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10 Frightful Picks to Get You Started With That Free Shudder Trial

Seoul Station
Seoul Station
Image: StudioCanal

Shudder knows its audience. The horror streaming service has a well-curated interface divided into sub-categories (including a timely selection of tales of confinement) to help you get started, but there’s still a ton of spooky content for newcomers to wade through. Naturally, we have some suggestions.

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In case you hadn’t heard, Shudder is upping its usual seven-day free trial to 30 days (use code “SHUTIN”) for new subscribers, so if you’ve ever thought about signing up, now is definitely the time.

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1) “Cursed Films”

Freak accidents. Unexplained deaths associated with the production. Weird vibes that require sets to be blessed. Some of Hollywood’s most notorious “cursed” productions are spotlighted in this five-part Shudder Original series, with installments on The Exorcist, The Omen, and Poltergeist currently up on the site.

Each 30-minute doc digs into the tragic, ghoulish, and/or otherwise unusual incidents associated with each film (investigating what was real and what was “let’s make this scary movie even scarier” promotional hype), and brings some fascinating context with the help of people who worked on the film (Linda Blair! Richard Donner!) as well as, in the case of two films at least, religious scholars, film critics, and a real-life exorcist, among others. The Exorcist itself is available on Shudder, though you’ll have to go elsewhere for the other source films so far. Future “Cursed Films” episodes (on The Crow and Twilight Zone: The Movie) will drop soon.

One Cut of the Dead
One Cut of the Dead
Image: Shudder
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2) One Cut of the Dead

Unless this is your first time reading io9, you know how much we love this exceedingly clever Japanese zombie movie that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before (as long as you watch past the first 30 minutes—trust us). All hail Shudder for giving this instant cult classic a streaming home after its festival breakout success. POM!

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3) Tigers Are Not Afraid

We called it “the best Guillermo del Toro movie he never made,” and indeed the Oscar winner himself later sang the praises of Issa López’s ghostly tale about a group of homeless children struggling to survive amid a drug war in Mexico City. Tigers Are Not Afraid is—much like One Cut of the Dead—a Shudder Exclusive, so if you’re only going to stick with the service for 30 days, make sure you add this grim but deeply beautiful film to your watchlist.

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4) Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror

Jordan Peele (Get Out), Tony Todd (Candyman), Rachel True (The Craft), Keith David (The Thing, They Live), and UCLA professor Tananarive Due are among the talking heads in this briskly edited, entertaining, and extremely informative study of Black characters and creators throughout the history of the horror genre. Shudder also has several episodes of the related Horror Noire podcast available to stream (featuring extended interviews with some of the contributors), and you will be very tempted to revisit George A. Romero’s 1968 landmark Night of the Living Dead, which Shudder has available, after you watch the doc—as well as Bill Gunn’s lesser-known (but no less groundbreaking) 1973 indie vampire drama Ganja and Hess.

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5) Tourist Trap

If there’s one thing horror movies love to emphasize, it’s that veering off the main road can lead to some awful discoveries. Things like the Bates Motel, chainsaw-wielding cannibals, and—as Tourist Trap vividly demonstrates—roadside attractions carefully constructed to ensure that all who visit never leave. Though its kids-getting-picked-off-one-by-one plot is nothing new, this 1979 film from David Schmoeller (who later made Puppet Master) will still get under your skin, thanks to a tone that manages to blend kitsch and ghoulishness. It is the ultimate sinister mannequin movie, with the hulking Chuck Connors (a few years past his best-known role as the star of TV Western The Rifleman) playing the roadside museum’s folksy-yet-maniacal proprietor, and suitably grimy production design by Robert A. Burns, who also worked on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.

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6) The Baby

Shudder has some choice oddities lurking in its collection, including this supremely demented, John Waters-esque 1973 cult classic, directed by Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes). A social worker is startled to learn her new clients have a most unusual family dynamic: The baby, whose name is “Baby,” is actually a full-grown man of ordinary intelligence who’s simply been treated as an infant his entire life. While you’re taking that in, know that the story of The Baby doesn’t end there...nay, it gets even stranger. See it, believe it, become transformed by it forever.

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7) Seoul Station

Yeon Sang-ho directed this animated prequel/parallel story to his runaway zombie hit Train to Busan (which you can also watch on Shudder; incidentally, its sequel, Peninsula, just dropped its first trailer recently). Seoul Station begins just before the outbreak that erupts into a national crisis in Busan and like that film, it’s about a girl and her estranged father...sorta. In this case, there’s also a crappy boyfriend in the mix, and the main character is a young woman who’s trying to leave sex work behind. There’s a feeling of despair at play here—unlike Busan’s occasional flashes of hope in humanity—and some incisive social commentary to go with Seoul’s animated (but still totally squishy) zombie chaos.

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8) Mon Mon Mon Monsters

Shudder’s bounty of festival hits also includes this 2017 Taiwanese horror-comedy about a group of high school kids, including some hateful bullies, who happen upon a ghoul who used to be a girl and decide to keep her like a tortured pet. Things...go downhill from there. As Evan Narcisse wrote in his review for io9, which you can read in full here, Mon Mon Mon Monsters subverts the horror-movie trope that humans are the true monsters; instead, it “takes that idea, kicks it in the balls, and then squeezes a lemon and onion juice cocktail into its eyes. This is a must-see vision of end-stage nihilism.”

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9) Terrified

Hollywood is eyeing a remake of Argentinian writer-director Demián Rugna’s intensely scary tale, but here’s your chance to see the O.G. version, which happens to be one of the most original horror movies in recent memory. It starts on what appears to be an ordinary suburban street, where what can only be paranormal forces have been troubling certain residents. After a couple of tragic incidents, a team of eccentric investigators descends to poke around—joined by a local cop who’d just as soon not have anything to do with all things unknowably spooky. Terrified is special because it’s so unfamiliar, which means (much like the characters) you have no idea what malevolent twist it’s gonna take next. As a result, it’s startling and bone-chilling from start to finish.

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10) Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

Enthusiastic fans of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th—presumably prerequisites for being Shudder subscribers anyway—won’t want to miss these lovingly compiled documentaries that chronicle the making of two of horror’s most enduring franchises. The Nightmare entry runs around four hours, while Friday the 13th, with more total films, is closer to six and a half, and both are packed with interviews, anecdotes, memories, and behind-the-scenes insights galore. Exhaustive? Yes. Obsessive? Maybe. Essential? Definitely.

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DISCUSSION

jeredmayer
Jered Mayer

I’m almost 20 years late, but I finally watched Ginger Snaps on Shudder and enjoyed the hell out of it.

The Housewife is a bit of a slow burn, but the last half an hour is insane enough that I found it worthwhile.

Monster Party is fun.