Ten terrifying TV shows to watch at Halloween
- Credit: Photograph copyright BBC
From zombies to demogorgons, poltergeists to killer clowns, demon headmasters to devilish technology, there's a scary TV show to suit all levels of daring in our list of shows to get you into the Halloween spirit. Do not watch alone.
If Christmas is the most magical time of the year, then that would surely make Halloween the spookiest.
With October 31 nearly upon us, it brings an opportunity to dress up as your favourite scary thing, stock up on the horror movies and ensure you've got plenty sweet snacks to go round as the trick or treaters come calling - or in my case, lock myself away with all the lights off until the clock strikes midnight and it's all over for another year. If there is a Halloween Scrooge, I am most certainly it.
However, we are not here to debate what a killjoy I am, we are here to discuss scary things on the small screen – from reality TV terrors, to artsy cannibalism, from monstrous zombies to the first TV show to cause PTSD in children – here are 10 horrors your TV has to offer.
1) American Horror Story (2011 – present): The co-creators of sing-song series, Glee, are also responsible for an anthology series full of creepy storytelling, crossing boundaries, gore, unabashed weirdness and more. American Horror Story, co-created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, has delivered a new self-contained story to viewers for eight seasons now. These have included diving into the depths of an institution to treat and house the mentally and criminally insane, paying a visit to a hotel gripped by strange and dangerous happenings, while even opting to deal with some real-life horror in the shape of the aftermath of Donald Trump's election triumph in its seventh season, Cult. Currently, season eight is dealing with the collapse of human civilisation due to World War III. It's called Apocalypse and, if you have Sky, it can be caught on Fox on these shores. If not, seasons 1-7 are available on Netflix while a ninth and tenth have been greenlit ensuring there are more American horror stories to come.
2) Hannibal (2013 – 2015): One of the most horrifying things about NBC's prequel series was just how delicious it made human flesh look, as Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal Lecter painstakingly prepared magnificent looking dish after magnificent-looking dish. Obviously, the ridiculously artsy, wonderfully stylish series about the cannibal psychiatrist was pretty sinister across the board. There were spectacular visuals, mind bending dream sequences and all manner of graphic murders – ones destined to stay rocking around your brain long after the credits has rolled.
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3) The Walking Dead (2010 – present): From artsy cannibalism to post-apocalyptic zombie horror, The Walking Dead (TWD) places Love Actually's card wielding Andrew Lincoln in a world overrun by zombies. He's Rick Grimes and becomes the leader of a group of survivors, forced to survive – unsurprisingly – in this new world against waves of monstrous zombie walkers, superbly albeit scarily designed, as well as contending with the sadistic nature of the humans still standing.
Based on the comicbook series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, TWD has over a century of episodes to its name, a spin-off series, a host of award nominations and comes with gore.
4) The Demon Headmaster (1996 – 1998): Few series sent a shiver down my spine quite like CBBC's The Demon Headmaster back in the day. Based on the books written by Gillian Cross, the series found Dinah Glass move in with the Hunter family and start attending the same school as her foster brothers. However, sharing a frosty relationship with her siblings, matters are only complicated as Dinah discovers the school is very strange and begins to suspect the headmaster has some sort of power over the pupils – the title here is obviously somewhat of a giveaway.
5) Black Mirror (2011 – present): Considering technology dominates our day-to-day life, is there anything more horrifying than a series that makes you dread every aspect of it? That's exactly what Charlie Brooker has achieved with an anthology series of his own, mapping out how humanity's relationship with technology may evolve if we're not careful. Spoiler: the vast majority of it is not good and suitably spine chilling
6) Halloween Wars (2011 – present): Reality TV is not averse to getting on the Halloween bandwagon, as Food Network's Halloween Wars has shown. For four weeks in October, cake sculptors, sugar artists and pumpkin carvers do battle in a bid to conjure up the ultimate Halloween themed display with $50,000 on the line. Each episode is divided into two rounds, tasking teams with interpreting a scary theme. The first, 'Small Scare' hands them three quarters of an hour to do their work while the second, 'Spine Chiller' tasks them with devising a large-scale, immersive sculpture over the course of five hours.
7) Stranger Things (2016 – present): Science-fiction and horror join forces for the Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things in which the disappearance of a young boy in the 1980s grips a small town absorbed by supernatural events. The Duffer brothers' creation has been praised for finding a perfect mix of nostalgia and fear, proving something that's an original concept yet something of a throwback. Featuring monsters and telekinetic abilities, the series has the Emmy and Golden Globe nominations to match the hype and is to return for a third season in mid-2019.
8) Ghostwatch (1992): The most notorious entry on our list is Ghostwatch, a reality horror/mockumentary film that aired on the BBC in 1992 on Halloween night.
Shot in a documentary style, Ghostwatch featured real BBC reporters performing a live, on-air investigation of a house in London into poltergeist activity. This activity was believed to be the work of a malevolent entity known as 'Pipes', later revealed to be the spirit of paedophile Raymond Turnstall who had committed suicide at the house. This came after he had been possessed by Victorian child killer, Mother Seddons. Sarah Greene, one presenter, was dragged to her death. Michael Parkinson was possessed. Pipes escaped. Many of the 11 million viewers were duped, led to believe what they were watching was real. Within an hour, the BBC had been flooded with 30,000 calls, forced to apologise and to this day, Ghostwatch has never been repeated on the Beeb. It also holds a notorious honour of being the first television show to be cited in the British Medical Journal as causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children. That's one hell of a way to scare your viewers.
9) The Haunting of Hill House (2018 – present): With Halloween on the horizon, Netflix have a timely arrival for you in the shape of The Haunting of Hill House – based on the gothic horror novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. It arrived on 12 October with ten episodes which will focus on the Crane family of troubled siblings as they are brought up in the titular mansion, jumping between their childhood and their present day lives, drawing on the haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. Stephen King – who knows a thing or two about horror – has listed the book as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century thus if the series can match that praise, we may very well be in for a scare or two. According to horror film-maker Mike Flanagan, the man behind the series, there's going to be a big focus on atmosphere and tension.
10) The 6 o'clock news: Last but not least, the scariest of them all. After a long day at the office, is there anything more terrifying than sitting down to watch the news and being subject to a half hour devoted near exclusively to the horrors of humanity? Don't have nightmares...