Oh DVD, What Joy You Brought
If you’re a horror fan, the on-demand streaming movie era may have come as something of a letdown. When you cast your mind back to the introduction of DVDs, it was a revolution. Not simply because DVD pissed all over VHS quality wise (except if Vipco were involved), but because a bunch of small indie distributors sprang up. Suddenly, all sorts became available.
Anchor Bay and Blue Underground, in particular, became highly regarded in horror and cult film circles. Anchor Bay’s “Coffin” box releases for Amicus and Tigon are collector’s items. Blue Underground ended up ditching the UK market after a spat with the Belligerent Board of Fascist Censorship (BBFC) over The Last House on the Left (now passed uncut, go figure!). In the US, however, they took a bunch of old, worn-out prints of movies like Deathdream and Don’t Torture a Duckling, spruced them up and made them available again.
No Shame started trotting out a bunch of both infamous and obscure Italian movies. Tiny little distributors got hold of films like Slumber Party Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, Happy Birthday to Me, etc. and suddenly film fanatics no longer had to hunt for worn out VHS tapes in a Blockbuster bargain bin.
Streaming’s Not Been As Kind
Streaming hasn’t quite been the same revolution for horror fans; at least in the UK. The primary players in the UK industry are Sky, Netflix and Amazon. All three want to capture an audience by offering, mostly, recent offerings. Sky usually have a few classic horror films on offer, but they’re the ones we’ve all seen a dozen or so times. Similarly, Netflix has tended to stick with the post-2000s, with the occasional exception.
For a while, Amazon was the leading provider for the horror fan, but since rebranding from LoveFilm On Demand, Amazon’s selection has withered somewhat. LoD offered a rather eclectic mix, with trashy exploitation such as Bare Behind Bars available alongside newer fare like Joy Ride at one point.
That doesn’t mean Amazon has lost it entirely. A quick glance at what’s on offer right now shows the likes of Chopping Mall, The Last Horror Film and Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things available to Prime subscribers. However, much like when Sky dropped the MovieMax brand, and FilmFour became free-to-air, it’s not quite as good as it was.
Shudder is a horror movie streaming platform operated by AMC. You might know them as the network responsible for The Walking Dead. They’re not the only dedicated horror movie network available in the UK, but they’re probably the most well financed. A quick perusal of the UK Roku Channel Store throws up a number of small, niche-market cult movie channels. However, most of these are reliant on public domain content and so there’s little to make them stand out from each other.
Consequently, Shudder is one of the first, professional attempts to cater to the horror film market. It’s available on a number of platforms (I’ve been using Roku), is regularly updated and has quite an extensive library. Shudder doesn’t put all its stock in things you’re likely to have heard about already. Among the number of relatively famous films like The Dead Zone and former video-nasty, The Burning, is somewhat obscure titles like Lisa and the Devil and Blood Feast. And there’s a bunch of shit you probably have never heard of at all.
So that’s a good start!
Regarding video quality, it is as you would expect. I’ve recently watched The Initiation and Blood Rage on Shudder, which was like looking at a non-remastered DVD, in a weird frame. The Corpse of Anna Fritz and Father’s Day (which I’m unconvinced I should write about on this site) were both presented in HD. Therefore, my non-scientific conclusion is that Shudder is using the best print of a film it can get its filthy mitts on. Older films, particularly more obscure ones, are unlikely to have been remastered to any extent. Thus you shouldn’t expect HD offerings all the time.
The website library is relatively easy to navigate. Movies are broken down into categories, making it quite easy to hunt for whatever is floating your boat tonight. The Roku channel, truthfully, needs a bit of work. It’s not overly difficult to navigate, but it uses irritating mechanics like “See more” buttons on single lines. I’ve never been a fan.
Furthermore, the Roku channel lacks both a Newly Added and Leaving Soon section. I always find such sections very useful on Amazon as it allows me to prioritise my viewing. As someone who can only find time to watch a couple of movies a week (at least until someone wants to pay me to do it) it’s unlikely I could get through my watchlist before at least one title disappears. A Leaving Soon section, especially, helps point you in the right direction.
I have suggested these sections to Shudder. They said they would refer it to the dev team – so they do listen to customers. We’ll have to wait and see whether it happens!
Price wise, Shudder is £4.99 per month or £49 for the year. You also get a one-month free trial. I would say the cost is justified. If you’re a casual horror fan, whose interest doesn’t go much further than Scream and Friday the 13th, it might not be for you. However, if you’re anything like me then Shudder becomes a very attractive proposition.
Indeed, like any good movie streaming service, it offers the dilemma of choice. More than once, I’ve made time to watch two films but only managed one simply because I spent so much time deciding on what the first should be. Another reason I would like to see that Leaving Soon section!
What you shouldn’t expect from Shudder is all of your favourite horror films in one place. Although, as mentioned, well-known titles like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are available, Shudder shirks what we’ve all seen in favour of what we might not have seen. By doing so, it becomes the streaming revolution for horror fans that DVD once was for physical media.
Shudder, like its streaming contemporaries, also boasts a number of exclusives. You can check the service out for yourself here – Shudder TV