8 of the best movies on Shudder Australia
Horror streaming service Shudder has finally launched in Australia and we’ve spent the last week crawling through its crypt of movies and TV series. Like Netflix and Prime Video, Shudder houses classic horror movies, but also produces its own originals that are exclusive to the service, new nightmares from across the globe. For a comparatively small streaming service, it’s releasing originals at a blinding pace, with 25 movies released between September 2018 and August 2020.
It’s an outstanding effort, and its consistent cycle of original releases should have horror fans hanging out for their next scare. As Australians late to Shudder’s game, we’re still making our way through the list of originals but what we’ve seen so far is more hit than miss (which is more than we can say for other streaming originals). So this list of recommendations is likely to mutate into something more sinister as more Shudder originals release.
For now, here are some of the best horror movies available on Shudder Australia at launch.
If working from home has taught us anything is that true terror isn’t being home alone on a dark stormy night. No, the true horror of being housebound involves unflattering angles, bad lighting, Fibre to the Node broadband, and deadly awkward pauses. I’m talking about Zoom. Host is a Shudder original horror that understands this.
Host isn’t the first horror movie seen through the lens of a webcam (see Unfriended and Searching) but it is the first that doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Other examples of this recent sub-genre seem desperate to be a part of the social media zeitgeist (what if Blair Witch but with computer?), whereas Host feels like a movie made by horror fans with the limited tools at their disposal.
There aren’t really any surprises here. A group of self-isolating friends decide to do a seance over Zoom, a couple of louts don’t take it seriously enough, and horror occurs. You get the drift.
Still, the performances of each Zoom-participant feel incredibly natural, as if you’re watching an actual group of friends shoot the breeze. That familiarity with these friends helps raise the stakes to a place normally out of reach for such a simple horror premise.
The old “go in blind” suggestion gets thrown around a lot these days but trust me when I say you don’t want to watch the trailer for The Guest before checking it out.
Here’s the need-to-know. Regular Handsome Man Dan Stevens (Legion, Downton Abbey) plays David Collins, a duffel-slinging stranger who arrives at the home of the grieving Petersons. David, an ex-army sergeant, claims to have served with Petersons’ oldest son Caleb before Caleb was killed in action. The Petersons quickly warm to David’s charm and, before long, he’s invited to stay for as long as he needs. While the Peterson parents are smitten, the children Anna (Maika Monroe) and Luke (Brendan Meyer) are suspicious of David’s true intentions.
The trailer gives you all that and way more. The movie starts along a pretty typical Drifter/Mysterious Stranger line before pulling the pin and completely blowing your expectations.
In the same year Maika Monroe starred in The Guest, the up-and-coming horror lead led the incredibly popular It Follows.
I’d wager that most horror fans have probably seen It Follows by now but in case you’re one of the few lagging behind, then it’s time to put that Shudder subscription to work.
After a few successful (but slightly unnerving) dates, University students Jay (Monroe) and Hugh head to Bonkington in the backseat of Hugh’s car (classic). Soon after, Hugh reveals that he’s been haunted by a paranormal entity that will now follow Jay and kill her if it catches up. The only way to ditch the curse is to bone someone else and pass it on.
The STD allegory here is paper-thin, but Jay is a better person than Hugh, determined to outrun IT, rather than pass it on to her friends.
It Follows isn’t short on big scares but what it does best is keep you on high alert. The Follower, for lack of a better name, is a force that disguises itself as everyday people. The only tell is its deadpan, single-minded march towards its victim, so your focus is always on the background, scanning the screen for anyone suspicious.
Let The Right One In
Released right as the world would begin to turn on the vampire sub-genre (thanks, Twilight), Swedish horror flick Let the Right One In was a story about young love with heart, blood and guts in equal measure. And it did it all without totally bastardising the vampire mythos.
Let the Right One In (not to be confused with the US remake Let Me In) is a meet (or meat) cute about Oskar, a 12-year old loner aggressively bullied at school, and his night-bound neighbour Eli, a blood-hungry vampire.
Oskar develops fantasies of revenge when the bullying at his school ramps up, while Eli doesn’t want to kill but must feed on human blood to survive. Eventually, these two youngsters put two and two together and realise they can kill two birds (or a few school bullies) with one stone.
Damn, those Kiwis know how to make a good horror-comedy. In the same year Taika Waititi started to gain international fame for his batty comedy What We Do in the Shadows, New Zealand gave us the lesser-known horror Housebound.
Housebound is a lighter take on the typical haunted house trope that sees Kylie, a would-be thief, captured and placed under house arrest with her estranged mother and stepfather. Kylie’s familial frustrations are heightened when she learns of her mother’s conspiracy that the house is haunted. But her angst is soon overshadowed by the fact that something is lurking in the house.
Before long, the nightmare of moving home is made ten-times worse by an uninvited guest.
One of this year’s best horror movies so far is After Midnight (Something Else) from indie filmmaker and actor Jeremy Gardener. But nearly eight years before After Midnight, Gardner released his directorial debut, The Battery.
The Battery is a Monster horror set against the lonely backdrop of rural Florida. On paper, it looks like it belongs to the well-wandered subgenre of zombies-but-the-real-danger-is-each-other movies. And it is, but The Battery finds success by honing in on the relationship between two lone survivors (rather attempting to comment on society as a whole).
It’s also an astonishing cinematic feat for a movie made on a tight $6,000 budget.
One Cut of the Dead
Another fresh take on the zombie genre, One Cut of the Dead is a Japanese horror-comedy and Shudder Original that is built on a basic, and hilarious foundation: When the set of a low-budget zombie horror movie is overrun by actual zombies, a hack director demands his cast and crew to keep rolling.
What follows is some A-grade slapstick, expert comedic timing, and some serious comeuppance for the mistreated cast and crew.
One Cut of the Dead will be a riot for any horror fan fatigued by the zombie genre, and it’s comedy leanings make it a fairly breezy watch (even though it still has its fair share of gore).
2011’s The Innkeepers introduced me to the world of indie horror. Before visiting Ti West’s (You’re Next, V/H/S) paranormal Bed and Breakfast I’d only really dabbled in the classics and high-budget schlock.
The Innkeepers’ slow-burn story of two teens trying to capture evidence of paranormal activity on the last night of their hotel’s operation takes a while to get to the punch, playfully making its way there with more of a comfortable caper vibe. But that comfort is shattered in the second half when the scares finally check-in.
It might be an exercise in patience for thrill-seekers more accustomed to scare-per-minute horror flicks, but the wait is worth it for the film’s thrilling final act. It’s a great entry point for young horror nerds looking to explore the halls of indie horror. Just make sure you’ve got a flashlight handy.