The Best Movies on Shudder Right Now (August 2023)

Need help on what movies on Shudder to watch? We've got you covered. Here are the best movies on Shudder that are good and worth watching this August 2023.

The Devil's Candy (2015) shudder
Image via Publicist
The Devil's Candy (2015) shudder

While everyone’s more than aware of the majority of popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV+, Shudder still manages to fly under the radar despite its quality catalog. The streaming service was first founded in 2015, with a focus on horror, thriller, and supernatural fiction titles. Since then, the service has enjoyed success thanks to its specialized appeal amongst horror fans. Not only is Shudder’s library massive and equally filled with beloved and obscure horror titles, but original series like Cursed Films and Creepshow have also enjoyed much commercial and critical acclaim.

The service has even become home to such impressive titles such as George A. Romero’s previously lost film The Amusement Park, the full unrated version of cult favorite The Devils (previously unavailable in the United States since its release), and the legendary Dario Argento’s latest film Dark Glasses. Here at Complex, we’ve gone through their entire catalog to bring you the very best films in their extensive library. These films will make you laugh, scream, gasp, puke, and most importantly have a good time. Here are the best films on Shudder. 

The Devil's Candy (2015)

The Devil's Candy (2015) shudder

Director: Sean Byrne

Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince

Runtime: 1h 20m

A family has just scored what looks like a perfect house. There are acres of land, it’s quiet, and there’s a shed with enough space for a workshop. The father, Jesse (Ethan Embry), is a painter. Heading to work he sees a disturbing and demonic mural, but he doesn’t remember painting it. This continues to happen. It’s like he’s doing it in a trance. A man shows up claiming his family used to live here. He says he’s ready to go home. It seems that this house has more demons than the realtor led on.  

The Burning (1981)

The Burning (1981) on shudder stream

Director: Tony Maylam

Cast: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua

Runtime: 1h 31m

Years ago at Camp Blackfoot, an incident occurred. Cropsey, the caretaker, was a miserly man who hated kids. A few campers decided to play a trick on him. It went horribly wrong, and he has been in the hospital ever since. He’s ready for his revenge. This film’s origin comes from a popular New York urban legend, also about a killer named Cropsey who had allegedly kidnapped and murdered kids in the late 70s. The movie features early appearances from Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter. 

Brooklyn 45 (2023)

brooklyn45 on shudder

Director: Ted Geoghegan

Cast: Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden

Runtime: 1h 32m

Following the death of one of their own, a group of friends gather to pay tribute. All involved in the Second World War in some aspect, they had hoped that this gathering would instead be to celebrate the recent victory of the Allies. As the night gets going, a favor is asked. Still grieving his wife, their friend asks if they wouldn’t mind taking part in a seance. He’s willing to try anything to feel his wife one last time. As they successfully connect the two worlds, they begin to fear that they may have allowed something sinister to break through. And she may know something secret about these friends. 

Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs shudder streaming

Director: Pascal Laugier

Cast: Mylène Jampanoï, Morjana Alaoui, Catherine Bègin, Xavier Dolan

Runtime: 1h 39m

Anna (Morjana Alaoui) and Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) have been inseparable since they met at the orphanage. As long as they have known each other, Lucie has been haunted by her past. When Anna travels along to help Lucie make peace, the two find themselves wrapped up in a nightmare. Despite what Anna had thought, what Lucie had feared her entire life was not a dream. Pascal Laugier's horror film is a social commentary on the brutality people enforce in the name of religion. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

Inside (2007)

inside movie shudder streaming

Director: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo

Cast: Béatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis

Runtime: 1h 22m

It has been a few months since the deadly car crash that killed Sarah's (NAME) husband. As she spends Christmas Eve alone and awaiting the arrival of their baby, a mysterious woman comes knocking at the door. After initially asking to use the phone, the woman seems to know too much. Somehow she knows that Sarah's husband is dead. She's made it clear that she is not leaving until she gets in. Thus begins a night of terror as Sarah is forced to defend herself and her unborn baby from the hands of this terrifying stranger.

Magic (1978)

magic movie shudder streaming

Director: Richard Attenborough

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter

Runtime: 1h 47m

Corky wants to be a magician. Only he's not too good at it. After a previous failure, he comes back with a gimmick -- a dummy. Fats is a loud-mouthed, no-filter puppet. The praise leads Corky to the brink of success. He's holding himself back though. He's afraid if they really knew the secret of his puppet that he'd be committed. It's just a trick though, right? Anthony Hopkins stars as both the troubled magician and the voice of the puppet.

Final Exam (1981)

final exam streaming shudder

Director: Jimmy Huston

Cast: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, DeAnna Robbins, Sherry Willis-Burch

Runtime: 1h 29m

It's finals time for March College. A campus prank gives the students one more day of studying. It also gives a murderer a campus full of coeds to kill. Thinking it’s all just another practical joke, nobody takes the threat seriously. That is until they are face-to-face with a knife. This cult-classic slasher is the perfect summer viewing. 

Holidays (2016)

holidays shudder streaming

Director: Anthony Scott Burns

Cast: Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters, Kate Rachesky

Runtime: 1h 45m

Horror is a staple of the holidays. It's not just the dread you feel from heading back to your hometown, not having plans on December 31st, or seeing your family. Plenty of horror films take place over specific celebrations. This anthology is a calendar year of eight of the biggest. Starting with Valentine's Day and ending with New Year's Eve, esteemed directors like Kevin Smith share their most horrific holiday tales. You may never look at Mother's Day the same again.

Skinamarink (2022)

Skinamarink movie shudder streaming

Director: Kyle Edward Ball

Cast: Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul, Jaime Hill

Runtime: 1h 40m

Director Kyle Edward Ball likes to focus on nightmares. His YouTube channel, BiteSized Nightmares, would reenact those that had been submitted by users. In his feature film debut, Ball brings that same kind of focus. Two young children wake up in the middle of the night. They slowly begin to find that this isn't the house they remember. There's something just not right about it. The film proceeds to play out like the experience of a scary childhood dream. While it may not be for everyone, Ball's experimental horror film went viral on social media sites like TikTok for its unsettling ambiance and imagery.

Nomads (1986)

nomads movie shudder streaming

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Lesley-Anne Down, Pierce Brosnan, Anna Maria Monticelli, Adam Ant

Runtime: 1h 31m

It's a regular overnight shift for Dr. Eileen Flax. She's awakened by a call asking her to come to the emergency room. A man covered in blood has been brought in by the police. As he screams out in French for some help, he lunges at Dr. Flax. Somehow this has given her the ability to see how he ended up this way. Now, whoever or whatever was coming for him is coming for her too.

Sorry About The Demon (2022)

sorry about the demon streaming

Possession (1981)

possession netflix movie streaming

Director: Andrzej Żuławski

Cast: Sam Neill, Isabelle Adjani

Runtime: 2h 4m

Mark (Sam Neill) has just completed his final mission as a spy for West Berlin. He was planning to return home to his loving wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) and their child to be a family again. Upon his arrival, his wife asks for a divorce. She says she has found somebody else. As her behavior becomes increasingly more unpredictable, Sam wonders who or what has happened to her. Isabella Adjani won the Best Actress prize at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival for her dual role as Anna and the schoolteacher doppelganger, Helen. Director Andrej Zulawski was allegedly going through a rough divorce during the writing of the film which seems to have influenced the despairing vibe.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

A nightmare on elm street 1987.

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Robert Englund

Runtime: 1h 30m

Freddy Krueger went beyond Elm Street in this third installment. A group of teenagers have been institutionalized following what is believed to be self destructive behaviors. No one believes that someone is hurting them in their dreams. That is until their new therapist reveals she too was a former victim of Krueger. It’s up to these teens, the self proclaimed dream warriors, to vanquish Freddy from the dream realm for good. This installment features the return of Heather Lagenkamp as final girl Nancy Thompson, as well as performances from future Oscar winner Patricia Arquette and future oscar nominee Laurence (Larry) Fishburne,

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

'Anna and the Apocalypse' on Shudder

Director: John McPhail

Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux

Runtime: 1h 38m

Ah, to be a high school senior. Anna and her friends feel the weight of the world coming down all around them as they enter their last holiday break as high school students. It doesn't occur to them right away that it might be their last Christmas ever. A zombie outbreak has taken hold in their small Scotland town and it's growing fast. This genre mashup combines bloody carnage and witty songs as Anna and her friends fight for their lives. While this premise may seem quirky and fun, don’t forget this is a zombie movie and that life doesn’t always have a Hollywood ending. Dickinson’s Ella Hunt leads a charming ensemble in this unique blend of horror, comedy, and drama.

The Last Broadcast (1998)

'The Last Broadcast' on Shudder

Director: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler

Cast: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler, David Beard, Jim Seward

Runtime: 1h 26m

A news crew heads to the New Jersey Pine Barrens in search of their next story, the Jersey Devil. The plan is to broadcast it live to their audience. Only one of them makes it out alive and he is charged with brutally murdering everyone else. This found-footage horror film follows a reporter investigating the case's mysterious circumstances. Using the footage the crew shot they build a case to try to free the survivor and explain what happened that night. Someone or something is still out there. Despite their similar style, The Blair Witch Project was only in production when this movie was released! 

Aenigma (1987)

'Aenigma' movie on Shudder

Director: Lucio Fulci

Cast: Jared Martin, Lara Lamberti, Ulli Reinthaler, Sophie d’Aulan

Runtime: 1h 25m

Lucio Fulci is among the Italian horror/giallo directors who put the genre on the map. Fulci knows how to shock and surprise you when presenting terror and death. Aenigma takes place at a prestigious all-girls boarding school where a recent prank has gone awry, leaving an unpopular classmate in a coma. With the open bed, acceptance is extended to the beautiful new girl, Eva. Her appearance coincides with a string of grisly murders across campus. They all seem to be somehow involved in the cruel joke. It seems that Eva may be controlled from a hospital bed. It's no coincidence: the Italian horror director is said to have been inspired by Carrie when making this film.

May (2002)

A woman greets her boyfriend at the door

Director: Lucky McKee

Cast: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, Nichole Hiltz

Runtime: 1h 33m

May is a social outcast. In her 20-plus years, her only friend is a glass doll her mom made her named Suzie. After several potential relationships falter, May decides maybe she should just literally make a friend. The film is constantly changing up expectations: in the course of its runtime, it goes from drama to thriller to slasher. How many other movies can claim that with success? May is the directorial debut of horror director Lucky McKee who has gone on to helm other cult horror films like The Woods and The Woman. While the film was not successful upon release, it has gained a cult following for its dark content and gallows humor. 

Extraordinary Tales (2013)

the key photo for the movie extraordinary.

Director: Raul Garcia

Cast: Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Julian Sands, Guillermo del Toro

Runtime: 1h 13m

Edgar Allan Poe has been adapted countless times in the media. Though his stories are short, several of them have gone on to inspire full-length features. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. What keeps his readers engaged are the unwasted lines of prose and their specificity to the horror he writes. Here, five of his most chilling tales have been adapted, animated, and given life to by the likes of genre legends such as Christopher Lee, Guillermo del Toro, and from beyond the grave, Bela Lugosi and animator and director Raul Garcia. They finds new ways to show the master of the macabre at work by giving each tale its own unique look. Like The Simpsons adaptation of “The Raven,” Poe’s short stories thrive in the anthology format. 

The Collingswood Story (2002)

trailer for the movie collingwood

Director: Michael Costanza

Cast: Stephanie Dees, Johnny Burton, Diane Behrens, Grant Edmonds

Runtime: 1h 20m

Screenlife movies have become popular over the past couple of years. This genre of film follows a story that plays on-screen on a character’s computer or smartphone. We are watching the story unfold in real time alongside the characters. One of the first horror movies to do this was The Collingswood Story, which was originally released in 2002 but found an audience many years later. We watch as a couple begins to experience supernatural phenomena after sessions with a psychic who reveals that one of them is renting a cursed house. The scenes are framed by the sessions with the mysterious woman who knows more than she is letting on. This film is perfect for those who loved Shudder’s hit screenlife film Host and are looking for that specific kind of 21st century scare.

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula

A model on stage is dressed in a gothic outfit.

Creator: The Boulet Brothers

Genre: Reality

Number of Seasons: 4

Rating: TV-MA

Before the series blew up on Shudder, The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula started out as a small web series. The drag performers decided to take the idea of their live, horror-hosted drag show and put a competition spin on it for the more spooky queens. While RuPaul’s Drag Race has had some scary competitors for the title of America’s next drag queen, Dragula is actively looking for the “World’s Next Drag Supermonster.” With challenges such as “Wickedest Witch” and “80’s Female Wrestler,” it’s a no-brainer why it became an instant cult classic. It’s fun to see how even with the limited budget they were given in the first season the artists still manage to pull off some scary and sickening looks.

Lux Æterna (2019)

Three girls film a movie about witchcraft.

Director: Gaspar Noé

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Béatrice Dalle

Runtime: 51m

Gaspar Noé is known for provocative cinema. Lux Æterna may not be as viscerally upsetting as his other films, but it will still stay in your mind. Actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beatrice Dalle play fictional versions of themselves as they wait to start shooting a film about witches who have been burned at the stake. As the actresses engage in conversation and film the fiery climax of the fictional film within a film, strange occurrences begin to occur. The film plays like a companion piece to the classic witchcraft film, Häxan, and even incorporates the religious fervor of historical epics by old Hollywood directors like Cecil B. Demille into it. Even with a short runtime, Lux Æterna will have you feeling unnerved.

Dark Glasses (2022)

a woman is in a car crying.

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: Ilenia Pastorelli, Asia Argento, Andrea Gherpelli, Mario Pirrello

Runtime: 1h 30m

Legendary horror director Dario Argento returns behind the camera with his first film since 2012 with Dark Glasses. After she has been blinded in a terrible accident that was supposed to kill her, a luxury escort becomes terrified of her assassin finishing the job. In order to escape, she enlists a young boy whose parents were killed in the accident that took her sight. The two must figure out the murderer’s identity before he gets to them. Argento was one of the pioneers of the Italian giallo genre and to get to see a master back in his domain is a treat. The film features the hallmarks of the genre from the unrealistic red of the free-flowing blood to the black glove that signals imminent death.

The Descent (2005)

a group of spelunkers in the movie the descent.

Director: Neil Marshall

Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder

Runtime: 1h 40m

Six friends join together for a weekend of fun after a tragedy strikes one of them. The six women decide to check out an unmarked cave in the area. They used to spelunk together and this seems like the perfect way to reconnect after all these years. But they soon find out some things may be better left undiscovered. Claustrophobic and unrelenting, The Descent is a movie you don’t want to watch alone. The ending was originally thought too bleak for American audiences and was even edited out upon its first release.

The Gate (1987)

two girls in the gate hold a cross and candles

Director: Tibor Takács

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Deborah Grover

Runtime:  1h 25m

Who hasn’t opened a portal to Hell in their own backyard? Two friends find their treehouse on the ground after being struck by lightning. As they explore the hole left behind by a construction crew, they accidentally leave a trace of blood opening a portal. When demons begin to show up at a party, a heavy metal album informs them that they have indeed opened the gates of Hell. Now they have to get rid of it before their parents get back. The Gate feels a little bit like if The Goonies went straight to Hell.

Trick or Treats (1982)

a man and a woman laughing in the movie trick or treats

Director: Gary Graver

Cast: Jackelyn Giroux, Peter Jason, Chris Graver, David Carradine

Runtime: 1h 31m

If there’s one genre that is dictated by Halloween viewing season as a must-watch, it’s the low budget slasher. Linda’s night keeps getting worse as the kid she’s babysitting won’t stop pulling  pranks. The last thing any high schooler wants on a Halloween night is to be stuck babysitting a brat. When she gets a phone call that the boy’s father has escaped an asylum and will be coming home, she doesn’t think much of it. Then the real horror begins. He’s out to get revenge on those who locked him up and take his kid back. They don’t pay babysitters enough for this. 

Raven’s Hollow (2022)

Two men are on horses.

Director: Christopher Hatton

Cast: William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Kate Dickie, David Hayman

Runtime: 1h 58m

Before he was a master of Gothic horror, Edgar Allan Poe was a young military cadet on a training mission. When the troop comes upon a man hanging from a tree, the man’s last words send them into a town with a mysterious past. Unfortunately for Poe and the other soldiers, they already know too much. If the town has its way, these intruders will not make it out alive. Raven’s Hollow is a fictional look at the writer’s early days. By using elements from Poe’s stories, writer/director Christopher Hatton laments on what made this man become so macabre later on in his life. This film also features another literary connection, as former Chronicles of Narnia actor William Moseley portrays Edgar Allan Poe.

The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time (2022)

A frame for the new Shudder series scariest moments.

Director: Kurt Sayenga

In 2004, Bravo aired 100 Scariest Movie Moments, where a group of comedians, horror personalities, and writers discussed what made particular scenes in the scariest movies of all time so scary. Pre-YouTube, this was how budding horror fans could learn and add discoveries to their “to watch” lists. Almost 20 years later, Shudder has resurrected the series format to give us an update on what’s new and what still scares us. Each episode features up to thirteen different horror moments discussed by a new panel of horror experts including The Haunting of Hill House creator and director Mike Flanagan. The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time will have you at times agreeing and other times arguing with your screen as they discuss terrifying scenes from the original Nosferatu to Get Out

Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror (2022)

A title card for queer for fear.

Director: Bryan Fuller, Tom Maroney, Sam Wineman

Despite its popularity, horror cinema has always found itself on the fringe of society. Horror allows a safe space for counterculture ideology to make itself known to the status quo. Because of this it has found an audience in those who also are shunned, including the LGBTQ+ community. Queer for Fear dives into what it is that has gained the horror genre such a huge queer following and why. Filmmakers such as Justin Simien and Kevin Williamson are joined by actors, theorists, and critics in speaking about what continues to draw them to this genre. Hannibal mastermind Bryan Fuller is one of the executive producers, and if you have seen that show, you know its queer subtext. 

Who Invited Them (2022)

A couple in the movie Who Invited Them.

Director: Duncan Birmingham

Cast: Ryan Hansen, Perry Mattfeld, Avital Ash, Christopher Chen

Runtime: 1h 21m

After their housewarming party, Margo and Adam are ready to call it a night. The only thing standing in their way are two guests that they don’t seem to know. After revealing themselves as their neighbors, the four begin to engage in increasingly questionable behavior. As they play a childhood game, Margo and Adam begin to suspect that these guests have more on their mind than welcoming them to the neighborhood with a game of hide and seek. Who Invited Them is a look at the horrors of living in the Hollywood Hills. When do you really ever know your neighbors?

All About Evil (2010)

Natasha Lyonne in All About Evil.

Director: Joshua Grannell

Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Dekker, Cassandra Peterson, Mink Stole

Runtime: 1h 38m

Everyone is raving about the new horror director Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne). She seems to really have an eye for capturing her character’s last moments. Only these films aren’t fictional, they’re real. When a young fan tries to expose what she’s doing as murder, she promises it will be curtains for him as well as anyone else who tries to get in her way. The movie features Natasha Lyonne in a powerhouse performance with some special appearances by cult cinema icons Cassandra Peterson and Mink Stole. Drag legend Peaches Christ wrote and directed this film as a love letter to cult cinema and the freaks who love it.

The Exorcist III (1990)

A man is in a confession booth.

Director: William Peter Blatty

Cast: George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Brad Dourif, Jason Miller

Runtime: 1h 50m

After the critical failure of the campy Exorcist II: The Heretic, William Peter Blatty wanted to return the fear and prestige to his original work’s name. Exorcist III serves as a sequel to the original as well as an adaptation of his 1983 novel, Legion. After a boy is found murdered with fingerprints matching the deceased Gemini Killer, it leads Lieutenant William F. Kinderman (George C. Scott) into a familiar and eerie situation. This includes crossing paths with a man who looks just like his deceased friend, Father Karras (Jason Miller), who may just be a pawn in the Gemini Killer’s supernatural terror from beyond the grave. All the while whispers of “The Master,” the spirit who keeps claiming responsibility for the young Regan’s 1975 possession, haunt the investigation. While not as successful as the original, Exorcist III boasts some very chilling moments including an iconic hospital scare.

Perfect Blue (1997)

A group of girls sing on stage.

Director: Satoshi Kon

Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Ōkura

Runtime: 1h 21m

Director Satoshi Kon burst onto the anime scene with his debut feature based on the novel of the same name. CHAM! girl group member Mima is leaving behind her clean-cut image as a J-pop superstar. She wants to follow her dream of becoming a serious actress. Unfortunately for her, she could not anticipate her first role on an edgy crime show would so quickly begin to bleed into her reality as crew members start turning up dead. Or, is her actual reality the one she reads about on the official Mima’s Room website? There, she finds an online diary urging her fans to get rid of this new, fake Mima. As she begins to suffer hallucinations amid trauma, Mima is forced to question the intentions of those around her and her own sanity.

Carrie (1976)

Sissy Spacek in Carrie.

Director: Brian De Palma

Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, William Katt, Amy Irving

Runtime: 1h 38m

Based on the novel by Stephen King, Carrie and her telekinetic powers bring even more horror to high school. Carrie White does not fit in. While the other students are preparing for prom, she goes home to pray with her mother against all the evil in the world. When she is forced to report a bullying incident, she draws the ire of the school’s queen bee, Chris Hargensen, who vows to get her revenge at the school dance. Little does anyone suspect that Carrie will have her own vengeance in what has gone down as one of cinema’s most iconic sequences. Both Spacek and Laurie were Oscar-nominated for their mother-daughter performances. Often imitated but never duplicated (sorry, Julianne Moore), DePalma’s vision of Carrie remains a classic for a reason.

The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)

Movie poster for the witch who came from the sea.

Director: Matt Cimber

Cast: Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury

Runtime: 1h 23m

Considered a “video nasty” by the United Kingdom at the time of its release because of its violent content, The Witch Who Came From the Sea is a thrilling psychological horror film with a lot on its mind. It follows emotionally scarred alcoholic mother Molly (Millie Perkins) as she goes on a killing spree after experiencing years of abuse. Millie Perkins is fantastic in the lead role, selling a character that’s both loathsome and sympathetic and makes the role work despite the over-the-top violence and crude plot. The film is a welcomed reversal to other psychological horror films that will often focus on men’s preoccupations with women and sex, with Molly killing men in several sexual situations in a direct response to her own men-related trauma. The film looks great as well, with John Carpenter’s regular cinematographer, Dean Cundey, making Venice Beach look uniquely beautiful amidst the violence of the film. A gem of a ’70s exploitation film, The Witch Who Came From the Sea is uniquely chilling and well-acted. 

The House of the Devil (2009)

A bloodied girl in The House of The Devil.

Director: Ti West

Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig

Runtime: 1h 33m

In need of money, college student Samantha decides to take a babysitting gig. When she gets to the creepy old house, she finds that the job is not for watching a baby, but an elderly woman. Not being able to turn down the cash being offered, she stays. Cue creepy photographs, skulls, and other foreboding symbols hidden throughout the house. You think you know what’s going to happen, but the movie is always one step ahead of you. Ti West’s strength as a horror auteur includes his uncanny ability to recreate the atmospheric horror of films like Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby. The less you know going into the film, the better. Be on the lookout for one of Greta Gerwig’s earlier roles as well as the cheesiest pizza you have ever seen.

American Mary (2012)

A group of doctors look at something.

Director: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren

Runtime: 1h 42m

In order to pay her medical school bills, Mary Mason gets involved in some heavy body modification practices. With her skill-set as a surgeon in training, she soon becomes a hot commodity for those seeking things not on the local tattoo parlor’s menu. After a horrific event occurs, Mary forgoes the university route to become the dark web’s most-booked body modification specialist, Bloody Mary, who is out for revenge. The Soska Sisters dare you to take this ride with them, with gross-out visuals and some very dark humor, as you watch how far Mary will go. Be prepared for mutilation you never thought you’d see and some you wish you never did. With all of that said, the most frightening part of the movie may be that you will never see Betty Boop the same way again.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

key photo for bay of blood

Director: Mario Bava

Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonté, Laura Betti

Runtime: 1h 24m

Basket Case (1982)

a man holds a basket.

Director: Frank Henenlotter

Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner

Runtime: 1h 31m

In an extreme case of separation anxiety, Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) carries his formerly conjoined twin around in a wicker basket. Unlike the sensitive Duane, Belial is a maniacal killer. Duane still feels the need to protect his smaller brother, even if that means never having his own life. Duane pledges to keep Belial with him at all times, at least until they get their revenge on the doctor that separated them. The practical effect of Belial makes the film look as good now as it did in 1982. Basket Case also showcases the seedy New York City that your parents warned you about. You may want to shower afterwards, just look out for Bellial.

Brain Damage (1988)

A man in a horror movie looks at something.

Director: Frank Henenlotter

Cast: Rick Hearst, Jennifer Lowry, Gordon MacDonald

Runtime: 1h 26m

DirectorFrank Henenlotter’s drug addiction allegory is a homoerotic dissent into utter madness. After coming down with something, Brian (Rick Hearst) finds himself the new host of the blue, phallic creature named Alymer. He is a smooth-talking, snake-like creature who promises to solve all of Brian’s problems if he just lets him out for a little. Alymer re-energizes himself by killing innocent people around him, he just needs a human host. For these troubles, Alymer provides an injection that leaves Brian feeling good. Unable to do anything because of the hold Alymer has on him, it’s up to Brian’s friend and girlfriend to help him. The movie’s visuals—including the aforementioned phallic foe—are enough to make viewers themselves feel like they’re on drugs.

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

A couple lay in bed together.

Director: William Asher

Cast: Jimmy McNichol, Susan Tyrrell, Bo Svenson, Bill Paxton

Runtime: 1h 36m

Don’t let the silly title fool you: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is as dark and bleak as slashers from the ’80s come. It centers on teenager Billy (Jimmy McNichol), who lives with his aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) and finds himself at the center of a murder investigation after Cheryl murders a man in their home. The plot is inspired by the tale of Oedipus, with Cheryl harboring incestuous feelings for Billy as she becomes increasingly murderous and unhinged. Susan Tyrrell is a legendary character actress best known for playing grotesque and over-the-top characters, and she gives this role her all, elevating what could be unbelievable shlock into a hauntingly disturbing performance. This movie is also notable for its positive portrayal of homosexuality (a rarity in the early ’80s), with two gay characters amongst the few morally good characters in the film and the anti-gay police chief handling the murder investigation being depicted as violent and hateful. A hysterical trip to hell with plenty of unsavory characters, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is a surprisingly potent, demented slasher. 

Cheap Thrills (2013)

a man has a broken nose.

Director: E. L. Katz

Cast: Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, Ethan Embry, David Koechner

Runtime: 1h 25m

An unusual type of horror film, Cheap Thrills’ scares are all unfortunately too human. The comedic horror thriller centers on recently fired Craig (Pat Healy), as he meets a wealthy couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton), who promise him financial security if he and an old friend of his (Ethan Embry) complete a series of increasingly dark and disturbing dares. This is a profoundly misanthropic movie that works as well as it does thanks to the compelling performances and deeply twisted, yet scarily realistic idea at its center. If you had no choice, would you do these same things to support your family? This movie isn’t for the faint of heart either, with an especially disgusting dare at the grimy centerpiece of this uncomfortable thriller. A darkly humorous and thoughtful critique of our society’s capitalist death drive, Cheap Thrills is an impressively nasty piece of work. 

Chopping Mall (1986)

a man and woman sit side by side.

Director: Jim Wynorski

Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd

Runtime: 1h 16m

While they’re not as in-demand nowadays thanks to the advent of online shopping, malls represented the future during the height of the 1980s. With the popularity of malls at an all-time high, Julie Corman (the wife of the illustrious Roger Corman) was tasked to write a movie that takes place in a mall, and the cult classic Chopping Mall was born. The movie centers on a group of young mall employees as they stay past closing for a late-night party. When the mall goes on lockdown, the new state of the art robotic security system malfunctions and soon goes on a killing spree, with the young employees trapped inside until morning. Hilariously misleading title aside (spoiler alert: absolutely no one gets chopped in this, the title is just a pun for pun’s sake), this is a very satisfying low-budget slasher, with some purposefully hilarious lines, good performances from cult movie’s favorite actors Barbara Crampton, Mary Woronov, and Dick Miller, and a robot that says, “Have a nice day!” after murdering teens. If you’re in the mood for a perfectly cheesy slasher, Chopping Mall is it.

Color Out of Space (2019)

a woman with pink contact lenses.

Director: Richard Stanley

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Elliot Knight, Madeleine Arthur

Runtime: 1h 51m

Nicolas Cage and H.P. Lovecraft: two great tastes that taste great together. This 2019 adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story of the same name expertly updates it for the modern day while keeping all of Lovecraft’s iconic sense of horror. The sci-fi horror film centers on Nathan Gardner (Cage) as he and his family move into his late father’s farm and witness a meteor crashing into their front yard. The meteor soon infects the land and even the family as they slowly discover that something strange and terrible is happening to them. Lovecraft specialized in the cosmically ludicrous in his writing, often finding the greatest scares in that which is fundamentally unknowable, and that translates well here, with Cage quickly going into an unhinged register as the meteor takes its toll on him, alongside the rest of his family as they begin to change as well. The presence of an over-acting Cage may trick you into thinking this is a comedy, but his overacting only disorients you for the sick and disturbing events of the film as the meteor’s presence becomes stronger and stronger. Evocative and faithful to the original classic short story, Color Out Of Space is chilling and impressive. 

Deadly Games (1989)

A woman and two men hold water guns.

Director: René Manzor

Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim, François-Éric Gendron

Runtime: 1h 32m

Did you know that there was another late ’80s movie about a kid who has to defend himself from home invaders on Christmas that’s not the mega-classic Home Alone? Yep, 1989’s French horror movie, Deadly Games, pulled off that premise a whole year before the 1990 children’s comedy was released. Let’s just say Deadly Games is a whole lot darker. The horror-thriller centers on Thomas (Alain Lalanne), a young child obsessed with toys and action movies, as he attempts to contact Santa Claus, only to accidentally reveal the address of his secluded castle to a madman who then decides to invade his home dressed as Santa. Using the castle’s high-end security system, and a series of booby traps, Thomas attempts to fight back and defend his feeble grandfather against the bloodthirsty intruder. The film is basically everything you want if you thought Home Alone was too tame, with plenty of kills, surprising gore, and a precocious kid that’s just the right mix of likable and irritating. Previously relegated to VHS bootlegs, the American Genre Film Archive restored it in 2018 for a brand new generation of horror fans to rightfully celebrate this once obscure holiday horror delight.

Fade to Black (1980)

a man has on white and black vampire face paint.

Director: Vernon Zimmerman

Cast: Dennis Christopher, Norman Burton, Morgan Paull, Gwynne Gilford

Runtime: 1h 42m

After being abused his whole life, a cinephile begins to go insane as he slowly can no longer tell reality from the flicker of 35mm film. By day Eric (Dennis Christopher) works at a film distribution warehouse and by night he is at any screening he can find of classic movies. After a Marilyn Monroe lookalike accidentally stands him up, his sanity finally slips as he becomes the killer in his own movie. Fade to Black remained pretty obscure until recently despite being a unique take on the slasher genre. With echoes of Psycho and the contemporaries of its time, Fade to Black makes you feel a little complicit and uncomfortable. There are plenty of Easter eggs for other film fans and you may end up with a list of movies you need to see thanks to Eric’s fanaticism.

God Told Me To (1976)

Two women sit on a sofa.

Director: Larry Cohen

Cast: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Sylvia Sidney

Runtime: 1h 31m

Director and screenwriter Larry Cohen is one of the most important figures in horror cinema, yet doesn’t often get the recognition he deserves. While his films are lesser known, It’s Alive, The Stuff, and especially God Told Me To are unique horror gems that all have cult followings. God Told Me To follows a devout Catholic police detective (Tony Lo Bianco) as he investigates a series of murders committed by random New Yorkers who all say, “God told me to.” Cohen captures the picturesque grittiness of New York City in the ’70s and juxtaposes that with a spooky plot that only becomes more surreal. Cohen is one of the best exploitation auteurs and this is among his strangest and fascinating films, and also works as a great introduction to his works. Singularly creepy, God Told Me To is fantastic.

Grizzly (1976)

Cristopher george on the set of Grizzly.

Director: William Girdler

Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall

Runtime: 1h 29m

One of the better monster attack films in the wake of Jaws, Grizzly sets out to scare you away from our national parks. It’s tourist season and the park is full of eager campers, hitchhikers, and visitors ready to take in nature’s beauty. When two young girls are found mutilated, the rangers set out to warn the other tourists of a potential bear sighting. This is not just any bear though; this happens to be a primeval species out to reclaim the land that was once theirs. The bear leaves a trail of carnage in his wake culminating in a bizarre helicopter/bazooka standoff that pre-dates the similar finales of the Jaws sequels.

Halloween (1978)

Someone holds the mask from the movie Halloween

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Kyes

Runtime: 1h 31m

One of the greatest horror films of all time, Halloween made both actress Jamie Lee Curtis and director John Carpenter household names. The seminal horror film follows babysitter Laurie Strode (Curtis) as she attempts to survive the murderous rampage of Michael Myers (Tony Moran), a violent psychopath who escaped from a mental institution and is being pursued by psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Halloween is still one of the scariest movies of all time thanks to the compelling and hopeless performance of Curtis, the terrifying visual look of Myers, and, most importantly, the steely, bone-chilling direction of Carpenter, who makes you jump out of your seat with every scare. It’s one of the best-looking horror films of all time, with smart cinematography that helps pull off successful scares both during the daytime and nighttime portions of the film. The film famously spawned numerous sequels, as well as a reboot trilogy that’s set to end in 2022, but you can never go wrong with the original. Halloween is rightfully a horror movie classic. 

Hellraiser (1987)

Pinhead in the original Hellraiser.

Director: Clive Barker

Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman

Runtime: 1h 33m

One of the more disturbing mainstream horror films, Hellraiser will make your skin crawl. Based on the novella, The Hellbound Heart, the supernatural horror film follows unfaithful wife Julia (Clare Higgins) as she attempts to resurrect her dead lover Larry (Andrew Robinson) from a sadomasochistic dimension, and incurs the wrath of demonic “cenobites” that want to keep him in their dimension. A truly creepy, despairing story comes to life with impressive visual effects (check out the way Larry’s physical body reforms, it’s a masterwork of practical effects) and fantastic makeup, with all of the cenobites looking impressively creepy, but Pinhead in particular stands out and becomes a horror icon of his own accord (and shows up in seven Hellraiser sequels). What makes the film so scary is the lack of morals amongst its characters, with Julia’s stepdaughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), being the only truly morally upstanding character, even when she’s thrust into an unimaginable horror through no fault of her own. Nightmarishly inventive, Hellraiser will creep you out in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

A couple stand in an empty hallway.

Director: Xavier Burgin

Cast: Keith David, Jordan Peele, Rachel True, Tony Todd

Runtime: 1h 23m

Black horror is a versatile and large part of horror history, but it’s so often ignored in favor of white films. Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror sets out to right this wrong. Based on the book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman, this documentary follows the history of Black Americans in Hollywood horror through the movies that have been caricatured, sidelined, and exploited. The film boasts an impressive collection of Black horror icons including Keith David, Tony Todd, Rachel True, and Jordan Peele, who all come together to weigh in on the absence and presence of Black people in the history of horror films. The film also highlights the landmark Night of the Living Dead and its Black main character, lesser-known Black horror films like Sugar Hill and Ganja and Hess, as well as the progression of Black horror films in the ’90s with films like Candyman, Tales From The Hood, and Demon Knight, and finally touches upon the landmark release of Get Out in 2017. While by no means exhaustive, Horror Noire is a great starting point for appreciating Black horror, and will at the very least provide you with a lengthy watchlist.

Mad God (2021)

A scary doll with dirt on its face.

Director: Phil Tippett

Cast: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda

Runtime: 1h 23m

You may not know Phil Tippett’s name, but you’ve definitely seen his work. The visual effects supervisor who specializes in creature design, stop motion animation, and computerized character animation has contributed work to numerous films, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Robocop. In 1990, he started directing an original film but dropped it soon after. He started working on it again in 2010, setting up a Kickstarter, with the project finally funded in 2012, completed in 2017, and officially screened for the first time in 2021. Created over the span of 30 years, Mad God is a stop-motion animated film that follows an individual known as The Assassin as he traverses a world of horrible monstrosities and primordial horrors. The result of Tippett’s 30-year labor of love is a visually stunning nightmare that’s the work of a remarkable artist who loves what he does. It’ll leave you deeply disturbed, but also with an admiration for the work that goes into the art of special effects. Mad God is uniquely remarkable.

Ms .45 (1981)

Someone holds a gun to a womans head.

Director: Abel Ferrara

Cast: Zoë Lund, Steve SInger, Jack Thibeau, Peter Yellen

Runtime: 1h 20m

Abel Ferrara’s films are dark, pulpy explorations of the human psyche and his film, Ms .45, is a great example of his work. The crime-drama centers on a mute woman, Thana (Zoë Lund), who becomes a spree killer after being raped twice in the same day. The film is inspired by exploitation films such as Thriller: A Cruel Picture and Death Wish, which use similar rape revenge storylines. While critically detested at the time of release, the film has been reevaluated as a gem of independent and underground film, as well as a blistering observation of the violence men do against women, and a lurid and empowering revenge fantasy for assault survivors. Its reputation has improved so greatly you can see references to it in current pop culture, such as Promising Young Woman and Euphoria. A startling piece of provocation art, Ms .45 is one of the best movies on Shudder.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

A man in the night of the living dead.

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman

Runtime: 1h 36m

The zombie movie that started it all, Night of the Living Dead changed the horror genre forever. The film follows a group of people in rural Pennsylvania as they attempt to protect themselves in a farmhouse from flesh-eating monsters who appear to be the dead come back to life. Legendary horror director George A. Romero made his name with the film, and showed the true power of the horror genre. The movie is of course terrifying, with impressive effects that hold up to this day, but also embodies a central metaphor of a nation overrun by class- and race-based anxiety that sadly resonates as much today as it did in the politically charged year of 1968. The lead protagonist (played by Duane Jones) is a Black man, a decision that not only enhances the themes of the film, but was also groundbreaking for the time, especially within a majority white cast. Timeless and seminal, Night of the Living Dead represents the very best of the horror genre.

One Missed Call (2003)

'One Missed Call' streaming on Shudder

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Yutaka Matsuschige

Runtime: 1h 52m

You may have heard of the misbegotten American remake, but the original Japanese One Missed Call shouldn’t…well, be missed. Based on the novel, Chakushin Ari, the horror film follows psychology student Yumi (Ko Shibasaki) as she investigates a mysterious phone call a friend received that predicted her death, and soon finds herself racing against time as she receives a similar call. While the film has a similar technophobic premise to Ring, and is considered by some to be a retreat of that film, Takashi Miike’s directorial eye truly sets One Missed Call apart. His excessive use of camera movements, dramatic lighting, and scares make the film a visceral thrill ride that keeps you riveted the entire time. Another great entry in the J-horror genre, One Missed Call is a dark delight.

Phantasm (1979)

A man stands against a door with an axe.

Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm

Runtime: 1h 29m

When the bodies of those who have passed begin haunting a small town, a 13-year-old boy and his older brother decide to check out what is actually going on at their local cemetery. They begin to be haunted by more of the dead as well as killer floating balls. The Tall Man instantly walked into our nightmares along with his intergalactic minions. While it is a horror movie, Phantasm touches on science fiction and fantasy too, including several references to Frank Herbert’s book Dune. Phantasm’s legacy has been cemented further into pop culture by fans (and part of the 2016 restoration team), J.J. Abrams naming the character Captain Phasma from Star Wars: The Force Awakens after the film, as well as her silver-plated trooper suit being a reference to the deadly sphere. Perhaps one of the biggest regional horror success stories, Phantasm went on to terrorize for a total of five films.

Pieces (1982)

Someone stabs a woman in the chest.

Director: J. Piquer Simón

Cast: Christopher George, Paul Smith, Edmund Purdom, Linda Day

Runtime: 1h 29m

Nominally yet another cheap slasher, Pieces goes to places that truly have to be seen to be believed. The film follows a frustrated detective (Christopher George) as he attempts to track down a serial killer that’s seemingly creating a human jigsaw puzzle from the bodies of college coeds. Somehow this movie is even more unhinged than that synopsis makes it sound. Helmed by Spanish director, Juan Piquer Simón, the film takes place in a dreamlike version of America that could only have been created by a non-American, and features plenty of nudity, lots of gore and viscera, a cameo by martial action star Bruce Le (yes, you read that right, after the death of Bruce Lee, a similarly named Bruce Le was often hired to fill the martial arts action star void), gloriously over the top performances (you’ll hear the word “bastard” yelled many times and it will never get old), and an ending that’s truly unexpected and instantly memorable. A wild ride from start to finish, Pieces is one of the strangest slashers you’ll ever watch.

Piranha (1978)

a woman is attacked by pirhanas.

Director: Joe Dante

Cast: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn

Runtime: 1h 35m

Director Joe Dante is best known for his work on films like Gremlins and The Burbs, but one of his earlier works saw him first dipping his toes into the horror-comedy genre with the delightfully schlocky Piranha. It centers on the carnage that follows after flesh-eating, genetically altered piranhas are released into a summer resort’s rivers, terrorizing the guests. The first of a string of B-horror knockoffs made in the wake of the smash hit success of Jaws, the only thing that stopped Piranha from being sued by Universal Pictures was Steven Spielberg’s own positive reaction to the film. In the spirit of Dante’s own B-movie aspirations, the film mixes horror with comedy well, with plenty of dark visual gags, as well as deliciously knowing performances from Dante regulars, Dick Miller and Paul Bartel. Dante also injects his usual political commentary with intelligent jabs at news organizations’ obsession with violence. A creative, free spirited blast, Piranha is the early work of a great director.

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