I’ve only now realized we can choose five movies/tv shows, and not just three, and I intend to take full advantage of that because, indeed, there are many great horror tv shows. Here’s some honourable mentions: Stranger Things (2nd season premieres tomorrow!), True Blood, American Horror Story, Supernatural, and Bates Motel. For some of them it’s too soon to be in a Top Five, others I love but are admittedly flawed, and others I still haven’t finished.
So with that in mind, here are my Top 5 Favourite Horror TV Shows, in no particular order:
#05 The X-Files (1993-)
Admittedly not the scariest of the bunch, The X-Files pioneered a type of 90s sci-fi horror that explores the “Monster of the Week” format, against a background storyline of high level government conspiracy. A narrative that would later inspire shows like Supernatural, which also combines comedic gore and dramatic suspense.
In the 90s show, there’s even a little extremely slowburn romance! So, even if you’re not big on aliens, guaranteed there’s something in it for everyone. And as it turns out, the show is coming back in 2018!
#04 Twin Peaks (1990-)
While the first two seasons are somewhat toned down on the horror front, Twin Peaks: The Return goes full-on horror with Frost and Lynch at the helm in a more daring time, free to explore the kind of surreal, body horror mindblowing nightmares we’ve mostly come to expect from director David Lynch.
Also using comedy to lighten its darkest themes, in Twin Peaks we come to know a quirky small town through the eyes of our hero, FBI Agent Dale Cooper. You may not understand most of what the directors duo are trying to say – indeed some episodes might try your patience with their odd pace and seemingly indecipherable plots – but you’re guaranteed a ride like no other.
#03 The Exorcist (2015-)
I know, I know, I can’t seem to shut up about this show. But honestly, The Exorcist is the only series in this list on the air right now, it’s all I have! And past experiences (ahem, Hannibal), got us all spooked with low ratings cutting horror shows short so, bear with me.
In case you didn’t get it in the other million times I mentioned this show, The Exorcist is a sequel to the 70s horror cult movie. The first season revolves around the Rance family, but instead of Reagan being possessed again, the demon’s target is one of her daughters. Like in the original, we get two priests who soon realize this case is just the tip of a huge, demon-infested Catholic Church. Also like in the original, it is bloody disgusting, though not nearly as disturbing. The first season is a bit too commercial, doesn’t have the best production, doesn’t take enough risks – still, it is good, and most importantly, it gets better.
Being an anthology series, in the second season we leave the Rance family behind (in what condition, you’ll need to see it to find out!) and arrive at a haunted island, where John Cho is the head of a foster family of five, now six, kids. We don’t know much beyond that at this stage, but the Catholic Church storyline is still in the background, with Herrera and Daniels still as leads. With a solid new setting and perfectly cast characters, now the show looks cleaner, uses clever narrative devices, and is absolutely nailing religious/possession horror.
#02 Hannibal (2013-2015)
When news of a show based on Thomas Harris’s classic novels arrived, many Hannibal fans, still feeling the echoes of Hannibal Rising‘s cringeworthy disaster, were hesitant to fully embrace their excitement. What could the creator of Pushing Daisies, aka the sweetest tv show ever you should’ve already seen, bring to the table? And who the hell is this Mikkelsen guy?! Too many still don’t know the answer, but those of us who watched, loved, and live taunted by the possibility of a fourth season, are fully aware of what Hannibal did for the franchise.
It took the cultured cannibal and turns him into the epitome of not only intelligence but also sophistication and damn good taste, using opulent visuals that go further than spiking your macabre curiosity – they elevate murder to an art form.
#01 Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
If you got this far, you must be a true horror fan! Welcome. Here’s your reward: a show that takes all the classic horror characters you grew up loving and fearing, and has them inhabit the same world, interacting with each other.
Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Gray, Frankenstein and his living dead, Dracula and other vampires, witches, a werewolf… you name it, it’s there. Best of all? Eva Green as the lead, Vanessa Ives. I can’t say I loved every minute of it (you might find some storylines a bit boring at times), but overall, Penny Dreadful is the ultimate horror show. Set in foggy Victorian London, it’s bloody, poetic, well acted, and endlessly dark.