If it’s horror you’re after, you should probably consider a Shudder subscription. This streaming service is dedicated to macabre movies, spine-chilling shows and everything adjacent, and at £4.99 per month is fairly cheap compared to most of its peers. You also get a free 7-day trial to put it through its paces.
With over 550 films, documentaries, TV series and one-off shows to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start as a new Shudder subscriber, but fear not, dear reader: Stuff is here to help. We’ve been through the entire library to pick out our favourite scary movies. The crème de la scrème, if you will. So if you’re in the mood for a sleepless night, read on.
There are two versions of Shudder available to UK viewers. There’s a standalone service, and then there’s the Shudder channel which can be added as an optional extra for your Amazon Prime Video account. Despite both being called Shudder, theses have slightly different content libraries, so we’ve included links to both services where appropriate. If you don’t see a link to something, that means it’s not available on that version of Shudder.
Want to know the best scary movies on other streaming platforms? We’ve got you covered:
- The best horror films on Netflix
- The best horror films on Prime Video and Freevee
- The best horror films on Now Cinema and Sky
- The best horror films on Disney+
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
One of the all-time horror greats, this low-budget, lo-fi bombshell clips along at a brisk pace without ever feeling rushed. Directed by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a bunch of road-tripping teenagers who get side-tracked on a rural Texas highway after picking up an odd hitchhiker.
To reveal more would risk ruining the mouth-watering shocks to come, but it’s probably not spoiling anything to say that, yes, some tree-felling equipment does get used in a non-traditional way. Ghoulishly great stuff, with an unforgettable final shot.
There’s an urban myth about a cursed videotape doing the rounds. Pop the tape in your VCR, watch it…and you’ll receive a creepy phone call shortly thereafter. A scratchy voice is on the line, uttering only the words “seven days.” You’ll be dead precisely one week later, your corpse horrifically contorted. After a group of teenagers reportedly fall victim to the curse, a sceptical journalist vows to uncover the truth. But some stories may be better left untold.
The movie that kickstarted the late 1990s/early 2000s Japanese horror craze, Hideo Nakata’s Ringu is wonderfully eerie and atmospheric. It’s a masterpiece of brooding tension, and also features one of the most downright disturbing reveals in movie history. Those who’ve seen it will know exactly the scene we’re talking about. A must-watch for any horror fan.
An American Werewolf in London
After a young American tourist is set upon by a strange and vicious beast on a Yorkshire moor, he discovers that something inside him has changed – and realises that something terrible is going to happen come the next full moon.
Perhaps best known for its ground-breaking transformation scene (courtesy of special effects legend Rick Baker), John Landis’ movie remains one of the most enjoyable horror-comedies ever made, largely because it succeeds in being both extremely scary and drily amusing without either trait spoiling the other.
Later given a Hollywood remake under the new title of Quarantine, this low budget, lo-fi Spanish movie offers a novel spin on the well-worn found footage approach: it’s presented in real-time.
A Barcelona TV news team finds itself trapped in an apartment building in the midst of an unspecified emergency, which swiftly reveals itself to be a deadly viral outbreak. While the subject matter doesn’t break any new ground, the real-time, first-person approach draws the viewer right into the action: you’re experiencing the terror right along with the characters. It’s good, simple and strong stuff that never gives you a chance to relax, and the climactic scene is terrifically tense.
The standout stars of Clive Barker’s cult classic are the Cenobites, a quartet of pale-skinned, leather-clad, body-pierced demons summoned to the material plane after a strange puzzle box is opened. Sadistic, masochistic and craving ever more extreme sensations, these beings arrived to unleash hell on the solver of the box – in this case, a selfish and amoral man named Frank.
Taking a markedly different tack to the stalk-and-slash flicks that dominated 1980s horror, Hellraiser got its inspiration from decadent S&M clubs and fetish culture rather than real-life serial killers. The result is a memorably disturbing movie that stands apart from its contemporaries.
Made and released during the COVID-19 lockdown, this Shudder original movie offers a brilliantly inventive and timely twist on the found footage trope. It’s all filmed and presented as a video group chat, with the director Rob Savage having the cast operate their own cameras, light their own scenes and even fire off some of their special effects – all in the name of following social distancing rules.
The story sees a group of friends hire a medium to perform a séance via Zoom, more as an opportunity for a boozy virtual hangout than a genuine attempt to make contact with anything supernatural. But when things start to go bump in the night, they realise that their lockdown time may have been better spent making sourdough bread and learning to knit.
The House of the Devil
Ti West’s slow-burn chiller was released in 2009, but you’d barely know it: technically and thematically, it feels like it was made 30 years before, in a moviemaking era when scary films weren’t afraid to take their time to establish characters and deliberately crank up the tension.
Shot on grainy 16mm film and taking place in the pre-mobile phone 1980s, it stars Jocelin Donahue as cash-strapped college student Samantha, who takes on an unusual babysitting job in an isolated house in an effort to raise some rent money.
Despite its aesthetics and setting, The House of the Devil isn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia, though. This is a lovingly crafted film that builds to an unforgettable final reel. We won’t spoil a thing…
Noroi: The Curse
Like many horror films, Noroi uses the conventions of found footage to masterful effect. The movie is presented as if it’s the contents of a single videotape: a documentary made by a renowned Japanese paranormal investigator shortly before his house burned down and he disappeared without a trace.
The VHS-like image quality and use of apparently ‘real’ clips from TV shows gives the whole thing an air of authenticity – because when something weird does happen, it feels all the more jarring and unnerving. It’s a slow burner, without easy explanations, jump scares or gallons of gore to keep inattentive viewers amused, but its realism and steadily increasing tension prove that there’s more than one way to skin a cat – or make a satisfying horror film.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
When an undead outbreak unravels society from within, four survivors decamp to a abandoned shopping mall in a bid for safety. They immediately discover that the shambling zombie hordes have also found themselves drawn to this stronghold of consumerism, instinctively lurching through the fashion aisles and past the colour TVs like dazed customers.
Dawn of the Dead is without a doubt one of the greatest and most influential horror films ever made. You’d have to be braindead (no pun intended) to miss director George A. Romero’s satire, but there’s so much more to this movie than a simple commentary on mindless spending. The practical effects and prog synth score give it an eerie atmosphere you rarely get with modern horror flicks.
“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Honestly, this Australian horror flick is going to stick with you for some time. In addition to all the thrills and chills you’d expect from a standard monster movie, The Babadook has something extra hidden in its basement under the stairs: it’s clever.
Yes, this film will fray your nerves like wool on a barbed wire fence, but it’s also a powerful meditation on loss and trauma. As her home becomes plagued by a strange malevolent entity, can widowed Amelia finally lay the memory of her husband to rest and protect her troubled son Samuel?
Director Kathryn Bigelow mashes together various genres in this 1987 cult classic. It’s a Western, a vampire movie, a family drama and a road movie, in which small-town boy Caleb Colton is unwittingly inducted into a clan of itinerant bloodsuckers.
Cramped in a camper van and unable to venture out during the day, this strange family roams the countryside preying on victims, bickering, and living out a twisted form of the classic American drifter story. We get to experience this weird nomadic existence play out through the relatively innocent eyes of Caleb, who found himself in this predicament due to his attraction to Mae, a young vampire who ‘turned’ him.
In a dystopian future Japan, teenagers have become so badly behaved that the government has dreamt up a drastic solution. Once a year, a randomly selected high school class is dropped off on a deserted island, given an arsenal of weaponry and forced to fight until only one student is left alive. Whatever happened to ‘hug a hoodie’?
If being forcibly inducted into an orgy of violence sounds like a pretty harsh punishment for chatting during double maths, it’s best not to overthink things. Just sit back and enjoy the carnage as petty grudges turn bloody, school bullies get their comeuppance and former best pals become deadly foes. Having provided inspiration for everything from The Hunger Games to Fortnite, Battle Royale is an iconic piece of exploitation cinema, and a must-see for any fan of edgy cult films.
Six horror shorts in one, V/H/S is a found footage anthology whose formula has proved somewhat enduring. At the time of writing, it has spawned no fewer than five sequels (four of which are also streaming on Shudder), two spin-offs and a miniseries for, of all places, Snapchat.
Anyway, this first movie consists of five short horror films ‘wrapped’ in an additional sixth meta-film, with each story helmed by a different director. Some are more effective and inventive than others, but their brevity ensures you’re never far from a fright.