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Movie Talk: The 7 Scariest TV Shows in History!

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Written by: Joe Hempel

Television has been an important medium for stories and ideas for many years.  Due to government restrictions though, a lot of horror gets watered down, even if it’s on a cable network.  However, during the past few years, it seems that the general public has been leaning more and more towards the darker side of things, and the restrictions have become more lenient.

I decided to put this list of my 7 favorite TV series that were truly horrific and crossed the boundaries of comfort for a lot of people.  I stayed away from television that had just a 4-6 week run, so you won’t see things like Stephen King’s The Stand, or Stephen King’s The Perfect Storm.

7.  Twin Peaks

Nobody can deny the sensation of this show.  It was one of the first of its kind to truly grip a nation.  The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer and the town of Twin Peaks has inspired many works of fiction.  Using the mostly locked in town where everyone is a suspect and the inherent sadness of the town created an atmosphere in 1990 that has been attempted several times, but really hasn’t had the success of this series.  While I think the mini-series Harper’s Island came close back in 2009, it didn’t live up to Twin Peaks.  If you haven’t seen this series you can jump into it on either Netflix or Hulu Plus.

6.  Masters of Horror

From 2005 to 2007 the Showtime network amassed the greatest directors and writers of the horror genre to create 2 seasons of one hour films.  You had everyone from John Landis to Tobe Hooper to John Carpenter.  Each episode was separate from the other, and there wasn’t any sort of tie in to each other, but each episode was top notch horror that you could look forward to each week.

5.  Criminal Minds

While a lot of people may not agree with this being horror, I believe this is the epitome of horror.  The show reaches into the minds of the killers and brings their actions and thoughts to the forefront.  Yes, it is a police procedural, but no other show has really brought out how absolutely ugly the human race can be, and in a fairly realistic way.  A lot of horror is cemented in the supernatural or in over the top macabre, but this show gives you horror that can be absolutely real.

4.  The Walking Dead

The nation is captivated with this show.  Everyone seems to be talking about the Zombie apocalypse forthcoming and how cool it would be.  These people have absolutely no clue how the world would really be.  Each week we see people struggle to survive, fighting each other, and fighting outside forces.  Each week, people are out finding food just to survive for one more day.  Each week they are grasping to the last bit of humanity they have left before falling back into their more primal self.   Could you imagine the smell too?  I wouldn’t want to live in that world unless I absolutely had to.

3.  Tales From the Crypt

I remember fondly sneaking down to my friend’s basement in the middle of the night to tune in to HBO and watch The Crypt Keeper introduces the evening’s delightful horror tale in Tales from the Crypt.  The series was based on the EC Comics publications written in the 1950’s, and much of the show’s content was derived from those writings.  It just goes to show you that horror can transcend time.

There is a certain basic fear that humans have and Tales from the Crypt tapped into that with acting that while may have been purposely over the top at times, blended perfectly with the times.  The show featured a plethora of guest stars like Dan Akroyd, Steve Buschemi, Malcom McDowell, Meat Loaf, Demi Morre, and the list goes on!

After seven seasons the show that originally aired in 1989, ended in 1996.

Thankfully you can find this series on DVD for really in-expensive at amazon.com where 2 seasons at a time are only $17.99.

2.  American Horror Story

For three seasons now this show has created some of the horror on television.  The nice thing about this series is that each season uses many of the same actors, but in completely different roles.  It’s a testament to the acting ability of who they bring back, that you can look at them in a whole other way.  From ghost stories, or asylums or witches, each season brings something fresh, and something horrific.  Notable actors such as frontrunner Jessica Lange, with Kathy Bates, Zachary Quinto, and Dylan McDermott have all played roles in this show.  It’s hard to believe that the same people do the show Glee.  Well, maybe not, Glee is pretty horrific.

1. Twilight Zone

You can’t have a list like this without mentioning Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.  Rod Serling pioneer of twisted television in my opinion.  No other show has gripped the world.  Everybody knows about The Twilight Zone.  From 1959-1964 people tuned in each week to an intelligent story with a twist.  In 2002 it even had a little bit of a revival trying to bring some of that magic back.

I still remember my favorite episode from November 11, 1960 called “Eye of the Beholder”, where after surgery a beautiful woman was unveiled, but yet she was horrified at her looks.

The Twilight Zone even had an audio drama revival as well.  For 14 seasons you could download episodes for only a couple bucks, with actors like Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips and Blair Underwood, plus many, many more acting in them.  Stacey Keach takes over the role of Rod Serling in these.  I’ve listened to about 3 seasons worth and they were my companions when I went on my long runs when training for full and half marathons.  Each episode is 40-45 minutes and they really capture the show perfectly.  To get a taste of what you would be buying you can listen to 3 episodes, each about 40 minutes FREE at http://www.twilightzoneradio.com/

I hope you enjoyed this little countdown.  I’ve undoubtedly left your favorite off, so sound off!  Which horrific TV Show do you love and why??

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10 comments on “Movie Talk: The 7 Scariest TV Shows in History!

  1. I grew up watching the Twilight Zone and remember the episode “Eye of the Beholder,” quite well. Another of my favorites was The Outer Limits.

  2. Yeah, I was actually thinking ofblumoing those together, but Twilight Zone I thought deserved the top spot! It was and still is incredibly influential.

  3. Nice job, Joe. I LOVE Criminal Minds. HATE the Walking Dead, and enjoy the rest of your list. Twin Peaks, T-Zone, TFTC…classics!

  4. OK, here’s my two cents : The X Files, The Night Stalker, Night Gallery (Rod Serling post TZ).

  5. Favorite of all time for me is Twilight Zone, The Walking Dead slides in the #2 all time spot for me. Night Stalker was AWESOME as was Serling’s Night Gallery. Dexter was a powerhouse for a few seasons before the spiral took hold.

  6. Great list, The first season of American Horror Story is a true masterpiece.

  7. Thanks everyone for their comments and for reading!! I thought about making this a top 10 but I couldn’t order the other three for me….X-Files, Night Gallery and Tales from the Darkside! You all have some other great shows…one that was mentioned to me on facebook was American Gothic, but I’ve not seen that yet.

  8. Good list. I’d include MILLENNIUM.

  9. Definitely need Night Gallery on that list. As much time has passed I still remember many episodes because they were so frightening.

  10. Nothing really scary about Twin peaks so i’d swap that for the X-files that had some crazy scary moments! Great list though!

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