank can feed off their blood.

One of the working titles for this movie was Sadomasochists From Beyond the Grave, which isn’t quite as catchy but still manages to sum up what exactly you’re getting when you turn this movie on. There’s something about Hellraiser that Hollywood has never quite been able to replicate, which is probably why the sequels have never been as good and why the remake never got off the ground. It’s weird. It’s bizarre. It’s strange. It gets under your skin and makes you feel gross. There’s something wrong about what’s going on in the movie, and yet we keep watching. It’ll tear your soul apart, sure, but think about how you’ll feel after that’s over. As a bonus, Shudder also has two more of these movies available right now, but again, they’re not as good. Stick to the original and enjoy the strange, wondrous violence of it all.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Director: John McNaughton

Cast: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Story: This controversial horror classic follows a serial killer and his partner-in-crime as they slowly begin to kill for fun.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer isn’t, as horror movies go, outwardly violent or gory. When you compare it to something like Hellraiser, it’s downright tame. And yet, because it’s more realistic and not nearly as over-the-top, it’s harder to watch. There is nothing “fun” about watching Henry and Otis go out and murder people. You don’t see a lot, but the way it’s shot and acted, as well as the fact it’s loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas, make it uncomfortable to watch. The acting of Michael Rooker and Tom Towels also add to that, making these real people instead of caricatures like you’d see in other serial killer biopics. That makes it worse, because there are times when Henry’s downright likable and you feel bad for liking him when he does something horrible. Henry is a movie that’s dirty and raw and will make you feel that way after watching it.

Maniac (1980)

Director: William Lustig

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton

Story: The pretty women who encounter Frank Zito all wind up dead. But when Frank meets a female photographer named Anna, his interest in her – and her affection for him – leads to a battle between his good and bad sides.

If you want a serial killer movie with a little less realism, then William Lustig has your answer with Maniac. This film follows Frank Zito, a man who has some serious issues and likes to take those issues out on his victims by scalping women, using a shotgun on Tom Savini, the works. The thing that makes this movie stand out above other slashers of its time is the character development and the acting from Joe Spinell as he is torn between his psychotic tendencies and his feelings for the woman he is dating. It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you it doesn’t end well, considering the film is called Maniac, but it definitely doesn’t end how you think it does. This is a wild ride from start to finish, thanks once again to the effects work from Savini and the fine acting and direction. Another under-the-radar horror gem that a lot of fans have missed over the years.

Phantasm (1979)

Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister

Story: When Mike’s parents die, his world is turned upside down. But nothing can prepare him for the shocking discovery that a mortician and his dwarf army have stolen Mike’s parents’ bodies.

There’s not a lot in Phantasm that makes a lot of sense, and that’s only to the movie’s benefit. If this was a straightforward movie, it might not be as memorable forty years later as it is. It has a dreamlike atmosphere which allows it the ability to go from one scene to the next without a lot of continuity, something not a lot of films get to enjoy. That dream becomes a nightmare when the Tall Man is around, raising the dead, turning them into monstrous dwarves and taking them to his red world for who knows what purpose. You don’t get a lot of answers in Phantasm but that’s not the point. What you get instead if an enjoyable trip into strange territory that you’ll remember long after Angus Scrimm’s bellowing “Boy!” has echoed on the screen. If you need more than just the original, the service also includes the third, fourth and fifth films in the series.

The Beyond (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Cast: Catriona MacColl, Cinzia Monreale, David Warbeck

Story: A woman inherits a hotel built over an entrance to Hell. But when she starts to renovate, the gates get opened, bringing forth enough demons, killer spiders, ghosts, and evil zombies to make a grand reopening highly unlikely.

Shudder is such a great service that it actually has all three of Lucio Fulci’s classic “Gates of Hell” trilogy: House by the Cemetary, City of the Living Dead and this, The Beyond. However, this is easily the best of the three. From the gruesome carnage that takes the lives of anyone foolish enough to come near the location of the horror to the nightmarish finale, The Beyond is one of Fulci’s very best films. It has a great score from Fabio Frizzi, tons of gory kills and a definite “anyone can die” vibe that yes, includes kids. You can probably tell that from the poster. If you’re looking for the movie to make sense, you can probably look elsewhere, as it’s a lot like Phantasm in that respect. It’s not about coherence, it’s about visuals and violence. It’s about the experience, and The Beyond has plenty of that.

The Changeling (1980)

Director: Peter Medak

Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas

Story: Consumed by grief, a New York composer moves to a secluded Victorian mansion. There he finds himself haunted by a paranormal entity that may unleash an even more disturbing secret.

There’s a lot of wild movies on this list, but sometimes the simple can work just as well. The Changeling is a very simple and straightforward movie. It’s a haunted house movie and a mystery wrapped up in one. It’s about atmosphere and mood more than it is shocks and blood. That’s why the horror genre is the best. There’s a great film no matter what style you’re looking for. The Changeling is a classy, understated haunted house movie with a great performance from George C. Scott anchoring what might have been a lesser B-movie in less capable hands. It has many momets that almost sneak up on the viewer in their effectiveness. It’s chilling and sad, haunting and heartbreaking. It’s the most low-key movie on this list, something for the quieter nights when you’re all alone except for those strange creaks you can hear elsewhere in your house. It could just be the floor settling…or it could be something else.

The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Story: Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant scientist, invents a device capable of transporting inanimate objects through thin air. He invites journalist Veronica Quaife (Genna Davis) to document his revolutionary work. The machine, Seth believes, is capable of teleporting living organisms, but his initial attempts at teleporting baboons fail miserably. As Seth’s lab search intensifies, so too does his relationship with Veronica.

You can’t really go wrong with David Cronenberg’s remake of the 1950s B-movie, turning it into the ultimate gross-out body horror classic. There’s a reason that special effects master Chris Walas is given top billing on the end credits over everyone else. This is a horror show of creature effects, whether it comes to the monstrosity that Goldblum becomes at the end or the various stages of decomposition he goes through to get there. And yet, it’s more than that because at its heart it’s a very tragic love story, with characters we get to know and care about, which makes the events all the more disturbing. The Fly is a movie that really could only have been pulled off by this team and it’s as close to perfect as the genre gets.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, Gunner Hansen, Edwin Neal

Story: Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.

When it comes to classics, everything’s bigger in Texas. This movie has a little bit of everything for every horror fan, although oddly there’s almost no blood to be found. The movie is disturbing in some parts and darkly comedic in others. It’s powerfully acted in one scene and has a very annoying performance in another. You can see the lack of a budget and yet that almost plays to its advantage, as it feels almost like a documentary. The lack of a real score helps with that as well. It’s like they wanted to you think you were watching a snuff movie. You’re not, of course, and it never feels that way, but there’s definitely a documentary vibe about it. Depending on your mood you can either find it hilarious (“Look what your brother did to the door”) or unsettling (the dinner scene) or every emotion in between. Movies like this are classics for a reason and we keep coming back to them because of their ability to make us feel things. Hopefully you don’t leave this one feeling hungry.