Horror TV is having a moment. Actually, scratch that, it’s having a decade. Thanks to genre juggernauts like American Horror Story, Black Mirror, and The Walking Dead, TV is officially a prime destination for horror fans. Let’s be real though, Rick Grimes’ attempts at carving out normalcy in the zombie apocalypse and Sarah Paulson’s ever-changing list of Ryan Murphy characters can only sustain a person for so long. Much like those shambling walkers, horror fans crave fresh blood. Thankfully, the modern horror TV landscape is far vaster than it appears.
From one season wonders that pushed the bounds of network television to British imports that haven’t caught on as thoroughly as the technological scares of Black Mirror, these are the horror shows that have flown under the radar for too long. Leave behind the familiar comforts of Murphy’s twisted mind, and embark on a doomed trip to a remote ski lodge, see what lurks behind door number nine, or walk in the shoes of a serial killer in these exceptional, but underrated horror series.
Created by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the same writers responsible for the twisted world of Psychoville, Inside No. 9 is an anthology series with a simple, but effective premise. Each half hour episode takes place entirely within a room or home marked by the number nine. The setting varies wildly from week to week, as does the tone, but this series is especially good at keeping viewers guessing.
Episodes like “A Quiet Night In” rely on an almost farcical sense of gallows humor, while outings like “The Devil at Christmas” revel in twists. This decidedly British series refuses to pull its punches. Expect to laugh one minute and gasp the next, because the darkness lurking inside these claustrophobic stories sneaks up on you.
Syfy has been quietly bringing creepypastas to life for three seasons now in a series that’s pure, undiluted nightmare fuel. In the first season, a children’s television series is connected to a string of disappearances and a creature made out of teeth (yes, teeth). The second finds a group of friends stuck in an endless house of horrors with no escape in sight, and the third involves mysterious disappearing staircases and interdimensional cannibals. Normal this show is not. Instead, it prefers to disorient viewers with queasy visuals that crawl inside your mind and refuse to leave.
Kettering, Australia feels like another world. Visually, it’s a stunning slice of wildness, and it’s easy to believe something dark could be lurking in the endless expanse of woods. That’s where The Kettering Incident draws its narrative power from — one look at this place and you’ll believe that a girl could go missing without a trace for 15 years.
That’s the setup at the heart of this maddening, atmospheric drama. Fifteen years ago two girls went into the forest and only one of them came out. Now a doctor, Anna Macy returns to her small town in hopes of finding out what happened to her best friend. What she finds is a mystery that’s sprawling, unwieldy, and downright creepy. A word of warning, the ending of this one and done series will leave you baffled, but that doesn’t make the ride any less fun.
Before he moved on to Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker created Dead Set, a vicious zombie series that doubled as social commentary for a reality TV obsessed population. The premise is brilliant and terrifying — what if the zombie apocalypse struck while you were on Big Brother? The five episode series serves up in the answer in gory, frightening, and sometimes hilarious detail. Hey, it wouldn’t be a Brooker show if there wasn’t some twisted humor sandwiched between the pure terror of it all.
Six people rise from the dead in a small town without any explanation in this Australian series. Think Les Revenants, but more mainstream. The newly undead residents are all connected, which sets up a mystery for the town sheriff to solve. Glitch serves up its share of scares, but it’s also a fun watch — it’s the kind of horror series that will have you invested in the ongoing mystery and the characters.
Forget zombies and ghosts, nothing is scarier than a serial killer — or the thought that you could be raising one. Born to Kill is a four-part series about a teenage boy named Sam and his single mother. Sam is seemingly a good kid; he looks after his mom, he reads to the elderly, and he’s a swimming champ. He’s also a cold-blooded killer whose urge to take lives seems to be growing stronger by the day.
Newcomer Jack Rowan is haunting as Sam. The young actor takes a character that could be cartoonish and turns him into a multi-dimensional human who is at times almost sympathetic, at least until he adds another victim to his list.
Slasher is unapologetic about its fealty to the genre it draws its name from. This story is not about reinventing the wheel, but that doesn’t take away its fear factor. Years after the death of her parents at the hands of a masked killer, Sarah Bennett returns to her hometown where she finds herself trapped in the plot for the Brad Pitt movie Seven. The gore factor is strong with this series, but it knows the tropes of the slasher genre inside and out, which only makes it all the more thrilling to watch.
A group of friends decide it’s a good idea to visit an abandoned ski resort in Sweden, because they’ve clearly never seen a horror movie. Things go about as well as you would expect them to as the group is plagued by strange and unnerving occurrences. The sense of urgency to discover why the luxury resort was abandoned in the first place only grows over the course of this addictive foreign horror series.
Haunted house dramas rarely get better than the twisty Requiem. After the death of her mother, a young woman realizes her mom may be connected to the disappearance of a child that occurred years before. Her journey for answers leads her to a home that’s brimming with secrets, and maybe even a few ghosts in this standout show that Netflix premiered without much fanfare back in March.
Apologies to The Conjuring 2, but this three-part British series is the scarier take on the maybe true story of The Enfield Haunting. There’s an uneasy realness to this short, but shiver-inducing show that makes the possibility that this poor family may have actually brushed up against true darkness in their home seem downright plausible. And honestly, there’s no higher praise that can be given to a horror series than it might actually make you believe in ghosts.
These smaller horror shows deserve way more attention than they get. Check them out for yourself to see why they’re just as good as the genre’s standouts.