Hands-On Review: Is Shudder UK the Netflix of horror?
James R | On 20, Oct 2016
Shudder is finally here in the UK. Promising all-you-scream thrills, spills and scares for £4.99 a month, it’s the Netflix of horror – but can it live up to that star billing? We take AMC’s subscription VOD service for a spin…
This is the first question anyone asks us about a new subscription site – because who needs another tenner coming out of their pocket every month? Fortunately, Shudder is on the cheaper scale of streaming sites, with a monthly fee of £4.99 – or, if you want to save yourself a few pennies, £49.99 for a whole year. That makes it cheaper than Netflix (£7.49 a month), Amazon Prime Video (£5.99 a month) and NOW (£9.99 a month), and even cheaper than MUBI (£5.99). It’s more expensive than independent horror SVOD service TheHorrorShow.tv, which costs £2.99 a month, but its selection of titles is bigger and better. Which brings us nicely to…
This is the most important question for any SVOD service and Shudder (mostly) doesn’t disappoint. Just over 200 titles justifies the £4.99 monthly cost comfortably, with a wide range that moves from hard-to-find world horror to Hollywood frights. There are obvious hit titles such as The Exorcist (Amazon) or The Shining (Sky Cinema/NOW) that are missing, but Shudder makes up for it with some more modern classics; the power of Christ won’t compel you, but it does Let the Right One In.
Netflix has proven that you need exclusives to win customers and while the streaming giant has signed a deal with Blumhouse, Shudder’s got its own strong exclusive game. In fact, 80 per cent of its launch titles are subscription VOD exclusives – and that will soon include the spellbindingly creepy French TV series, Beyond the Walls. In the pipeline are more exclusives, including oldies-but-goodies Hellraiser One and Two, which Shudder is making available to stream for the first time, and blockbuster mash-up Sadako vs Kayako. It’s a catalogue with potential, perhaps, rather than immediate promise – but think quality over quantity and you’ll see there aren’t many duds in the mix. (Let’s not mention Lesbian Vampire Killers.)
What’s great about Shudder’s content is the way it presents it to you. Titles are displayed with nicely-sized posters – always more colourful and artistic than those for non-genre flicks – and, best of all, are available to see in their entirety: Shudder doesn’t try to keep its catalogue secret, allowing you to order it alphabetically to browse easily.
Collections also make it easy to hunt for the right horror to suit your mood – Shudder understands that there are different types of horror, whereas bigger VOD sites would just list all of their horror titles under one heading. You can even search for a film by monster.
Searching by title works quickly and simply, although you cannot currently search by year, actor, director or other information. However, while there’s room for improvement here, Shudder is also breaking new ground with Shudder TV – a constant stream of horror films from its collection, not unlike a rolling Sky Cinema channel. It’s unique, it’s innovative and it means that you can synchronise your streaming with other people across the UK, which helps to combat the isolating feel that VOD can potentially have. Tried and tested in the US, it’s a format that Shudder knows works – and you know what? It’s right.
Shudder’s compatibility is pretty impressive, even right out of the box. The site has mobile apps for iOS and Android, and also supports Chromecast, Apple TV, and the Roku platform. (Hopefully, compatibility with Amazon Fire TV boxes and sticks will be added soon, completing the main living room set, as well as much-needed support for consoles.) The site is available through web browsers too. Tested primarily on a desktop computer, video quality is decent (Let the Right One In, one of the most beautiful horror films ever made, still looks breathtaking). The quality isn’t HD, but performs better than NOW’s streaming quality and is more stable than Amazon’s variable bitrates. We’ll be testing this across multiple devices in the coming weeks to get a better idea of what Shudder can do – let us know how you get on.
While Shudder may be lacking some big hitters, the diversity of its line-up is worth screaming about alone – not to mention its innovative live-streaming and impressive array of new exclusives. The French TV series Beyond the Walls is worth £4.99 by itself. Add in the rest to boot and, despite the lack of HD streaming, Shudder lives up to its billing as the Netflix of horror. Genre fans will likely find themselves chopping and changing between the two sites – to help decide which to choose for Halloween, we recommend Shudder’s one-week free trial to get a taste for what it has to offer.
For more on Shudder UK, including reviews of films available now, previews of what’s coming soon and an interview with Dearest Sister director Mattie Do, see VODzilla.co’s Shudder UK channel.