Shudder Originals: Cursed Films And Zombies
A new series and film now available on horror streaming site
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
When dealing with real world stress and anxiety, sometimes horror can offer escape. Shudder has a few options for you.
If you are a horror fan Shudder offers a subscription service with your tastes in mind as it highlights horror, thriller and suspense genre films, plus original movies, TV series, podcasts and live streaming events. Since horror is sometimes dismissed as somehow less serious a genre than others, horror fans often feel they have to band together to present a unified front for all things horror.
The truth is, Shudder has both the best and the worst that the genre has to offer. But for the $5.99 a month it charges, it proves to be a great value.
Personally, I have found that it is best for finding theatrical films to watch. There are some great classic titles such as "The Exorcist," Japan's "Tetsuo the Iron Man," Italian giallo like "All the Colors of the Dark" and "Phenomena," and "Ganja and Hess.
There are recent films that deserved more attention on their theatrical release such as "Knife+Heart," "Revenge," "We Are What We Are," and "One Cut of the Dead."
Plus classic and recent titles that are just great and worth seeing again such as "Train to Busan," "Escape from New York," "Heathers," and "Oldboy." You can also find great documentaries such as "Haunters: The Art of the Scare," "To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story," "King Cohen," and the Shudder original "Horror Noire." And of course there is a selection of audacious cult films ranging from "Ichi the Killer" and "Liquid Sky" to "Tammy and the T-Rex," "Society," and "Blood Feast." You can even find outstanding shorts like "The Quiet Room" and of course Joe Bob's Drive-In.
But you need to steer clear of late entries in franchises and some recent rip-off fare. If you are exploring and looking to take a chance on something, I recommend looking to older titles and foreign films as the gambles most worth taking. But Shudder has a lot to choose from and genre fans are likely to find plenty to entertain them while quarantining.
Shudder Original 'Blood Quantum' now streaming
Today Shudder dropped the new original title "Blood Quantum." I am always willing to gamble on a zombie film because I love the genre and want to see if it is still possible to reanimate the formula with some fresh ideas.
So kudos to filmmaker Jeff Barnaby for tweaking genre expectations to deliver something entertaining and clever but not quite in the genius realm of George A. Romero or "Shaun of the Dead." The premise this time around involves the dead coming back to life in the world at large but within the isolated Mi'gmaq reserve of Red Crow, the indigenous inhabitants appear to be immune to the zombie plague.
In Romero's hands the social commentary might have been played up more cleverly as white zombies descend on the reserve and outsiders seek refuge. But Barnaby has some innovations worth noting, beginning with how the plague is first presented. Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) is gutting salmon when the dead fishes suddenly come back to life. Animal zombies are far less common than human ones so this was a fun and novel way to announce the plague.
The other big attraction in this film is Stonehorse Lone Goeman's Gisigu. He's a sword-wielding, zombie-killing grandpa that livens up the film. As he points out you never have to re-load a sword or worry about running out of ammo, and he is impressive in his ability to take out the undead.
Barnaby, a Mi'kmaq filmmaker who grew up on the Listuguj reserve in Quebec, Canada, made a previous feature, "Rhymes for Young Ghouls," that was also set on the Red Crow Mi'kmaq reservation. He has a flair for directing action and his script moves in swift passages. But I was hoping for a little more cleverness in his script and a more personal style. But seeing "Blood Quantum" does make me what to seek out his previous film because he has definite potential. If you love zombie films this is well worth checking out for the twists it adds to the traditional undead formula.
Shudder also has an original series "The Dead Lands" that provides a New Zealand take on the undead. But that series is less satisfying than "Blood Quantum" and the storyline feels dragged out to fill a series timeline. But some of the mythology it creates around its dishonored warrior who dies but is not allowed by the Ancestors to enter the Afterlife is intriguing. The production, however, has some clunky moments. "Blood Quantum" is far more polished and consistently entertaining.
Shudder original series 'Cursed Films'
"Cursed Films" intrigued me with its premise of exploring the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s infamously "cursed" horror film productions. The documentary series looks to films such as "The Exorcist," "Poltergeist," "The Crow," and "Twilight Zone."
But the series feels like a bait and switch. They lure you in with the bait of exploring notorious film productions but then most of each episode goes off on a weird tangent that has nothing to do with the original premise. So after briefly discussing the creepy things that happened on "The Exorcist," the episode suddenly interviews and follows a self-professed exorcist named Bauhaus who charges people to remove demons from their bodies. Now I'm not saying the guy wasn't somewhat entertaining but I really didn't tune in to see a cursory and superficial look at a modern exorcist. There's no serious or critical exploration of exorcism but it was added to pad out the episode to its necessary length.
Each episode of "Cursed Films" has about 5 to 10 minutes of solid and even fascinating information about the films with the facts tending to lead to the conclusion that the films were not cursed. But some of the behind the scenes footage and interviews with people from the films are quite good. So I feel like maybe this could have made a compelling feature documentary with each of the profiled films being a short 10-minute segment and doing away with all the ridiculous side excursions that all the episodes I have seen so far take. Sometimes the need for streaming services to extend a documentary or a narrative story to series length means unnecessary dragging out of the stories. Streaming services are hungry beasts especially now and that's not always a good thing. Forcing filmmakers to tighten up their material to a shorter format can often be a positive limitation.
But again, if you are a genre fan starved for a streaming service that feeds your addiction, you can't beat the price and the overall offerings that Shudder has. And even an annoying series like "Cursed Films" can be enjoyed for that rare gem of old on-set footage when you are also getting the opportunity to also see many great and even some obscure horror, sci-fi, suspense and thriller films.
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