Product Review: Shudder.
Just in time for Halloween, we review AMC’s horror-themed streaming channel, Shudder.
In order to review Kuso, I had to sign up for Shudder. I’d vaguely heard of it a few months back, but knew very little about the service. Luckily, it came with a free seven day trial, so I got a chance to kick the tires on it a bit before deciding to invest or not. While I didn’t enjoy my viewing of Kuso, I must say that I was quite impressed with Shudder. As a niche service dealing in thrillers and horror flicks, I expected to quickly tire of it. In the end, I wound up filling my playlist with dozens of films, many of them exclusives and originals, making Shudder well worth the asking price.
Shudder is a streaming service created by AMC (American Movie Classics television channel) to deal primarily in horror movies. The service was started in limited testing back in 2015, going live in 2016. As of 2017, it is available on streaming aggregators like Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV. Recently, it paired up with VRV, another streaming service that acts as an umbrella for media channels, both paid and free. You can also add it to your Amazon Prime account for a monthly or yearly cost.
Shudder will stream on pretty much anything that has a screen. We tested it on our PC, two different cell phones, a tablet, and both Playstation and Xbox gaming systems.
The service will run you 4.99 a month or 49.99 for the year (basically two months free when you pay your money up front.) There is a week-long free trial, though you will need to whip out your credit card for that. If you are that special kind of cheap, there is a program on the service called Shudder TV, which plays non-stop selections like a cable channel – for free. Yup, you can pay the low cost of nothing if you really want to.
(A cool note about Shudder TV is that I tried it out on a couple devices simultaneously, one signed in and one signed out. Both played a different movie!)
Shudder comes stocked with over 500 titles. These range from classic black and white films like Dracula and Frankenstein, cult favorite B-Movies like the Hammer studios monster flicks, and a tidal wave of recent indie horror movies. There is some variety in the mix, such as TV shows and documentaries as well. Recently, Shudder has moved aggressively into the exclusive programming market, snapping up the rights to distribute hot commodities like the digitally remastered version of Phantasm, new movies, and a growing slate of original content.
While the service is dedicated to horror movies, in practice that winds up being a pretty wide category. Science Fiction, murder mysteries, thrillers, monster mashes, and classic slasher flicks all fall under the rubric. Add in the shows and docs, and you can avoid traditional fright fests for quite a while.
I was quite impressed by the scope, quality, and variety in the exclusive content found on Shudder. Sure, Kuso was an exclusive and I found it to be tedious, but several other films such as Phantasm, Prevenge, and Seoul Station were quite good. Now you can get these films physically elsewhere, but can only stream them from Shudder.
For originals, you have a handful of offerings…and they’re really good. The Core is an ongoing series that explores the nuts and bolts of making horror movies. It only has a few episodes, but they’re excellent for fans of the genre. Likewise, Primal Screen is an exploration of the horror genre on a psychological level by a well respected film maker. If Shudder can keep up this high level of output, they’re going to rival Netflix as my go-to for originals.
From a technical standpoint, Shudder works like a dream. It is responsive and easy to navigate on all devices (though I did notice that Firefox makes the search bar hard to select.) I hate watching stuff on my phone, but it presented very well on the phone – both the menus and the actual movies. A quick tap shows you the current title, year of release, director and where you are in the movie. Fantastic.
As a viewing experience, Shudder is quite polished. The only knock on its quality is in the films themselves. It being the horror genre, you can expect highs and lows when it comes to the artistic merit of the selections. The wide selection helps, as does the extensive curated lists. The films are indexed six ways to Sunday, from broad categories like Aliens or The Undead, to niche listings of certain directors or studios. Guest curators, usually actors or film makers, also regularly line up a playlist of their favorites.
Curation is the best way to experience this service. As much as they have, they don’t have many films you might consider essentials like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Halloween. The service doesn’t really work for finding a specific movie like you would do on a pay-per-view site like Amazon Prime. It’s best to have a vague itch and let the excellently arranged menus lead you to something you will wind up liking.
Shudder won’t replace the big three of Amazon, Netflix or Hulu…but it comes damn close. There is a ton of stuff to explore, and AMC has put up a fantastic system of sign posts to get you to your destination. The price is palatable and the experience is smooth as silk. I’ve used other curated services for things like Bollywood films or Science Fiction, and I can’t say any of them have been as user friendly or tempting to keep subscribed to. I can see Shudder being perfect for binging, signing up for a month or two, lapsing, and then coming back after a while to see what has accrued. At the low yearly price, and the ease with which it bundles into your established channels, I can also see Shudder becoming a fixture of anyone’s streaming library.