In the days leading up to, and past, the Halloween holiday, I’ll be taking a look at and recommending all manner of Halloween horrors and spooky treats. These are the
Thirteen Days of Halloween
Day 1 – October 22nd: The October Country
Day 2 – October 23rd: Bone-Chilling Books
Day 3 – October 24th: Terrifying Television
Day 4 – October 25th: Petrifying Podcasts
Day 5 – October 26th: Grisly Games
Day 6 – October 27th: Creepy Comics
Day 7 – October 28th: Frightening Films
Day 8 – October 29th: This Is (A) Halloween (Mixtape)
Day 9 – October 30th: Halloween Horror
Day 10 – October 31st: Why Halloween?
Day 11 – November 1st: All Hallows’ Day
Day 12 – November 2nd: Día de los Muertos
Day 13 – November 3rd: Nightmares before Christmas
Day 3 – October 24th: Terrifying Television
Those who know me know that TV is kind of my thing. I watch a lot of it. I started at a very young age. I was watching shows like ER and The West Wing when I was in 7th grade. I’m hardcore, so you know I’ve watched a lot of horror television. Due to this, I’m going to have to limit myself to 12 shows. They are:
Supernatural: Listen, I’ve really soured on Supernatural in recent years, but it basically has to go on this list. The show about two monster-hunting brothers is kind of a staple at this point, and I think the first 5 seasons are genuinely good. There were legitimately creepy moments in those earlier episodes and it all built up to a fifth season that dealt with stopping the apocalypse. It was great. And then they kept making it. And making it. And making it. This past season legitimately featured a scene where God apologized to Lucifer for banishing him to hell. Then they teamed up to fight God’s sister, The Darkness. When that didn’t work, they tried to kill her with a “soul bomb” composed of a bunch of ghosts. I’m not making this up. If nothing else, you have to give them credit for the sheer audacity it takes to come up with that plot. If you only watch one episode, watch episode 7 of season 4 entitled “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”. It may be the only Halloween-themed episode in the series. I’ve watched it at least 3 times.
Sleepy Hollow: This recommendation comes with a caveat – stop after season 1. Sleepy Hollow’s first 13-episodes are fantastic television. It’s fun, funny, exciting, emotional, and genuinely creepy. It made absolutely no sense that a show based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow could be so good, which makes what happened next all the more painful. The first season must have been a fluke because the second season threw away everything everyone liked about the show in the first place. But that first season, man… headless horsemen, biblical prophecies, revisionist history – what more could you want? Watch those first 13 episodes and then mourn for what could have been…
Scream: You guys. You guys! It’s actually good! Well, I don’t know if it’s good so much as it is compelling. There’s something about this show. Once you start, you can’t stop. I finished the first season in two days. We’ve been blessed with a slasher renaissance on the small screen (Scream Queens, Slasher, Dead of Summer), and Scream kicked the whole thing off. I wasn’t as sold on the second season (I actually haven’t finished it yet), but if you want a show in which a bunch of teenagers have to figure out who’s killing them off one-by-one, you could do a lot worse than Scream.
Scream Queens: Oh Scream Queens. My beloved Scream Queens. This is one of those shows that you either love or hate. I absolutely adore it. It takes every stupid, nonsensical slasher cliché and ratchets it up to 11. This show is not like Scream or any of the other slashers that have been on TV recently. While Scream (mostly) takes itself seriously, Scream Queens does not. It is very much a horror-comedy and is meant to be taken that way. The show has its tongue surgically implanted in its cheek. It’s downright hilarious. Episode 4 begins with a pitch-perfect parody of Taylor Swift’s “Swiftmas” campaign and it’s some of the most spot-on satire I have ever seen. Give it a shot. It’s not for everyone, but you will know by the end of the first episode if it’s for you or not.
Outcast: I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this exorcism drama, but I can tell you that so far it has hewed very closely to the source material, and the source material is great. Based on the Image comic by Robert Kirkman (you know, that guy who created The Walking Dead?), this drama features a guy who been plagued by demonic possession his entire life, only it’s those around him who are always possessed. He has some sort of ability that enables him to combat the demons, making him an invaluable tool in fighting possession. There are a lot of unanswered questions in this series, but I’m very interested in where it’s going.
Channel Zero: Candle Cove: This series is unlike any other horror show on TV. It’s an anthology series that adapts popular Creepy Pasta stories (horror stories that are written and shared online). If you aren’t familiar with the term, you’re probably familiar with one of the most famous Creepy Pasta’s – Slender Man. Creepy Pasta’s aren’t filled with gore and jump scares – they’re more focused on scaring you by gradually unsettling you, and they’re super effective at that. This season focuses on an old children’s show called “Candle Cove” that only a select few children are able to see. If you want to read the story it’s based on, you can do so here.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Sigh. I know you’re already fighting me on this one. I can tell. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a harder time convincing someone to watch a show than I have with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and its spinoff Angel, because if you watch one, you really should watch the other). I know people who love Joss Whedon who won’t watch these shows – people who are fans of Firefly, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and The Avengers. I know people who like Age of Ultron and Dollhouse who still won’t watch. I don’t understand these people. Buffy and Angel are better than anything else Joss Whedon has done (well, except maybe The Avengers, but that’s kind of like comparing apples and semi trucks). I would even go as far as to say that Buffy and Angel are two of the best genre shows of all time. Maybe even just two of the best shows period. Both shows have their share of uneven seasons, but that’s too be expected whenever you top 100 episodes. The world Whedon builds, and the character arcs that flow through it are so rich and nuanced. I can’t stress this enough – these shows are AMAZING (okay, not Buffy Season 1, but whatever, it’s only 13 episodes). Please please please watch them.
Salem: Real talk – I have only seen one episode of Salem, but I would recommend that episode. I can’t speak to anything that happens post-episode 1, but that first episode was filled with enough sinister, creepy goodness for me to recommend.
American Horror Story: There’s no list of horror shows on TV that would be complete without American Horror Story. American Horror Story was a precursor to so many of the shows on this list. It really got the train moving when it comes to horror on television. Now, like most Ryan Murphy shows (with the exception of Scream Queens which is PERFECT), it’s a bit of an up-and-down journey – there is a LOT packed into each of these seasons. Too much, most would argue. That being said, they can still be a lot of fun if you turn off your brain and just let yourself get swept along. I’ve actually only finished the first season (dubbed Murder House). I watched the first six episodes of Asylum, the first four episodes of Freak Show, and I skipped Coven and Hotel entirely. I have always intended to go back and finish them all, and I’ll make sure to do that now that Murphy has revealed that every season is actually linked. I want to put all the pieces together and see the broad strokes of the world of horror he’s been secretly weaving for years. I actually think that Roanoke, the currently airing season, is possibly the strongest one yet. This season was shrouded in secrecy up until its premiere, and while I don’t want to ruin any of the interesting twists, I will say that it has struck me as the most polished, streamlined season yet. You should check it out.
The Exorcist: Would you believe me if I told you that The Exorcist is currently one of the best shows on the air? I know I wouldn’t have believed it, but here we are. The film it’s based on is undoubtedly a classic, but the television format gives the familiar tale of priests and demonic possession room to breathe. We are able to see the political machinations of the Catholic Church and the toll that a possession takes on a family over time. Plus, there’s a killer twist in episode 5. Please, I want this to stay on the air. Watch it.
Penny Dreadful: This might be the perfect show for me, so I’d be hard-pressed to explain why I haven’t watched more of it. Am I just… saving it for some unknown point in the future? Do I think I’m savouring it, but holding off on watching it? I don’t know. I don’t understand my incredibly odd viewing habits. My mind is a mystery to most, myself included. All I know if that I’ve never made it past episode 3 of season 1. That being said, I absolutely adored those first three episodes. This show is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly well-acted. Mark my words, Eva Green is one of the greatest actors of our generation. I have never seen her phone in a performance, but her role as Vanessa Ives may be her greatest performance. I don’t want to spoil anything about this series. Just know that if you’re a fan of Victorian gothic literature, you need to watch this show.
Hannibal: Penny Dreadful may be the perfect show for me, but Hannibal may be the perfect show, period. I LITERALLY cannot recommend Hannibal enough. It is, hands down, one of the greatest works of art I have seen in any medium. It is a masterpiece. The cinematography. The acting. The writing. The directing. The sound design. Every single aspect is impeccable. It is a miracle that this show received the three seasons it received and it is a travesty that it didn’t receive more. Wherever you are Bryan Fuller, know that I will pay any amount of money to see you return to this story. I mean, if I had any amount of money, I would fund it out of pocket. Yes, the show is gory, gruesome, and macabre, but it’s one of the most fascinating looks at the psychology of killers that I have ever seen. It’s a dangerous cat and mouse game between the devil and a man who is able to think like the devil. It. Is. Stellar.
Over the Garden Wall: Okay, okay, I cheated. Here’s one more. But this one isn’t really a show, it’s an animated film that was chopped into ten 11-minute pieces and released as a mini-series. And it is perfect. I know I’ve been throwing around a lot of hyperbole here, but I mean it when I say that Over The Garden Well has become one of my favorite spooky, autumnal things. It’s got pumpkins and scarecrows and beasts and witches. It’s surprisingly frightening for an animated program aimed at children, but that’s part of what makes it so great. It’s genuinely creepy, but at the same time it’s charming and heartfelt. The voice-acting and the music are both superb and I really think that you should try it out, even if you think you’re “above” cartoons. It was created by Patrick McHale, the man behind Adventure Time, and I love it enough that I’m actually going to check out Adventure Time once I’m done with it.
The above list mentions a number of TV adaptations of popular films (Scream, Hannibal, The Exorcist) and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two more: Bates Motel and Ash Vs. Evil Dead. While I haven’t actually seen Ash Vs. Evil Dead, I’ve heard that if you enjoyed Raimi’s Evil Dead films, you’ll like this. Bates Motel I have seen (at least the first two seasons), and while I don’t love it enough to put it on this list, it’s a suitably thrilling adaptation that really explores the oedipal relationship between Norman and Norma Bates.