Back when I was getting my SKC writing cherry busted, I spoke on the decline of video stores and how they were being replaced by streaming services. In this digital age, all forms of media can be obtained without even leaving the house…virtually any type of entertainment is just a click away. And as much as I miss those brick-and-mortar shops—a few still exist, which I imagine as hardened, grizzled war vets that weathered the dawn of the digital age—they’re mostly a simple nostalgic novelty.
Music, television and movies can all be streamed via a variety of services offered by major media outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Steam, Humble Bundle…even radio is being replaced by on-demand apps like Spotify and Pandora. Streaming media is so prevalent in our modern culture that even specialty streams are capable of turning a profit. For example, take AMC’s latest experiment for the the maniacal masses, a spooky-loving speciality streaming service called Shudder.
Shudder isn’t the only horror stream service out there, but it is the most promising one. A partnership between Softbank-owned online video platform Dramafever and AMC Networks, I’ve actually had an account since the service came online. However, it’s only recently—with the introduction of supporting apps for IOS, Android and Roku—that I’ve really begun to play around with it. Previously, videos on Shudder could only be accessed via it’s website.
What the video service currently lacks in volume (roughly 200 movies) it makes up for with some cult favorite titles. Finding them, on the other hand, can be a bit of a task. Initially, there was no search feature and you had to fumble through their sub-genre breakdowns such as Animal Planet, Monster Mash, Gross Anatomy, Socko Spoof and Slashics (to name a few). This categorization may have seemed as a time saver on their end, but it made navigating the app a bit of an annoyance at first. Thankfully, this issue has since been rectified, as I’m sure other people also found this to be a pain. Now I just wish they would give you an option to view something similar when a specific title isn’t found in the catalog. With due time, I’m positive this feature to will dig its way to the surface as well.
Regarding the selection of “cult favorites” I mentioned earlier…this is a really good sign as it let’s me know someone behind the scenes has their finger tip on the pulse of horror. It shows that the service has an idea of what we, as fans of splatter and suspense, actually like. On the other hand, aside from three or four titles, they are all films you can find on similar streaming services (at least one of which you’re likely already subscribed to). If you’re a “cord cutter” (like myself) staying subscribed to another service probably isn’t a big deal, the few exclusive titles Shudder does give you is worth the $4.99 monthly (or $49.99/year) fee. However, if you’re household only occasionally dips into the streaming arena, Shudder will probably feel like all potatoes and no meat compared to its competitors.
Hopefully, with this being an AMC property, we will eventually get access to the network’s front-running horror shows. Currently, there is no Walking Dead offered…which may be due to contractual obligations with other streaming services, but it irks me when there is something provided by someone and none of the first party originals are offered. If this does, in fact, change it would considerably help the service by offering something unique. They could even stream the show in a HULU style fashion, releasing it the day after it’s TV premiere and letting it play for the length of the show’s syndication.
With this being the dawning of October, I hope to see some new movies come in—specifically I have AMC’s month-long TV horror programming, Fear Fest, in mind. If they don’t take advantage of some cross-promoting, then that’s just something else to hurt this service. The annual Fear Fest is something I had previously looked forward to every year. With shows like Up all Night and TNT’s Monster Vision being around to cut my teeth on growing up, Fear Fest gave me a place to turn to in October as an adult…this really needs to be added to the service during October.
All my complaints aside, the service is only $4.99 month (less than Netflix or Hulu) and your stream quality is top notch. There’s also Shudder.TV, which allows viewers to access a live stream of whatever the service feels like playing for free. It’s sort of a gamble as to whether what Shudder.TV showcases is the best of the best, but hey—it’s free. I think with a larger catalog of content, this service could become an awesome source for dedicated horror fans. That said, I’ve kept investing in it so far with the hopes that ghoulish greatness will be achieved once the proverbial Dr. Frankenstein is finished adding the missing pieces. This October will the services truest test and, if everything decomposes before the good doctor can complete his work, I’ll just cut my losses.