While Halloween rolls around only once a year, you can find some quality horror on Halloween almost every day. Horror themed television shows have long been popular on television, with early shows like The Outer Limits and Dark Shadows focusing on the strange and chilling, while more recent series like The Strain and The Following take a more twisted and gory route. If you want to get some quality horror binge watching in this weekend, here are five shows guaranteed to keep you up at night:
The Walking Dead
While Marvel may dominate the comic book movie landscape, there isn’t a bigger comic book television show than The Walking Dead. An adaptation of the popular Image comic series, The Walking Dead features a group of survivors led by former sheriff Rick Grimes as they try to survive during a zombie apocalypse. While The Walking Dead’s zombies are an ever present threat for Rick and his friends, the show goes to great lengths to show that humans are just as dangerous and deadly as humans. Over the course of the show’s six seasons, cannibals, deranged sociopaths, and gangs of bloodthirsty murderers have killed as many of Rick’s friends as zombies have. While much of the show is based on arcs from the comic, showrunners have kept The Walking Dead unpredictable by killing off some beloved characters long before they die in the comics, while allowing others to live long past their original “expiration date.”
The Twilight Zone
Although most Americans associate the 1950s and 1960s with “wholesome” TV shows like Leave It to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show, the decade also produced one of the most terrifying TV shows of all time: The Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone was an anthology series, featuring new actors and new stories each week. While most episodes focused more on “weird” science fiction stories than outright horror, many episodes of The Twilight Zone left viewers disturbed, usually due to unexpected twists and ambiguous endings. Many famous actors made appearances on The Twilight Zone early in their careers including a young William Shatner, whose iconic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode remains one of The Twilight Zone’s most memorable episodes.
While The Twilight Zone wasn’t the first science fiction series to air on television, it certainly was one of the most popular and many credit the series for showing that serious science fiction shows could succeed on television. While The Twilight Zone lasted only five seasons, the show made such an impact on pop culture that CBS has tried several times to relaunch the series, most recently in 2002.
American Horror Story
FX’s most popular TV show, American Horror Story provides chilling and disturbing takes on popular horror tropes and concepts. American Horror Story is unique in how it subverted the popular “anthology series” format seen in shows like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Each season of the show stands alone from the others, taking place in a separate location with very few ties (if any) to previous seasons. However, American Horror Story retains several cast members each season, with actors like Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto and Evan Peters playing new and often wildly different characters.
So far, American Horror Story has taken on ghosts, asylums, witches, circuses and haunted hotels, each with wildly different and gruesome results. The body count each season is usually high, with deranged murderers and serial killers cutting through the cast of each season with twisted glee. Fans and critics alike seem to love the twisted horror series,as the show keeps winning awards and ratings keep going up each year. This season, American Horror Story brought in some major star power with the addition of Lady Gaga as the vampiric owner of a deadly hotel. Producers have enjoyed Gaga’s (unsurprisingly) bizarre acting so much, they’ve asked her to stay on for the show’s sixth season.
What if The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were a horror series? That’s the basic concept behind Penny Dreadful, a Showtime horror series that combines the worlds of classic Victorian horror and science fiction novels. Classic characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Gray and the Wolfman all play major roles in Penny Dreadful, usually in darker and more sinister roles than previous adaptations. Penny Dreadful stands apart from typical television adaptations of Victorian horror stories due to its star-studded cast led by Eva Green and Timothy Dalton and the high production quality, which goes to great lengths to bring a macabre and dark Victorian era England to life. The show also delights in terrifying its viewers; one episode last season featured a witch disemboweling an infant and sewing its entrails into a doll. Penny Dreadful’s second season just finished this summer; Showtime recently approved a third season which will air in 2016.
A horror show for those with...more refined palates, Hannibal was an NBC series starring Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer featured in movies like The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. Hannibal explored the complicated working relationship between Lecter and Will Graham, the FBI profiler ultimately responsible for Lecter’s arrest. Hannibal mixed intense psychological horror (Lecter is, after all, a psychiatrist and a master at manipulation) with gruesome acts of carnage that pushed the boundaries of what could be shown on television. Every other episode seemed to feature some sort of grotesquely mutilated body, not to mention the occasional displays of cannibalism. While Hannibal developed a cult following, NBC cancelled the show after three seasons. Hannibal went out with a bang, ending with a loose adaptation of Red Dragon, the novel that introduced Lecter to the world.