Beat the summer heat with these 13 chillers on Shudder’s frighteningly cool streaming service!
I’m a physical media guy, and I’ll continue to be so as long as there’s physical media for me to be a guy about. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-streaming though. There’s good stuff to be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and even Hulu, but when you’re in the mood for horror films you can hardly do better than the good folks at Shudder.
Their large and continually growing library includes titles guaranteed to cater to all tastes from giallo fans (Deep Red) to Leslie Nielsen lovers (Day of the Animals), and unsurprisingly they also have you covered if what you’re looking for is to have your pants scared off.
To that end, here are the 13 scariest movies currently available to watch on Shudder.
The first of only four non-supernatural titles to make the list, this early 80s Austrian film terrifies through its framing of brutality with a mundane lens. It’s a beautifully-shot film, but there’s no appreciable sense of style to distract from the ugly acts onscreen as a deranged but methodical psychopath does what he does best. There are terrible people in this world doing terrible things, and the film shows just how easy it is for them to do so.
Black Christmas (1974)
Before Bob Clark found his niche as a comedy director (Porky’s, A Christmas Story) he displayed a mastery of another genre with this sorority house slasher. POV stalking scenes and unsettling phone calls help build an increasingly uneasy atmosphere that values legitimate terror over the typical jump scares.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
A young boy abandoned at an old orphanage during the Spanish Civil War offers Guillermo del Toro fertile ground for crafting scenes that remain his scariest to date. The compound’s haunted history finds life (and death) onscreen, and the terrors of the dead are paired with heinous truths of the living.
The Exorcist III (1990)
I’m in a minority of one in preferring William Peter Blatty’s follow-up film to the far more famous original, but while its characters and themes play a role in that wildly irresponsible opinion it’s the scares that push it over the top. The hospital hallway scene in particular is one of the greatest scares in cinema. And no, the pic above is not from the scene in question.
The Horseman (2008)
This Australian thriller isn’t scary in the traditional sense, but it makes the list for the intense feelings of dread and helplessness that fill the screen. It’s about a man seeking revenge, but rather than deliver the expected catharsis the film refuses to grant that satisfaction. It’s harrowing and painful, and it forces viewers to face the nightmare of loss in brutal ways.
The Innkeepers (2012)
I know everyone’s in the bag for The House of the Devil, but for my money this is Ti West’s masterpiece. It’s a brilliant exploration of the power of fear and our willingness to scare ourselves, and it’s utterly terrifying in the process. Even better, the the film works beautifully as a very funny buddy comedy while it’s scaring the bejeezus out of you.
The Interior (2015)
This micro-budget indie didn’t get the attention it deserved last year, but fans of methodical horror will want to seek it out immediately. It starts as a comedy of sorts before moving the action to the woods where it delivers the most frightening forest-set scenes in recent history. The tent sequence is on par with Willow Creek‘s too.
Lake Mungo (2008)
The first of two faux documentaries here, this Australian film creates real chills as it documents the death and subsequent haunting of a teenage girl. It’s presented with a matter-of-fact approach making the photographic evidence all the more hair-raising. Be sure to watch through the credits for some additionally chilling images.
The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012)
Another indie that didn’t quite find an audience, this is a slow burn of steadily increasing terror as a man takes up residence in his mother’s creepy old house. The story moves in some fun places beyond a simple haunting which adds a twist to our expectations. It’s all low-key, but the scares are every bit as powerful.
Noroi: The Curse (2005)
This Japanese film is one of the more competently-produced faux horror docs out there — an impressive feat seeing as it’s a doc inside a doc — and it’s equally successful with the scares too. Part found footage, part straight doc, the film mixes news footage, reality show clips, and more that work to create an authentic atmosphere which in turn enhances the creepy moments. It also has one hell of a final image.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s prescient look at the isolating effects of technology and the internet remains one of the millennium’s most frightening films thanks both to its bleak themes and its masterful use of shadow and sound. The imagery is destined to haunt your dreams, and their power continues even as the film builds towards apocalyptic proportions.
2008’s The Strangers stole some of its thunder, but this French film about a couple terrorized in their rural home by uninvited guests is both the scarier and smarter of the two. The antagonists feel more human which makes them more frightening in their lack of empathy, and the film also lands the better ending. Turn off the lights, unlock the doors, and give this 77 minute film a watch.
Willow Creek (2014)
Yes it’s found footage, and yes it’s directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, but neither of those things get in the way of the film’s scares. We care about the couple onscreen which makes their predicament more unsettling, and that’s even before the film sets the camera down for a ten minute tent scene loaded with tension and terror. The ending leaves some viewers cold, but I find it to be scarier than the simple creature feature it’s setting itself up to be.