8. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2019)
Not every Shudder original has to be about ghosts, zombies, or serial killers. People who subscribe to the popular streaming service do so because of the countless horror offerings, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. Shudder isn’t a one-trick pony, and Dogs Don’t Wear Pants proves that definitively.
The film focuses on a father who finds an unconventional way to deal with the loss of his wife. After struggling to come to terms with his grief, he finds comfort in BDSM. This new revelation comes after he meets a dominatrix who makes him feel alive. A majority of the runtime revolves around his inconsistent emotional stability brought upon by his grief.
You could argue that this film has some horror DNA, but more than anything, this is an erotic drama with elements of black comedy. Compared to movies like Host and La Llorona, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants could be considered an outlier, but that’s not inherently problematic. To be completely transparent, the film would feel out of place on practically any streaming service because there’s nothing quite like it.
Thematically rich and emotionally impactful, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants remains absorbing until the very end. It has a powerful message at its core, and it does a fantastic job of relaying this message to even the most pessimistic viewers. The graphic violence could push some people away, but overall, this is mandatory viewing for Shudder subscribers.
9. Revenge (2017)
To a certain extent, you could argue that Revenge doesn’t do anything particularly new when it comes to rape revenge movies. This subgenre of exploitation films has been thoroughly explored throughout the past few decades, and that ultimately means there’s very little room for innovation. Coralie Fargeat’s 2017 thriller doesn’t try to be a revolutionary take on the previously established formula. If that were the goal, it probably would have had a more creative title. In spite of its overt familiarity, the taut Shudder original packs an impeccable punch thanks largely to meaningful, purpose-driven filmmaking.
The premise, of course, loosely follows the structure set up by films like I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left. However, unlike those movies, the plot isn’t driven by graphic violence and exploitation. Revenge attempts to tell its story in a more focused, narrative-driven way. The protagonist is not just a generic “Action Girl”; she’s a very human character with a very human reaction to the circumstances. The emotional toll is given just as much importance, if not more, than the actual revenge. Basically, you’ll find empathy in a subgenre that often lacks it.
You’ll also find strong craftsmanship. Revenge is a gorgeous movie that’s rich with vibrant lighting and grandiose shots. This, paired with a sobering main performance, adds up to a movie that stands out in spite of its insistence on following a formula.
10. Psycho Goreman (2020)
Viewers who can’t handle Shudder’s lineup of out-and-out horror might find comfort in Psycho Goreman, a gleefully over-the-top midnight movie that features big laughs alongside light horror elements. Although the film tends to get classified as a horror film, it’s really more like an excessively campy and excessively violent episode of Power Rangers. Considering Shudder’s catalog, it’s nice to see something that dares to be different while simultaneously feeling right at home on the niche streaming service.
In Psycho Goreman, a pair of siblings accidentally summon a humanoid monster who they manipulate into helping them with their monotonous household chores. As the film progresses, this manipulation gets increasingly more aggressive, resulting in something akin to psychological warfare. This extensive power struggle, along with the fish-out-of-water premise, results in big laughs; it also results in a relatively compelling conflict.
Considering the absurdity of the film, there’s a surprising amount of character development. As you watch these two young children change, you begin to discover that there’s plenty to be said about the dangers of abusing power. When that central message is backed by off-the-walls action and an incredible sense of humor, you can’t help but feel fulfilled when it’s all over.
11. Satan’s Slaves (2017)
Satan’s Slaves starts simply enough. After the death of their mother, an Indonesian family believes they are haunted by her spirit. Basically, it looks like a standard ghost story, complete with loud noises and a foreboding atmosphere.
This familiar setup continues for roughly forty minutes. It all plays out like an Indonesian Conjuring movie. The family desperately tries to understand the source of evil, but they can’t seem to make it go away. It’s all pretty standard stuff.
Then some more creative twists and turns come along, and the previously generic ghost movie turns into something far stranger. The final third in particular is best described as off-the-wall bonkers. For some, the sudden switch in tones can come off as abrupt, but most viewers will be satisfied with the natural progression from slow-burn to wild.
12. Mad God (2021)
Phil Tippett started working on Mad God over thirty years ago, and it shows. The stop motion horror movie is rich with minute visual details that enhance the almost labyrinthian worldbuilding. There is a lot to digest, and honestly, that creates a high barrier to entry. Still, viewers willing to be lulled away by Tippett’s vision should absolutely give this experimental horror flick a look.
Mad God tells an unconventional story using an unconventional style. Not only is it primarily stop motion, it’s also dialogue-free. That makes it a far cry from some of the other entries on this list because, to put it simply, it’s not conventionally entertaining. It feels like a piece of art in that it’s meant to be appreciated rather than enjoyed in the traditional sense. Tippett’s elaborate style is borderline trance-inducing, but it’s also grotesque, confusing, and inconsistent.
Because of this, there’s a very real chance that you’ll leave Mad God feeling cold. To say it has limited appeal would be an understatement. However, there’s an entire arthouse crowd that will fall head-over-heels in love with Tippett’s vision. Even if you don’t fall into that crowd, it’s a movie worth experiencing at least once.
13. La Llorona (2021)
La Llorona certainly looks like an average horror movie. After all, it’s not the only film to be based on this Hispanic urban legend, and similar releases have all been generally conventional. The Curse of La Llorona, for example, was a by the numbers Conjuring spinoff that completely disregarded the deeper layers of the titular character. This Shudder original, on the other hand, feels nothing feels significantly less factory-made than its contemporaries.
Jayro Bustamante’s breakthrough film doesn’t exactly fit neatly into any category. It’s not quite a horror movie, not quite a drama. It’s very much its own beast. It’s an emotionally resonant drama with elements of horror, mystery, and plenty of things in between. It’s easy to take a well-trodden story and turn it into a generic ghost movie, but this version of the story does so much more.
It explores emotionally complex themes with gravitas. There’s an impressive amount of emotional weight here that allows La Llorona to differentiate itself from similar films. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s thought-provoking and heartfelt. That’s all it needs to be.
14. Better Watch Out (2017)
Although horror is primarily associated with Halloween, there are plenty of Christmas-themed films hidden in plain sight. Standouts like Black Christmas and Gremlins continue to show up in yearly viewings, but other options shouldn’t be ignored. For example, genre enthusiasts looking for another holiday-themed treat should find comfort in Better Watch Out, a gruesome cross between The Strangers and Home Alone.
That description is about as much as we can provide. Better Watch Out, like several films on this list, benefits greatly from a blind watch. It’s a film that actively aims to subvert expectations at any given opportunity. It is, thankfully, successful. The twists and turns come quickly, giving viewers an experience that frequently challenges them. This isn’t your ordinary home invasion flick, and given the oversaturation of the subgenre, that’s a good thing.
15. Deadstream (2022)
Deadstream debuted on Shudder less than a month ago, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining traction. The bizarre found footage horror comedy currently sits at a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the user reviews are roughly just as positive. Certain elements, such as the grating nature of the protagonist, ultimately restricts universal appeal, but fans of the genre are liable to appreciate this microbudget gem.
The film focuses on a controversial social media influencer named Shawn who decides to spend the night in Death Manor, a supposedly haunted house. Shawn is tasked with exploring every corner of the house, and if he does so successfully, he believes that his career will rebound after several troubling hurdles. Unfortunately, he quickly learns that there’s more to Death Manor than he initially assumed.
Deadstream plays out like a more clever version of titles like Spree and Dashcam. While the protagonist is just as insufferable as you would expect, there seems to be significantly more care put into the script. There’s a welcome balance between horror and comedy, and although Shawn’s ramblings can come off as irritating, he’s still a vital piece of the overall narrative. His careless mistakes and incessant selfishness only complicate the conflict, resulting in bigger scares and bigger laughs.
If there’s one minor issue, it’s the fact that Deadstream doesn’t have anything new to say about influencer culture. Viewers already know that people will go to excessive lengths in order to achieve fame. Still, it’s able to repeat this sentiment while offering plenty of entertainment along the way. Sometimes that’s all a viewer needs.