Roku: the Wild West of Streaming Services

Streaming entertainment is a growing way for people to consume everything from sports to movies to television shows, encouraging many people to cut the cord of traditional cable television to save money while increasing their viewing options. If you have a Roku device and want to watch genre films but don’t want to be overwhelmed by all the choices, start by checking out the channels below.

MaddyGTV Late Night

MaddyGTV Late Night is one of many free channels from MaddyGTV. This channel features many independent exploitation films that you might have seen on late night Cinemax in the 1990s like BIKINI CARWASH COMPANY (1990) as well as low budget erotic cable series.

Pros

  1. MaddyGTV Late Night and all of the MaddyGTV channels have an easy to use interface. Categories of content such as movies, originals, anthologies, and series are organized within their own folders. After you click each folder, movies or TV shows will be broken up into different descriptors such as short films, thriller movies, late night classics, romance for couples, a seasonal category (at the time of this writing, this category is Bikini Season), cartoons for adults, female revenge fantasy, and LGBT theater.
  2. The selection and rotation of movies on MaddyGTV Late Night is excellent. Make no mistake, these are exploitation films and you are more than likely to have at least heard of some of the films on offering. Here are a few examples, many of which were also VHS staples from the rental era of home video: ANGEL (1984), AVENGING ANGEL (1984), ANGEL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1988), HARDBODIES (1984), DRESSED TO KILL (1980), VIRGIN HUNTERS (1994), and MISS MARCH (2009).

Cons

  1. Like most of the Roku Channels I will be reviewing, you will have to sit through commercials. MaddyGTV seems to have an overabundance of commercials. I clicked on the MaddyGTV Late Night Live and sat through multiple commercials before the programming started.
  2. Some of the original content isn’t the greatest, but it is free. The budget often shows immediately.

B-Movie TV

B-Movie TV is a free streaming channel that does not offer video on demand and specializes in exploitation and B-movies

Pros

  1. The films featured on B-Movie TV do not fall under one specific genre. Each night of the week features a different genre such as action, horror, or science fiction. I also talked to the fine people who run this channel and they do pride themselves on the selection of the movies and the rarity and ridiculousness of some the films shown.
  2. B-Movie TV attempts to be a normal TV channel by having different hosts throughout the week for genre specific shows. Some of the hosts are Joey V and his show Action Smacked, Lucy Fur hosts Midnight Sleaze, Christine host Saturday Night Terrors and Holly J Fox hosts Midnight Owl TV.
  3. B-Movie TV provides a wide variety of programming. Yes, this channel mainly focuses on movies, but they also have a variety of other shows talking about movies, daring people to do different things for a dollar, independent wrestling broadcasts, and a slew of music videos.
  4. B-Movie TV takes advantage of entertaining sponsorships. Unlike the rest of the free Roku channels, B-Movie TV has no traditional commercials. There are, however, promotions in between movies ranging from movie trailers, weird actual product commercials, and music videos. Not including the screen roll which will let you know when the movies start, I would consider this all entertainment.

Cons

  1. You never know what will be on. Considering the type of films B-Movie TV plays, the average person will not know what movie they just watched unless they were lucky enough to start at the beginning and catch the opening credits. You can go to the B-Movie TV Facebook page for a description of the movies broadcast on that day, but they are never named.
  2. The quality of some of the films are not the best. Considering they are most likely VHS rips it is acceptable but image quality might be a complaint for some viewers who are new to genre films.

Shout Factory TV

Shout Factory TV is a free Roku Channel from Shout Factory the home media publishing company.

Pros

  1. The Shout Factory TV library represents an excellent selection of films and TV shows for the entire family. This includes everything from reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Smurfs to the horror classic NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) featuring Linnea Quigley.
  2. My favorite part about Shout Factory TV is the inclusion of film commentaries. Currently 9 movies have commentaries on the channel. These are separate from the actual clean version of the films so you can choose what version you want to watch. This lists does seem to rotate but currently you can catch BODY BAGS (1993) featuring director John Carpenter and KNIGHTRIDERS (1981) featuring George Romero, Tom Savini and John Amplas.
  3. Shout Factory TV does feature original programming. The best original show is called Backlot. This show features interviews with directors like John Carpenter, Roger Corman, Joe Dante and Mel Brooks. You can also find comic con panels, table reads for television shows and writers of television shows. This is a great find if you want to dive deeper into the minds of Hollywood legends.

Cons

  1. In order for Shout Factory TV to be free there are commercials and the commercials will pop up in the middle of a scene. I believe the commercials are based on the time that a viewer has watched a program. Approximately every 10 minutes a commercial will pop up, interrupting your programming. This will hurt a movie watching experience, but you are getting those movies for free.

Tubi TV

Tubi TV is a channel that is a free alternative to Netflix. They even go as far having a section called Not On Netflix.

Pros

  1. Tubi TV has a large selection of films and television shows. My personal favorite section is Cult Favorites. At the time of this writing, you can find MS. 45 (1981), FOXY BROWN (1974) and ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1977). Other sections include the basics: Horror, Action, Drama, etc.  I really cannot even explain how deep the catalog Tubi TV has. There is something here for the entire family ranging from the above mentioned movies to romantic comedies to work out videos to cartoons for the kiddos and even a preschool section.
  2. Like Netflix you are able to create a queue of movies or television shows you want to see in the future and there is a Continue Watching section. There is also a search function that works for the most part, but it seems you have to be pretty specific when searching. Overall the interface will feel comfortable for most people as Netflix is in almost every household. I would say this is just as important as a great selection.
  3. The quality of the transfers are excellent on Tubi TV. I watched BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA (1973) after reading the review for that film on the BBandBC site and it was the best quality I have seen for this title. Pam Grier looked every bit amazing as I remembered her but she also seemed to be a lot more defined.

Cons

  1. By now you can pretty much guess what is about to said here. Commercials! They aren’t as bad as other channels like MaddiGTV Late Night but they do seem to appear at unlikely times. I have noticed that this has become less of an issue as they seem to be popping up between scenes which is a bit more appropriate.
  2. I know I have just praised the quality of the film transfers and I stand by that. However, when I was watching MIRACLE BEACH (1992) the audio was not synced with the picture, which was off-putting. I got the through the film but that was an annoying aspect to an otherwise entertaining movie.
  3. To access Tubi TV you have to sign up, which means using your email address or syncing with your Facebook account.

Full Moon Streaming

Full Moon Streaming originates from low budget film impresario Charles Band, the same person that brought us classics like PUPPET MASTER (1989), GINGERDEAD MAN (2005), EVIL BONG (2006) and TRANCERS (1985). There are two ways you can subscribe to this pay service and I will review both – the Roku Full Moon Streaming application or the Amazon Video Channel.

Pros

  1. Full Moon Streaming has a great selection of films ranging from Full Moon originals to movies from Something Weird Video. The quality of these are as good as the folks at Full Moon can get them. If they can remaster a film better than what is currently offered, expect to see that version appear on the streaming service in the future.
  2. Full Moon Streaming organizes their content on the Roku service in folders, much like MaddyGTV Late Night, a format I prefer over the few jumbled categories used within the Amazon Video Channel. On Roku, you can select Something Weird Video or Full Moon Video. Organization is key when it comes to these services. To make this all the more odd  is that the categories are the same on the Amazon Video phone/tablet app but the interface makes scrolling for a movie a lot easier.
  3. Full Moon and Charles Band have done something that I find interesting. The original content on Full Moon Streaming is great quality (or at least the quality one can expect from Full Moon). The first original series they had a few years ago was called Trophy Heads. This features a number of original Scream Queens and has a pretty good story. I watched this series over a matter of weeks. Once complete, the full series was released as a single movie on Blu-Ray and DVD, which I purchased. They have released the next Puppet Master movie in the same fashion. On top of this, Full Moon has started making new Seduction Cinema films which are featured on Full Moon Streaming.

Cons

  1. There is a big negative when using the Full Moon Streaming application. Remember when I mentioned how much I liked the folders on the Roku application? Apparently, that application can only be on one Roku in a house. I was not able to start a movie in the living room and then finish it in my bedroom where I have another Roku unit. You can do this using the Amazon Video Channel for Full Moon content. However, you can do this by adding a separate subscription. In other words, if you have the Full Moon Streaming application and multiple Rokus you will need multiple subscriptions to watch in different rooms. I suppose this is one way to stop sharing an account with friends and family.
  2. The Amazon Video Channel is a mess! Yes there are categories, but at the end of the day you will probably end up scrolling a list of 175 movies because not all of the films seem to fit in one of the listed categories.

Blue Mermaid Drive-In Theater

Blue Mermaid Drive-In Theater is sort of like B-Movie TV in the sense that you can tell they pride themselves on movies found a bit off the beaten path. The difference here is that this is all on demand.

Pros

  1. As with a lot of channels reviewed on this list, Blue Mermaid features a pretty extensive selection. Unlike any channel mentioned prior to this, there are 2 Double Feature selections. The pairing of these movies each have a theme. Examples would be Russ Meyer Sexy Comedies Double Features with MONDO TOPLESS (1966)  and COMMON LAW CABIN (1967) or Naughty Nuns! Double Feature KILLER NUN (1979) and THE NUN & THE DEVIL (1973). Something that none of the other channels feature is a Russ Meyer section simply named The Russ Meyer Collection. There are 10 films including UP! (1976), BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970) and of course, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965). There is also a Prison and Convents section with THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972) and THE OTHER HELL (1981). In the Late Night Drama section you will find Jess Franco films and THE STORY OF O (1975). The Karate & Kung Fu section does have a few Bruceploitation films like BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE (1976) and some Sonny Chiba movies like THE STREET FIGHTER (1974).

Cons

  1. The commercials on this channel are excessive to say the least. Not too much can be said about this, they need to make money somehow I suppose.
  2. The quality of these movies are not the best. These are not the best transfers but you are kind of stuck considering this is the only place I have seen many of these films on Roku.
  3. The movie you select might not be the movie you actually get. I found an error on one selection, SCHOOL SPIRIT (1985). After sitting through 5 commercials ranging from cereal to exercise equipment a grainy black and white movie appeared. I should have seen what movie played but out of frustration I backed out of this and returned to the menu.

For most of the free channels listed above the big downside is commercial breaks in random spots of a movie or TV show. It seems to be the price you have to pay to see free movies. The huge upside to these channels is the selection of movies seems never ending. Some films will appear on more than one channel but more often than not you will find something different on each channel.

I know I am missing a lot of good channels on this very brief list. Share your favorite Roku streaming channels in the comment section below and in our Facebook community.

Contributed by Richard Strahsburg