10 under-the-radar TV shows to scare you senseless this Halloween
On Halloween, the TV viewer’s thoughts shift from the usual prestige drama to things that go bump in the night. While the likes of “The Walking Dead,” “American Horror Story,” “Castle Rock” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are among the higher-profile offerings from TV’s ongoing love affair with horror, there are plenty more thrills to be found when you dig a little deeper. Below are 10 recent, under-the-radar favorites from a crowded field.
“Crazyhead” (Netflix): There are pleasant “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” vibes in this six-episode U.K. import, which centers on a young woman named Amy (Cara Theobold, “Ready Player One”) whose life is upended as she learns she is a seer – that is, she can see demons walking among us. While the face-melting effects and scares remain steady as the series unfolds, what helps “Crazyhead” stand out is a twisted, gleefully raunchy sense of humor, most effective in the sure hands of Amy’s seen-it-all partner and demon-hunting mentor, Raquel (Susan Wokoma, “Chewing Gum”).
“Creepshow” (Shudder): This quasi-reboot of the 1982 film by George Romero and Stephen King has kept the campy, comic book-style chills coming since its arrival in September. Over a run that’s seen a boost to the subscriber base for AMC’s horror-tilted streaming service, the series has touched on werewolves, haunted dollhouses and a host of King Easter eggs, keeping the heart of the original intact. While the results carry the same “your mileage may vary” caveat of any anthology series, “Creepshow” may have saved its best for last with a Halloween finale written by King’s son (and fellow horror novelist), Joe Hill.
“The Enfield Haunting” (Hulu): Capitalizing on a very real sense that there was just something more creepy about the ‘70s, this period-set drama out of the U.K. follows in the capable, based-on-a-true-story footsteps of that decade’s “The Exorcist.” The series captures the arrestingly unsettled atmosphere as an evil spirit terrorizes an unsuspecting family’s home, deftly using quiet creaks and dark shadows that grow increasingly hostile. Plus, the already solid cast includes Matthew Macfadyen in his native accent as an initially skeptical paranormal investigator, further illustrating that Tom Wamsgans was cavorting with dark elements long before “Succession.”
“The House” (Hulu): Because not all horror needs to serve as an allegory for social ills, this series honors the genre’s rich history of short, scary stories. Built around a shape-shifting haunted house and those who cross its path, this series should capably fill those windows between knocks at the door from trick-or-treaters, with each episode coming in under 10 minutes. Sure, the acting is uneven, and the humor at times clumsy enough to give it the feel of a low-budget class project running wild, but that too is a tribute to horror’s legacy.
“Kingdom” (Netflix): As in the breathless 2016 film “Train to Busan,” South Korea has a track record of breathing life into the typical zombie story. This series, directed by Kim Seong-hun (“Tunnel”), goes a step further by reinventing the mythology as a period piece, building upon a real-life plague that afflicted Korea hundreds of years ago during the Joseon dynasty. (Except this one raises the dead.) Palace intrigue, corruption and the unwillingness of leaders to make the difficult decisions to help citizens and fend off a systemic threat are all in play for a series that is as haunting as it is timeless.
“Les Revenants” (Sundance Now): Not to be confused with “The Returned,” the well-meaning but inferior American version, this import finds new melancholy in the standard back-from-the-grave story. Years after a bus crash claimed dozens of lives in a French Alpine town, its victims suddenly return to their homes unharmed and with no memory of their whereabouts. This upends the lives of those who mourned their losses and kicks off a metaphysical mystery that dives into the town’s troubled history amid an uneasy atmosphere (scored by Scottish indie-rock artists Mogwai) and a bottomless supply of sad yet beautiful French people.
“Lore” (Amazon Prime Video): Never feed them after midnight. Stay on the path. So many horror stories are built on warnings. Add one more for this series, which descended from Aaron Mahnke’s nonfiction horror podcast: Stop watching after the first season. Before being unfortunately retooled, “Lore” offered a mix of Mahnke’s narration and capable reenactments drawn from the real history behind true scary stories and legends, examining what they revealed about humankind in the process. The results were unsettling, thought-provoking and far better than the following season, which did away with the voice-over and, somehow, the series’ charm.
“Marianne” (Netflix): Think of this as the French counterpart to last year’s Halloween hit, “Haunting of Hill House.” “Marianne” has no Shirley Jackson source material, but there are enough jump scares and over-the-top twists to fill a Breton village of Hill Houses. Victoire Du Bois portrays Emma, a Stephen King-esque horror writer with a sharp haircut who just ended her bestselling series fueled by a haunted childhood. Except her subject wants a sequel. Though various possessions, bloody murders and even a “Stranger Things”-esque flashback ensue in unraveling Marianne’s curse, what will haunt you most is the wild-eyed Mireille Herbstmeyer as the witch’s first host.
“Stan Against Evil” / “Ash vs. the Evil Dead” (IFC/Starz): Stand-up favorite Dana Gould flexed his dual loves for classic horror and absurd comedy with “Stan Against Evil,” led by John C. McGinley, whose deadpan aggression hasn’t been so effectively weaponized since “Scrubs.” Stan is the cranky ex-sheriff of a town beset by witches in the IFC series, which walks a similar line between gross and goofy as Sam Raimi’s beloved “Evil Dead” franchise. Speaking of which, those looking to follow more directly in Bruce Campbell’s bloody footsteps will love Starz’s series-length sequel to Raimi’s films, “Ash vs. the Evil Dead.” Both series first aired around the same time frame and lasted three seasons. Coincidence?
“The Terror” (AMC): Halloween doesn’t always come with falling temperatures, but the first season of this slow-building thriller offers its own chills by examining an Arctic expedition trapped amid the nightmare of one another’s paranoia and, of course, a ravenous ice monster that’s hunting them all in the wide-open void outside. Jared Harris (“Chernobyl”) joins “Game of Thrones” veterans Ciaran Hinds and Tobias Menzies as part of the series’ doomed Royal Navy quest to find the Northwest Passage. This year’s second season hits a little closer to home by imagining a spirit from Japanese folklore amid the real-life horrors of the United States’ internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.