Here Are the Old-School Horror Movies Coming to Shudder in April 2023

Anthony Hopkins as ventriloquist Corky Withers with his dummy named Fats in the 1978 psychological horror drama Magic
20th Century Fox/Courtesy of Shudder
Anthony Hopkins as ventriloquist Corky Withers with his dummy, Fats, in Magic.

At this point, I probably don’t have to tell most horror fans about Shudder, the streaming service devoted to scary movies and series of all sorts, old and new.

Along with producing its own original content — like the Slasher series (which returns with a new season, Slasher: Ripper, on April 6) and The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs (which returns for its new season April 21) — Shudder also keeps busy acquiring unique productions, like the recent buzzed-about festival hit Skinamarink.  A good number of acquired films in Shudder’s library are great older chillers, too.

In April 2023, Shudder is adding to its collection of older, and in some cases little-seen or -remembered, titles with a number of new acquisitions: several horror films from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, offering a nice mix of psychological horror, slasher films and more.

Shudder April 2023 Old-School Horror Titles

Magic (1978) — Begins Streaming April 3

Over a decade before he creeped us out with his Oscar-winning performance as cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins (still not super-well-known at the time) turned in a masterful, BAFTA Award-nominated performance in this psychological horror drama as a ventriloquist who finds himself at the mercy of his vicious dummy, named Fats, while he tries to renew a romance with his high school crush (Ann-Margret).

The concept of a creepy dummy either coming to life, or acting out a ventriloquist’s psychotic break with another personality, had been around awhile even by the time Magic premiered; the terrific 1945 British anthology Dead of Night incorporated it, as did a couple of episodes of The Twilight Zone (“The Dummy” and “Caesar and Me”).

But Magic puts a nice spin on the trope, and makes it seem fresh, not just thanks to the compelling performances from the cast, which also includes Burgess Meredith, but also from William Goldman’s screenplay (he adapted his novel of the same name), Richard Attenborough’s direction and a creepy musical score from the always-reliable Jerry Goldsmith.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) — Begins Streaming April 3

With a storyline that basically lives up to its straightforwardly lurid title — an overnight get-together among high school girls turns into a bloodbath as a psycho wielding a power drill disrupts the fun — The Slumber Party Massacre was a rarity at its time as a slasher film written and directed by women (Rita Mae Brown and Amy Holden Jones, respectively), and still shows a few glimpses of what it could have been, had its original premise been maintained.

Three high school girls are on the defensive and armed with knives with a killer on the loose in <i>The Slumber Party Massacre</i> (1982).

(New World Pictures/Courtesy of Shudder)

Brown’s original script was a slasher parody that was turned more serious against her wishes, though the movie retained some humor and feminist elements that have helped it stand out a bit from the legions of similar films in that era and remain a cult classic that has even garnered some positive critical reviews.

Final Exam (1981) — Begins Streaming April 17

Another slasher flick that was a touch different from the others swarming movie theaters in the early ’80s, Final Exam is set at a small North Carolina college, where only a few select students are remaining to take their midterms. Unfortunately for them, a killer begins to stalk the campus, and this slasher is a lot more arbitrary than ones found in other similar films: He has no backstory, no name/identity, no explanation as to any motive for his slaughter; he’s just kind of there, like a sudden storm.

Final Exam also tends to focus a bit less on gore and more on suspense and character development (that latter element not usually being too big a concern in the average slasher movie), so the characters aren’t just disposable victims. Supposedly, this film’s primary male character, Radish (Joel S. Rice) was at least a partial inspiration for Jamie Kennedy’s Randy Meeks character in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).

Three characters -- students on a college campus in North Carolina -- talking in a scene from the 1981 slasher movie <i>Final Exam</i>.

(Motion Picture Marketing/Courtesy of Shudder)


Don’t Panic (1988) — April 4
On his 17th birthday, a boy named Michael has a surprise party thrown by his friends, where a session with a Ouija board accidentally unleashes a demon named Virgil, who possesses one of them to go on a killing spree. Michael, now plagued by violent nightmares and premonitions, sets out to try and stop the killings. Written and directed by Rubén Galindo Jr.

Bog (1979/1984) — April 10
Dynamite fishing in a rural swamp revives a prehistoric gill monster that must have the blood of human females in order to survive. Gloria DeHaven, Aldo Ray and Marshall Thompson star.

Darklands (1996) — April 17
A reporter investigates ritual profanations and finds himself involved with a Druidic cult. The cast includes Jon Finch.

Primal Rage (1988) — April 17
In this Italian/America coproduction, a baboon escapes from a Florida campus lab and starts spreading something bad with a bite — a virus that instills an uncontrollable and murderous fury in those infected. Cheryl Arutt, Sarah Buxton and Bo Svenson star.