When it was recently announced that Midnight Movie Unchained (an offshoot of the Midnight Movie Society streaming service) was going to be unleashed to stream for free, fans of the horror genre immediately raised their collective eyebrows. There have been murmurs about Midnight Movie’s offerings for some time now, and it’s made horror aficionados psyched to watch things that have been hard to find elsewhere. This new Unchained service allows us to get a taster, and it’s an astute move. There are just many subscription-based services out there, but even during lockdown we have to be careful where we put our money. Many horror fans are already subscribed to Shudder — the big name in the game. Is it worth jumping into Rue Morgue and MVD Entertainment’s Midnight Movie Society too?

In short, yes. Because while Midnight Movie Unchained offers a glimpse, it’s not enough. The MMS content can be loosely grouped into two categories. Firstly, there’s the sort of trashy, low budget fun that you can find on the SyFy Channel and Youtube — creature features with names like Shark Exorcist and skeleton crew deals such as the gloriously amateurish Acid Bath. These vary from unwatchable to utter, goofy joy.

Far more interesting are the movies on the darker end of the genre spectrum. MMS streams movies that were previously thought unstreamable, such as those produced by Unearthed Films. The fact that MMS has the American Guinea Pig series on its docket is by itself a good reason to sign up for the gorehounds out there.

A big reason Midnight Movie Society came into existence is that several labels distributed by MVD were having trouble with films getting pulled from some of the larger streaming platforms due to content restrictions,” says Adrianna Gober, director of programming for the Midnight Movie Society. “Eventually, they thought, ‘Why don’t we create our own streaming platform specifically for these films?’ They knew there was a hungry audience for extreme horror, and that many of these titles would be stuck streaming limbo if someone didn’t step up to provide a platform for them to be seen. So, Midnight Movie Society was born.”

The original Guinea Pig series (Japanese movies dreamed up by Manga artist Hideshi Hino) are infamous among horror fans, not least because Charlie Sheen once watched the second movie in the series Flower of Flesh and Blood, incorrectly thought it was snuff, and reported it to the FBI. He can sort of be forgiven — that film is brutal, and set up to feel realistic. The Japanese films are not available on MMS (maybe one day?), but the American versions are. Bouquet of Guts and Gore is a worthy tribute to the film that fooled Sheen, and it’s an absolute stomach churner. Certainly not for casual horror fans who like to watch The Shining on Halloween. There are three other American Guinea Pig entries here too, and they’re all for extreme horror fans only. Be warned.

Unearthed also provides Atroz (translated to Atrocious), the Mexican crime movie that had everyone talking when it was released in 2015. There are scenes in that film that we simply can’t even begin to detail here. 

Fans of exploitation cinema (an outdated sub genre tag if ever there was one) will be delighted with the twisted fare from contemporary director Bill Zebub, plus old shockers such as Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and Love Camp 7. But again, these films are very, very niche.

Naturally, the extreme movies are not available on the free Unchained service. There are some chains, so to speak. So really, get a taster with Unchained and then, if extreme horror is your bag, subscribe to the full MMS extravaganza. 

It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for the service. If it can stream American Guinea Pig and Atroz, then there’s no real reason, besides licensing, that it can’t stream the original Guinea Pig films, plus other infamous titles such as Martyrs, A Serbian Film, and the August Underground and Slaughtered Vomit Dolls movies.

For me, it’s very much context-dependent,” Gober says. “I don’t believe there’s any subject matter too taboo or off-limits to explore in film. If and when I draw the line anywhere, it typically comes down to execution rather than content. The original Guinea Pig series and its recent American revival, for example, are absolutely an acquired taste, but one thing that’s hard to deny is the technical prowess of the practical effects artists that poured their artificial blood, sweat, tears, and various other fluids into making those films so viscerally disturbing and squirm-inducing. It’s a challenging and impressive craft, and one that, at least for me, makes an impact on a primal, emotional level beyond the gross-out spectacle on the surface. That work deserves a space to be seen.”

 Check out Midnight Movie Society & Unchained here.


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