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The 100 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Shudder (Spring 2017)

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The 100 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Shudder (Spring 2017)

When I first ranked some films from the archive of horror streaming service Shudder back in 2016, I was inclined to think “This service probably beats out Netflix,” in terms of offering a wider scope of both classic and modern horror cinema. After doing that ranking, I’ve continued paying for a Shudder subscription, not only because it’s a useful service but because I’ve wanted to support the very idea of a niche genre streaming service for horror movies. However, I’ve never used Shudder quite often enough to really pay attention to all the titles that were being added throughout the last year, until returning to update my rankings.

All I can say now is: Wow. The Shudder library, which I once said “probably” beats out the likes of Netflix, now destroys Netflix in terms of both quality and quantity. With a library that I currently count at 729 horror films, a $4.99 monthly subscription to Shudder is a bit like having access to the best local independent video store you can imagine. The sheer variety is enough to make a horror geek lightheaded.

With that said, there are always some bugs. One eventually learns the little ins-and-outs of using Shudder, especially via a desktop web browser. The search function can be twitchy—you can type in part of a film title and it will fail to appear unless the whole title is filled in, for example. For this reason, it pays to check twice while searching. There are occasional errors in formatting and page loading. You may accidentally end up on pages for films that are no longer available, or not available in your country. But it comes with the territory of a service that is still being refined.

If there’s one thing I’m most impressed by in the Shudder experience, though, it’s the fact that their films actually feel like a vault, like a library that is meant to be permanent. Netflix, with its constant influx of films both in and out, necessitates you constantly look up which movies are leaving. Shudder, on the other hand, seems to almost never let its movies slip away after it adds them. After ranking 80 of them back in October, only ONE of those films is no longer available on the service in the U.S. (American Psycho) That’s a crazy percentage of retention. If this had been Netflix, 30 percent of those movies would be gone and replaced with other titles.

And so, if you’re thinking about getting a Shudder subscription, or you’re just wondering which movies on the service you should watch next, enjoy this sprawling ranking. I’ve shuffled some things around from the previous version, added some new films and reevaluated a few old ones. Enjoy, horror geeks!


birdemic-shock-and-terror.24938 (Custom).jpg 100. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
Year: 2008
Director: James Nguyen
Birdemic is an absolutely horrendous film, but it’s one that absolutely everyone who’s ever enjoyed The Room needs to put on their list. On first inspection it simply looks like a rip-off of Hitchcock’s The Birds, but in reality it’s so much worse and more fascinating than that. The parallels to The Room are extremely accurate: Like Tommy Wiseau’s famously inept film, Birdemic is the product of a single, deranged mind, that of the Vietnamese-born would-be auteur James Nguyen, whose non-native writing fills the dialog with mind-bending absurdities and a pathetically sincere attempt at an ecological message. The actors seem to be people that Nguyen scooped off the street moments before shooting began, completely wooden and unsure of where they are or how they got here. Technical gaffes abound. And when the birds finally show up, the film is graced by some of the most gut-bustingly hilarious FX of all time—clip-art birds that flutter in place, suspended in mid-air while the heroes swipe at them with coat hangers. This is all in Birdemic. You need to see Birdemic. But please, I’m warning you: Ignore Nguyen’s self-aware attempt to follow up on the film with Birdemic 2: The Resurrection. The magic, unsurprisingly, is gone. — Jim Vorel


death bed poster (Custom).jpg 99. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats
Year: 1977
Director: George Barry
Patton Oswalt immortalized Death Bed with an uproarious four-minute piece of stand-up during his second album, forever catapulting this terrible movie into horror film infamy—which is reason enough that you should really watch it at least once. The subtitle isn’t The Bed That Eats People as Oswalt believed; instead it’s the genuinely stupider and more vague The Bed That Eats. Although I suppose it is at least accurate, given that the evil, demon-possessed bed doesn’t only eat human beings, and instead absorbs just about anything placed upon it. There are a few amusing gags, such as the scene where the Death Bed actually gets indigestion before consuming a bottle of Pepto Bismol, but the majority is still a dull, ugly ‘70s horror flick with zero budget. Watch it for the Death Bed, get your chuckles and get out. – Jim Vorel


night train to terror poster (Custom).jpg 98. Night Train to Terror
Year: 1985
Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
Night Train to Terror is a really awful movie, but it’s one of the most fun-bad and head-scratchingly hilarious films you’ll find in the Shudder library. Just trying to sum it up is challenging—it’s sort of an anthology, but one that only exists because the producers decided to cobble several unfinished horror films together by use of a framing device. Oh, and WHAT a framing device! It involves some delightfully campy God and Satan caricatures sitting together in a train car, discussing the various stories the audience is viewing, and whether those participants are heaven or hell-bound. But that’s not all. As God and Satan are having Socratic debate, the train is also filled with members of the worst synth rock band outside of Miami Connection’s Dragon Sound, who endlessly perform the same 60 seconds of of soulless pop-rock over and over on a loop, while dressed as ‘80s mall pirates. Truly, it must be seen to be believed, but all in all, Night Train to Terror is one of the most delightfully chopped together, Z-grade horror movies of the mid-‘80s. Schedule it for your next bad movie night, post-haste. — Jim Vorel


blood feast poster (Custom).jpg 97. Blood Feast
Year: 1963
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Herschell Gordon Lewis is referred to as the “Godfather of Gore” primarily because of movies such as Blood Feast, which is often considered the first true “splatter film”—a horror movie specifically concerned with the gruesome destruction of the human body. Before this point, horror cinema was much more ginger with actual blood and guts, but in the hands of Lewis, the blood splashed forth in great torrents. Blood Feast’s psycho is a caterer who makes meals out of his victims, adding another taboo to the film’s bubbling pot in the form of cannibalism. By today’s standards, the ground-breaking effects are sort of on the tame side—the blood in particular is so bright and syrupy that it’s hard to take seriously—but it’s fun to watch Blood Feast in 2016 and imagine drive-in audiences vomiting up their popcorn at the sight of brains being removed and hearts being devoured. Lewis went on to perfect his splatter films in future outings like 1970’s The Wizard of Gore. — Jim Vorel


beast-must-die-poster (Custom).jpg 96. The Beast Must Die
Year: 1974
Director: Paul Annett
Britain’s Amicus Productions is known to most horror geeks for their classic anthology films, which blend Hammer-style British horror and humor in titles such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House that Dripped Blood. Less well-known are the full-length features, which tended to come off as “Hammer-lite,” despite starring many of the same genre staples such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This one is a rather farcical werewolf yarn, with elements that remind one somewhat of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, when it comes to gimmickry. A millionaire invites a bunch of suspects to his mansion, then reveals that one of them is actually … a werewolf! The group is subjected to some hilariously silly tests, including putting a silver bullet in their mouths, to suss out the werewolf’s identity. Cushing is present in a professorial role, of the exact type that he played in seemingly every British horror film made between 1957-1975, and he’s unsurprisingly the highlight. Near the end, this goofy flick even features a 30-second “Werewolf Break,” where the audience is asked to guess the wolf’s identity. Castle would have loved its blend of silly horror and humor. — Jim Vorel


blood diner poster (Custom).jpg 95. Blood Diner
Year: 1987
Director: Jackie Kong
Blood Diner is a real piece of work, and completely deserving of cult classic status. This is a batshit, off-the-wall, gore-heavy horror film with plenty of comedy, perfectly in synch with the direct-to-video aesthetic of 1987. It revolves around two evil brothers who resurrect their insane uncle and put his psychic brain in a jar, which commands them to kill various women and stitch together a Bride of Frankenstein-style corpse to become the vessel for an ancient, evil goddess. The women are chosen from the pool of regular customers who patronize the brothers’ vegetarian-only (oh the irony, har har har) diner. If that sounds absurd, it’s really only scratching the surface—this movie also contains a pro wrestling subplot where one of the brothers challenges and ultimately defeats despised local wrestler “Jimmy Hitler.” Colorful, gory and joyously ludicrous, Blood Diner is a near perfect selection for your next bad movie night. – Jim Vorel


hands of orlac poster (Custom).jpg 94. The Hands of Orlac
Year: 1924
Director: Robert Wiene
Robert Wiene was the director of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but the foundational film of German Expressionism wasn’t his only contribution to classic horror cinema. Four years later he made The Hands of Orlac, a more conventional horror story that blends some of the Caligari visual flourishes with a story and pacing that would have fit in well during Universal’s original horror series. The film follows a concert pianist named Orlac (Caligari’s somnambulist, Conrad Veidt) whose hands are severed in a terrible accident. When a surgeon transplants new hands, Orlac is shocked to find that they came from a vicious murderer. Soon, obsessed with thoughts of violence, Orlac is left wondering whether the murderer’s hands will spur him on to terrible deeds. Part mystery, part psychological horror, it’s a solid silent-era horror flick that illustrates how deep the Shudder library can be. — Jim Vorel


day of the animals poster (Custom).jpg 93. Day of the Animals
Year: 1977
Director: William Girdler
After Jaws became the first true summer blockbuster in 1975, “animals attack” films proliferated. 1976’s Grizzly was the first big success in the “Jaws on land” variants, and director William Girdler followed it up with Day of the Animals, which could probably be considered the logical zenith of the “nature attacks” premise—all animals vs. all humans. As in, solar radiation somehow causes every animal above 5,000 feet of elevation to go insane, attacking anything in their path. A group of hikers are menaced by all kinds of animals—mountain lions, bears, birds of prey and even pet dogs. Leslie Nielsen, five years before his career-altering comedic turn in Airplane!, appears as the primary human villain, channeling a bit of his Creepshow character from the early ’80s. It’s sort of an ugly film to watch today, but imagine if they ever decided to remake this thing with a decent budget. I want to see that movie, and all the killer koalas it would surely entail. — Jim Vorel


vhs poster (Custom).jpg 92. V/H/S
Year: 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Joe Swanberg, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence
Horror anthologies are often difficult to rate, because you’ll have a hard time finding one that doesn’t have some significant low points. Such is the case with the first two entries in the V/H/S series—the third is just plain bad. Some of the found footage segments work really well, and continue to point to great things in the future for directors such as David Bruckner, who followed up his “Amateur Night” segment here with what was maybe the best segment in this year’s Southbound horror anthology. Other guys, like promising indie horror director Ti West, took a step back here, as his naturalistic style makes for a glacially paced and weirdly mundane segment, “Second Honeymoon.” Still, there are some good scares in “Amateur Night” and Joe Swanberg’s “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger,” and FX geeks will no doubt want to watch the crazy CGI that directing quartet Radio Silence pulls off on a budget in “10/31/98.” Ultimately, you might say the V/H/S series would be best if all the best segments were simply cobbled into one film. — Jim Vorel


53. white zombie (Custom).jpg 91. White Zombie
Year: 1932
Director: Victor Halperin
One doesn’t need a Shudder subscription to see White Zombie—it’s readily available in the public domain, and you’ll see it included in every cheapo horror box set for that reason. Outside of star Bela Lugosi, the acting is pretty atrocious, but it’s a film that horror genre purists need to check off their lists at some point simply due to its influence and importance to the genre as the first-ever “zombie film.” Zombies, of course, had a very different connotation in the pre-George Romero world—these are Haitian voodoo zombies, with Lugosi as the spellbinding ringleader with the hypnotic eyes. This was in an age before subtlety had arrived in horror, so the name of Lugosi’s character is literally “Murder,” and he spends most of the film mucking about in the affairs of an engaged couple, zombifying the woman in the process to become his slave. It’s only 67 minutes long, so what do you have to lose? If you end up watching Revolt of the Zombies, King of the Zombies and I Walked With a Zombie afterward, I swear off all responsibility. — Jim Vorel


basket case poster (Custom).jpg 90. Basket Case
Year: 1982
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Bargain bin horror really reached a new level in the 1980s as filmmaking equipment became more widely available. Made for only $33,000, Basket Case nevertheless received a fairly wide theatrical release, proving once again that horror is the genre where opportunity always knocks. Armed with little more than some crappy actors and a big wicker basket, Henenlotter crafted this schlocky tale of two brothers: A seemingly normal guy named Duane and his separated, deformed Siamese twin Belial, who he carries around with him at all times. Little more than a lumpy, fanged head with one random arm, Belial is at times stop-motion animated as he escapes from his basket and runs amok. The film eventually developed enough of a cult for Henenlotter to return and direct two sequels in the early 1990s. It combines some of the subversive humor of a Troma film with Henenlotter’s gory streak. — Jim Vorel


the tingler poster (Custom).jpg 89. The Tingler
Year: 1959
Director: William Castle
For William Castle, going to the movies was a matter of life and death. Or at least he wanted to convince you as much: If he didn’t have you believing you had some serious stakes in what was happening onscreen, then he—the 20th century’s consummate cinematic showman—wasn’t doing his job. So begins The Tingler, Castle’s 1959 creature feature, wherein Castle appears on screen like a B-grade Alfred Hitchcock to remind the audience that what they’re about to see is hardly a lark. Fear is a natural but serious affliction, a building-up of poisonous humors within one’s nervous system, and so it must be addressed should you endure the film he’s about to show you. The only way to live through The Tingler? You’re going to have to scream. And, to prove his medical conclusions, Castle introduces us to Dr. Chapin (Vincent Price at the height of his weirdo sophisticate phase), a man who believes that every human being has a parasite living in their spine that feeds off of extreme fear—that’s the “tingling” sensation you get every time you’re panicked. The parasite will grow and decimate a person’s backbone unless it’s defeated/deflated by the only logical reaction to fear: screaming. Things of course get tinglier once Chapin captures an actual rubbery spine centipede—and, meanwhile, Castle was always ready to exploit his audience’s squirm factor, having “Percepto!” contraptions installed into each theater seat, set to buzz the butts of already agitated film-goers to scare them into thinking the insectoid creature was crawling up their back. Among Castle’s many interactive “gimmick” films in the 1950s, The Tingler might be the Castle-est, a sincerely wacky, unsettling, imaginative experience whether you’re equipped with a vibrating chair or not. And hearing Vincent Price hollering into the void of a pitch-black screen, “Scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in the theater!”, offers enough urgency to persuade you something may be nipping at your backside after all. —Dom Sinacola


riki oh poster (Custom).jpg 88. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
Year: 1991
Director: Lam Nai-choi
Riki-Oh is a pretty unorthodox choice for Shudder to lump in among its horror fare, and you sort of have to have seen the movie to understand why you’d find it here. Ostensibly a pulpy, exploitation-style martial arts thriller, it presumably makes the list for the fact that it’s one of the most violent, gory martial arts movies ever made. Seriously—it’s like the Dead Alive of its genre, more or less. Following the titular Ricky, who is sent to a corrupt private prison because of his violent vigilantism, it essentially becomes the peons of the evil warden vs. our hero, who is so strong that his typical method of dealing with a threat is simply to punch gaping holes in people. The English dubbing is equal parts atrocious and hilarious, melding with the violence to make the film often feel like a parody of over-the-top martial arts cinema. But really, the thing that will stick with you for years afterward is the stylish, comic gore of Ricky exploding people with his bare fists. If you love comically gory movies, Riki-Oh is one of the essentials. — Jim Vorel


maniac cop poster (Custom).jpg 87. Maniac Cop
Year: 1988
Director: William Lustig
Maniac Cop is the rather unusual intersection between slasher film and “buddy cop” movie—it’s like Lethal Weapon, if the villain were Jason Voorhees and the commissioner was Shaft. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as fun as that description would make it sound, but it’s a tough premise to live up to. A young Bruce Campbell, fresh off Evil Dead 2, plays the lead, but he’s tuned down a bit from the frenetic energy of his work with Sam Raimi. The film revolves around a serial killer wearing a police officer’s uniform, eventually revealed as Robert “The Chin” Z’Dar—always a welcome, deranged face to see in this sort of movie. Opinion on whether the film is cult-worthy is often divided, but with Campbell, Z’Dar and plenty of gore, it’s an essential entry for the genre as the golden age of the slasher movie as winding down in the late ’80s. — Jim Vorel


chud poster (Custom).jpg 86. C.H.U.D.
Year: 1984
Director: Douglas Cheek
It stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,” if you were wondering. C.H.U.D. is a product of its time, the sort of mid-’70s/early ’80s horror film that sets itself in street-level New York City when the Big Apple was renowned as the crime-ridden cesspit of the nation. Cynical as hell, it imagines a race of cannibal monsters created by toxic waste dumped into the New York sewers, where it transforms the local homeless population. In execution, it’s sort of like a Troma film that has a larger budget, maintaining a grimy and tasteless aesthetic that nevertheless has a memorable quality that is hard to define. I think the effects are a part of that—quite icky, but fleeting. I look at this scene of a C.H.U.D. being beheaded and can’t decide if it’s terrible, awesome or terribly awesome. C.H.U.D. has lived an entire second life as comedy material, with references ranging from The Simpsons to an April Fools prank from the Criterion Collection. — Jim Vorel


chillerama poster (Custom).jpg 85. Chillerama
Year: 2011
Directors: Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, Joe Lynch
Chillerama is another anthology, but with a framing story that is a bit more grounded and conventional—all the shorts are simply being viewed at a classic drive-in, until terror leaps off the screen in the form of a zombie outbreak in the theater in the final segment. The individual segments are much more comedy than straight horror, from the runaway killer sperm of “Wadzilla” to the decency-pushing crudeness of “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein.” It’s the sort of horror comedy trying so hard to shock and offend that it occasionally seems desperate, but a good number of the jokes do indeed land. There’s a who’s-who of B-movie actor staples as well: Ray Wise, Eric Roberts, Richard Riehle, Lin Shaye, Kane Hodder and more. A whole lot of filmmakers have tried to make films like this one in the last 15 years, but Chillerama can at least say it executes better than most. Throw it on at a party, if the people present aren’t easily offended. — Jim Vorel


count dracula 1970 poster (Custom).jpg 84. Count Dracula
Year: 1970
Director: Jesus Franco
Ah, Jess Franco. Of all the cinematic rabbit holes of Euro-horror, Franco’s may run the deepest. This is a man who personally directed almost 200 movies between 1959-2013, which ran the gamut between horror, giallo, comedy and outright pornography. Most tend to be on the ramshackle side, like an even more shoestring version of Mario Bava, but a few such as Count Dracula do have a sumptuous, plush look to them. This is an interesting film that seems at first familiar, thanks to the presence of Dracula icon Christopher Lee in the title role, but make no mistake—this isn’t a Hammer Horror movie, despite taking place in the same time period when Lee was making Dracula movies in the U.K. Rather, this one plays like some kind of alternate dimension Dracula story, more closely based on Bram Stoker’s original novel. One suspects it was the promise of “doing the story right” that likely appealed to Lee, who occasionally resented the fact that his Dracula roles typecast him as a horror icon. Here, he launches into full-on thespian mode, presenting an aged Count ‘ala Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula who grows younger as he drains the lovely young ladies of London. He does a few of the classic Dracula lines; even the fabulous “children of the night” quip, which is undeniably chilling. The other unique aspect of Franco’s Count Dracula is the presence of Klaus Kinski as the mad, fly-eating Renfield—ironic, considering that 9 years later he would go on to portray the titular vampire in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. – Jim Vorel


horrible way to die poster (Custom).jpg 83. A Horrible Way to Die
Year: 2010
Director: Adam Wingard
A Horrible Way to Die is the kind of uneven, rough draft of a feature film that makes you perk up and take interest in an indie filmmaker’s career—in this case, that of Adam Wingard. The first feature film to receive significant distribution by the guy who would later make The Guest and You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die is a much simpler, more intimate story that fits neatly into the so-called “mumblegore” subgenre of low-budget, personal horror films. Casting is one of its strong suits, as Joe Swanberg and Amy Seimetz play recovering alcoholics who begin a relationship at the worst possible time—right as the female lead’s psychotic, serial killer ex-boyfriend (A.J. Bowen) escapes from police custody and begins tracking her down. The film gives an unflinching insight into the killer’s perspective, and casts him as the hero of his own story, although it also feels a bit rushed at times. It’s the sort of film that feels like it could benefit from a higher tier of budget and production to make something more visually memorable, but Wingard’s talent for composition and characters is clear despite it. It continually hints at the superior movies he’d be making in the next few years … recent Blair Witch remake excluded. — Jim Vorel


wnuf halloween special poster (Custom).jpg 82. WNUF Halloween Special
Year: 2013
Director: Chris LaMartina
The success or failure of WNUF Halloween Special was always going to come down to how faithfully it could replicate the look and feel of a real local news broadcast from 1987, and in this respect it hits a home run. The cheap VHS video aesthetic and smarmy news anchors create just the right touch—schmaltzy, but in a way that is truly genuine rather than overtly parodic and over the top. Indeed, for the first 30 to 45 minutes of this film, it feels like a broadcast that could have truly happened. At the same time, that means this isn’t a horror comedy going for the jugular in terms of gags; the fake commercials for carpeting warehouses, tampons and children’s toys are exactly as funny as an average commercial from 1987 is to watch in 2017. Which is to say they’re going for wry smiles rather than huge punchlines, and it’s very well calculated. When the broadcast finally does fall apart into supernatural territory, it breaks the illusion somewhat to become a merely average found footage horror comedy, but it’s the normalcy preceding the bloodshedding that is oddly memorable. – Jim Vorel


nightmare city poster (Custom).jpg 81. Nightmare City, aka City of the Walking Dead
Year: 1980
Director: Umberto Lenzi
If you love ludicrous foreign horror cinema, and especially batshit crazy Italian zombie movies, then Nightmare City is like the holy grail of your subgenre. Because this movie is insane. Its zombies are irradiated and pizza-faced, with ridiculous makeup and a compulsion to drink blood like they’re vampires, because the radiation is destroying their own red blood cells. They’re unique for zombies in the sense that they retain some cognition—enough to pretend that they’re uninfected until they’re within range of people to kill. And oh, how they kill! These zombies are armed to the teeth with knives, axes, even machineguns. I repeat: This movie features machinegun-firing zombies, priestly zombies, doctor zombies and even zombies that are implied to have somehow flown and landed a large military plane on their own. Add to that a delightfully wacky English dubbing, full of awkward pauses, strange voices and philosophical ramblings, and you have the birth of a camp classic on your hands. Nightmare City stars Mexican actor Hugo Stiglitz (yes, the source of the name in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) as a rogue news reporter who races across the countryside with his wife, trying to evade the ghouls as she rambles continuously about the futility of the human experience. It all builds to one of the most laugh-out-loud conclusions you’ll ever see in a zombie film, and I wouldn’t dare spoil it. Suffice to say, Nightmare City is Euro-trash zombie cinema, but it’s GREAT Euro-trash zombie cinema for your next weird movie night. — Jim Vorel


kill list poster (Custom).jpg 80. Kill List
Year: 2011
Director: Ben Wheatley
Kill List has received plenty of acclaim, and there are horror geeks who would have this film much higher on their lists, but it’s often as frustrating as it is effective. The story of a pair of out-of-work former soldiers who have become hitmen, it presents itself as a mystery or crime thriller as much as a true horror film, although there are certainly segments that are difficult to watch, such as the torture of a pornographer. It feels heavily inspired, especially toward the conclusion, by fellow British horror classic The Wicker Man, and aspires toward some kind of profound artistic statement, but isn’t quite coherent enough to back up its self-confidence. There are some wonderful individual performances though, particularly Neil Maskell as the protagonist and troubled hitman, Jay. I won’t ruin its various twists and turns through over-explanation, but viewers should be aware that Kill List is often more concerned with visual flourishes and general creepiness than helping the audience understand anyone’s motivations. In that way, you can think of it as an arthouse horror flick. — Jim Vorel


maniac 80s poster (Custom).jpg 79. Maniac
Year: 1980
Director: William Lustig
Eight years before Maniac Cop, William Lustig apparently still really liked how the word “maniac” sounded in film titles. This fairly standard low-budget slasher was remade in 2012 with Elijah Wood in the title role, but the original bears little resemblance to the arty, first-person perspective horror film it became in the remake. The ever-greasy Joe Spinell, best known to audiences as Stallone’s loan shark in Rocky, stars as a man who kills and scalps women for no real reason. It feels like a film that aspires to be a gritty character portrait, something along the lines of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but is just a bit too tawdry and doesn’t characterize its lead enough. However, it’s still something of a must for the horror completionist thanks to the splatterific effects by Tom Savini, who appears in the film and gets his own head blown off in an insanely over-the-top bit of grossness. CGI gore will never be as icky as this. — Jim Vorel


cannibal holocaust poster (Custom).jpg 78. Cannibal Holocaust
Year: 1980
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Infamous and influential in equal parts—that’s Cannibal Holocaust for you. It wasn’t the first of the Italian cannibal films, but it’s certainly the most famous, and left the longest-lasting impact on horror cinema and pop culture. In its wake, films in this mold flourished—American (or just generally white and naive) tourists or activists get lost in the jungle, captured by cannibal tribes and subjected to sadistic torture—the formula has stayed the same all the way up to Eli Roth’s recent The Green Inferno. Cannibal Holocaust, on the other hand, became more infamous for the rumors that surrounded it, namely that real-life human deaths had occurred on screen. This was blatantly untrue, although there are numerous real-life animal slayings, which make it a very difficult watch for anyone squeamish about animal violence. The brutality isn’t its only attraction, though—Cannibal Holocaust is actually a better film and more interesting story than most give it credit for, and it’s better than most of the Italian follow-ups. If it ends up being something you enjoy, the derivative Cannibal Ferrox can also be found on Shudder. — Jim Vorel


the house on sorority row poster (Custom).jpg 77. The House on Sorority Row
Year: 1983
Director: Mark Rosman
If you dreamt up an early ’80s slasher movie that wasn’t a franchise, it would look exactly like The House on Sorority Row. Sororities have always been prime slasher territory, thanks to the preponderance of young female victims living under the same roof—even the first-ever true slasher, Black Christmas, was set in a sorority. This one reveals tightly around a group of seven girls who accidentally murder their overbearing house mother in a prank gone wrong. As they try to cover up the crime, members of the group start showing up dead, begging the question of who or what is doing the killing. It’s pretty archetypal stuff, but a fun whodunit from smack dab in the middle of the golden era of the slasher. — Jim Vorel


48. frankenstein army (Custom).jpg 76. Frankenstein’s Army
Year: 2013
Director: Richard Raaphorst
Indie found footage horror, contrary to what the success of Paranormal Activity would have you believe, is not an easy proposition—not at all. The original Paranormal Activity succeeds as a low-budget triumph because it has such modest goals, and most of the other found footage successes share that in common, but Frankenstein’s Army is very different in that regard. It’s the story of a troop of Russian soldiers in the waning days of WWII, infiltrating a German compound that turns out to be the testing grounds for a Frankenstein-descendent mad scientist. When his undead soldier creations come to life, the Russian soldiers end up fighting for their lives. Plot and performances are essentially unimportant—what ends up being extremely impressive here are the fabulously grisly monster designs, practical effects and inventiveness in staging found footage action sequences. This is an ambitious film that can be dull when there aren’t monster attacks happening, but what they achieved on a limited budget in depicting their monsters is absolutely remarkable. — Jim Vorel


house poster (Custom).jpg 75. House
Year: 1986
Director: Steve Miner
House is a legitimately odd film, and not an easy one to classify. I’ve read descriptions before that called it a “horror comedy,” but it’s not trying nearly hard enough to be funny to qualify on the “comedy” side of the spectrum—nor is it serious enough in most of its scares to be legitimately frightening. Instead, it’s trapped in some kind of limbo in between; memorable in spurts for its idiosyncrasies. Our protagonist is a Stephen King-like horror novelist who suffers traumatic flashbacks to both his time in Vietnam and the unexplained disappearance of his son. He moves into the old, crumbling manor of a recently deceased aunt, where he begins to experience terrifying nightmares and is attacked by a variety of creatures, which may or may not be in his head—think Jacob’s Ladder, but far goofier. George Wendt of Cheers makes an amusing appearance as the next door neighbor, but what most people remember House for is its unpredictability and Vietnam-inspired horrors. — Jim Vorel


audition poster (Custom).jpg 74. Audition
Year: 1999
Director: Takashi Miike
One gets the feeling sometimes that Audition is one of those films that is almost more infamous/heard about rather than genuinely viewed, but in reality it earns its rather harrowing reputation. It’s a protracted slow burn that is probably significantly longer than it needs to be, a mystery about a middle-aged man learning more about the young, beautiful woman who has suddenly come into his life. Only problem is, she’s a little on the possessive side, and more than a little psychotic. Compare it to say, Fatal Attraction, if Glenn Close had the chance to enact an extended torture scene. That is of course what people tend to remember about Audition today, especially the harrowing portions with the needles and the piano wire, but the rest of the film is a deftly shot Miike thriller. It’s one of those films where you can tell from the very beginning that the characters are headed for a soul-scarring fate, but in this case it may very well still be worse than you imagined. – Jim Vorel


44. dead snow (Custom).jpg 73. Dead Snow
Year: 2009
Director: Tommy Wirkola
You’d be surprised just how many Nazi zombie movies there truly are out there—it’s a subtype of the zombie film that was first made in the ’70s with films such as Shock Waves and has never stopped being made since, but the highest profile version from recent years was Dead Snow and its ridiculous sequel, Red vs. Dead. The first Dead Snow, though no masterwork, is the better film because it at least partially tries to hit the horror audience instead of abandoning it for full-on horror-comedy camp. A group of students camp out in a remote, snowy cabin in Norway and unwittingly revive a regiment of Nazi zombies by appropriating their Nazi gold—pretty standard stuff for the genre. The attempts at humor and characterization are so-so, but the FX and action work are top-notch for an indie feature, with great costuming for the zombies and lots of explosive bloodletting. Go in with low expectations and just enjoy the blood ’n’ guts. — Jim Vorel


ichi the killer poster (Custom).jpg 72. Ichi the Killer
Year: 2001
Director: Takashi Miike
Ichi the Killer is visually striking—in the sense that it will strike your eyeballs with its ultragore visuals for 129 minutes. This is not an easy film to watch—perhaps even harder than Takashi Miike’s own Audition, which was released two years earlier to significantly more acclaim. Ichi the Killer is less of a true horror film than that earlier effort, more gritty crime story in the mold of Oldboy, but any film with this degree of shocking sexual violence and lurid—almost reprehensible—gore is on some level going to join the horror stable by default, because it’s pretty horrifying stuff to watch. Many will find it inherently distasteful, and discussion boils down to what Miike is attempting to accomplish or what kind of “statement” all of the straight-faced, non-comedic gore is supposed to evoke. Reading a description, you might actually question how people getting sliced in half by Ichi’s razor-tipped boots could come across as “straight-faced,” but it does. It’s a film for those who can stand some truly harrowing sights. — Jim Vorel


city of the living dead poster (Custom).jpg 71. City of the Living Dead
Year: 1980
Director: Lucio Fulci
If it’s an Italian horror film from the ’70s or ’80s, and it doesn’t involve cannibals, and it’s not a giallo, then it’s probably an arty, stylish, partially incomprehensible movie about zombies and ghosts. Such is City of the Living Dead, and such is almost everything in the filmography of Lucio Fulci. Never a director with the critical acclaim or heightened stature of a Dario Argento, Fulci was instead prolific, making his name in 1979 with the greatest of the Italian zombie films, Zombi 2. City of the Living Dead is considered the first in a so-called “Gates of Hell” trilogy, alongside two of his other best-known works, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Like many of the Italian films it’s set in the U.S.A., which creates a strange otherworldly quality given the international cast and dubbed dialog. It follows a young woman and her friends, who travel from New York to the Lovecraft-inspired town of Dunwich, where the suicide of a corrupted priest is causing the dead to rise from their graves and strike out at the living. It’s almost more a series of vignettes and unrelated scenes than a straightforward narrative, as residents of the town are killed at random by the zombies. That’s just how Fulci rolls. You don’t watch Lucio Fulci movies for plot; you watch them for atmosphere and stylish splatter. — Jim Vorel

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