I’m a physical media guy, and I don’t expect that to change until physical media is no more. Regardless of who you ask or which statistics you quote that fact makes me a member of an ever-shrinking minority, but I prefer Blu-ray/DVD to streaming because if I want to watch a movie I own then I know with certainty that I’ll be able to watch it. Streaming and/or digital copies are dependent on far too many factors outside of my control including an internet connection and the whims of the online source (iTunes, Netflix, Vudu, UltraViolet, etc), but my disc is right there on the shelf.
Of course, that doesn’t mean physical media and I are in an exclusive relationship. I cut the cable cord two years ago and have been getting all of my non-disc media satisfaction via Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, but while I’m happy and have no real complaints I’ve been stepping out on them recently with a much younger service.
Shudder is a brand new streaming service that takes something of a less is more approach. Rather than present a ton of options, most of which you already know are of no interest to you, it instead offers a curated selection of horror films from today and decades past. Think of it as your favorite aisle of a grocery store instead of the entire damn store. Here’s how the Shudder site describes itself:
Shudder is the diabolical new streaming service devoted exclusively to things that go bump in the night. On Shudder, you’ll discover a growing, ghoulish library of horror films from around the world and across the decades. Curated by horror aficionados with a deep love and respect for the many peculiar varieties and genres of horror, Shudder Collections present films you never knew existed along with old favorites that never fail to frighten.
Shudder has something for everyone, from the casual fan to the hardcore horror devotee. Whether you’re looking for a classic suspense film, a cat-and-mouse thriller, a good old fashioned monster movie, terrifying tale of the supernatural, or a bloody giallo masterpiece, you’ll always find something to scare you in a new way at Shudder.”
As of this writing there are 271 films available which is not so many that you’ll get lost but still more than enough to ensure there’s always something you’ll want to watch. The titles run the gamut from popular classics (An American Werewolf In London, Day of the Dead) to lesser-known gems (Father’s Day, Murder Party), and especially appealing to folks like myself there’s a healthy selection of foreign films too from South Korea, Italy, Japan and beyond.
You can browse the list of films alphabetically or by how popular they are with other subscribers, but the “curated” part of the description above comes by way of numerous collections hand-picked by folks like Colin Geddes (TIFF Midnight Madness programmer) and Sam Zimmerman (ex-Managing Editor for Shock Till You Drop, current lover of all things witchy) to scratch very specific genre itches.
Some current examples can be seen at the top of the page, but others include Comedy of Terrors, Smart Slashers, Hexes and Ooohs!, Bad Genes & Killer Kids and School’s Out… Forever. Each collection features a dozen or so films matched to that theme making it easy to find titles you’re familiar with and others that you might also like.
So now that you know what it is, the question becomes how is it?
At $4.99/month (or $49.99/year) Shudder’s less expensive than other streaming services, but that makes sense for the more limited selections. If you’re a horror fan who watches a healthy amount of films per month then Shudder is most likely a worthwhile investment. I’m familiar with almost all of the titles currently being offered, but I’ve only seen half of them or so and look forward to digging in deeper. I’ve already found and very much enjoyed at least one new-to-me movie (The Reef) and I’ve heard great things about the next one (Sauna) I’m going to watch too.
Curated selections offer an edge over the bulk mentality of the bigger sites, but at the end of the day a movie’s quality is still subjective. Meaning despite Shudder’s best intentions there are still some absolute stinkers that made it past the gates and onto the service. Monster Brawl? The Frankenstein Theory? The Human Centipede 2?Woof. That said, missteps like those are a small price to pay for the opportunity to check out truly great little films like Them, Toad Road and Tokyo Gore Police. New titles and collections are added each month, so the promise of even more thrills and chills is always just around the corner.
Shudder is still in its infancy, and as a site backed by the likes of AMC and DramaFever it should have the luxury of being given time to grow, improve, and make the experience even better for members. Speaking of which, I do have a few suggestions for the folks behind the scenes. The ability to sort films by release date would be helpful, as would a way to mark films or add them to a queue for watching later. Hyperlinked names would be cool too, so if I watched and loved a Dario Argento film I can click his name to quickly see which of his other films are also available. And maybe a Chromecast app so I can watch on my TV instead of my laptop?
I have no doubt these changes will come with time, and as long as the duds are kept to a minimum and the new-to-me opportunities remain plentiful I see this as the beginning of a shivery, sweat-drenched relationship. I just have to keep Netflix from finding out…
Check out Shudder.com to see if it’s right for you.