If you think you’ve exhausted your viewing options, think again. shutterstock/NATNN

Before cracking the occasional joke about our collective current health crisis, a disclaimer: Coronavirus is no joke. Stay home if you can. Wash hands. And don’t hoard necessary items – that’s just lame. 

For a movie fanatic who’s also prone to social anxiety and who prefers a night home watching old and/or weird movies on the couch, the drastic efforts to contain the coronavirus/COVID-19 might seem a little redundant. Still, there’s a limit to how many times the average, responsibly self-isolating person or family can watch the same movies or TV shows over and over again while waiting for the green light from the World Health Organization. (Again, that’s the average person; I have personally started yet another rewatch of director John Carpenter’s movies. This may be my 100th go-around for “Big Trouble In Little China.”) Even with the multitude of specialized streaming options out there (and expensively proliferating by the day), it’s entirely possible for the daily “there’s nothing on” blues to turn into the shut-in’s “if I have to watch reruns of ‘Frasier’ one more time, I will literally lapse into a boredom-coma” lament.  

But your old, reliable Indie Film pal is here to help.  

Now, I could go on about how I’ve advised everyone to hang onto physical media hard copies of things you know you love and could watch 101 times, but that’s not helping. Instead, here are some off-the-map streaming options you might not know about, collectively packed with enough eclectic entertainment options to help you weather the uniquely horrible cocktail of boredom and anxiety we homebodies are currently stuck in. 

Acorn TV. For your inner Brit, this streaming service houses the entire catalog of Acorn Media, the English company behind great swathes of your favorite British dramas, comedies, mysteries, and those soothingly sedate British versions of reality shows, where politely enthusiastic hosts tour castles and cheese-making factories and so forth. 

Best reasons to subscribe: There are the cozy old favorites that always flew off the shelves of Videoport’s British Humour section. (“Lovejoy,” “Doc Martin,” “Hamish MacBeth”). There’s the mountain of mystery series (“Midsomer Murders,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” the David Suchet “Poirot” series, the Sandra Oh-starring “Thorne”) that suggest that the quaint British Isles are knee-deep in bodies. And, best of all, there’s the Canadian series “Slings & Arrows,” easily one of the best TV shows ever made – personally, I put it right behind “The Wire” on my all time list – which is worth the subscription cost on its own. 

Cost: Here’s the great part. While Acorn’s $5.99/month subscription is reasonable enough, there’s a 7-day free trial for you to test the chilly British waters, and Acorn, in a true act of cross-Atlantic charity, has offered up a 30-day free trial. Use the code FREE30, and binge your heart out for a month. Maybe things will look a little more normal by then. 

Kanopy. Speaking of free, hey, do you have a library card or attend college in Maine? Then you might also have a free subscription to this wonderfully extensive streaming service. Sadly, the Portland Public Library’s not a subscriber, but people in Scarborough, Lewiston-Auburn, and many other Maine library jurisdictions are, so if you’re on the list, you’ve got completely free access to a truly impressive and up-to-date library of recent releases, classics, documentaries and lots more. 

Best reasons to subscribe: Just glancing at the front page, I see everything from “Moonlight” to “Chinatown” to “Lady Bird” to “What We Do in the Shadows.” And did I mention free?

Cost: Again, did I mention it’s free? 

Shudder. Did you horror nuts think I’d forget about you? This all-horror streaming service is a no-brainer for fans of the darker side of cinema, with a deep and constantly evolving roster of horror classics (and beloved not-classics) old and new. 

Best reasons to subscribe: Apart from guaranteed mind-blowers (and possible up-throwers) like the Nicholas Cage phantasmagoria “Mandy” or the grimy underground revenge flick “Revenge” (not just a clever title, that), Shudder’s catalog reaches deep into the genre’s grimiest corners and pulls out flicks from George Romero, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Hitchcock and more Italian “masters of horror” than you can shake a garishly bloody stick at. Plus, Shudder’s got lots of old TV horror anthologies, new series (like the Joe Hill-based “NOS4ATU”), and even a Drive-In cult horror series hosted by the great Joe Bob Briggs. 

Cost: Horror fans should cough up the $4.99/month easy, and there’s always a 7-day free trial.

The Criterion Channel. Not to run it in or anything, but we video store geeks told y’all that your precious, store-killing Netflix was a racket. Hyping up the “we’ve got everything” talk while recommending the same old medium-quality time-wasters and exclusive Adam Sandler content, Netflix was designed to disappoint (and to drive Videoport under, not that anyone’s bitter). One thing Videoport customers always gravitated toward was our section dedicated to this company that, in turn, was dedicated to putting out deluxe, special feature-laden editions of the best movies in world cinema history (plus some carefully selected oddities, cult films and the avant-garde). So I’ll give the same advice here I gave there: You can pretty much close your eyes and pick a movie at random from Criterion’s unparalleled lineup, and you’ll come away with something fascinating, entertaining and downright essential. 

Best reasons to subscribe: Um, everything? There are over 2,000 Criterion releases on the site at this point, but I’ll just point out the ones I need to watch right now in John Sayles’ quintessentially American indie “Matewan,” Wong Kar-Wai’s sumptuous romance “In The Mood For Love,” and, hell, no lock-in’s complete without another viewing of “Robocop.” 

Cost: The $9.99/month tag (or $99/year) is on the higher side, but, trust me, it’s worth it, even when you do have the option to go outside.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: