Despite what the Academy Awards and Sight and Sound polls would have us believe, horror is and has always been the lifeblood of cinema. During the pandemic, when theaters across the country were closed, it was an indie horror movie that had fans showing up to drive-ins and keeping the box office alive. When productions across the globe had closed up shop and gone home to await further instructions, it was a horror filmmaker who found a way to make a movie entirely over Zoom and gave movie lovers something to talk about. Horror is one of the only genres to never wane in popularity or profitability throughout the history of cinema, spawning an entire subculture of conventions, events, and avenues for merchandising that thrive year-round.

From the earliest days of the streaming wars, horror has been on the frontlines in the form of the AMC-owned streaming service, Shudder. Pitched by many as the "Netflix of Horror," Shudder is not just a streaming service but the home base for an entire fandom. And yet, due to what appears to be cost-cutting measures and corporate restructuring, longtime staff at Shudder have been let go, leaving the future of the platform hanging in the balance. Horror has always been a medium for the othered, disenfranchised, and looked down upon, which makes a streamer like Shudder such a vital addition to the entertainment landscape.

But Shudder is so much more than just a place for people to watch movies — it's a vital service to the world of cinema.

The Curation Is Unparalleled

Unlike other streamers who simply classify their films by genre, Shudder has been expertly curated from the very beginning.

Horror is host to plenty of subgenres under its umbrella, which meant fans always had an acute understanding of the type of horror film they were going to see. The Shudder catalog is expansive and incomparable, serving as a home for classic films that have stood the test of time, experimental ventures from the current era, and everything in between. Looking for slashers you somehow missed? They've got it. Want to travel the world and see horror through a new cultural perspective? Their international collection is massive. Hoping to find holiday horror after watching too many Hallmark rom-coms with your mom? Don't worry, Shudder has your back.

The beauty of the horror genre is that there's something for everyone, and Shudder knows this better than anyone. Without ever sacrificing quality, Shudder's selection has consistently been a horror fan's dream come true. Around Halloween (and during April for "halfway to Halloween"), Shudder vice president of programming, Sam Zimmerman, sets up "The Halloween Hotline," which provides movie recommendations personally curated for each caller's tastes.

Shudder is curated by people, not an algorithm, and the proof is in the quality and variety of their library. There's a personal touch to the selection, not unlike the golden days of video store clerk recommendations, which is a testament to the wonderful team.

My heart feels as broken for those who were laid off today as it did when my hometown Mom & Pop video store turned into an office for boat insurance salespeople. I never thought this would be a feeling I'd experience again, and yet, here we are.

Shudder Amplifies The Voices Of Marginalized Creators

New horror films from major studios pretty much exclusively end up on the streaming platforms owned by their parent company, which has allowed Shudder to become the go-to spot for some of the strongest voices in indie horror. "What made a Shudder acquisition so important for a small horror movie is that you knew it was going to be seen by the people it's targeted for," /Film writer Erin Brady astutely mentioned during a team discussion. "It wouldn't get nearly as lost in the shuffle of new releases as they would if they were acquired by other platforms or, god forbid, not picked up at all."

Brady cited Jayro Bustamante's "La Llorona" as a perfect example of Shudder's acquisition bringing the film to the next level. Would the film have been shortlisted by the Oscars or added to the Criterion Collection if Shudder hadn't brought the film to the masses?

Shudder is also an undisputed force in amplifying the work of marginalized creators. The success of the documentary "Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror" helped launch an anthology film of the same name and paved the way for the existence of the "Queer for Fear" docuseries. This diverse library allows for a film like "So Vam," directed by a teenage trans woman named Alice Maio Mackay, to exist on a platform alongside Dario Argento's latest feature, "Dark Glasses."

Once upon a time, horror filmmakers dreamed of getting the chance to see their film on a shelf at blockbuster. Now, the dream for many is to see their film on Shudder. The streamer has fostered so many rich voices in the genre and has put countless creatives on the radar of bigger studios.

Shudder Keeps Cinema Alive

While Shudder has managed to acquire some of the best new offerings in the genre, it's also become a space for films that are difficult to find or even thought to be lost media. George A. Romero's "The Amusement Park" was the stuff of legend for decades until Shudder brought the film to the masses for the very first time, almost half a century after it was made. "The moment we heard 'The Amusement Park' had been rediscovered and was being restored, we knew we had to bring this unseen George A. Romero masterpiece to Shudder members," Craig Engler, Shudder's general manager, said in a statement.

Shudder has provided similar accessibility for international films that aren't always easy to acquire stateside, like Satoshi Kon's masterful anime horror film, "Perfect Blue." Thanks to the streaming platform's ability to consistently prove that there is a market for niche horror, countless projects have been given a new life. It's a lot easier for a film like "Tammy and the T-Rex" to be pulled out of the archives and given a new restoration from a company like Vinegar Syndrome when they can point to Shudder as the future streaming option, guaranteeing success.

Hell, it was earlier this week that Shudder announced they were going to become the streaming home of "Skinamarink," an indie horror film plagued by pre-release piracy following its festival run. Now that folks know they'll soon be able to see the film on Shudder, plenty of people vying to see it are less tempted to steal it ahead of release.

Shudder Isn't Just A Streamer, It's A Community

Shudder doesn't just support independent horror filmmakers, they also support independent podcasters, writers, journalists, and outlets as well. When many smaller publications are being ignored by larger studios for access to films for reviews or talent for interviews, Shudder has always gone above and beyond to help some of the most passionate and overlooked voices in the game. But where Shudder outshines its competitors, including the heavy hitters like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, and HBO Max, is that Shudder has not just curated films, it's curated a community.

Shudder is constantly hosting communal events, like watch parties, Tweet-a-longs, the annual Ghoul Log, movie marathons, "Creepshow" celebrations, all things "Dragula," and of course, "The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs." The latter has provided a fandom so massive that the #MutantFam has popped up in many social media bios, an easily-identifiable label for other fans of the show to find each other, and has trended at number one on Twitter in the U.S. during its Friday night broadcasts on multiple occasions.

Look, Netflix can brag about how many people watched "Wednesday" or "Stranger Things" all they want, but there's no other streaming fandom quite like the one birthed by Shudder. The horror genre has been irreparably changed in the best ways possible thanks to Shudder, and instead of laying off employees or scaling back budgets, every streamer in existence should be investing time and money to learn how to be more like it.

Shudder is the gold standard of what a streamer should be, and like the genre it loves so much, the lifeblood of the current landscape of film fandom.

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The post Why Shudder Is So Vital To The Current Horror Landscape appeared first on /Film.