Shudder has become an essential destination for horror fans. Since launching in 2015, the AMC-owned streaming service has built a strong reputation for offering genre classics, a slew of exclusive films, and original content from the likes of Joe Bob Briggs, Eli Roth, and the Boulet Brothers. Specials featuring Elvira, the history of black people and horror, and films with “cursed” reputations round out their ever-growing catalog of material curated by individuals as passionate about horror as the subscribers themselves. That doesn’t even cover original series like Creepshow or Slasher: Flesh and Blood, which are well worth your time.
The point here is that Shudder has a lot of programming to sift through, so it’s inevitable that some movies are going to get lost in the shuffle. That’s where we come in. If you find yourself a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of potential waiting for you with this service, here are some underrated horror movies on Shudder to fill out your spook season watchlist.
Underrated Horror Movies on Shudder
13. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)
Director: William Asher
Beyond a memorable title, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is a weird and wild psychosexual horror movie that you won’t forget anytime soon
Cheryl Roberts (Susan Tyrell) has raised her nephew Billy (Jimmy McNichol) since his parents died in a car wreck. The fact that she might be a little too fond of him sets up a bizarre premise for a mystery that only gets stranger as things roll along. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker makes such odd tonal choices at times, it’s easy to react with laughter. There are moments in this movie that defy conventional storytelling as brashly as your belief that you’re watching something normal. You most certainly aren’t.
Although not a perfect film by any means, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker has an intriguing story, an interesting approach to gay characters and themes of repression and homosexuality in America, and standout early performances by Bill Paxton and Julia Duffy. At the center of all of this is Susan Tyrell’s utterly terrifying Aunt Cheryl.
12. Mon Mon Mon Monsters (2017)
Director: Giddens Ko
Childhood trauma hits the coming-of-age-story like an eighteen-wheeler in Mon Mon Mon Monsters. A quiet, empathetic young student named Lin Shuwei (Deng Yu Kai) is stuck in community service with some of the most vicious bullies in his school. Slowly befriending them, because he’s a likable enough kid, Lin soon becomes part of an extraordinary discovery. The kids have found their very own monster, and this is where Mon Mon Mon Monsters starts to get very interesting indeed.
Mon Mon Mon Monsters is a horror-comedy blend that has plenty of the former, offering the latter as an undercurrent that doesn’t stop the characters from being well-rounded and believable. There’s a darkness to this humor, to be sure, but it all creates a ferocious and altogether unique piece of genre entertainment.
Featuring a devastating and horrific ending, Mon Mon Mon Monsters doesn’t drown in its own despairing circumstances or acts of cruelty. It forces its characters to contend with consequences, feelings of helplessness, and the hunger that can rise from the desire to just be left the hell alone.
11. Satan’s Slaves (2017)
Director: Joko Anwar
A loose remake (while also functioning effectively as a prequel) of a 1982 Indonesian horror film, Satan’s Slaves has a straightforward premise with depth for days.
A young woman named Mawarni Suwono (Ayu Laksmi) dies after a long illness. Establishing an atmosphere of supernatural potential right from the start, we understand something terrible and quite possibly wonderful is about to happen to Mawarni’s husband, mother, and children. This mystery runs steadily through a movie that enhances its beautiful tension with some stunning visual touches.
Satan’s Slaves has all the markings of a good supernatural horror movie. The true pleasure in watching this film with its good performances and engaging narrative is in how the story unfolds. It’s a series of impressive surprises, with a particularly strong emphasis on an ending with the ability to astonish you. This is one of the best modern gothic horror movies you probably haven’t seen yet.
10. Jakob’s Wife (2021)
Director: Travis Stevens
The wife (horror legend Barbara Crampton at her absolute, soul-destroying best) of a small-town minister (actor/filmmaker Larry Fessenden) starts living her best life after a startling transformation. But Jakob’s Wife is no inspirational tale. It could be, depending on your perspective, but what this wholly unique and hilariously dark film really concerns are vampires and the lengths people will go to if it means getting closer to their true potential.
Jakob’s Wife has gallows humor in spades, but it’s not a mean-spirited kind of humor. With a fantastic premise, great production design, and plenty of blood, director/co-writer Travis Stevens has the best qualities possible at hand for his strongest directing effort to date. Jakob’s Wife digs hard into its own type of tension, opting to build that around strong and compelling characters who already have their secret feelings and eccentricities.
A lot builds up in just 98 minutes, but the movie manages to cover its bases in spectacular fashion by the end.
9. A Field in England (2014)
Director: Ben Wheatley
A Field in England is true psychological horror. We never really encounter a physical manifestation of the uncomfortable energy that exists around a small group of men fleeing the English Civil War. These men are brutish, exhausted, and already a little on the maddened side of things. Captured by two other men, the focus of everyone soon settles on some treasure allegedly waiting for just the right person in a seemingly innocuous field.
One of the slowest slow burns you’re ever going to encounter, A Field in England feels like being submerged in complete chaos. Reckless behavior, monstrous ambitions, mystical mushrooms, and a field that seemingly exists as its own character with its own unknowable motivations and feelings are just a few of the sights and sounds of this deeply disturbing black and white film.
The cast keeps this wide awake nightmare relatively grounded, closing the gap of the centuries between us and this story to give us an audience with a timeless cosmic cruelty.
8. Knife + Heart (2019)
Director: Yann Gonzalez
Charged with eroticism, rage, and a distinctly queer outlook on genre vitals like the slasher, Knife + Heart can be a devastating journey for the uninitiated if you’re looking for underrated movies on Shudder
Not only does it take its genre convictions to deeper emotional depths than you might be expecting, but it surprises you with not only plot twists, but a willingness to go as hard as possible on the violence side of things. The story of a struggling filmmaker (Vanessa Paradis, who handles the hellish journey of her character with stunning skill), who’s stuck producing mediocre gay porn for a bleak audience. Tragedy breeds opportunity, which only serves to breed further tragedy.
An electric charge of doomsday-levels of obsession gives Knife + Heart the opportunity to be as punishing as possible in the best way possible. There’s an off-kilter sense of fun in this film’s visual choices and some of the dialog. This enjoyment is undercut with a story of someone who soon comes to find that making horrible choices can eventually become as easy as breathing.
7. They Look Like People (2015)
Director: Perry Blackshear
Written, produced, shot, edited, and directed by Perry Blackshear, there’s an intimacy to They Look Like People that informs its disquieting nature.
Best friends Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) and Christian (Evan Dumouchel) reunite during a period of exceptional loneliness. It makes sense on that level alone for the two to resume their friendship, but it becomes apparent early into this film that neither man is in the best possible emotional or psychological shape. Wyatt aggressively and quite suddenly takes a darker turn than Christian, becoming convinced that the world will soon be consumed by the forces of a demonic invasion. As Christian struggles in his own way, he soon finds himself as the only possible life preserver for his deeply suffering friend.
They Look Like People is another slow burn on Shudder. The fact that the movie is only 80 minutes wrong makes that choice all the more striking, as the movie insists that this harrowing premise will pay off for the patient and open-minded.
6. The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
Director: John Gilling
The Flesh and The Fiends is perhaps the best cinematic story based on the infamous and hideous Burke and Hare murders across several movies based on the two men who murdered at least 16 people throughout Edinburgh in Scotland during the 1820s.
The Flesh and the Fiends absolutely aspires to shock and exploitation, but it stands fairly well in the realm of horror movies based on a true story. Don’t take this entire film as fact, but it gets you close enough to seriously breathe in this grimy, polluted period piece.
If anything, The Flesh and the Fiends undersells just how evil the two men really were. That’s saying a lot with the men being portrayed by Donald Pleasence (Hare) and George Rose (Burke), who each bring a pronounced and unshakable evil to their performances. Restrained performances make the movie’s more lurid elements seem shockingly realistic for a movie made so long ago. Peter Cushing as the doctor unwittingly benefitting a murder spree adds further shades to this film.
5. The Nightmare (2015)
Director: Rodney Ascher
Sleep paralysis would make for a good foundation for a horror movie. The Nightmare takes this assumption, but also decides that simply presenting real people suffering the condition is all you really need to scare the hell out of someone.
From the director of Room 237, a fascinating documentary combining far-out film analysis with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, we have the only documentary in this article. This is one of the most underrated horror movies you can watch on Shudder, made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s all true.
The Nightmare relies profoundly on the storytellers it has assembled. The other end of the film’s success is when the movie meets these stories with visual importance and appropriate atmosphere. All of these things work wonders at making you feel as though this could very reasonably happen to you. The Nightmare is a clever idea that lives up to that promise. We’ll echo the reviews that advise against watching this right before you hit the sack.
4. Stage Fright (1987)
Director: Michael Soavi
An Italian slasher movie isn’t inherently going to be a giallo movie, but this 1987 exercise in style and brutality by Dario Argento collaborator Michael Soavi borrows cleverly from both camps.
Stage Fright is as ridiculous as it is sincerely creepy. It doesn’t take a genre expert to look at this story of a theater troupe locked inside a venue with an escaped mental patient to understand that a lot of people are going to die. Stage Fright still manages to find shocking moments within its narrative, using these moments to let us breathe in between slayings. Stage Fright is definitely a product of its time, but it’s one of the best examples of slashers still finding creative outlets by the end of its prolific 80s period.
The dreamlike visuals and genre-essential blood and entrails are well represented. This would be enough for a really good time, but Stage Fright still finds plenty of ways to be more than what you’re hoping for.
3. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019)
Director: Issa López
Directed by one of horror’s brightest new stars, Tigers Are Not Afraid is one of the most breathlessly inventive and uniquely haunting movies on Shudder.
While it’s been mentioned around here in the past, the film still deserves a bigger audience. The fact that it was largely ignored during awards season in the wake of its release reminds us that stories with monsters and spirits still do not get the respect they’ve earned through the electrifying marriage of imagination and purpose to the cinematic artform.
That’s a lot of grandiose praise to give to this story of a suddenly orphaned little girl (Paola Lara) joining a street gang on the rougher streets of a city in Mexico, but Tigers Are Not Afraid is a lot to take in. Without trivializing the real-world circumstances that create the hell these poor kids go through, this movie lunges and demands the very best of what we should expect from a fantasy horror story with deft touches of magical realism.
2. Wake in Fright (1971)
Director: Ted Kotcheff
A lost film for many years, Wake in Fright is a different breed of horror movie.
There’s no specific real or supernatural threat to a teacher named John (Gary Bond), whose mistakes lead him to become ostensibly trapped in a squalid, booze-soaked mining town on the Australian outback. John’s life becomes drinking, madness, and being forced to participate in ghastly and sadistic kangaroo hunts. Which, by the way, has its own real-life horror story that some viewers will want to read up on before watching this film in the first place.
Wake in Fright is another example of pure psychological horror. The town in which this movie is set might be a horror show in every possible way, with a particularly upsetting performance by the legendary Donald Pleasence as one of the residents, but most of the real scary stuff happens inside John’s head. A man can only take so many horrific, seemingly impossible catastrophes in a single summer vacation.
1. Mad God (2021)
Director: Phil Tippett
To put it simply, Mad God is a work of crucial, once-in-a-lifetime art by one of the most ingenious animators alive today. It’s not particularly important to know that Phil Tippett spent some 30 years working on this stop-motion odyssey of a determined nameless figure making a descent into a fever dream hell that would make Dante crap his pants in terror. Even so, you’re going to feel the monumental effort of willing such an exhilarating work of art into being.
There is a defiance to not only how Mad God’s story is told, but in how the storytelling is presented to you that suggests this movie really does want to take a few million souls along for a one-way ride to its apocalyptic destination.
Movies like Mad God make you glad to be alive in the most demented way possible. This is what people are talking about when they point to hideous subjects and talk about their unrestrained and unrelenting beauty. Mad God has extreme violence and extreme despair in equal amounts. It presents these things and more with such originality that the end result subverts its direness. Expect to want to watch this Shudder gem again — you almost certainly didn’t catch every incredible detail the first time around.
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