Movie-streaming sites are like used bookstores (or if you’re old enough to remember them, the video-rental stores of the VHS and DVD eras). If you go in with a specific title in mind, the odds are it won’t be there. But if you go in and start browsing the inventory, you’ll likely find some interesting treasures. Complex corporate deals and copyright issues beyond common understanding prevent any one service from being a superstore hosting every conceivable title.
So what’s the alternative to the “used bookstore?” Easy: the “specialty store” that focuses on a particular genre instead of trying to cover everything comprehensively. We’ve previously covered the high-brow film service Fandor, the documentary-film service CuriosityStream, and the independent-film champion Indiepix. Now we’ll weigh in on AMC’s Shudder, which specializes in the genre of horror.
I’m a fan of horror films and have spent many, many hours watching them and writing about them; certainly anyone who doesn’t like horror films will find very little to care about here. But even as a self-professed “expert” (or, at the very least, something slightly beyond amateur), I was impressed by the range and quality of titles Shudder offers, even though their current library consists of less than 400 movies. (I estimate that I’ve seen only about 100 of the available movies, and found a couple of dozen I wanted to see.) The price is excellent, much lower than either Netflix or Hulu: just $4.99 per month (or $50 per year).
If you don't want to pay
I think that what impressed me the most is the unique “Shudder.tv” option, which allows anyone—even non-members—to simply tune into an endless stream of horror films. Though the site does tell you the title of the movie that’s currently on, you never know when a movie is going to start or end, and you don’t know what’s coming next. But that’s part of the charm. It’s almost like the old days of cable TV: just turn it on and see what’s playing (as of this writing, it’s a 2006 movie called Cold Prey, from Norway.) There is a warning of graphic content, which is useful for parents who are keeping an eye on their kids, and for kids who are trying to sneak in a subversive viewing.
As for the selection, Shudder won my heart right away with a generous selection of Italian horror films, including a dozen from Mario Bava—my favorite, Kill, Baby... Kill! (1966) among them—a half-dozen from Lucio Fulci (including the must-see The Beyond), and a few more by Dario Argento. At the other end of the spectrum, the site offers plenty of cheeseball silliness that used to decorate the back shelves of video stores in the 1980s, movies like David DeCoteau’s Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), which speaks for itself, Larry Cohen’s killer ice-cream movieThe Stuff (1985), and Troma titles like The Toxic Avenger (1984). There are also newer cult items like the brilliant Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) and the astoundingly awful Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010).
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