It’s been seven years since Ryan Murphy dared to make television really, legitimately scary with the debut of his horror anthology series, American Horror Story. Every year since, Murphy has upped the ante with fascinating themes that have preyed upon some of our deepest fears. It seemed at first like the rest of television was slow to follow in his footsteps to take a chance on unabashed horror. This meant that connoisseurs of the genre had to wait around for new seasons of AHS or buy tickets to whatever horror movie was coming down the pipeline. As 2018 comes to a close, all of this has changed. Broadcast, cable, and streaming networks have all embraced horror in their lineups, culminating in a fall television season that is guaranteed to have fans fearfully giddy.
The first sign of what was to come was The Purge limited series. Based on the dystopian thriller franchise created by James DeMonaco, USA network debuted the show on September 4, banking on an already loyal fanbase to tune in. Almost one and a half million viewers did. The Purge is just one of manyshows – with previously laid groundwork – that viewers can count on to deliver the thrills. Channel Zero, a show that adopted the AHS anthology format but is honestly way scarier, came out in 2016 on SyFy. Each season is based on a different creepypasta — a user submitted story on the creepypasta website — and the fourth installment is airing on six consecutive nights leading up to Halloween. Lore is an award-winning podcast hosted by Aaron Mahnke that tells spooky true stories based on folklore from all over the world. It has since grown to include books and an eponymous Amazon original series headed into its second season on October 19. Room 104, an HBO show about all of the people who pass through a single motel room in New York, is also getting a sophomore run on November 9. I would also be remiss to mention that AHS, the FX series that popularized horror television, is also currently in the midst of its own 8th season, Apocalypse.
And then there are the brand-new offerings. Over the weekend, Hulu administered subscribers their first dose of Into the Dark. Because teens love to scare themselves, on October 12 the same streaming platform is also debuting Light As A Feather. A group of teens start dying one by one after their witchy game goes wrong. On the same day, Netflix will add The Haunting of Hill House to its already robust lineup of terror-filled series. And if you’re a certified horror nerd, you can get the inside scoop on the genre itself by watching Eli Roth’s History of Horror. It premieres October 14 on AMC.
This buffet of TV options for horror-lovers debunks the widely held belief that the drawn-out nature of serial television doesn’t work for the genre. Our very own Rebecca Farley took the definitive stance that shows can never be truly scary because once the adversarial killer, monster, spirit, or sinister plot is revealed the thrill is gone. And on the flip side, if we have to wait too long to find out what is haunting our protagonists, we lose interest. This is why so many shows, like AHS, have found a sweet spot in the anthology model – where they can essentially start over with a new storyline every time. And for what it’s worth, as long as shows like The Walking Dead (currently in its ninth season) and AHS have been around, they’ve been picked apart and criticized for not being actually scary.
But scary movies — where horror is thought to be at its best — is just as inconsistent in delivering jump scares. No shade, but The Nun was not that great. On the other hand, it took me a few weeks before I even realized that Hereditary was a horror flick and I had nightmares for days after I saw it. Back on the small screen, The Walking Dead lost its luster after season three, when the humans, and not the zombies, became the bad guys. But the Asylum, Roanoke, and even the current AHS installment, Apocalypse, have all forced me to sleep with a light on.
Part of true horror fandom is a hunger for content that makes you uncomfortable, anxious and afraid — and judging said content when it fails to deliver. Whether or not the fall 2018 shows are groundbreaking, or even scary, is a secondary concern: We’ve never, ever had so much TV horror to choose from. This is a Golden Age of horror abundance. Let’s enjoy it!