Top 30 Most Terrifying Television Series
Until recently, horror shows on television were relatively mild. There has always been a cap on how much blood and gore a show on the major networks could feature (although, interestingly, police procedural shows have been given free reign to push the limits and play up the gritty factor). Therefore, the predominant tone was more eerie or atmospheric than outright terrifying. There had previously been restrictions on what could be shown on television, but with the rise of premium cable networks and then streaming platforms, this became much less of an issue. It was acceptable to use sexual language, curse, and generally make things creepier than they had ever been.
However, not all good horror TV shows have premiered in the last decade; in fact, that's not even close to being the case. It's true that suspense and horror have been staples of American television since at least the '50s, and that they've changed and adapted over time to reflect the things we fear most.
It's not surprising that a show like "Haunted Collector" would be produced given the widespread interest in true crime and real-life mysteries. It functions as a pseudo-documentary in which people who claim to have experienced paranormal events share their accounts with the camera. The success or failure of these ghost stories depends on the teller, as it does with any ghost story. Some are more believable than others (and indeed, despite having the label "true story" applied liberally, there are a few with very little corroborating evidence).
We are reminded that these are just the most recent entries in a centuries-old oral storytelling tradition by placing the subject in a room with friends and family rather than having them do a traditional one-on-one confessional style interview describing their experiences. To further emphasize the agony and trauma felt by those who believe themselves to be haunted, "Haunted" peppers their story with genuinely horrifying, gruesome reenactments.
"Evil," one of the few network shows to make the cut, is like "The X-Files" but for possessions instead of alien sightings. It follows the same formula as the seminal 1990s genre show, with a skeptic and a true believer being thrown together to solve cases that push the bounds of our comprehension. David Acosta (Mike Colter) is a young priest who investigates claims of miracles and possession by the devil. Dr Forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) investigates claims of the paranormal and determines whether or not they are the result of mental illness. The pair notices something strange that neither of them could have noticed alone.
"Evil" has recently been shifted from CBS to Paramount, and it still delights in the discomfort it purposefully causes. There are no pat explanations for the terrifying visions presented, and the story forces its protagonists and its audience to question their preconceived notions about the cosmos.
If only for the Tooth Child scene, "Channel Zero" would have to be considered one of the best horror shows of all time. The horror anthology series aired for four seasons on Syfy, bringing to life some of the most terrifying creepypasta stories (Internet-era urban legends, many of which went on to become widely known). The first season focused on a gruesome child killer whose skin was made entirely of human teeth, and each of the following five seasons would feature a different story over the course of six episodes.
Critics were unanimous in their praise for all four seasons of the show, praising its ability to capitalize on basic, universal childhood fears with striking visuals that would stay with viewers. Although they clearly prioritize telling a good story first and foremost, you have to admire their dedication to the fear factor in bringing the scariest content possible to a network that isn't necessarily known for their horror output.
Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates as a psychotic hawk is largely responsible for the character's status as a cinematic legend. Even though we only see his mother and sister in the first "Psycho," we still get a sense of his dysfunctional family life. It's not much, but it's enough to make us wonder how he ended up talking to skeletons in his basement in the first place. A tantalizing glimpse of a young Norma and Norman Bates, an eerily dependent couple for the ages, is provided in "Bates Motel."
They nailed it with their casting choices, and that’s a big reason why “Bates Motel” succeeds. The role of Norman himself was a natural fit for Freddie Highmore, who played Charlie in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and Peter Pan in "Finding Neverland." Because of his youthful appearance, he could pass for either innocent or sinister, depending on the situation. You know you've won the game when Vera Farmiga is cast as a mentally unstable mother.
"Stranger Things," a brutal homage to 1980s adventure films, became an instant Netflix hit after its debut season. Secrets were infused into a seemingly normal suburban town, and they all came to a head when a preteen named Will Byers went missing. The "Upside Down" is a mysterious and extremely hazardous world beneath the surface of Hawkins, Indiana, inhabited by Lovecraftian creatures that pose a threat to the lives of anyone they come into contact with. Not only that, but there's a mysterious girl who seems to have telekinetic abilities, a shaved head, and an unhealthy obsession with Eggos.
One of the best parts of "Stranger Things" is the friendship between the main group of kids who go on an adventure to find Will, the missing member of their D&D group. The boys are all friendly and genuine, and they have great chemistry together. While nostalgic for the 1980s and "The Goonies," there is also a surprising amount of disturbing content that will satisfy horror fans.
First things first: no, "The Walking Dead" has not been the most reliable show in television history. It wasn't as good as some other genre shows on TV, but at its peak, it held its own. Andrew Lincoln plays Sheriff Rick Grimes, who, after being shot, wakes up in the hospital to find himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. While searching for his family in the South's rural areas and abandoned cities, he forms an impromptu alliance with a group of strangers.
The zombie violence on the show was unrelenting, and it was made clear early on that any character could die at any time. And it changed a lot in the first few seasons, making the stakes higher and putting the misfits in new situations. It veered off course a bit in the middle, but that doesn't take away from the genuine chills and tears it brought us in the beginning, as we watched beloved characters we'd grown attached to die and, what's worse, be forced to kill each other.
The British anthology series "Black Mirror" straddles the line between science fiction and horror, reflecting the fear that modern technology inspires in its characters and leading them to act out terrifying scenarios. Tonally, it's all over the place; there are episodes that are almost humorous or bittersweet, and others that are filled with an existential dread that stays with you long after the credits roll. There are some episodes that are as disturbing as any traditional horror show, even though none of them are scary in the traditional sense of ghosts, monsters, or serial killers.
They hurtfully call into question your faith in humanity. In "Black Mirror," the dangers of technological dependency are explored through a series of fictional cautionary tales that, in most adaptations, would make viewers roll their eyes and see the protagonists' fears as overly alarmist. It's executed so well here that it compels reflection.
Numerous competitors have sprung up to try and steal "American Horror Story's" thunder as one of the most popular and longest-running horror anthology series. The stories change from season to season, but always take place in eerily familiar settings. Who knows what Ryan Murphy will subject us to next; we've already seen freak shows, cults, haunted hotels, mental hospitals, and the year 1984.
New characters are introduced, though many of the same actors have appeared in multiple incarnations of the show, playing different characters. Particularly impressive was Jessica Lange's run on "American Horror Story," during which she appeared in the first four seasons and won Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Awards for her portrayals. It's important not to fool ourselves: not all seasons of "American Horror Story" are the same. However, there is sufficient spookiness in at least one or two of them to warrant watching during the Halloween season. Start with "Murder House" or "Asylum." )
The Twilight Zone is the most iconic example of its genre on television. The show premiered in 1959 and quickly gained notoriety for addressing the anxieties of Cold War America in a way that more conventional drama could not. The influence of "The Twilight Zone" on subsequent horror, science fiction, and mystery thrillers over the course of several decades cannot be overstated. (Not to mention the countless times it has been parodied or otherwise riffed upon in other cultural contexts.) )
The show's creator, head writer, and host, Rod Serling, hoped to avoid controversy by using the show's allegorical nature to address contemporary issues like civil rights and the Red Scare. Aliens and monsters stand in for common human flaws, creating the ideal blend of horror and social awareness.
The story follows a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf as they attempt to live a normal life while sharing a flat together. The existential drama in "Being Human" is lightened by a knowing wink to the camera as it approaches the inevitable chaos. Most of the time it plays like a horror comedy, with absurd elements offsetting the more serious moments, but at its core it deals with themes of suffering, isolation, and guilt.
Aidan Turner's portrayal of John Mitchell, a vampire tormented by guilt over his past violent behavior as a traditional bloodsucker, is particularly effective at this. To atone for his sins, he takes on the most untraditional job for a vampire: cleaning a hospital, where he will be exposed to not only vulnerable humans but also an endless supply of blood.
The occult held a special allure for Victorians who sought to replace their religious worldview with a more rational scientific one. Weird occurrences are collected and used as proof of an afterlife, a replacement for the biblical paradise that became less certain as the Age of Enlightenment progressed. Therefore, it is appropriate that this era would serve as not only a suitable backdrop for a horror show, but also as a rich source from which to draw traditional ghost stories.
Eva Green plays Vanessa Ives on "Penny Dreadful," a powerful medium who becomes embroiled in supernatural events. In addition to incorporating historical Gothic figures like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and original characters like her and American gunman Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) whose stories have been written specifically for the show, It's the same literary universe in which Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray coexist.
One of the purest forms of horror on television we've had in the past 20 years, "Supernatural" was originally conceived as a monster-of-the-week teen drama. Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) travel the country in each episode to battle various supernatural beings. As the series progressed into its later seasons, the conflict between angels, demons, and humans became the primary narrative focus. But in the beginning, there were just two emotionally repressed guys who spent their days salting and burning corpses as a way to avoid therapy.
That was the most terrifying part of the show. Each episode is almost its own horror film, drawing on the kind of classic ghost stories and monster mythology that makes it hard to watch in the dark. The Winchester brothers are the only ones who can bring peace to the supernatural world, which is constantly at war with humanity, and they do this through gore and jump scares.
Some children born in the 2000s will relate to "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" opened the door to terror for them. It was an anthology show with a basic premise: every week, a group of teenagers gather in the woods to tell scary stories to one another, and the show aired during Nickelodeon's Saturday Night programming (also known as "SNICK" and aimed at a slightly older demographic than their daytime shows). Kristin, for example, preferred telling ghost stories with a romantic, bittersweet tone, while Gary's tales frequently included magic and the legendary Sardo ("No Mister, accent on the DOH. ")
Some of their experiences, however, were truly harrowing. The girl in "The Tale of the Dollmaker" gradually turns into a porcelain doll as her skin grows pale and her hands clasp together helplessly, unable to separate. The gruesome corpse from "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float" is enough to give many children of the 1990s nightmares.
Horror movie cliché: a teen boy and girl break into a deserted high school in the middle of the night. We're holding our breath in case something awful happens to the girl. But then, unexpectedly, she spins around, exposing a vampire's visage. Here, she is the danger. Creator Joss Whedon sets the tone early on that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will subvert horror genre conventions, particularly those that focus on gender roles. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Buffy, a former cheerleader turned supernatural hunter who grapples with trying to live up to her destiny while also navigating the challenges of adolescence.
Yes, Buffy goes off to fight monsters every night, but she's wisecracking the entire time, and some of the monsters are even kind of funny, as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" usually walks the line between horror and comedy. At other times, however, the show will conjure a truly grotesque image, such as der Kindestod from "Killed by Death" or the Gentlemen's twisted grins in "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte." "
There can be no happy endings in ghost stories. All of them start when a deceased person returns to the physical world and is unable to leave the house where they once lived. The film "The Haunting of Hill House" succeeds in capturing the profound sadness at the film's core while also providing shockingly effective jump scares that will haunt viewers (the image of the Bent-Neck Lady will likely remain lodged in our minds for quite some time). This is a bereaved and traumatized family who have isolated themselves from one another as a means of coping with their loss and trauma.
The Crain family relocates to an intimidating manor house with the hope of making a profit from its renovation. But almost immediately, all five kids start having terrifying, supernatural encounters. The classic warning signs that it's time to pack up and leave the house are things like hearing voices you can't see and seeing motion in a locked room. But disaster strikes before they have a chance to do so. The Crains will forever be defined by the magnitude of their tragedy. They are troubled not just by ghosts, but also by memories from the past.
Many readers of Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" felt satisfied by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise's portrayal of Louis and Lestat. Audiences were won over by their 1994 film thanks in large part to their performances, particularly those of Tom Cruise, who so delightfully plays against type. No one would bother making another film based on that vampire novel, right?
Ok, maybe not in that case Previously depicted as homoerotic but not overtly sexual, AMC's version allows Louis and Lestat to lose that ambiguity and give the vampire saga a sexier new spin. 'Game of Thrones' star Jacob Anderson plays Louis, a pimp in turn-of-the-century New Orleans who becomes enamored with Lestat (Sam Reid), a charismatic Frenchman with supernatural abilities. Let's just say he's had some life experience. The series' main actors inject new life into the classic vampire franchise and give the novel a modern twist. The result is an unexpected phenomenon that succeeds far beyond expectations.
H was influenced by the master of the disturbing and cosmically grotesque. P Lovecraft, so it should come as no surprise that "Lovecraft Country" is huge on horror. Starring Jonathan Majors, Atticus Black is a young veteran of the Korean War in the HBO series. To find his mysteriously absent father, he embarks on a journey with Leti (Jurnee Smollett), a childhood friend and possible love interest. Both supernatural and human horrors await them as they travel through Jim Crow-era America.
It's possible that not all of "Lovecraft Country" lives up to its intriguing premise. But the show's two appealing leads carry it, and the imaginative creatures they create only add to the show's overall appeal. At its finest, it succeeds where scares are concerned, conjuring up horrifying scenes that will stay with viewers long after they've seen the film. Lovecraft Country" was only a one-season show, but it received high marks for its cultural significance. Lovecraft Country, as NPR's Glen Weldon put it, "is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America, despite every fun, if wildly anachronistic element." "
Even though it's not quite as terrifying as its predecessor ("The Haunting of Hill House," whose car jump scene is 100% nightmare fuel), "The Haunting of Bly Manor" still has plenty of scary moments to keep viewers up at night. A young governess (Victoria Pedretti) is hired by a wealthy family to look after their two children in a creepy English manor. It doesn't take long before she starts to see ghostly figures wandering the creepy mansion.
If you're getting echoes of Henry James's chilling novella "The Turn of the Screw," you're not imagining things. The film's overall unease more than makes up for the lack of truly terrifying moments that could define a generation. Not only Pedretti, but also Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, and others from "The Haunting of Hill House" return to play different characters, which is a treat in and of itself.
It's arguable that Guillermo del Toro is the only living director who could pull off a successful horror anthology series. His ability to generate disturbing imagery is unparalleled, and it never fails to send shivers down the spines of his audience. My curiosity was piqued when I learned he would be directing the upcoming horror series "Cabinet of Curiosities" on Netflix. Incorporating a "Twilight Zone"-esque structure while showcasing the individual storytelling talents of his directors, he updates classic gothic tales for a contemporary audience.
Several genre filmmakers, such as Jennifer Kent ("The Babadook"), Ana Lily Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"), Keith Thomas ("The Vigil"), and Vincenzo Natali ("Splice"), get their time in the spotlight thanks to this series. Despite the fact that each episode stands on its own, the stories mesh beautifully. A A Even the most flawed of the collection get by on some cosmetic pleasure, performance, or authorial quirk," as penned by Chron critic Dowd. "
Soap operas once dominated prime-time television, though it's hard to remember those days. They aired for decades, winning legions of female viewers who wouldn't miss a single day of their "stories." Like the popular show "Days of Our Lives," many soap operas are set in the privileged upper class, whose outrageous antics provide ample material for melodramatic plot twists. Sometimes the melodramatic shows were filmed in a hospital, giving audiences a never-ending supply of comas, car wrecks, and shocking plastic surgery reveals.
However, everything shifted when "Dark Shadows" first aired in 1966. The wealthy but quirky Collins family and their vampiric patriarch Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) were at the center of ABC's gothic soap opera. Dark Shadows' legacy in television history is unshakeable because of the show's dark and brooding atmosphere (and its extreme campiness), which attracted viewers (especially teenage girls).
The anthology series "The Outer Limits" was created in part as a response to the success of "The Twilight Zone," which premiered four years earlier. It zeroed in on science fiction, capitalizing on people's fascination with the Space Race and their natural apprehension of the future.
Despite its origins as a cash-in on "The Twilight Zone" hype, the show went on to have a profound impact in the science fiction genre. Several of its creature designs have been used in "Star Trek," and the franchise also spawned a successful mid-1990s revival series. We haven't seen a glimpse of what a 21st-century "The Outer Limits" might look like, despite numerous attempts to reboot the series (Variety reports a premium cable reimagining in 2019 and director Scott Derrickson is rumored to be attached to a big screen adaptation).
I hear you, but Gothic horror with Colin Morgan We're ringing the bells and all.
The protagonist of "The Living and the Dead," played by Morgan, is a Victorian-era London psychiatrist named Nathan Appleby. He doesn't put much stock in the supernatural and is instead a man of science and the modern world. But upon returning to the family estate in Somerset after his mother's passing, he and his wife discover a traditional community rife with superstition. As he spends more time there, he has increasingly paranormal experiences. Is there any sense to all of this? Or, perhaps he has cause for concern
A classic gothic tale, "The Living and the Dead" has enough eerie setting to furnish a mansion. Morgan and Charlotte Spencer stand out among the rest of the impressive lead cast, making this horror show an absolute must-watch.
Most zombie movies and shows have a dehumanizing effect: once a character has been bitten, they are no longer seen as a human being. We sit back and watch until they mutate into vicious beasts. One of the few shows, however, "In the Flesh" explores zombieism as a temporary condition rather than a way of life. What would happen if a zombie could be made to lose their craving for human flesh is an intriguing question that is raised in the series. Should they return, would we accept them? How would they handle the overwhelming shame of what they'd done?
Luke Newberry plays Kieren Walker, a Yorkshire teen who returns from the dead after committing suicide, in "In the Flesh." After completing his rehabilitation, he returns to his hometown feeling guilty and unsure of his future. Although it features zombies gnashing their teeth, "In the Flesh" is really about the prejudice and fear that people have of one another.
Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
Like its inspiration, FX's "American Horror Story," "The Terror" will tell a series of unrelated stories over the course of multiple seasons, but this time it will focus on Canada. The novel is set in the 1800s and follows two ships as they search for the Northwest Passage. However, things take a dramatic turn for the worse when their ships become frozen in the ice and their sailors are left stranded in the cold with few provisions.
Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciaran Hinds lead a stellar cast in "The Terror," which is based on a novel by Dan Simmons from 2007. According to Adam Sweeting of The Arts Desk, "The Terror gets its teeth into you with its gritty and unpleasantly plausible depiction of shipboard life in the mid-19th century," and the show was a huge success for AMC. The show was quickly picked up for a second season, despite the fact that its new plot will take place a century later, in a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans.
It's not surprising that Stephen King could populate an entire town with the protagonists and antagonists from his horror novels, given the breadth of his oeuvre. The song "Castle Rock" serves this purpose. It's the closest thing to a horror multiverse we've seen so far, and it takes place in a made-up town in King's beloved Maine. The character of Annie Wilkes, made famous by Kathy Bates in "Misery," is portrayed by Lizzy Caplan in "Castle Rock." "
A creepy little town where evil seems to seep out of every crack, it combines King's signature style with the conventions of the crime drama. "Castle Rock" features a stellar cast including Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgard, Andre Holland, and Sissy Spacek, and the film focuses just as much on character-driven storytelling as it does on ghostly occurrences. Despite only airing for two seasons on Hulu, the show was an instant hit with both King fans and new viewers.
Because the vampire is both exotic and seductive, the stories about them almost always deal with repressed sexuality. However, "True Blood" is extremely sexually explicit, even for vampires. Anna Paquin plays Sookie Stackhouse on the HBO series, and she's just your average Southern waitress (except she can read minds) who falls in love with a vampire (played by Paquin's real-life husband, Stephen Moyer).
But this isn't how vampires, those creatures of the night who hold a terrible secret in their hearts, are usually portrayed. In the world of "True Blood," vampires are widely known to exist because of a synthetic blood substitute that allows them to give up their habit of feasting on the blood of innocents. At the very least, it catapulted Alexander Skarsgard to fame as Viking vampire Eric Northman. Many people's favorite guilty pleasure on HBO, "True Blood" is now a staple of its genre.
Ghosts, ghouls, and other things that go bump in the night are common themes in horror films. But what's more terrifying than people's shadowy sides? Teenage members of a girls' soccer team survive a plane crash in the drama "Yellowjackets." But now they're lost in the Canadian woods. Their efforts to stay alive take them to some seriously unsettling locations. The girls and their future selves alternately try to heal from the trauma of what happened to them in the present.
A total of seven people were nominated for Emmys in 2021 thanks to the success of "Yellowjackets," including the outstanding drama series category and acting nods for Melanie Lynskey and Christina Ricci. Audiences adored it so much that a third season was ordered before the second even aired, a rare victory for genre television in an era when many networks and streaming services are becoming increasingly stingy with renewals.
"Preacher," adapted from a comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, injects a dose of punk rock into the demon-hunting genre. Dominic Cooper plays Jesse Custer, a itinerant minister who is occasionally possessed by a god named Genesis. Custer is accompanied on his quest to find God by his ex-girlfriend (Ruth Negga) and an Irish vampire (Joe Gilgun).
During its four seasons on AMC, "Preacher" won over fans with its irreverent take on the supernatural genre. Critics lauded the film's excellent acting, witty (if twisted) dialogue, and innovative storytelling. Scripture and subtle wit are sprinkled throughout the outrageous violence, and a particularly lovely vocal accompanies a grotesquely violent massacre on an airplane," wrote Joanne Ostrow of the Denver Post. A specific subset of people will enjoy this. I don't need to tell you who you are. "
While Apple TV may not have a massive library of shows, it does put quality first. Take the M as an example. The thriller "Servant," written and directed by M. Not only does it put Rupert Grint's unusual but considerable acting skills to good use, but it also manages to maintain viewer interest over the course of four seasons despite its horrifying high-concept premise. After the death of their son from heatstroke in the car, the first episode of Season 1 focuses on a young woman who takes care of the couple's reborn doll, a hyper-realistic toy infant.
Certainly a spooky setup Perhaps eerie, but how about adding some mystery? Hello, my name is M. This is M. Night Shyamalan, and he has a few surprises up his sleeve for you. In addition to her otherworldly abilities, this young woman also possesses some that are quite significant. As a show on Apple TV that isn't "Ted Lasso," which seems to get all the network's attention, "Servant" may not be particularly well-known, but it has won over audiences who have taken the time to seek it out.
A common man is thrust into the role of hero in "Grimm," following in the footsteps of such shows as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Supernatural." The show, broadcast on NBC, features David Giuntoli as Detective Nick Burkhardt, who is also the latest in a long line of Grimms. His family has a tradition of fighting the Wesen. What are they Think of all the scary creatures from your favorite fairy tales, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect.
The six-season NBC series "Grimm" was a Friday night staple for many. Unfortunately, the Emmys only recognized the stunt work. Despite this, it garnered a devoted fan base, with even many critics coming around by the end of the series' run. Energized, witty, and with a sleek visual flair, the show "reinterprets its classic fairy tales," as Ken Turner of Entertainment Weekly put it. "
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