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 to play the decades game. The recommendations are something from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. And here’s what we got:
1970s – J.D.’s Revenge (1976)
Directed by Arthur Marks, Written by Jaison Starkes
A lesser know gem from the Blaxploitation era, J.D.’s Revenge is one part revenge slasher, one part possession movie that’s just as brutal and captivating now as it was in 1976. The titular J.D. is a gangster from the 1940’s who’s killed, but 30 years later his spirit possesses a young law student, and turns his life upside down.
Featuring a young Glynn Turman and Louis Gossett Jr., Turman does a great job with the dual role. As Ike, he’s a shy, timid intellectual law student. But when the spirit of J.D. takes over Turman shows off a sinister side that’s downright scary. He even moves and carries himself differently as J.D., so it’s always clear which mind is in control at any given time.
Having been a fan of films like Blacula and Sugar Hill, I was shocked to realize that I had never even heard of this gem, but I’m really glad I watched it. It has the low budget gritty quality you’d expect from films of that era.
In other ways, the film is very much a product of its time and subgenre. There’s an overall campy quality that is to be expected. To be fair, Blacula was supposed to be much campier than it was, but only took itself seriously at the behest of star William Marshall, and it’s an infinitely better film because of it.
In J.D.’s Revenge, it presents itself with a sex scene that awkwardly goes on for what feels like 10 minutes. There are certainly uncomfortable scenes (especially by modern standards), but to be fair, the character of J.D. is the villain and not really meant to be likeable.
1980s – The Pit (1981)
Directed by Lew Lehman, Written by Ian A. Stuart
Upon asking for an 80s recommendation, Sam suggested 1981’s The Pit, but literally said he would only give me the title and not elaborate on it any further. Intrigued by this mystery, I went into this movie completely blind and it was as fun as it was bizarre.
A young boy discovers a titular pit in the middle of a clearing, and within live these creatures that he calls Trollogs or “Trogs”. They sort of look like Critters, but larger and even more ferocious. Keeping them almost like pets, he tries feeding them meat, but doesn’t have the money to keep purchasing it from the butcher shop.
This eventually leads him to trying live cows and chickens, but he never manages to get them to the pit. So instead he opts for bringing people to the pit and either pushing them in or getting them to hilariously trip into it, as if they don’t see a giant hole in the ground right in front of them.
It’s just the right level of early 80s camp that it’s charming. Plus the creature design is create and genuinely creepy, especially considering its low budget. It’s the perfect movie to watch with a group of friends if you want something strange but funny.
1990s – Dark Waters (1993)
Directed by Mariano Baino, Written by Mariano Baino and Andy Bark
After two movies known for the camp and sense of dark humor, Dark Waters was a nice change of pace. Set in a convent on a rainy island, a woman goes to learn more about her own past. She discovers a sinister place with a myriad of dark secrets, each creepier than the last.
Director Mariano Baino infused a surreal Italian style that’s both dreamlike and unsettling. It’s the kind of movie that uses its mystery to its advantage and keeps the audience engaged and unsettled throughout.
In a lot of ways, this one felt reminiscent of 2018’s The Nun. Only this movie was much more subtle and genuinely creepy, rather than relying on over the top jump scares to get the reaction. It’s definitely one I’ll always remember.
2000s – Them (ils, 2006)
Written and Directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud
For this final recommendation, Sam gave me a 2000s era home invasion movie from France. Based on the incredibly disturbing true story, Them is perhaps the most frightening on this list just because it’s something that could (and did really happen).
Much like High Tension or The Strangers, this ultra-violent movie relishes in its own low budget quality, all of which gives it a gritty and more realistic feel. More so than any other movies here, this one will make you triple check that your doors are locked at night!
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!
J.D.’s Revenge, The Pit, Dark Waters, and Them (ils) are all streaming on Shudder