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

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rammbock poster (Custom).jpg 70. Rammbock: Berlin Undead, aka Siege of the Dead
Year: 2010
Director: Marvin Kren
One of the coolest things about Rammbock is that it knows its own limitations and doesn’t attempt to stretch itself past the natural confines of its story. It’s an indie German “feature film” that is only 63 minutes long, but director Marvin Kren was right—it really doesn’t need to be a moment longer, and as a result it’s blissfully free from padding. The story revolves around Michael, something of a deluded sad-sack who was recently dumped by his girlfriend. His unannounced visit to “return her keys” just so happens to coincide with the citywide outbreak of a zombie virus, which leads to Michael and the various apartment/tenement dwellers being confronted with a wave of aggressive zombies pounding on their doors. In setting, one can’t help but compare it to a sort of zombie Rear Window, as the various residents converse and call back and forth to each other, or simply observe each other’s lives. We’re also given an unusual twist on zombie physiology—in this universe, mere infection doesn’t necessarily mean death and zombification. Rather, it’s possible to survive infection if emotions can be suppressed … but strong emotions will trigger the full transformation into a zombie. The very low budget is consistently apparent in the dull-looking visual palette and single location, but Kren gets the most out of his actors in a zombie movie that is also surprisingly gore-less. And at only 63 minutes, it never has to worry about overstaying its welcome. Rammbock is a lean, mean little zombie story that does just enough differently from the template to be memorable. — Jim Vorel


trailers from hell poster (Custom).jpg 69. Trailers From Hell
Year: 2007-2017
Director: Various
Trailers From Hell is a charming web series that has since been gathered into several DVD releases, which are available on Shudder. The premise is simple but rewarding, as the creators get film directing and writing luminaries together to discuss classic film trailers. For the purposes of Shudder, the includes the likes of John Landis discussing _____, or Joe Dante waxing poetic on the joys of _____. Each entry is only 3-6 minutes long on average, making Trailers From Hell a series of bite-size excursions into film history with the most knowledgeable of tour guides. Not only can you hear what famous directors think of your favorite horror films; you can mine new entries for your to-watch list from some of their personal favorite movies. The series is both entertaining and instructive for all your future viewing. – Jim Vorel


frontiers poster (Custom).jpeg 68. Frontier(s)
Year: 2007
Director: Xavier Gens
Frontier(s) is a strange, grisly French horror film that has a certain bit of Eli Roth’s Hostel in its DNA, but especially seems inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Following the election of a far-right candidate to the French presidency (Donatien Trumplamoose?), Paris erupts in riots and a group of young thieves take advantage of the chaos to stage a robbery and escape into the countryside. Going by back roads, they eventually run afoul of a secret family of Nazi holdout sadists and are captured to be used as food, slaves or worse. Among this group is Yasmine, a fairly singular final girl in the sense that she’s actually pregnant throughout with the child of one of the group’s other members. Like Sally Hardesty in Texas Chainsaw, Yasmine truly suffers and watches her friends get picked off one by one, but unlike Sally, she refuses to simply run. Fighting her way through multiple members of the family, she delivers bloody, hyper-gory retribution throughout, clawing and throat-biting her way to freedom like she’s Rick on The Walking Dead. With an impossibly strong will to live, Yasmine is not someone you’d want to cross. – Jim Vorel


sleepaway camp poster (Custom).jpg 67. Sleepaway Camp
Year: 1983
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Of all the camp-based Friday the 13th rip-offs, Sleepaway Camp is probably the best one that isn’t The Burning. Our main character is Angela, a troubled girl who absolutely everyone picks on for no good reason. Seriously—it’s one of those ’80s era movies with a main character who is an “outsider” constantly harassed by dozens of people, but without any impetus or explanation—it’s just Angela’s lot in life. Everyone who meets her immediately hates her guts and subjects her to cruel taunting. But soon, the people at the camp who were mean to Angela start getting knocked off. The movie seems calculated to come off as a straight horror film, but the death scenes are often so outlandish that it veers pleasurably into horror comedy as well. Highlights include the lecherous camp cook, who gets a giant vat of boiling water dumped on his face, or the kid who gets a beehive dropped into the outhouse with him. If you love classic slashers, it’s a must-see, especially for the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but Sleepaway Camp can proudly lay claim to one of the most shocking, WTF endings in slasher movie history. — Jim Vorel


we are what we are 2010 poster (Custom).jpg 66. We Are What We Are
Year: 2010
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
This 2010 Mexican horror thriller was remade in the U.S. in 2013 by the talented Jim Mickle—and I have to admit, the American remake is the stronger of the two stories. Still, the original We Are What We Are sows the seeds of a compelling film. It follows a close-knit family of cannibals secretly maintaining their way of life in an urban setting. When the patriarch of the family drops dead, presumably from the cannibalism-related disease kuru, the family unit is thrown into disorder and the two teenage sons suddenly inherit the responsibility of obtaining fresh meat for the family’s ritualized cannibalism. What follows is a somewhat awkward, very dour and morbid series of misadventures as they try to maintain their way of life. The film is both creepy and gory, but it lacks the strength of characters and relationships that are established in the American version, which delves deeper into the psyche of each family member. You can see why Mickle took an interest in the premise, though. — Jim Vorel


pieces poster (Custom).jpg 65. Pieces
Year: 1982
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Pieces is the sort of silly, head-scratching early ’80s slasher where it’s difficult to decide if the director is trying to slyly parody the genre or actually believes in what he’s doing. Regardless, it’s a delightfully stupid movie, featuring a killer who murders his mother with an axe as a child after she scolds him for assembling a naughty adult jigsaw puzzle. All grown up, he stalks women on a college campus and saws off “pieces” in order to build a real-life jigsaw woman. The individual sequences are completely and utterly bonkers, the best one being when the female lead is walking down a dark alley and is suddenly attacked by a tracksuit-wearing “kung fu professor” played by “Brucesploitation” actor Bruce Le. After she incapacitates him, he apologizes, says he must have had “some bad chop suey,” and waltzes out of the movie. The whole thing takes less than a minute. That’s the kind of randomness one finds in Pieces, which also boasts one of the best film taglines of all time: “Pieces: It’s exactly what you think it is!” — Jim Vorel


fright night 1985 poster (Custom).jpg 64. Fright Night
Year: 1985
Director: Tom Holland
I don’t think anyone will argue that the original Fright Night will ever stand alongside the more classic horror movies of the ’80s … but, by God, if it isn’t still a ton of fun. Certainly, for any major horror junkie, the idea of being the one person who can correctly spot a vampire must serve as some brand of wish fulfillment. In any case, that’s precisely what happens to Charley Brewster when Chris Sarandon’s enigmatic Jerry moves into the neighborhood. Recruiting help from both his friend Evil Ed (a fantastically over-the-top Stephen Geoffreys) and horror-actor-turned-late-night-TV-host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall at his curmudgeonly finest), Charley attempts to gather evidence that his new neighbor secretly wants to eat him. Though some of the make-up effects and dialogue are sheer ’80s cornball, the film skates by on its genial, tongue-in-cheek approach as well as Sarandon’s debonair turn as the vampire-next-door. – Mark Rozeman


nightbreed poster (Custom).jpg 63. Nightbreed
Year: 1990
Director: Clive Barker
Nightbreed is an odd duck of a movie, stranded somewhere between legitimate horror film and dark fantasy story. Clive Barker directs, only a few years after Hellraiser, but here his ambition perhaps got the best of him. It’s pretty clear that he wanted Nightbreed to be something akin to a horror epic, a movie with a profound message about identity, acceptance and community. In execution, though, it has a hard time picking what tone it’s supposed to be emanating. Sometimes it’s darkly humorous. Sometimes it’s legitimately spooky. Other times you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be taking the action on screen seriously or not. One thing that is spectacular throughout is the art direction, sets, costuming and makeup. Some of the character designs may come off as “silly,” but just as many of them are likely to end up in your nightmares. Nightbreed is a mixed bag, a would-be inspiring story about monsters trying to build a safe community to peacefully live their lives, but lacking the iconic nature of Barker’s most famous creations. — Jim Vorel


41. Grabbers (Custom).jpg 62. Grabbers
Year: 2012
Director: Jon Wright
A surprisingly well-acted Irish/British indie sci-fi horror flick, Grabbers is unabashedly goofy but wholly professional and charming in spades. The story follows an alcoholic police officer who has to face a new threat to a sleepy seaside community when octopus-like aliens begin emerging from the sea and killing townspeople. These “Grabbers,” as they’re quickly dubbed, have only one weakness: Human blood is fatal to them if it’s over a certain percentage alcohol. Therefore, to combat the monsters and make themselves unpalatable, the police and townspeople have an obvious choice to make: Get totally hammered and grab a bunch of weapons. That may sound rather close to the summary of a direct-to-video movie by The Asylum, but Grabbers is surprisingly intelligent, witty and well-written in such a way that it easily escapes a fate in DVD bargain bin hell. — Jim Vorel


tetsuo poster (Custom).jpg 61. Tetsuo: the Iron Man
Year: 1989
Director: Shinya Tsukamato
I’m warning you right now: Tetsuo is perhaps the weirdest, wildest film on this entire list, and that’s saying a lot. This low-budget nightmare fever dream hails (naturally) from Japan, and combines aspects of Cronenbergian body horror with a somewhat cyberpunk aesthetic. When an ordinary businessman gets infected with some sort of metallic curse, his body slowly begins to morph into a monster. Before long, we’re talking razor arms and pneumatic drill penises—it’s pretty messed-up stuff. It’s hard to describe the “plot” in any more detail; at only 67 or 77 minutes long (depending on the cut), it simply breezes by and leaves you asking “What the hell did I just watch?” What can’t be denied, though, is how the imagery of Tetsuo will stick with you. Once you’ve seen its weirdness, you can’t unsee it. — Jim Vorel


33. Antiviral (Custom).jpg 60. Antiviral
Year: 2012
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
When you’re the son of David Cronenberg, you have a lot to live up to in a horror film debut, and Brandon Cronenberg does an admirable job in his cerebral and icky horror flick Antiviral. Although it can be a little slow and portentous, the setting and ideas are spectacular. The film imagines a near-future, sci-fi tinged world where obsession with celebrity lives has replaced nearly every other facet of the arts. People are so celebrity-obsessed, in fact, that a booming genetics business has developed to cater to disease hounds—people who literally want to be injected with specific strains of diseases, such as STDs, that have been harvested from various starlets. Elsewhere, people stand in line at meat markets to buy muscle tissue grown and cultivated from celebrity donors. Cronenberg may lay the social commentary on a little thick, but the results on screen are chilling. If the characters were a little bit more vivacious and interesting to follow, Antiviral could have been a modern classic, but it’s still an impressive debut for the younger Cronenberg. — Jim Vorel


john dies at the end poster (Custom).jpeg 59. John Dies at the End
Year: 2012
Director: Don Coscarelli
Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture and philosophy, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce” that causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once in a way that almost reminds one of the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: Phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—the film will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. — Jim Vorel


the horde poster (Custom)2.jpg 58. La Horde , aka The Horde
Year: 2009
Director: Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan
The Horde plays a bit like someone in France saw From Dusk Till Dawn and wondered what the format of that movie might be like with zombies instead of vampires. Like the Robert Rodriguez film, we get sucked into a tense crime story first, following a group of police officers as they storm a mostly abandoned apartment high-rise to take down a gang of drug dealers who killed one of their own. And then, 20 minutes in … a bunch of zombies arrive! You almost have to admire the total lack of foreshadowing—it’s a unique take on “the world has come to an end,” because in this story, the world comes to an end while the two sides (cops and drug dealers) are in the midst of a very pitched confrontation. They have no access to information on the wider world, and can only watch as Paris apparently tears itself apart. Naturally, the cops and robbers then need to team up in order to survive, in a strange mix of sadistic humor and emotional turmoil. As for the zombies, they actually look pretty awesome, although their abilities tend to vary wildly from scene to scene. An odd quirk: The zombies actually remove their own dead from the battlefield for reasons never fully explained, a trait I’ve never seen in another zombie movie. — Jim Vorel


34. black sabbath (Custom).jpg 57. Black Sabbath
Year: 1963
Director: Mario Bava
The ’60s and ’70s were the heyday of the horror anthology overseas, and especially in Britain (with Amicus Productions) and Italy, where low-budget kingpins like Mario Bava lorded over the landscape of horror-tinged giallo pictures. Black Sabbath is a fairly typical example of those anthologies, but one that wisely limits its stories to three that it can tell a little more in-depth. They range from stories with criminal elements such as “The Telephone” to ones with more overtly supernatural or ghostly themes such as “The Drop of Water.” Bava’s grisly crime stories laid the foundation for modern slasher pictures in particular, although this anthology is still one of his better-known works—influential enough that its title was the inspiration for Ozzy Osbourne’s most famous band. — Jim Vorel


grave encounters poster (Custom).jpg 56. Grave Encounters
Year: 2011
Directors: Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, “The Vicious Brothers”
I genuinely don’t understand why Grave Encounters doesn’t have a better reputation among horror geeks, who largely seem to be aware of it but deride the found footage movie as either derivative or cheesy. In my own estimation, it’s one of the best found footage offerings of the last decade, and certainly one of the most legitimately frightening, as well as humorous when it wants to be. It’s structured as a pitch-perfect parody of inane TV ghost-hunting shows, in the style of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and imagines the satisfying results of what might happen when one of these crews full of charlatans is subjected to a genuinely evil location. But Grave Encounters goes beyond what is expected of it—you hear that premise and expect some frantic, handicam running around and screaming in the dark, but it delivers far more. The FX work, on a small budget, is some of the best you’re ever going to see in a found footage film, and the nature of the haunting is significantly more mind-bending than it first appears. I’ll continue to defend this film, although you should steer clear of the less inspired sequel. – Jim Vorel


exorcist 3 poster (Custom).jpg 55. Exorcist III
Year: 1990
Director: William Peter Blatty
Exorcist III, or Legion as it’s known in its director’s cut form, focuses on grizzled, sardonic police detective Kinderman, played in the film by George C. Scott and by Lee J. Cobb in The Exorcist. Kinderman was more of a bystander to the events of the original film, but they still haunt him, fifteen years after the fact. The past comes roaring back with bloody vengeance—there’s a serial killer on the loose, and the murders seem to be connected to a mysterious patient locked up in a hospital psychiatric ward. And that mysterious patient just happens to look exactly like the deceased Father Damien Karras, one of the exorcists from the first film, who met an untimely end after launching himself out a window and tumbling down a particularly steep flight of stairs. What follows is a perpetually misunderstood and underrated horror film that is less a sequel to The Exorcist and more a channeler of the same disturbing spirit. – Chris Evangelista


the crazies poster (Custom).jpg 54. The Crazies
Year: 1973
Director: George A. Romero
The Crazies is one of those lesser Romero works that tends to fall by the wayside because we’re always talking about his “of the Dead” films. Honestly, there are some horror fans out there who don’t even know that Romero made any non-zombie movies, although in this case you could argue that the infected of The Crazies drew both on his own Night of the Living Dead ghouls and presaged their evolution in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. The tale of a small town gone mad in the wake of a biological weapons accident, it’s filled with great ideas and serviceable execution. The themes of man’s inhumanity to man in times of crisis are pretty rough, and there’s definitely some boundary-pushing material when it comes to sexuality as well, which make The Crazies a more cerebral watch than one might initially give it credit for. —Jim Vorel


assault on precinct 13 poster (Custom).jpg 53. Assault on Precinct 13
Year: 1976
Director: John Carpenter 
Assault on Precinct 13 launches into its action-packed second act with one of the more audacious, transgressive acts you’ll ever see in a film—it almost feels like a taboo you wouldn’t even see in a horror film today, and I wouldn’t dare ruin it for you. Suffice to say, that one moment of unthinkable violence is the starting gun on a gritty thriller from John Carpenter, two years before Halloween made him a much bigger name. As such, you might expect Assault on Precinct 13 to be a more conventional or safe film, but if anything, it’s significantly more complex a project than Halloween would have been. Taking inspiration from Night of the Living Dead, Carpenter weaves a criminal action tale about an officer holding down a decommissioned police station that comes under siege by dozens of gang members. The interpersonal dynamics between officer and prisoners almost reflects the suspicion and brotherhood that would later be displayed between the arctic residents of Carpenter’s The Thing, and the shootouts are just as bloody. Even on a budget, it’s one of the best action movies of the ‘70s. – Jim Vorel


revenge of frankenstein poster (Custom).jpg 52. The Revenge of Frankenstein
Year: 1958
Director: Terence Fisher
Curse of Frankenstein, the film that began Hammer Horror’s illustrious reboot of the classic Universal monsters in glorious, gaudy color, was an immediate hit in the U.K. and U.S. when it arrived in 1957, so naturally it prompted an immediate series of sequels. In what begins a trend, antihero Dr. Frankenstein (the commanding Peter Cushing) escapes justice for the events and deaths of the previous film and strikes out to create a new monster, convinced that this time everything will go swimmingly. Or more accurately, this time around his plan is to transplant brains from one body to another, as in Universal’s The Ghost of Frankenstein. Cushing is wondrous as ever, hilariously “hiding” under the identity of “Dr. Stein” and supported by Karl the hunchback, who longs to have his brain transplanted into a new body that won’t make him a social outcast. It’s all around the strongest of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels, although they’re pretty much all worth seeing except Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. – Jim Vorel


dead and buried poster (Custom).jpg 51. Dead & Buried
Year: 1981
Director: Gary Sherman
Dead & Buried is a thoroughly unusual horror film that revolves around the reanimated dead, but in a way all its own. In a small New England coastal town, a rash of murders breaks out among those visiting the town. Unknown to the town sheriff, those bodies never quite make it to their graves … but people who look just like the murdered visitors are walking the streets as permanent residents. The zombies here are different in their autonomy and ability to act on their own and pass for human, although they do answer to a certain leader … but who is it? The film is part murder mystery, part cult story and part zombie flick, and it features some absolutely gross creature work and gore from the legendary Stan Winston. It’s just a movie with a feel all its own, and one notable for some unusual casting choices. That includes a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund as one of the possibly zombified town locals, and, in a major role, Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka) as the eccentric, jazz-loving town coroner/mortician, who steals every scene he’s in. More people should see this weird little film. — Jim Vorel


i am a ghost poster (Custom).jpg 50. I Am a Ghost
Year: 2012
Director: H.P. Mendoza
I Am a Ghost is the type of arthouse horror film that will draw praise from film critics and some degree of consternation from the average viewer. Even at only 75 minutes in length, it still feels very much like a short film concept stretched and warped to fit the constraints of “feature length,” although most of those minutes are committed to the idea of committing to an artistic aesthetic. The camera is largely immobile through long chunks of the film, with slightly rounded edges to the screen that give the entire film a sense of voyeurism; the feeling that we’re doing something wrong by peeping in on the events as they (slowly) unfold. Our main (and only on-screen) character is, as the title suggests, a ghost, a restless spirit who doesn’t know how to stop haunting the house where she died. She’s coached through this process by the voice of a psychic, but in execution it’s essentially a one-woman show. This is not a film for the impatient—it opens with 13 minutes of relative silence before the first actual dialog occurs. It’s a bold, ambitious movie that scores points for audaciousness and loses points during its placid stretches. — Jim Vorel


lake mungo poster (Custom).jpg 49. Lake Mungo
Year: 2008
Director: Joel Anderson
And speaking of found footage, here’s another entry in the genre that has had considerably more positive critical attention. Lake Mungo could scarcely be more different from something like Grave Encounters—there are no ghosts or demons chasing screaming people down the hall, and it’s chiefly a story about family, emotion and our desire to seek closure after death. You could call it a member of the “mumblegore” family, without the gore. It centers around a family that has been shattered by a daughter’s drowning, and the family’s subsequent entanglement in what may or may not be a haunting, and the mother’s desire to determine what kind of life her daughter had been living. Powerfully acted and subtly shot, it’s a tense family drama with hints of the supernatural drifting around the fraying edges of their sanity. If there’s such a thing as “horror drama,” this documentary-style film deserves the title. – Jim Vorel


tale of two sisters poster (Custom).jpg 48. A Tale of Two Sisters
Year: 2003
Director: Kim Jee-woon
A Tale of Two Sisters is a complex, somewhat confusingly wrought Korean horror-thriller, a twisting morass of relationships and family drama that clashes against a possible supernatural threat. One of Korea’s highest-grossing horror films of all time, it combines a Hitchcockian vein of psychological/mental torture with a classical ghost story that almost invokes classic Hollywood, i.e. The Innocents or The Uninvited. It follows a pair of sisters, as the title would suggest, as the elder is released from a mental institution and back into the messed-up family dynamic that put her there. From there, the film asks many questions: What are the true motivations of the sisters’ cruel stepmother? What has been plaguing the younger sister? Is the father complicit in murder? What really happened to the sisters’ birth mother as she wasted away from illness in their now-haunted home? It’s certainly a film that almost necessitates repeated viewings, as its twisting plot development is rather tough to grasp the first time through. At times, it almost carries the world-weariness and sense of encroaching inevitability of a Shakespearean tragedy. — Jim Vorel


42. henry portrait of a serial killer (Custom).jpg 47. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Year: 1986
Director: John McNaughton
Henry stars Merle himself, Michael Rooker, as a character who is essentially meant to approximate serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, along with his demented sidekick Otis Toole. The film was shot and set in Chicago on a budget of only $100,000, and is an ugly, depraved journey into the depths of the darkness capable of infecting the human soul. That probably sounds like hyperbole, but Henry really is a gross, ugly film—you feel dirty just watching it, from the filth-crusted streets of Chicago to the supremely unlikeable characters who prey on local prostitutes. It’s not an easy watch, but if gritty true crime is your thing, it’s a must-see. Some of the sequences, such as the “home video” shot by Henry and Otis as they torture an entire family, gave the film a notorious reputation, even among horror fans. — Jim Vorel


hellraiser 2 poster (Custom).jpg 46. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. — Jim Vorel


hobo with shotgun poster (Custom).jpg 45. Hobo With a Shotgun
Year: 2011
Director: Jason Eisener
Yeah, I know that some of these movies aren’t “horror” first and foremost, but they’re all on Shudder, and if they’re on the service I’m not going to ignore them. Hobo With a Shotgun began its life as a fake trailer in front of Tarantino’s Grindhouse, and grew into a feature from there. It’s inspired by Death Wish-style revenge and vigilantism films, movies with a moral code that is comfortingly simple: An eye for an eye, and all the bad guys need to die. The titular hobo, wonderfully played by the gruff and boozed-up Rutger Hauer, is pushed into his life of vigilante violence when he witnesses the ineffectiveness of the corrupt police force, and ends up going up against local crime boss “The Drake.” The look of the film is absolutely spot-on for the grimy ‘70s aesthetic, and it goes to a few places the viewer doesn’t expect while watching its first half. One thinks you’re simply getting a Charles Bronson-type vehicle, but things take a spin for the more absurd by first incorporating gang theming in the style of The Warriors before veering almost into true sci-fi/horror territory. It retains the DNA of a fan film on some level, but it looks far slicker than any other fan film you’re likely to see anytime soon. — Jim Vorel


horror express poster (Custom).jpg 44. Horror Express
Year: 1972
Director: Eugenio Martin
An unusual film for its time period, Horror Express stars both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and yet it’s not from Hammer as one would expect. Rather, it was a joint British/Spanish production simply aping the Hammer formula of classy actors in silly premises. This one is particularly weird: An archaeologist played by Lee discovers a “missing link” ape man buried in ice and tries to transport him in secret via train. The still-alive ape man defrosts, however, and proves to be armed with a rather unique set of powers. What follows is a bizarre film about stolen memories and brain-swapping, all taking place aboard the train. There are some really hypnotic performances, especially from relatively unknown Argentinean actor Alberto de Mendoza as a crazed priest. Telly Savalas, TV’s Kojak, even shows up out of right field playing a Russian Cossack officer. Who loves ya, baby? — Jim Vorel


shadow of the vampire poster (Custom).jpg 43. Shadow of the Vampire
Year: 2000
Director: E. Elias Merhige
We now reach a special occasion in our vampire list. As it currently stands (and please someone correct me if I’m mistaken), Willem Dafoe remains the only actor to be awarded an Oscar nomination for playing a literal vampire. And boy, does he earn it. A love letter to fans of both horror and film history, Shadow of the Vampire recounts the shooting of F.W. Murnau’s vampire classic, Nosferatu, with an added revisionist twist—the actor who portrayed Count Orlok was an actual vampire that Murnau hired for authenticity. As the unhinged director, John Malkovich is perfectly cast, particularly in the moments where he goes off on infuriated tangents about Max’s behavior (when the vampire takes a bite of the production’s cinematographer, Murnau berates him for not eating someone more disposable like “the script girl”). The film, however, belongs to Dafoe. His “Max Schreck” is at once frightening but also wryly funny. What’s more impressive are the moments where the film incorporates scenes from the actual Nosferatu, making it hard to distinguish Dafoe’s embodiment from the real thing. – Mark Rozeman


troll-hunter.jpg 42. Troll Hunter
Year: 2010
Director: André Øvredal
There’s no denying that at its beginning, Troll Hunter seems like another Blair Witch Project knock-off. The first 20 minutes show us a young camera crew investigating some unexplained bear deaths and a suspicious man who may be poaching them. But rather than drawing out the mystery, it takes a sharp turn and tells us matter-of-factly that of course it was trolls killing the bears, and not only that, here’s one of them ready to bonk you on the head. The titular Troll Hunter extraordinaire is played by the affable comedian Otto Jespersen, who brings the entire monster premise to an entirely different level through his nonchalant attitude. In every sense, Troll Hunter lives up to its ridiculous name and premise. —Sean Gandert


the stuff poster (Custom).jpg 41. The Stuff
Year: 1985
Director: Larry Cohen
A cult classic for sure, The Stuff was one of the best 1980s critiques of consumer culture, all wrapped up in the form of a horror movie. Profiteers find a white, gooey substance leaking up out of the Earth that proves both delicious and addictive … which they discover by simply tasting this stuff seeping up from the ground, in what is definitely a doctor-recommended action. Soon, repackaged as the secret ingredient-laden “Stuff,” it sweeps the world. The fake commercials are fantastic—this one has Abe Vigoda and actress Clara Peller, who only one year earlier began the famous “Where’s the beef?” campaign for Wendy’s. That is cross-cultural awareness. It’s also a very fun, schlocky horror flick with gross-out special effects, because as you eat more of The Stuff it gradually takes over your body until it explodes out into a self-aware being. This film may actually be more relevant today than it was in the mid-1980s as awareness of fast food content becomes more widespread. — Jim Vorel


phantom of the opera poster (Custom).jpg 40. The Phantom of the Opera
Year: 1925
Director: Rupert Julian
Before Dracula and the official birth of Universal Horror, there was Phantom of the Opera. I must note, by the way: It sucks that none of the major streamers, including Netflix and Shudder, have the rights to show all of the classic Universal Monster series. I want to be able to watch Son of Frankenstein or The Wolf Man streaming on demand some day, guys! Get those licensing deals in place! Regardless, it’s nice that Shudder has at least one of these old classics, on account of it being in the public domain. This is the original version of Phantom, starring Lon Chaney Sr., the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The pace is slow, and you know how the classic story goes, but it’s indispensable for Chaney’s self-devised makeup, which reportedly had theater patrons fainting in the aisles in 1925. The acting style is rather alien to watch today; overdramatic holdovers from the vaudeville era, but man, Chaney’s face. It’s one of the truly iconic faces of horror, right alongside Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Chaney’s own son, Lon Chaney Jr., who would go on to play The Wolf Man. — Jim Vorel


the beyond poster (Custom).jpg 39. The Beyond
Year: 1981
Director: Lucio Fulci
We had Fulci’s City of the Living Dead on the list earlier, but this may be the best of his non-zombie movies. Which isn’t to say there aren’t any zombies in it, but it’s not a Romero-style zombie movie, as Fulci pulled off in Zombi 2. The Beyond is the middle entry in Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy, and takes place in and around a crumbling old hotel that just happens to have one of those gates to hell located in its cellar. When it opens, all hell starts to break loose in the building, in a film that combines a haunted house aesthetic with demonic possession, the living dead and ghostly apparitions. As with so many of the other films in this mold, it’s not always entirely clear what’s going on … and honestly, the plot is more or less irrelevant. You’re watching it to see demons gouge people’s eyes out or watch heads being blown off, and there’s no shortage of either of those things. Thinking back to Lucio Fulci movies after the fact, you won’t remember any of the story structure. You’ll just remember the ultra gory highlights, splattering across the screen in a way that continues to influence filmmakers to this day. Modern horror films such as We Are Still Here show heavy inspiration from Fulci, and The Beyond in particular. — Jim Vorel


the howling poster (Custom).jpg 38. The Howling
Year: 1981
Director: Joe Dante
1981 happens to be the best year in the history of werewolf cinema, thanks to three films: An American Werewolf in London, The Howling and Wolfen. Of those, The Howling can’t quite compete with the macabre humor and budget of John Landis’ British werewolf classic, but it still ranks among the best lycanthrope movies of all time. The Howling is grittier and darker, but it still maintains a sort of perverted, sadistic sense of humor as well. Its iconic transformation scenes are long, grisly and exceedingly painful looking, as is just about everything else in this movie, such as the werewolf’s face that has been splashed with corrosive acid—all of the practical effects are absolutely top notch. It’s rife with historic werewolf movie references for the cinephiles in the audience, including obvious allusions to The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, while still delivering on the pulp, gore and cheap thrills demanded by the multiplex crowd. That’s the Joe Dante Special: Smart enough to appeal to the film geeks, but silly and funny enough for the layman. – Jim Vorel


hills have eyes poster (Custom).jpg 37. The Hills Have Eyes
Year: 1977
Director: Wes Craven
Seven years before A Nightmare on Elm Street made Wes Craven a household name, he was crafting a grindhouse classic in The Hills Have Eyes. It shares some DNA with his hard-to-watch revenge film The Last House on the Left, but it’s a far better film overall, with a tighter story. You probably know the basics: A family on vacation blunders into a stretch of the desert where they really shouldn’t be and fall victim to a band of bestial hill people, with the weathered, unnatural face of Michael Berryman front and center. It received an X-rating on first release, which isn’t too surprising—this is a movie where cannibals steal a baby so they can eat it, after all. It’s the sort of elemental good vs. evil story that we all fear, in the back of our minds, when we venture to the edges of the map and know how vulnerable we are away from the comforts of civilization. — Jim Vorel


let sleepin corpses lie poster (Custom).jpg 36. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Year: 1974
Director: Jorge Grau
The U.S.A. is the first nation one tends to associate with zombie cinema, likely followed by Italy, perhaps followed then by countries such as Britain or Japan. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, then, is an interesting outlier, a Spanish zombie film (although set in England) from the ’70s that took George Romero’s ideas, played with them, and seemingly set a precedent for all of the Italian zombie movies that would follow. In this one, the living dead are brought up from the ground by a “sonic radiation” machine designed to kill insects—the results, suffice to say, are not quite as intended. It’s an interesting mix of American zombie tropes and hard-to-place foreignness. The zombies, however, look great, and the restored copy on Shudder is a wonderfully high-quality version of the film. It’s a somewhat underappreciated entry in the zombie annals that you won’t find in just anyone’s collection, but worth a look, especially if you love zombie films from the likes of Lucio Fulci. — Jim Vorel

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