It’s that time of year again: Halloween. Normally, we would find ourselves watching the same five horror movies back-to-back on a multitude of television networks. With commercials. Oh, the horror.
In this age of streaming services, though, we don’t have to subject ourselves to the same shlocky, low-budget horror movies. We can certainly choose to, but it’s not our only option.
Shudder has become a go-to source for horror, with a growing library of movies, new and old. Good and bad. On the subscription-based service, there are many movies to turn to this Halloween season, whether they’re Shudder originals or movies that have been around the block a few times. To ensure you don’t waste your season with subpar cinema, I’ve thrown together this alphabetical listing of the best horror movies that Shudder has to offer.
The Best Horror Movies on Shudder
1. The Changeling (1980)
Director: Peter Medak
George C. Scott delivers a memorable performance as he faces the possibility that his Seattle mansion is haunted. There’s quite a bit happening behind the scenes, however, and The Changeling winds up being more than your typical haunted house movie.
Medak weaves a tale of mystery and intrigue that lets Scott do what he does best. What’s most fascinating about The Changeling is that it’s based on the alleged events that unfolded at the Henry Treat Rogers mansion in Colorado. Sounds like you’ll have some research to do before you sit down with The Changeling.
Watch if: you want something beyond the typical haunted house movie. Avoid if: you aren’t a fan of psychological horror.
2. Halloween (1978)
Director: John Carpenter
Arguably the go-to slasher of the season, Halloween should be on everyone’s “watch list.” Even if you’ve seen it a dozen times, the haunting score, the looming Shape, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance continue to astound with each viewing. Carpenter is at his best, especially with that legendary chase scene, where an incredible simple score builds up the tension as Laurie Strode cries for help through the streets of Haddonfield.
The last act of Halloween is an incredible piece of horror cinema as the workings of Michael Myers literally jump out at the viewer and relentlessly torment Strode. Save this one for Halloween night, and you’re sure to catch glimpses of The Shape looming outside your window.
Watch if: you want to immerse yourself in classic horror cinema. Avoid if: you don’t like good slasher movies.
3. Hell House, LLC (2015)
Director: Stephen Cognetti
It didn’t take long for viewers to get burnt out on the found footage genre. A movie like Hell House, LLC was easy to overlook because it was just another to throw into the pile. Unfortunately for those that did avoid Cognetti’s glimpse into the inner workings of a doomed haunted attraction, they missed out on a character-driven horror film that was smarter than it needed to be.
Hell House, LLC expertly mingles documentary-style filmmaking with the haunted house genre for a movie that is genuinely spooky. What Hell House doesn’t do is rely heavily on jump scares, though viewers are left always anticipating that big, frightening moment, right up until the chaotic final act.
Watch if: you like documentary-style horror movies. Avoid if: you’re burnt out on found footage. Or hate clowns.
Hellraiser is one of those iconic horror movies that survives largely on the charisma of its primary antagonist. Doug Bradley’s Pinhead is a memorable horror villain, not just for his unique look but for his connection with the pain and torture of his victims. The Cenobites are equally as horrifying and round out Hellraiser’s obsession with sadomasochism.
Based on Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser isn’t a great movie, but it’s one that every horror fan has to dive into at least once in their life. Even if you don’t find yourself in love with the movie, there’s no doubt you’ll grow attached to Barker’s twisted vision.
Watch if: you love twisted supernatural horror. Avoid if: you can’t stomach scenes of torture.
5. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Director: John McNaughton
Many may know and love Michael Rooker for his portrayal of Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy or Merle Dixon on The Walking Down. That love may dwindle after watching McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. As the titular serial killer, who’s based on the real-life killer Henry Lee Lucas, Rooker slaughters his way across America.
Henry is a disturbing look into the mind and life of a serial killer, and while it’s not something you may think you need to watch, it should be on your bucket list of movies. Of course, the film faced its fair share of censorship, but it didn’t diminish the overall quality. Rooker is joined by Tom Towles (Night of the Living Dead 1990), who portrays Otis, the on-screen depiction of Ottis Toole.
Watch if: you remember the Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole killings. Avoid if: you don’t want to remember Lucas and Toole.
6. Mayhem (2017)
Director: Joe Lynch
Steven Yeun breaks away from being The Walking Dead’s resident good guy image to slaughter an office full of coworkers in Joe Lynch’s Mayhem. When a “Red Eye” virus spreads through a tense office building, it’s blood and brutality from start to finish.
Released after Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment, Mayhem works hard not to feel like it’s trying to cash in on the popularity of the James Gunn-written film. Yeun is joined by the then up-and-coming horror queen Samara Weaving and the pair make the perfect team for leaving behind a trail of bodies. Mayhem is an undeniable comedic romp with a ton of savagery.
Watch if: you’re looking for a stylish, nonstop bloodfest. Avoid if: you have an uncontrollable rage against your coworkers.
The start of the Romero legacy, Night of the Living Dead is a hauntingly miserable horror experience that’s largely responsible for our obsession with the undead. The slow-moving corpses of Romero’s early vision may seem less threatening than the fast-moving fiends of today, but the claustrophobia, isolation, and paranoia of Night of the Living Dead elevates viewer fear and discomfort.
Much like its leading villains, Night of the Living Dead is relentless from beginning to its unexpected end. A strong cast draws viewers in so that every shocking moment carries a weight that sticks with the audience.
Watch if: if you find slow-moving zombies scary. Avoid if: you want to feel good when the credits roll.
8. One Cut of the Dead (2019)
Director: Shinichirou Ueda
Zombie comedies aren’t a new thing, but Shinichirou Ueda works his magic to make One Cut of the Dead feel fresh and unique. Picture Tropic Thunder, but replace Vietnam with a water filtration plant and the Flaming Dragon with zombies. As director Takayuki Higurashi, portrayed by Takayuki Hamtsu, finds that his low-budget zombie film isn’t quite working, he abandons his cast and crew moments before real zombies descends on the plant.
One Cut of the Dead is a hilarious and bloody zom-com that does what so few movies in the genre can – mixes gory horror and comedy in one attractive package.
Watch if: you’re in need of a clever zombie comedy. Avoid if: you like your zombies without the comedy.
9. Phantasm (1979)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Phantasm is the type of movie that’s as beloved and revered as it is because of its villain, the Tall Man. If you can follow the science fiction elements of Coscarelli’s image, you’re treated to one of the creepiest horror icons to come out of the 70s.
Angus Scrimm’s The Tall Man is often regarded as a symbolism for death, which only further amplifies the creep factor the well-dressed foe. There’s no doubt that Phantasm is completely out there, with dwarf zombies and distant planets and all, but it does have its fun moments of horror that fit right in with the season.
Watch if: you want a change from straight-forward horror movies. Avoid if: you’re creeped out by tall, lanky men.
The works of H. P. Lovecraft are, to say the least, excentric. His focus on the cosmos, gigantic godlike entities, and insanity are staples of his literature. For his Herbert West-Reanimator horror serial, he stepped away from the lore of Cthulu to deliver a clever story of science experiments and the undead. Stuart Gordon’s 1985 adaptation of the short series captures the essence of Lovecraft while working in elements of comedy.
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners, House on Haunted Hill 1999) plays the titular re-animator in one of his more famous roles. Re-Animator is a fun horror movie that works in much the same way a movie like Evil Dead 2 does – by being clever and over-the-top with the source material.
Watch if: you want a new take on zombies. Avoid if: you love cats.
11. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Director: Adam Robitel
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that can tear families apart. Throw in a devilish spirit that’s hellbent on immortality, and you have the trying ordeal laid out in The Taking of Deborah Logan. This found-footage possession film is rampant with jump scares, but it doesn’t cheapen the experience. If anything, the frights in Deborah Logan are well-thought-out so as not to be cheap and expected.
Robitel uses the deteriorating mind of the elderly Logan to make her more sympathetic, which only makes the second half of the movie that much more impactful.
Watch if: you’re tired of the same-old possession story. Avoid if: you’re overly sympathetic toward your elders.
12. Terrified (2017)
Director: Deman Rugna
There are many elements to Rugna’s Terrified that help make it a fun supernatural movie that goes beyond the ordinary. From a towering specter that emerges from impossible crevices to the return of a deceased boy’s motionless body, you never really know where the scares will hit from next.
While early screenings touted it as one of those movies to “keep you up at night,” Terrified is more fun than cripplingly terrifying. You’ll find yourself anticipating the next scare rather than cowering from it. That’s not because the small frights don’t work, but because they’re clever and unique and help deliver a delightful supernatural horror film that’s perfect for Halloween night.
Watch if: you’re a connoisseur of supernatural horror movies. Avoid if: you’re an aspiring paranormal investigator.
Horror movies can be many things. Funny, terrifying, dull, lazy – the range is limitless in the right (or wrong) hands. Tigers Are Not Afraid shows that horror can also be incredibly dramatic, deep, devastating, and downright emotionally painful to watch.
What really makes Lopez’s story work is how real it feels. Take away the supernatural elements, and you could be watching any upsetting drama about kids forced to make impossible decisions in a world rampant with terrible, murderous people. Tigers Are Not Afraid weaves in a ghost story to deliver unsettling imagery that will haunt you long after it’s over.
Watch if: you want a ghost story that’s so much more. Avoid if: you aren’t mentally prepared for a deep and emotional horror story.
14. Train to Busan
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Think you have the stamina to make it through an unrelenting zombie flick? One where zombies are once again terrifying and want nothing more than to spread their virus and feast on the living? One where you’ll actually like the cast of characters and feel the impact when they fall prey to the virus?
Train to Busan keeps viewers glued to the screen with horror, drama, and humor, which all primarily unfolds on the claustrophobic setting of a train. The undead action is visceral and frantic and you can bet there are few moments of relief from the first transformation to the depressing end.
Watch if: you are in the mood for some zombie fun. Avoid if: you don’t want to watch likable characters being turned into mindless zombies.
15. The Wailing (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jin
A mysterious stranger arrives at a small isolated village in South Korea. The otherwise innocuous arrival turns deadly when a disease starts spreading, causing rash outbreaks of violence before victims succumb to the illness.
The Wailing uses the concept of an outbreak and interlaces it with a psychological mystery as residents of the village try to uncover the truth about the stranger. Of course, they ultimately do, and their discovery completely changes the tone and direction of the movie. The twist at the end is delightful and only enhances the devastation wrought by the disease.
Watch if: The Crazies is your kind of movie. Avoid if: you don’t want to be wary of every stranger in your life.
For a measly $5.99 a month, Shudder is a treasure trove of classics and modern movies sure to fill the horror void.