Shudder, AMC’s horror-only streaming service, beats other scary sites at their own game

Its corporate backing and curation give it a big advantage over its competition.

When AMC Networks’ horror-only streaming service, Shudder, debuted a year ago in open beta, horror fans salivated. Despite the genre’s rich history and ongoing growth, fans have long been underserved by the limited selection and variety of horror films available to stream, on major mainstream services like Netflix and smaller, more niche-focused players alike.

And with the studio’s hit TV series The Walking Dead currently reigning over small-screen horror, it made sense to branch out and try to extend its reach. After all, horror movies have long been one of Hollywood’s safest investments thanks to the proven loyalty of horror fans, who tend to flock devotedly to anything bearing the label and to welcome low-budget indie fare along with mainstream trendsetters, terrible B movies, and classics. AMC itself has a rich history of working with horror filmmakers and studios thanks to its themed horror movie guides and its yearly Fearfest (formerly Monsterfest), now celebrating its 20th anniversary. It makes sense for that collaboration to expand.

Of course, the real proof of Shudder’s appeal would come with time: Could the site attract a loyal following of horror fans while boasting a collection unique enough to draw in new users? A year later, with the site out of beta and Halloween on the horizon, the answer seems to be yes on both counts, thanks to an unrivaled combination of variety, quality, and curative ability.

The biggest challenge of launching a horror-only streaming service is cultivating enough quality content

Shudder is not the first horror-only streaming website in existence. Others, like streaming subscription services Screambox and Full Moon, and digital rental service Monsters and Nightmares, have managed to carve out niches for themselves among the horror fan community, leaning on their scrappy independent status to set themselves apart from much larger competitors like Netflix. (“We are not here to make you feel safe or even comfortable,” reads Screambox’s mission statement.)

But such sites have largely been hamstrung by their inability, as relative outsiders, to curate truly attention-getting collections. Streaming rights are a highly desirable, highly lucrative commodity these days, and acquiring them can be a challenging and expensive endeavor, especially for smaller streaming players that don’t have mountains of cash to burn.

Thus, despite their best efforts, horror streaming upstarts too often wind up with many of the same, oft-recycled titles that are already available on larger services, or else end up serving up low-quality indie fare. And without any high-profile exclusives on offer, it’s difficult to woo potential subscribers who could just as easily find the same selection elsewhere.

But Shudder, which is flush with corporate backing and studio cooperation, is largely immune to these obstacles. Sure, the recycled, also-ran titles are all there — but so are a wealth of others that are rarely available to stream or rent anywhere else.

As a result, the service essentially outpaces its competition on a number of fronts. The price of a subscription, $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, is slightly higher than a subscription to Screambox, which costs $4.99 per month on a month-by-month basis or $2.99 per month with a 12-month subscription. Shudder subscribers have access to more than 500 films; a Screambox representative confirmed to Vox that the site carries over 400 movie titles, with several new titles added each week, but fans with subscriptions to both sites generally describe the quality of Screambox films as much lower.

Meanwhile, the site’s digital TV network,, broadcasts movies nonstop to preview Shudder’s wares for anyone who’s in the mood for some scares, including non-subscribers. And once you do sign up, the service also boasts an attractive design that heavily emphasizes its curated collections.

Shudder’s only real drawback, at least according to multiple reports on Reddit, is that some users have experienced significant glitchiness while streaming — though it appears to have improved over time, and I haven’t encountered any issues while trying out the service. On the whole, users’ technical concerns haven’t been enough to stop them from broadly recommending the site through word of mouth.

Shudder’s competitive advantage means it has a stunning variety of worthwhile content, to serve horror die-hards and newbies alike

A common complaint among horror fans is that their online streaming options are far too limited, due to the endless glut of low-budget horror films being churned out by indie filmmakers on the regular. Shudder’s impressive selection of higher-quality films comes as something of a relief.

Along with plenty of exciting titles I’d never even heard of, there are plenty of offerings here that are hard to come by through regular channels, from several films by veteran horror director Larry Fessenden (Habit) to classics like F.W. Murnau’s Haunted Castle.

Campy, niche classics like Witchery and Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing mingle with newer cult favorites like Home Movie and Absentia. If you want gore, Shudder devotes entire categories to showcasing such staples of the genre as Blood Feast and Cannibal Holocaust. And if you’re the kind of fan who likes to watch bad movies ironically, there are more than a few movies here that’ve doubled as Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax fodder — Horror of Party Beach and Ghosthouse being my personal favorites.

The site’s foreign roster is also notable, featuring a string of Asian horror hits like I Saw the Devil, European horror classics like Jean Rollin’s Fascination, and the original Mexican version of We Are What We Are. The Giallo collection — referring to the subgenre of slick, noirish Italian slashers made in the late ’60s and ’70s — is especially choice, featuring a string of irresistibly titled, critically acclaimed Italian must-sees like Lucio Fulci’s Cat in the Brain, Antonio Margheriti’s Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye, and Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange?

The collection also includes two newer homages to the Giallo subgenre of the past — 2012’s chilling Berberian Sound Studio and the 2013 French-Italian noir The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. And if you’re looking for precursors to Giallo, fear not: Mario Bava gets his own collection.

In other words, the bases are clearly covered: Genre classics, recurring favorites, and challenging newer films are all here. And while Shudder’s selection is definitely designed to appeal to horror die-hards, there’s enough of a mainstream vibe that newcomers can jump right in and get their feet wet (with blood).

But Shudder’s standout feature is its careful curation for horror fans of all stripes

Shudder has been quick to tout its “depth of content and experience” as its main assets in becoming a destination for horror fans, citing its curators, Sam Zimmerman and Colin Geddes, as horror experts with one eye on the audience and the other on the industry and history of horror. That love is evident, and their curation effectively serves as Shudder’s calling card.

The site’s larger collection feels wide-ranging and diverse, while the curated categories are both entertaining and savvy, diving deep and guiding users through horror’s many, many subgenres. With names like Urban Decay,” Slashics,” and Not Your Ordinary Bloodsucker,” many of Shudder’s categories serve as an education about the basic elements and fundamental classics of each subgenre — making them perfect for the average horror fan looking to boost their knowledge.

But they also maintain enough personality and flair to keep even the most die-hard horror fans on their toes. For example, I laughed out loud when I saw horror comedies Creep Van and Blood Car listed side by side in the Comedy of Terrors category, forming their own little mini group of killer autos.

The site boosts its role as arbiter of all that is good through prestige guest curators. Even while it was technically still in beta and users needed an invited to sign up (which is no longer the case), it offered specially curated lists from longtime directors like Fessenden and Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), as well as newcomer Robert Eggers (The Witch). And while the guest curators’ tastes are often repetitive — many of the greats really want you to watch Anthony Hopkins play a ventriloquist in Magic — the fact that Shudder can call up Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) and ask him to name his favorite horror films leaves an impression.

This is all bad news for fans of independent horror streaming sites, because they really can’t compete with what Shudder has to offer. But it’s great news for horror fans who are constantly seeking more films to watch, or who are looking to branch out from the typical Netflix and Hulu fare and really dig deep into the best the genre has to offer.

via Vox – All

Kano, The Beautiful DIY Computer, Just Got Three New Kits

Learning to code isn’t as easy as snapping a photo, but Alex Klein is betting that the two are more closely connected than you might think. Klein is the co-founder of Kano (the British company that developed the cleverly designed DIY computer kit that teaches kids to code), and on a recent fall day he’s sitting in front of me with a transparent camera in his hand, showing me how to build my own photo filter.

On his laptop, Klein drags and drops a block of code using the Kano operating system, chooses a color, and presses the camera’s shutter button. The front of the camera flashes green. He does it again, this time choosing a line of code that turns the frames into a kaleidoscopic image. “This generation is so used to communicating with photography, Klein says. “They’re snapping a picture and they’re using a pre-packaged alteration made by some genius at Instagram and Snapchat. They don’t really have the end to end power to manipulate the image.”

Klein has built an entire company around the idea that kids might actually like to build their own filter (or computer). When Kano launched in 2013, it was lauded for demystifying computing through its physical design. The company’s first kit consisted of a keyboard, wires, and a Raspberry Pi that connected to an external monitor. Then last year, Kano launched a screen, turning the original kit into something more akin to a full-fledged computer. Now, Kano is launching three new standalone kits—a DIY camera, speaker, and pixel board ($130 each)—that double down on the idea that physical computing is the future of computer science education.

Taken together, the three new kits turn Kano into a modular, hackable multimedia computer system. Individually, they’re perfectly rewarding standalone experiences. All three run on a single board computer that lets them connect to the technology around them via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. They also come with USB sensors that enable them to pick up on gestures and sounds. Using the browser-based Kano OS, you can code the camera, speaker, and pixel board to perform a virtually unlimited number of commands, from creating a twinkling display that reacts to the volume in the room, to programming your camera to take a photo every morning at sunrise.


Coding can be an opaque process—it’s not always easy to understand how a line of code can translate to action. The Kano kits attempt to demystify programming by making it tangible. Mark Champkins, Kano’s head of design, says that the point of the kits is to close the loop between a piece of logic someone might have in their mind and the way it shows up in a physical object—like a camera or pixel board. “A really important learning tool is being able to hack a piece of code and see what happens to it,” he says. Besides, Klein adds, using sound, motion, and gestures, is a more engaging way to learn than asking kids to program their first 12 lines of code for an app. “What we’ve found since the beginning is when you physicalize this stuff, people get so much more interested,” he says.

Ultimately, the goal of Kano is to train a generation of kids to perceive the world as endlessly programmable. To do that, they must be fluent in how hardware and software work together. “If we’re going to create a generation that looks at computing not just as this sort of beautiful, hermetically sealed totem that obeys their every command, but as a play kit or lab for ideas, you have to build a system,” Klein says. “It can’t just exist within the confines of what’s already there.”

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via Wired