Shudder is a streaming service that is specifically dedicated to the horror genre, so it’s only fitting that we here on Arrow in the Head should compile a list of the Best Horror Movies on Shudder Right Now. As with all streamers, Shudder has movies that come and go on a regular basis, but if you head over there today here are some of the best movies you can find on the service:
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
Yes, George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead seems to be available on nearly every streaming service there is, and that’s because the movie is in the public domain due to the copyright notice accidentally being left off the film print. When you’re a streaming service that deals specifically with the horror genre, it would be insane if you didn’t have Night of the Living Dead in your library – and Shudder passes the test. They have the film that gave us the modern concept of zombies, walking corpses that exist only to consume the flesh of living people. Nearing its 55th anniversary, this is technically an old movie, but it’s also a movie that never gets old.
MANIAC COP 2 (1990)
Shudder has the entire Maniac Cop trilogy available for your viewing pleasure… well, the first two are a pleasure. The third one is a bit tougher to get through. The first Maniac Cop is great, but the second one is one of the rare sequels that’s even better than its predecessor. As undead former police officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) stalks the streets of New York City, killing innocent people and criminals alike on a mission of revenge, he finds an ally in serial killer Turkell (Leo Rossi) and goes up against hard-boiled cop Sean McKinney (Robert Davi). Maniac Cop 2 features a healthy body count and some awesome action set-pieces, including a sequence where a person is handcuffed to a car that is sent rolling downhill through traffic.
THE STEPFATHER (1987)
Long before playing John Locke on Lost, Terry O’Quinn starred in the 1987 film The Stepfather, playing a character that was loosely based on a real-life murderer. (Look up John List if you’re interested.) In the film, O’Quinn’s character is in search of the perfect family life, and when the families he marries into disappoint him he murders them and moves on with a new identity. When he marries Susan (Shelley Hack), single mother of teenage Stephanie (Jill Schoelen), we know it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be trying to kill them, too. Directed by Joseph Ruben, The Stepfather is a captivating horror-thriller, and O’Quinn does an incredible job in the title role.
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Director Bob Clark gifted the world with two of the best Christmas movies ever made: the family classic A Christmas Story, and the 1974 horror classic Black Christmas. The set-up is simple: a stranger creeps into the attic of sorority house and starts killing the residents between making insane, obscene phone calls to them. The film is intensely dark and creepy, the sound of those phone calls will make your jaw drop, and the cast (including Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, and John Saxon) is terrific. A Christmas Story plays for 24 hours straight on TBS and TNT every year, and I suggest that Shudder should do the same with Black Christmas on Shudder TV this year. They don’t have either of the two remakes, which is fine.
Who doesn’t know John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween by now? The homicidal Michael Myers, who quickly became a genre icon, escapes from a mental institution and proceeds to stalk a group of teen girls, including Jamie Lee Curtis as babysitter Laurie Strode, on Halloween night, with his doctor (Donald Pleasence) desperately trying to catch up to him before it’s too late. Carpenter brought this simple story to the screen with such style, he turned it into one of the best horror movies ever made, and it still holds up more than forty years later. Shudder also has the sequels Halloween 4 and 5, and Joe Bob Briggs hosted all three of them on one of his Halloween specials.
Stephen King’s first novel Carrie has been adapted for the screen a few times by now, but the other adaptations just can’t compete with director Brian De Palma’s 1976 version of the story. Sissy Spacek turns in an incredible, Oscar-nominated performance as the title character, a teenage girl who has an overbearing, strictly religious mother (Oscar nominee Piper Laurie) and is bullied at school. She also happens to have telekinetic abilities, which are unleashed on her enemies – and plenty of innocent bystanders – in the film’s famous prom night climax. Some of the stylistic choices in this movie are certainly dated, but the story is told so well and the cast is so good that Carrie remains captivating, unsettling, and heartbreaking.
THE HAUNTING (1963)
Shot in gorgeous black and white and with a style that clearly influenced the way Sam Raimi shot the Evil Dead films, director Robert Wise’s 1963 adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House (yep, the same story that the Netflix series was loosely based on) shows us what happens when an anthropologist and three research assistants decide to spend some time in a haunted mansion. This is the sort of ghost story that takes the subtle approach to giving you the creeps, building tension and then having intense moments where the spirits make their presence known by banging on doors or making them bend inward so people know they’re pressing against the other side.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)
If you’re like me, you’ll occasionally have to take a moment to remember which story is The Haunting of Hill House and which is House on Haunted Hill. Shudder gives you the chance to watch both. Directed by famous showman William Castle and starring genre icon Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill is about a wealthy couple that invites a group of people to spend the night in their haunted mansion, offering a prize of up to $50,000 if they can survive until morning. All sorts of spooky shenanigans ensue, and this is another haunted house story that had an obvious influence on Sam Raimi. Price and Carol Ohmart play the couple that would really like to kill each other, and they’re a delight to watch. Bonus: Elvira hosted House on Haunted Hill for her recent Shudder special and you can watch that version of the film on there, too.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)
Wes Craven’s 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes gets overshadowed by his bigger movies (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, etc.) and even by its own 2006 remake, but it’s still one of the best entries in Craven’s filmography. When a family has car trouble in the middle of the desert, they find that they’re being stalked by another family, a clan of cannibals that live in the hills. To survive, the civilized family will have to become just as savage as their attackers. The Hills Have Eyes features some unforgettable characters and performances, with Dee Wallace among the potential victims and Lance Gordon and Michael Berryman as villains Mars and Pluto. Berryman’s role in this film (and his image on the poster) rightfully made him a genre icon.
If you like movies that are dripping in sleaze, the 1980 slasher Maniac is a special treat. Directed by William Lustig, who also directed the Maniac Cop movies, this one stars Joe Spinell as a disgusting and disturbed named Frank Zito, who has serious mommy issues that drive him to go out at night and murder random people so he can scalp his female victims and stick their hair on the heads of the mannequins that fill his apartment. Legendary special effects artist Tom Savini provided the film with some nauseating gore (and the scalping stuff was his idea), including one of his trademark exploding head effects. The gore is a major drawing point, but Spinell’s performance is the reason to watch the movie… if you can stomach watching Frank Zito.