Ranking Shudder's Original Movies

Shudder is home to more than just your favorite horror films of the past. They're also home to Original movies, so of course we ranked them.

Shudder Original Movies

If you love horror movies, you must love the Shudder streaming service. It would be impossible not to as they’re loaded with genre fare from the present through decades past, and from the US through countries far beyond our borders. The bulk of their offerings are previously produced fare, but the service has been steadily working to acquire films like their bigger streaming cousins to be marked as Originals. (They also have Exclusives, but we’re focusing here on the films that belong to the Shudder family for good.)

The horror lovers among us here at FSR, affectionately known as The Boo Crew, have watched, voted, and ranked the twenty Originals available as of May 31st, 2020. There are eight of us in the crew — Valerie Ettenhofer, Meg Shields, Anna Swanson, Chris Coffel, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Jacob Trussell, and myself — with varying tastes when it comes to what scares us, unsettles us, and entertains us, and when all of the tabulations shook out the results landed below. Keep reading for our ranking of Shudder’s first twenty Original features!


20. Christmas Presence (2018, UK)

Christmas Presence

Look, you can accuse Christmas Presence of being a lot of things: offensive, confusing, anticlimactic, unfestive… but this isn’t a boring movie. And look I’m not naming names (The Witch in the Window) but there are definitely some, uh, “less-bad” films on this list that are excruciatingly dull. Meanwhile, Christmas Presence is like someone throwing marbles in the air and yelling “Yahtzee!” The film follows a group of middle class “friends” who rent a house together for the holidays only for things to turn into a bloody nightmare. The whole gang’s here: the troubled young woman with a missing twin, the wife guy, three different gay stereotypes, and of course: the psychic. Because the script says so, they find themselves at the mercy of a malevolent presence who preys upon their deepest fears. Christmas Presence is a mess, but it’s too much of a sure-handed clusterfuck to be dull and hey that’s something. (Meg Shields)


19. The Marshes (2018, Australia)

The Marshes

Australian horror films often have a leg up on the competition as not only is the country’s landscape gorgeous but its population is flat out insane — if the poisonous, hungry animals don’t get you, the local nutters will. This effort fits the bill on that front as three biologists head into the marshes where they find trouble from someone? Some thing? Whatever it is it’s less unsettling than the unfinished script that spends too much time meandering on its way to a big no-no of an ending. Sure the cinematography is beautiful, but it’s all for naught as the film leaves viewers frustrated and unsatisfied. (Rob Hunter)


18. Deadtectives (2018, US)

Deadtectives

A team of reality TV ghost hunters come up against real ghosts?! Cool. Look, the idea may be stale by now and done far better in the recent Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary (2018), but there are some laughs and (very) minor thrills to be had with this effort. Chris Geere (You’re the Worst) headlines and manages some entertaining line deliveries as the events around them grow increasingly weird. As horror/comedies go it definitely leans more toward the latter, but viewers in the market for a lightweight riff on Ghostbusters (1984) can do far worse. (Rob Hunter)


17. The Room (2019, France)

The Room

A couple struggling with their inability to have a child seeks distraction in a new house but finds magic instead in the form of a mysterious room that grants wishes — in theory. Olga Kurylenko and Kevin Janssens bring varying degrees of heart and charisma to the couple, but the big draw is the mystery surrounding the room. It’s all fun and games until the wish for a baby, and then things get suitably weird in a hurry. The end doesn’t quite satisfy, but there are some interesting and engaging beats along the way. (Rob Hunter)


16. The Ranger (2018, US)

The Ranger

I don’t make a habit of sympathizing with the killers in slasher films. But really, from the bottom of my heart: fuck them kids. Is violence the most effective way to enforce national park regulations? Probably not. Was I nodding along vigorously every time the titular Ranger interceded when them kids (in question) were wantonly jeopardizing the sanctity of a protected natural area? You betcha. Without giving away too much, The Ranger follows a gaggle of teenage punks who seek refuge from the cops in a remote cabin. Our troubled heroine Chelsea (a marvelous Chloë Levine) has one foot in the mosh pit and another in the deep woods. As her friends fall prey to their own foolishness (ok fine, and to the psychopathy of the mass murderer wearing the guise of a forest ranger), Chelsea has to stop running and step up if she wants to make it out alive. (Meg Shields)


15. The Wrath (2018, South Korea)

The Wrath

In 14th century Korea, a high-ranking official’s affair places his family under a horrible curse that sees all his sons viciously killed. This remake of 1986’s Woman’s Wail has fun moments of blood splatter and some shaky-cam nods to Evil Dead, but can’t quite overcome its clunky plot that mixes a ghost story with family drama. The end result is a movie that’s just fine. (Chris Coffel)


14. The Witch in the Window (2018, US)

The Witch In The Window

The Witch in The Window is the type of uber-basic horror that shouldn’t work, but it does thanks to its emphasis on heart as well as scares, its characters’ swift embracing of the uncanny, and an all-time-great dad performance by Alex Draper. Draper’s heartfelt, lived-in performance holds together the slim story about a boy and his father who realize the house they’re fixing up is haunted by an old witch. Though The Witch in the Window is more likely to make you tear up than give you goosebumps, it pulls off several quick and effective scares by keeping a sense of realism throughout that makes the supernatural elements feel intimate rather than broadly cinematic. Keep an eye out for that phone call scene. (Val Ettenhofer)


13. 0.0 Mhz (2019, South Korea)

Mhz

To begin appreciating this Korean web-toon turned low budget horror movie, you first need to be OK with it feeling like a pair of hour-long TV movies squished into one thanks to a hard left turn around the sixty-minute mark. The film posits itself at first as a general ghost story with paranormal investigators attempting to find the frequency at which you can contact the dead, but the second act, dealing with the aftermath of their investigation, turns into a full-blown possession film. The only problem is neither completely work, mostly due to some very shoddy CGI sucking the life out of the scares. In spite of this, I did find something endearing about all of 0.0 Mhz‘s rough edges, reminding me of the low budget horror film I’d discover on VCD in the early 00s, like St. John’s Wort. The idea of killer hair is great – just ask Sion Sono’s Exte – but here it’s just a tangled mess that no comb can unknot. (Jacob Trussell)


12. Z (2019, Canada)

Z

Creepy kids and creepy creatures go hand in hand, but neither really work in this Canadian chiller. The kid’s more obnoxious, and the title creature — an imaginary friend that isn’t all that imaginary — is too silly to be scary or unsettling. The poor CG renderings don’t help, and while it succeeds a bit better when it keeps Z in the shadows the script can’t find its footing outside of there being an invisible monster. All of that said? I dig the beat where the other kid gets tossed over a railing. (Rob Hunter)


11. Terrified (2017, Argentina)

Terrified

This supernatural tale from Argentina follows a police commissioner and a team of paranormal investigators as they attempt to explain a series of deadly events occurring in a quiet, suburban neighborhood. While chilling at times, offering genuine scares in the first half, the film stumbles into nothing more than a sequence of events with no real explanation or conclusion. It’s a perfectly fine 87 minutes that hints at something more but never quite gets there. (Chris Coffel)


10. Gwen (2018, UK)

Gwen

This Welsh slow-burn fully commits and leans into the slow. The first forty minutes or so could be accurately described as Establishing Shot: The Movie. The back-half does pick up a bit with things actually happening, but it’s nothing more than angry townspeople marching with pitchforks. Oddly, the film does provide a good representation of the healthcare system in America — if you’re poor, you die. (Chris Coffel)


9. Monstrum (2018, South Korea)

Monstrum

I never thought I’d say this, but Monstrum would be a much better movie without a monster in it. The most interesting story here is the one in which the monster is a folktale, used by a corrupt Korean king to instill fear in the people. If this were solely a period action movie about political scheming and its effects, it’d be a more refined film. That said, the monster sequences are still quite fun, and you have to appreciate director Huh Jong-ho’s attempt to blend several genres together. Monstrum is a flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless. More creature features should have swordplay and martial arts scenes. (Kieran Fisher)


8. Jessica Forever (2018, France)

Jessica Forever

Is Jessica Forever a horror movie in any way? Not really. But is Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel’s lost-boys-adjacent vision still memorable and worth your time? I think so. The French speculative fiction film seems to exist in a world of dream logic, where a cult-like group of young men counter their violent and traumatic pasts with acts of male bonding and learned gentleness under the guidance of a maternal leader named Jessica (Aomi Muyock). The movie is surely too obtuse for some, but the juxtaposition between its meditative tone and the actual events that unfold — moments of peace, ambiguous strangeness, and violence all mixed up together — is destabilizing and hypnotic. Most of all, the cinematography by Marine Atlan is striking and gorgeous, one perfect shot after another for the entire runtime. (Val Ettenhofer)


7. Blood Quantum (2019, Canada)

Bloodquantum

I’ve seen some comments that call Blood Quantum an average zombie film, and I’d like to school those people specifically for a second here. Blood Quantum, directed and written by Mi’kmaqi filmmaker Jeff Barnaby and featuring a full indigenous cast (a thing that doesn’t happen in movies, like, ever), is a groundbreaking piece of horror that’s as much about the trauma of colonialism as it is about hordes of the undead. The title refers to the laws by which the American government has policed Native American identity, but the film turns the concept on its head by imagining a plague to which only those with native blood are immune. Set on the Red Crow First Nations reservation, Blood Quantum seamlessly incorporates issues that disproportionately impact indigenous populations, including addiction, domestic violence, and young parenthood, into a doom-laden, imaginative, and magnificently gory survival story. (Val Ettenhofer)


6. Party Hard Die Young (2018, Austria)

Party Hard

Slashers might seem like the easiest of horror sub-genres to produce, the end results are typically lackluster, forgettable, and wholly generic. This Austrian feature avoids that fate by delivering a solidly written script, attractive and energetic direction, and a locale we really haven’t seen before. The story doesn’t re-write the rules, but it has fun while delivering enough thrills and red herrings to keep viewers entertained and guessing all the way to the end. Director Dominik Hartl is no stranger to the genre as both his previous film (Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, 2016) and next movie (Arthur’s Small Town Country Massacre) can attest. (Rob Hunter)


5. Satan’s Slaves (2017, Indonesia)

Satans Slaves

Acting as a semi-sequel to the 1980 film of the same name, Joko Anwar’s vision of terror gives you a stylish mix of Asian horror staples with a western approach to religious horror that feels as much inspired by Sundelbolong and Mystics in Bali as The Conjuring and The Exorcist. There are moments of truly terrifying imagery here that, even when you brace yourself, still manage to creep under your skin by simply taking their time. Pared with Sisworo Gautama Putra’s original classic (re-released in a crisp restoration from Severin Films), Satan’s Slaves is a visually lush dip into the world of Indonesian horror. (Jacob Trussell)


4. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2019, Finland)

Dogs Don't Wear Pants Mona

Is Dogs Don’t Wear Pants a film that will be everyone’s cup of tea? Probably not. Is it a nail-ripping good time with a shocking amount of heart? Absolutely. The film follows Juha (Pekka Strang), a doctor whose wife died several years prior and took all of his passion with her. Juha trudges through life committed to raising his daughter, but lacking the will to care about anything else. When he quite literally stumbles into the world of BDSM, Juha discovers that testing the limits of his pain tolerance is a hell of a way to feel alive again. The film embraces the toe-curling intensity of this premise and should come with a warning that not every scene is an easy watch, but with all of the film’s consensual torture comes a genuinely touching narrative and a climactic moment that’ll put some dust in your eye. If this film isn’t on your radar, it should be. Just be sure to embrace Dogs Don’t Wear Pants with an open mind and an open  — never mind, you’ll see for yourself. (Anna Swanson)


3. Belzebuth (2017, Mexico)

Belzebuth

I’ve written about this wild Mexican gem previously and even included it on my year-end list of the best horror movies of 2019 (which is when it made it to the US), and I’m happy to see it land so highly on our group list too. The film is centered on some devilish acts of possession, but while that’s usually a story beat that bores me here it’s turned into a gloriously bloody affair starting with some slaughtered infants — so yeah, heads up to viewers with low tolerance for kid deaths, this one might challenge you some. Add in an atypical protagonist, a fun performance by Tobin Bell, and plenty of demonic shenanigans, and you have a dark ride to hell that entertains the entire way down. (Rob Hunter)


2. Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019, US)

Horror Noire

The best documentaries are learning experiences, and Horror Noire excels in this department. The film assembles a team of experts — from academics to filmmakers — to chronicle the history of Black cinema in the horror genre. Furthermore, it’s told from the perspective of those who should be telling this story. On one hand, the doc is a compelling overview of a neglected corner of film history. On the other, it’s a film that helps non-Black viewers gain a better understanding of the experiences of a marginalized group. Horror Noire is powerful and inspiring, but it’s also a reminder that there is still work to be done before true equality can really exist. (Kieran Fisher)


1. Revenge (2017, France)

Revenge

It took a long time before I was convinced to watch Revenge. I just couldn’t muster the energy or the enthusiasm to watch another rape/revenge flick. I couldn’t imagine there being a rape/revenge movie that had anything more to say or show that had not already been committed to cinema. Ah, but I had never seen a film by Coralie Fargeat. She’s not here to titillate or exploit. She’s here to attack. She turns genre expectations and desires against the audience. Her flick is mad as hell and vicious, but beautiful, and propulsive as well. (Brad Gullickson)

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