The Criterion Channel invites classic horror fans to expand their minds while being entertained. Here’s why the streaming service is so invaluable.
In the streaming era, horror looms within numerous popular platforms, but for streamers looking for true classic horror, The Criterion Channel has the most to offer. Some casual genre fans seek out weekend scares for brief escapism, while the die-hards keep up with everything Shudder, and continuously poke around elsewhere for hidden gems. Horror movies feel timelier than ever, especially considering the various sub-genres that resonate with audiences for one reason or another.
The word “classic” can have different meanings to locked-down streamers. Cinema purists may cite the 1920s and 1930s as the golden age of horror, while some horror fanatics may argue the ’70s and ’80s were the genre’s glory days. Both things can be true. On Netflix, there are currently three titles listed under the “Classic Horror Movies” tab – Poltergeist (1982), The Evil Dead (1981), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). On Hulu, there are plenty of horror options, but a “classic horror” search doesn’t lead far beyond popular titles like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Children of the Corn (1984) — in fact, many listed movies require an add-on subscription. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime currently has 223 horror titles from 1960 and before, with the most notable recent additions being House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), and The Black Cat (1934). Amazon Prime is a reliable option for lesser-known horror titles, and instantwatcher.com is a helpful tool for searches. For overall classic horror quality, the major players are undoubtedly Shudder and The Criterion Channel.
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Outstanding as Shudder may be, The Criterion Channel has more to offer in terms of overall value. A “classic horror” search is surprisingly misleading, as it doesn’t show everything that the service has to offer. By selecting “All Films” and applying the appropriate filters, it’s revealed that The Criterion Channel currently has 39 titles released between 1910 and 1969, including must-watches like Nosferatu (1922), Cat People (1942), Eyes Without a Face (1960), Kuroneko (1968), and Night of the Living Dead (1968). Overall, there’s a blend of popular American titles and international art house classics, arguably the foundation for a heavy-duty classic horror education and/or streaming experience. With all due respect to Shudder’s vast array of horror collections, there’s only seven titles listed in the “Foundations of Horror” group. Shudder has plenty to enjoy, but their focus is mostly on modern classics from the ’70s onward.
At the time of this writing, The Criterion Channel features 40 horror movies from just the ’70s alone. A filtered search lists classics like Don’t Look Now (1973), Black Christmas (1974), Eraserhead (1977), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), House (1977), and The Brood (1979), along with many other global cinema gems. As for the ’80s, The Criterion Channel is lacking with just four titles, which is what makes Shudder so valuable — especially considering their categorization of various sub-genres. What makes The Criterion Channel unique, however, is the special features. Streamers can watch a horror classic from decades past, such as Georges Franju’s 1960 film, Eyes Without a Face, then check out various interviews and documentaries. That extra bit of entertainment and cinematic knowledge is invaluable, and horror fans should seek it out.
In modern film culture, there’s a belief amongst many that “old” movies are fading away simply because they’re boring or seem irrelevant. However, when discussing or analyzing horror – or any genre for that matter – it’s important to have a basic understanding of film history. Many horror flicks from the ’70s and ’80s are groundbreaking in their own right, but they include tropes and concepts that were established by visionary filmmakers from decades before. The fact remains that early 20th century classics will always be relevant. The Criterion Channel invites fans of the true classic horror movies to expand their minds while still receiving high-quality entertainment.
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