Sense of Wonder: Watch more free sci-fi, fantasy & horror movies on YouTube
Earlier this week, I mentioned that you could now view free science fiction, fantasy, and horor movies on YouTube, since Sony Entertainment’s Crackle.com had made their catalogue of free movies available on their very own YouTube channel. What I did not mention is that Crackle is by no means the first or only company to give away their content for free on YouTube. Other feature-length movie channels on YouTube include Lionsgate Movies, First Look Studios, Shout Factory, AmPopFilms, and Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Starz Media.
Each channel has its own specialty. Lionsgate may be the home of the SAW franchise, but you will not find any of those films on their channel, just some obscure direct-to-video shockers. Firstlook Studios suggests an arty vibe, but they have some obscure titles like MONSTER ISLAND, starring Carmen Electra. Shout Factory is full of campy stuff like The Film Crew and Elvira’s Movie Macabre. AmPop Films is filled with older stuff like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, FLASH GORDON, and THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. Starzmedia is loaded with trailers for Anchor Bay’s DVD releases, but they also have some feature films like DO YOU LIKE HITCHOCK?, a made-for-television thriller by Dario Argento.
Since the movies are free, you have to sit through advertising. Many of the channels have the embed function disabled so that you cannot show the video on your own website; you can only link to it. This seems slightly counter-productive in that the ads precede the video; making the videos embeddable would get them – and the advertising – seen by more eyeballs, which would have the advertisers happy and lead to higher rates.
Another problem is that YouTube is not well designed for categorization inside a channel. Videos are listed in the chronological order that they were posted, not in alphabetical order according to title. For movie channels with bigger catalogues (especially Starzmedia, which includes not only feature films but also numerous clips and trailers) this can force you to click through page after page looking for something of interest. Fortunately, several of the channels have organized their titles into Playlists, which act like categories, allowing you to view only horror films, for example.
If all those choices sound intimidating, don’t worry. YouTube recently created two new navigation categories on their website: Shows and Movies. These categories include all the televison shows and feature-length movies available at the above-mentioned channels, so instead of hunting through each individual channel for one or two genre films apiece, you can find them all assembled in one place, helpfully divided into sub-categories for Animation, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction, etc.
You need still need to search carefully: science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles like THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS, DRAGONSTORM, and THE BREED are listed under YouTube’s Action & Adventure sub-category. Nevertheless, we found YouTube’s categorization useful, especially in the case of something like CARRIE. The 1976 film, based on Stephen King’s first novel, is accurately listed under Horror, even though the channel hosting it, Impact: Action on Demand bills itself as “the first video-on-demand (VOD) channel dedicated exclusively to action programming.”
All told, at this time there are approximately a half dozen Science Fiction movie titles (including DESTINATION MOON and Crackle’s STARMAN) and 16 or 17 Horror Movie titles (depending on whether you count TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE and CARNIVAL OF SOULS, both listed under Mystery & Suspense).
There is no horror sub-category for television shows, but the Science Fiction TV subcategory currently contains 8 titles, including the original OUTER LIMITS. You can find addition science fiction and fantasy titles under Animation (e.g., ROUGHNECKS: STARSHIP TROOPERS) or Action & Adventure (JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT, CONAN THE ADVENTURER. SHE-RA PRINCESS OF POWER, FLASH GORDON).
There is also something called the YouTube Screening Room, which adds a new batch of four titles every new week. For the most part, these are low-profile independent films, which might or might not have screened at festivals; many of them are short subjects. This is sort of a virtual reality version of an art house cinema, but some science fiction and fantasy creeps in around the edges.