It’s been a long time coming, but our national nightmare is over at last. Some two years after the notion was first floated, Shudder, the only streaming service explicitly (even bloodily!) dedicated to all things horror has finally hit Australia and New Zealand.
Eagle-eyed horror heads noticed that the website was no longer region locked last week, the apps for both Android and iOS dropped over the weekend, and lo: a press release thunked into my inbox with all due gravity, giving out the salient details:
AMC Networks’ Shudder—called the “gold standard” of targeted streaming services by The Guardian and described by Thrillist as “pretty much everything a horror fan could want”—announced today that its premium subscription streaming service for horror, thriller, and the supernatural is now available in Australia and New Zealand, expanding a global footprint that already encompasses the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“We’re thrilled to share our unrivaled collection of curated horror and supernatural movies and series with Australian and New Zealand audiences just in time for Halloween season, where we feature our biggest and best programming of the year,” said Craig Engler, Shudder’s General Manager. “These new launches continue our growing international expansion and our commitment to offer premium genre entertainment to a global audience.”
…and it goes on in that vein. But the key points are these:
- Subscriptions start at $5.83 a month, which is crazy cheap.
- Get a further 20% off for signing up for an annual subscription before August 31 and chucking in the code SHUDDERANZ.
- They’ll give you a free week to trial it in any case, and…
- The website is here, so have at it.
But have at what? Shudder has a pretty deep bench of content, a solid, well-curated mix of genre classics, international obscurities, TV series and their own commissioned productions – for a horror fan it’s both intoxicating and a little overwhelming. Where to begin?
Don’t sweat it; I got you, fam. This isn’t a ranked list by any means, but if you want a cheat sheet to some of the dark delights on offer, you could do a lot worse than queuing up this lot…
Blood Quantum (2019)
From Mi’kmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, who gave us the excellent Rhymes for Young Ghouls back in 2013, comes this Canadian zombie flick with a difference. When a zombie outbreak occurs on a First Nations Reservation, it turns out that those of Indigenous heritage are immune, but the white folks are soon all slavering for human flesh. This absolute gem, which gives you all you could want from a zombie apocalypse movie, along with more than a few pointed observations about Rez life and the precarious position of First Nations people in modern Canada.
This brisk and cheerfully bloody anthology series carries on the tradition established by old Stephen King/George A. Romero, with each episode delivering two short, sharp horror tales for your delectation. Special effects makeup legend Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) is on producing duties, so all other considerations aside, the gore is top notch, and right out of the gate you get an adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘Gray Matter’ featuring Tobin Bell (Saw) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), which sets the bar pretty high.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Mexican schoolgirl Estrella (Paola Lara) searches for her missing mother with the help of a group of orphaned street kids in this assured, intoxicating effort from screenwriter-turned-director Issa López. Set at the height of the Mexican narco war, Tigers Are Not Afraid contrasts the real world horrors of its milieu with a kind of dark magical realism which isn’t a million miles away from the work of Guillermo del Toro. Exactly how this manifests is best discovered on your own, but rest assured this is one ghost story where the supernatural elements are in direct competition with the more quotidian dangers in terms of what is most terrifying.
The Guest (2014)
A grieving veteran family gets a visit from David (Dan Stevens), a soldier who served with their deceased son. Unfortunately, the polite, friendly, all-American David turns out to have a head full of bad wiring thanks to being the subject of a Jason Bourne-style experimental program to create perfect assassins, and things quickly head south. Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch) balances action and horror in this fun ‘80s throwback.
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)
Absolutely engrossing, occasionally angering, but generally celebratory documentary on the history of Black representation and participation in the horror genre, from early racist depictions and codings to the gradual claiming of genre territory thanks to films from Night of the Living Dead through to Us, with plenty of insight from a great gallery of talking heads, including Jordan Peele (Get Out), Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight), Tony Todd (Candyman), and Keith David (The Thing). Could go deeper at times – it’s a tight 83 minutes – but as a primer, it’s unbeatable.
One Cut of the Dead (2017)
A Japanese film crew shooting a low budget zombie flick find themselves caught up in a real zombie apocalypse, and their unhinged director wants to keep the cameras rolling. Written, directed, and edited by Shin’ichirô Ueda and made for peanuts, this inventive micro-budget horror comedy is the business, displaying more imagination and guts than most films with ten times its resources.
There’s a fine selection of classics on hand, but it’s hard to go past Clive Barker’s directorial debut, adapting his novella, The Hellbound Heart. When a dissolute hedonist tracks down an ancient artefact said to hold the key to eternal pleasure, he opens a doorway for the Cenobites, an order of S&M demons whose definition of pleasure is pretty far off the beam. A striking and provocative groundbreaker back when it was first released in ’87, Hellraiser remains queasily fascinating even now. The first two sequels are also here, but the law of diminishing returns applies.
Q – The Winged Serpent (1982)
Things are bad enough when what appears to be an incarnation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl begins picking off New Yorkers from the sky, but they get worse when a low rent thief (Michael Moriarty) figures out where the winged critter is nesting and decides to hold the city for ransom with the info. I’m always going to sing the praises of the late, great, Larry Cohen (The Stuff, It’s Alive) and this is a perfect example of the schlockmeister’s craft, combining giddy exploitation thrills with arch political commentary andunparalleled flair.
The Woman (2011)
A misogynist lawyer (Sean Bridgers) finds a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) in the woods and decides to try and civilise her, which proves to a mistake seeing as she is the last survivor of a clan of backwoods The Hills Have Eyes-style cannibals. Adapting Jack Ketchum’s novel (and if you think you’re tough, read Ketchum) Lucky McKee delivers a genuinely confronting dose of horror in the home, with the brutal savagery of the titular maneater paling in comparison to the prosaic evil of her captor.
Next of Kin (1982)
Shudder also boasts a respectable touch of local content, of which this 1982 cult classic is but one example. A young woman (Jacki Kerin) inherits a sprawling and ominous retirement home from her mother, only to discover its haunted. That is, in effect, your lot of plot, but Kiwi director Tony Williams finds a tone pitched somewhere between Giallo and Hammer horror, offering up a growingly delirious fever dream of impressionistic horror. Also, John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) shows up, which is nigh-mandatory for Australian horror movies.