Horror TV shows are quite a staple in American television.
Horror has always been an exciting genre. Some people like sitting on the edge of their seats, trying to prepare for the next scare or surprise. The idea of a powerful threat, human or inhuman, hunting down helpless victims? Relatable to most of us.
Horror proves a great medium for people to explore that sense of dread and fear. However, scary movies aren’t always enough to scratch the itch. Too short. Repetitive. Not scary enough. Hence, of course horror film bled over into television shows. Putting horror through a set of episodes offers fans a steady diet of horror.
We’ll be taking a look at horror TV shows that will be great to watch for the Halloween season. Of note, we won’t be including any anime or animated series in this list, but there are plenty of those and they deserve a list on their own!
Classic Horror TV Shows: The Twilight Zone
The show that started it all! Still popular to this day, The Twilight Zone had a very unique take on storytelling that shared a lot of elements with radio shows in the 1950s. Clever executives took that concept and put it on a TV.
Rod Sterling not only lends his voice as the narrator but as a writer for almost every single episode of The Twilight Zone. Each episode weaves its own story, with themes and struggles that unique to the characters involved. From a man being the only living human on Earth to a woman tormented and haunted by a UFO, The Twilight Zone offers the unexpected and addresses both practical and existential fears.
The Twilight Zone began in 1959. Each season has over 30 episodes for viewers to watch. Even after Rod Serling passed away, the series continued until 2020 with multiple people taking on the narration, including Jordan Peele. Regardless of which season you start with, you will experience timeless tales.
Bloody Horror TV Shows: Tales from the Crypt
Tales from the Crypt is one of those ideas that became a living nightmare. Based on the comic book series of the same name, the show originally aired on HBO starting in 1989. It ran up until 1996. While it does take some inspiration from The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt puts its own spin on it.
The Cryptkeeper takes us on a rather interesting journey as we look at tales of horror, blood, and terror. Made for a more mature audience, every episode is essentially like a mini R-rated movie. Most of these stories came from the Tales of the Crypt comics or comic books from the same source material.
This series developed a large cult following, despite the fact that when it was released for public cable, networks cut the majority of scenes in order to be shown. Yet the Cryptkeeper’s tales were popular enough to inspire several spin-offs, movies, and even a cartoon show. Guess Goosebumps weren’t enough for some kids, huh?
You would never think that a show involving the FBI would have anything to do with the supernatural. Or, would you? The X-Files takes your suspicions and turns them into paranoia.
Two FBI agents, Mulder and Scully, get cases from The X-Files. These cases involve mysteries that dive into strange and rather mysterious forces that the agency cannot fix through human means. Mostly, these cases involve alien life forms or the paranormal. Between Mulder’s belief and fascination with the supernatural and Scully’s more logical and methodical approach, these two agents take the buddy cop trope and transfer it to horror TV shows.
The original series had tens seasons that ran from 1998 to 2002. Admittedly, fans started to detach when David Duchovny left the show at season 7.
In 2016, The X-Files returned and ran until 2018. Plus, few movies sprinkled here and there throughout canon. If you’re into investigative shows, this is the horror TV show for you.
Of all the horror villains that we’ve seen, none are quite as complex or disturbing as Hannibal Lecter. This former psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer always skates that line between being a monster and also being the only help that the FBI can turn to.
Several movies dve into the story behind this legedary fictional madman. Maybe no one was surprised when he ended up getting his own horror TV show.
Hannibal is an amalgamation of all three movies that explore Dr. Lecter’s life. Set mostly in the Red Dragon storyline, Lecter works with a new FBI agent to investigate murders happening all over Minnesota. The only thing? Lecter is the killer. He constantly manipulates agent Will Graham through his interactions with him and even convinces Graham to become a killer himself.
The show went through three seasons from 2013 to 2015 and gained huge attention from audiences. While we don’t get to see Sir Anthony Hopkins reprise his role, Mads Mikkelsen does a fabulous job stepping into Lecter’s shoes.
If you do decide to watch this horror TV show, just be sure you have a strong stomach. Fava beans and a bottle of Chiandy won’t sound as appetizing afterward.
Mystery Horror TV Shows: Twin Peaks
Fans to this day still can’t decide whether Twin Peaks is a horror show or a comedy drama. Honestly, it’s one of those series that you can’t compare to anything else.
Who killed Laura Palmer?
The quiet town of Twin Peaks is shaken after the murder of their beloved homecoming queen. The FBI then sends in Special Agent Dale Cooper to help the local law enforcement investigate. What begins as a by-the-book detective case ends up becoming rather complex as it seems this town has more than one secret.
The series was cancelled after the second season, ending on a cliffhanger. The interest was there but the ratings were not in the favor of the studio at the time. A movie called Fire Walk With Me proved divisive with audiences at first, although it’s since come to be regarded as one of the best movies made in the 1990s and as eerily ahead of its time.
However, the fans were so stubborn enough that they wanted to help David Lynch save this series. A third season, set almost 25 years after the show’s second season ended, aired in 2017. The return of the main cast of the show was enough for the series to continue one last time.
Twin Peaks’s mastery of psychological horror means it’s still widely discussed by people to this day. The random moments of comedy along with disturbing scenes of violence, manipulation, and conspiracy set it apart from other shows. Being part scary and part hilarious makes Twin Peaks a must-watch for all television watchers. Even beyond the instant experience, Twin Peaks invites us to consider the true horrors we all have hidden inside us.
When people talk about Alfred Hitchcock’s work, the movie Psycho is usually the first that comes to mind. Between the iconic shower scene to the rather disturbing case of Norman Bates, it’s a hallmark in horror.
People can’t help but wonder how Norman Bates became a killer. That’s where Bates Motel comes in.
Bates Motel is a series that set itself out to be a prequel to Psycho. It shows Norman and his mother trying to live a quiet life owning a motel after the death of Norman’s father. Things end up taking a turn for the worse, however, when Norman’s mother, Norma, is attacked by the previous owner. What began as an act of self-defense becomes a cover-up for murder as the Bates try to keep the police from uncovering the truth. This is where the spiral begins and Norman’s psyche breaks down.
Despite not having Hitchcock behind the story, it feels like a love letter to the Hitchcock films. Both Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga give amazing performances. The series spans 5 seasons from 2013 to 2017.
Science-Fiction Horror TV Shows: The Outer Limits
If The Twilight Zone added even more aliens and melodrama to their stories, then it would become The Outer Limits. Yes, this series felt like it was trying to be The Twilight Zone at times. Yet, it holds pretty strong as its own thing.
Much like its inspiration, The Outer Limits starts with its cold opening. The narrator brings in the story before the show begins. Each episode was its own tale and had its themes, characters, and plot. Unlike The Twilight Zone, though, The Outer Limits was heavy on mixing science fiction with horror, adding a layer of mystique to what’s already mysterious.
The original series started back in 1963, but modern fans are more familiar with the 1995 series. Not only did it revive the series from obscurity, it even brought its flair with recurring storylines and plot twists no one ever saw coming. The 1995 show continued for seven seasons, before finally ending in 2002.
Ash vs Evil Dead
The Evil Dead franchise is one that fans never tire of. In fact, there have already been a couple of reboot movies since the last film Army of Darkness. Fans were not happy when they saw that Bruce Campbell wouldn’t reprise his role as the groovy Ash Williams in the 2013 reboot. STill, our beloved chainsaw-armed hero would ride again in Ash vs Evil Dead.
Taking place 30 years after the Army of Darkness, Ash has done his best to live a somewhat normal life to forget about all that happened to him. But when one drunken night of fun goes awry, the Evil Dead are once again brought back thanks to his bumbling. In typical Ash Williams fashion, he tries to muster up the courage he needs to once again face off against the armies of the undead and save humanity.
With the Raimi Brothers and Campbell at the helm, along with getting returning cast members from the previous movies to come back, Ash vs Evil Dead feels like The Evil Dead movie we’ve always wanted. Lots of humor sprinkles among the blood and gore the series is known for.
The series went on strong from 2015 to 2018, before inevitably getting canceled before a fourth season could be pitched. In all fairness, even Campbell had a feeling it was going to happen eventually, so he was happy things could end the way they did. However, during an interview, he did mention that an animated series of the show is coming very soon.
Until then, we’ve got plenty of deadites and one-liners to keep us entertained. Just remember folks, shop smart, shop S Mart.
The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries is a good example of taking something that’s been done to death and turning it on its head to make something special. Teen dramas and horror don’t usually mix all that commonly, and when they do they almost always involve vampires. The Vampire Diaries takes what’s best about these genres and proves itself a worthy successor to Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
In the strange town of Mystic Falls, vampire families govern the town on their agenda to keep the peace while also staying alert for any other supernatural threats that would come to pass. Two brothers, Stefan and Damon, end up in a love triangle with an orphan girl Elena. They try to protect her from any threats that come their way while keeping secrets of their own from her.
The Vampire Diaries does an interesting job of showing what hiding secrets can do to people when dealing with a person who isn’t aware of their intentions. Adding in the idea of a town having a strong connection to the supernatural also gives that added tension that fans of romance dramas crave and the kind of scares that horror fans would expect.
Yeah yeah, call us predictable and expected on this pick. I’s not hard to say why Stranger Things deserves a watch for all horror fans. Not only did it show that Netflix can make great shows, it also showed that it could have a future in making horror shows and movies.
Set in the 1980s, the small town of Hawkins, Indiana ends up becoming ground zero for a secret government experiment with the supernatural. The Hawkins National Laboratory ends up creating a rift between dimensions as they discover a new world called the Upside Down. When a group of kids discover this conspiracy and try to rescue a psychic girl, it is very clear that there is more to our world and the Upside Down than what meets the eye.
Stranger Things feels like a big collaboration of ideas. There are several influences from Stephen King, Akira, The Last of Us, and Silent Hill all here against a 1980s backdrop. It has gone on strong for four seasons with a fifth and final season still in the works. It will make you laugh, cry, jump out of your seat, and bring up a lot of internal questions—the things the very best horror offers.