Recommendations from the Shudder Hotline Week 2 (Oct 2021)

It’s October again, which means (other than it being the best month of the year) the Shudder Hotline is back!  Every Friday this month from 3-4pm ET (12-3pm PT) horror fans can call the hotline number and speak directly with Shudder curator Sam Zimmerman for personalized movie recommendations.

It’s a truly unique service unlike anything offered by every other streaming service.  So just like we did in April, we called it this week and asked for four recommendations: something funny, something scary, something gory, and something work/career related (since it was my last day at a job I hate).  And here’s what we got:

Something Funny – The Columnist (2019)
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Directed by Ivo van Aart, Written by Daan Windhorst

Ever since we say the titular characters in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back fly around the country beating up people who wrote mean comments about them online, the idea of doling out justice to internet trolls is an admittedly cathartic idea.

This movie (starring Katja Herbers of CBS’s Evil) takes this idea and just runs with it.  In the age of social media, with most of our communication happening on places like Facebook and Twitter, so too have internet trolls evolved to become even more sinister and mean-spirited than ever before.

Our protagonist writes a column for a news publication and regularly suffers a slew of despicable comments, most of which are incredibly misogynist and violent in nature.  And in a world where police either can’t or won’t do much about “threats” they see online, she decides to take things into her own hands.

Given the movie’s frequent murders and use of profane but relevant comments, it’s hard to see why this could be categorized as a comedy, but all throughout, there’s this very dark sense of humor that you kind of have to be a little twisted to enjoy.

At the beginning, she’s really only just learning how to be a killer, and some of her awkward encounters with victims, as well as a bunch of WTF moments definitely had me bursting out in laughter.

 She definitely winds up taking things way too far, as is often the case in stories like this, but in a way, it’s a lot of fun to live vicariously through this character as she does what we all wish we could.  Even if none of us would ever admit wanting to do it…

Something Scary – Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
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Directed by Beom-sik Jeon, Written by Beom-sik Jeon and Sang-min Park

Adding to Shudder’s very long list of really impressive supernatural horror films from South Korea, Gonjiam begins as a simple group of friends who are trying to hit it big with their YouTube channel, and ends with a really disturbing and creepy encounter that will inspire nightmares.

Visiting a supposedly haunted asylum, each crew member has a camera fixed on them as they livestream the entire ghost hunt.  Sure it has the same setup as other movies like Grave Encounters, or even Blair Witch Project.  But what sets Gonjiam apart is in its execution.

Striking the perfect balance between character moments, creepy atmosphere, and jump scares that are perfectly timed and sparingly used, this movie comes off as legitimately scary and unsettling.  If you’re looking for some good old fashion creepy ghost horror, but want something that’s extremely well made, check this one out!

Something Gory – V/H/S/94 (2021)
- V/H/S/94 - Photo Credit: Shudder
Segments Directed by Simon Barrett, steven Kostanski, Chole Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, and Timo Tjahjanto
Segments Written by Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, and Ryan Prows
Anthology Concept by David Bruckner and Brad Miska

This past week, Shudder debuted the fourth installment of the iconically gritty and gory V/H/S franchise.  The goal for this entry was for Sam to give me a gory movie and boy did it live up to that.

The movie features a police raid that uncovers VHS tapes with all sorts of grotesque and gruesome results.  Everything from a really creepy encounter at a funeral home to a monstrous creature living in the sewers, and the movie’s highlight, a mad scientist’s lab with all sorts of disgusting sins against nature.

We’re treated to a myriad of grotesque imagery in the form of monsters and mutated humans.  It combines traditional horror tropes and goes almost Lovecraftian in its approach.  The POV setup of most of the vignettes does a great job of placing you right in the movie, almost like you’re playing Doom.

Honestly though, the most frightening vignette is probably the one that’s the least gory and bloody.  One of them focuses on a militia group hellbent on carrying out domestic terrorism in the name of their racist, nationalistic agenda.  This story may be set in the early 90s, but given the events of January 6, 2021 it’s frighteningly even more relevant today.

Anthologies tend to be really hit or miss, and to be fair not every entry in this V/H/S has been a hit, but this installment truly is!

Something Work Related – Porno (2019)
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Directed by Keola Racela, Written by Laurence Vannicelli and Matt Black

Since yesterday was my very last day at a job that I’m very psyched to leave, I told Sam I wanted a good movie set in a workplace.  Initially, both our minds went right to Mayhem, which if you haven’t seen, definitely check that out (there’s a Last Drive In version with commentary by Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy).

However, in the interest of giving me something I hadn’t seen before, he went with a more unconventional choice about a group of people working in a movie theater (which is very relatable as I myself worked at a Regal about 8 years ago).

Set in the 1990’s Porno features a theater run by evangelical Christian teens, who put on what they think is a porno film, but actually turns out to be a succubus that tries to claim their souls, as happens all too frequently…

Having grown up with family in the Christian Evangelical subculture, a lot of these characters were very reminiscent of friends and family I’ve had.  The movie does a great job satirizing certain aspects of it, while also keeping them in on the joke and treating them as real people rather than just punchlines.

Porno’s entertainment value comes from its overall absurdity.  It’s a movie that doesn’t really take itself seriously, knows that it’s dumb, and just wants its audience to have fun with it.

We’ll be back next week with another set of awesome recommendations from Shudder Curator Sam Zimmerman!  Until then, enjoy your October, stay safe, and watch tons of horror movies!

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The Shudder Hotline is open every Friday in October from 3-4pm ET

The Columnist, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, V/H/S/94, and Porno are all streaming on Shudder

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