Shudder VP of Programming Sam Zimmerman talks horror with 1428 Elm

Shudder logo - Courtesy Shudder
Shudder logo - Courtesy Shudder /

I would guess that most Shudder fans know Samuel Zimmerman is. At the very least, they likely know him as the recurring guest for the Shudder Halloween Hotline, which allows us to call in and get his personalized picks for horror movies we might like on the horror streaming platform.

Well, he is much more than just a curator for Shudder, he is the Vice President of Programming, and even worked as a producer on many Shudder Originals. We had the chance to chat with Sam, which was perfect timing for the month of Halloween! He gave us the inside scoop on some upcoming Shudder Originals and series, and even recommended a few specific projects coming up in the near future.

1428 Elm: Hi Sam! So I consider myself one of Shudder’s biggest fans, I first subscribed I think four or five years ago.

Sam: Oh, thank you, that’s very cool. And that’s still in my mind…I mean, I guess in the grand scheme of things, I still think we are in early days. But I think four or five years ago was like real deal early days, you know?

1428 Elm: Yeah, it was about the same time I started writing for 1428 Elm that I subscribed for the first time. I wanted to see…which movie was it? Mayhem, I think it was, and then I watched Revenge, and I was like “Oh, these are so great!” I really love what you guys do over there every year at Halloween in particular. Tell me how you first got involved with Shudder.

Sam: I first came to Shudder in 2014, even before Shudder officially launched. At the time, I was working for Fangoria.

1428 Elm: Nice!

Sam: Yeah, it was incredible. I started working for Fangoria I think in 2008 or 2009. I started as an intern, I was still in college and I was kind of blown away that you could even do that. I was like, “You can intern at Fangoria?” And then I kind of forcibly stuck around until they hired me, and in 2014 I left, and was still writing about horror for a while, but was more focused on getting into programming. And I was connected with a team at AMC Networks who were developing the concept of Shudder.

What they were seeking out at the time was programming help, and if Shudder existed, if it was a highly curated streaming service based around admiring and loving the genre, what could that look like, what could it feel like? So at the time, I helped, and about a year later when Shudder was getting ready to officially launch, when it was about to enter its soft beta launch, I was asked to come on full time as the curator. I’ve been hitting the ground running since then, from curating and programming the library, to being involved in our acquisitions and originals, to materially interacting with the service and moving things around…what you see and how it feels, our genres, our collections, Shudder TV.  It’s been kind of a whirlwind from day one.

1428 Elm: What part are you personally playing in the Shudder Halloween celebration this year?

Sam: A lot of parts! There’s everything from the classics and cult films that we love that are coming to the service that I’m programming and curating, I was a part of developing V/H/S/85 like V/H/S/99 and 94 before that, I was a part of producing and developing When Evil Lurks and The Puppetman as well, which will be on the service this month. And the same with our original series like Creepshow and Dragula.

And then of course, I will be out and about speaking about Shudder and evangelizing for it. We’ve kicked off a screening series at the IFC Center in New York called the Shudder Showcase. So really, however I can help and wherever I’m needed is the name of the game.

1428 Elm: So, you are obviously like me – I refer to myself as a horror nerd. What do you consider to be some of your favorite horror films and/or series?

Sam: I find it changing as I grow, but I think at the end of the day, if you were to say, “Quick, what’s your favorite horror movie of all time”, it’s An American Werewolf in London.

Samuel Zimmerman – Courtesy Shudder /

1428 Elm: Good choice! For me, the first horror movie I really remember being captivated by – I think I was like, 12 when I saw it – was the original Black Christmas. So, to me, that’s the one I always go back to. But, I’m not one of those people who only likes “old horror”, I like newer horror too. And that’s one of the things I enjoy about Shudder, there’s always new original stuff coming on board.

When you are doing the Halloween Hotline, how do you decide what movies to recommend for people who call in?

Sam: I really just try to talk to our members and see a few things. I listen to what types of horror they love. I think there’s plenty of us that love every corner of it, but so much of when you’re deciding what to watch is also based on mood or atmosphere, or you want to feel a certain way. I really just try to respond to what someone on the hotline is telling me about themselves and how they feel that week, and what types of films and series they generally respond to. And then I see is there something – whether it’s new or old – that might have flown under their radar that I can have the privilege and joy of introducing them to.

1428 Elm: That’s a really good point about finding something that’s right for your mood at the time. I really love that deep, emotional horror, but I can’t always watch it because – I mean, stuff like Hereditary and the witch – I love it, but you really do have to be in the right frame of mind for it.

Sam: Oh yeah, I call it sad horror. It’s one of my favorite genres. A movie like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is just so melancholy and ethereal in nature, and you’re right, it’s not for every day. But for a Sunday afternoon, it’s perfect.

1428 Elm: I’m so glad I finally watched Hereditary, but I don’t know if it’s a movie I would ever watch again. It hit so hard, and it just left me thinking about it for days.

Sam: What a lasting film. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it, I was in a big theater, and the moment when you can tell she’s on the wall in the bedroom…there were all these different reactions, because people were catching onto it  at different times. It created a sense of true eeriness throughout the theater, it was so much fun.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1428 Elm: Yeah, and I always try to be understanding when people say they don’t like what they call “boring” horror. But they also want to find a movie that truly scares them, and to me, those are the ones that are really scary because you really care about the characters and what happens to them, you just get drawn into that story. So I feel like they are losing out on something if they don’t watch it.

Sam: And that’s so exciting to me about our film When Evil Lurks, which is coming out on Shudder at the end of the month on the 27th, and it will be in theaters on the 6th. Damian Rugna, who made Terrified before it, he is so clearly a master of horror, and When Evil Lurks combines all of those things. It’s deeply emotional, but grisly and frightening, and intense and does my favorite thing of just – I think everyone who goes to see it – it’s going to push you a few feet further than you thought you were gonna go that day. It’s a really special, special horror film.

1428 Elm: That’s one of the ones I’m really looking forward to, because I JUST watched Terrified a few weeks ago. And it just…

Sam: That kid, that kid!

1428 Elm: Exactly! And even though I had already seen that clip, it still just…it gives you goosebumps!

So, other than that film that you just brought up, what do you consider to be the highlights of this year’s Halloween roster on Shudder?

Sam: It’s sort of silly for me to say “all of it”, but I do think everything has something really special about it. I think we’ve been fortunate to be part of really incredible entries in the V/H/S series, I think 85, the one that’s coming Friday is…the filmmaker perspectives on it are just really astonishing. All of the segments are unique, but different, and fun, and creepy and strange. And structurally, I think it’s doing something a little bit different from the other V/H/S films, so it’s nice to see we can still surprise people. I’m so excited.

1428 Elm: One of my writers actually just got to see it at Fantastic Fest, and he really enjoyed it. I just published the review yesterday or the day before.

Sam: Oh, awesome, it’s really a fantastic new V/H/S film, and I think its director lineup is pretty unparalleled between David Bruckner and Scott Derrickson and Natasha Kermani and Gigi Saul Guerrero and Mike Nelson. They’ve brought such really cool flavor to it. It’s awesome, and next week we have the full season of Creepshow dropping, which I know a lot of people have been highly anticipating. That’s always an incredible show to work on, to work with Greg Nicotero, to see how he wants to present the fun and creepy crawly nature of Creepshow each season. This season again looks and feels a little bit different. It’s the same Creepshow you love, but I think it can still be surprising to our audience.

You know, we never want to release the same types of things over and over again, there’s always more to explore within horror. We’ll be releasing a film called The Puppetman by Brandon Christensen, it’s really good! This is the fourth film we’ve worked with Brandon on, we were the streaming home with Stillborn, we released Z, we released Superhost. One thing that’s really important to us is continuously growing with our filmmakers and supporting the filmmakers who we think make really fun, really terrific horror films.

So, When Evil Lurks is our second film with Damian. And this is our third V/H/S film with the producing team, and this is our fourth film with Brandon, so we’re really excited about that. And on the 20th, we have Night of The Hunted. That’s a special collaboration, because Alex Aja produced it, and Franck Khalfoun, who made P2 and the Maniac remake, both of which are really terrific films. It’s great to be working with him as a director.

You know, so  much of October…you think of very classically spooky and supernatural horror. This is a cool kind of break in the middle, because it’s a very lean, bloody thriller, and I think we’ll give folks a nice change of pace throughout the month, right before When Evil Lurks drops.

1428 Elm: Yeah, I kind of hate to see people just get tied into one particular type of horror film, and not watch all kinds of different stuff.

And, The Last Drive-In, you guys just announced that was renewed for another season. So that’s exciting.

Sam: Absolutely, a perennial on Shudder! And we have the Halloween special coming. And, yeah, Joe Bob always delights.

1428 Elm: Yes. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him in person at the Spooky Empire horror convention here in Orlando, and then he came down and presented How Rednecks Saved Hollywood at the Enzian Theater over here, so I got to meet him again. He’s just so laid back and charming, and a really nice guy. And Diana – Darcy the Mail Girl too, just really, really good people, so I’m always happy to support them.

So, we only have a few minutes left, but I saw on your IMDb profile that you have executive produced a lot of Shudder projects. Do you have something new coming up that you’re excited about?

Sam: Really, it’s the Shudder stuff, when we get involved in an early level. We’re part of the film’s development and production. So, it’s fortunate that I get to work on the films in that capacity. I think beyond Halloween, I would say we’re really excited about The Sacrifice Game, which is coming out in December, this is the new film from Jenn Wexler (The Ranger). And I worked on that in that capacity.

1428 Elm: With Sean, right? Sean Redlitz? I always loved working with him when he was at Shudder, he was great.

Sam: Yeah, Sean is the best. And we are thrilled that we got to make this movie with him and with Jenn. And I think people are gonna love it. It’s such a cool second film from Jenn, and it’s creepy and exciting and stylish in a really lovely way. And it’s a Christmas horror film!

1428 Elm: Yay! That’s my other favorite thing, Christmas horror!

Well, I’m going to let you go, but thank you so much for giving me a little bit of your time. It’s a pleasure speaking with you, and you guys at Shudder are doing a great job.

Sam: Thank you, that’s very kind, and I hope we continue to live up to it.

Next. Shudder Resurrected titles announced for October. dark