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Who doesn’t love a good scare-fest, horror marathon? One of the most entertaining Halloween traditions you can enjoy is a good horror movie marathon, spending countless hours in front of the television enjoying the over the top twists and turns, cheap thrills and truly disturbing stories of classics ranging from Hitchcock’s suspense thrillers to the wittily self-aware, and entertainingly frightening Scream series.
And while there is nothing wrong with watching the same movies year after year (really, can one ever tire of Rosemary’s Baby? Or Sleepaway Camp for that matter), how can one ignore the wide array of amazing television series dedicated to the popular genre? The horror genre has been prevalent in television for decades and has inspired countless diverse projects from anthology series to long-form narratives. Here are some of our favorite marathon-worthy shows that will surely provide the scares, thrills and fun of your favorite horror movies.
American Horror Story
This Ryan Murphy creation takes a campy, over the top approach to familiar horror tropes and stories. From haunted houses to asylums, to aliens, and witches, American Horror Story has something for everyone. Each thirteen-episode season is its own stand-alone story making it ideal for marathon watching. First season’s “Murder House” takes a manic approach to the old-fashioned ghost story and follows the Harmon family as they move to the west coast into a seriously creepy haunted house. “Asylum” depicts the dark world of a 1960’s Catholic-run psychiatric hospital, gloomy and deeply disturbing the series illustrates not only the terrifying aspects of the institution, but also the horrors of specific era of American history.
The third season, “Coven” is currently airing and so far has been a deliciously entertaining look into the realm of witchcraft. Set in New Orleans, a city famous for its rich magical folklore, the series shamelessly intermingles real historical figures and events with fictitious characters and institutions. While most of the scares and horror elements in the show are undoubtedly derivative, they are executed to technical perfection and are incredibly stylized. What really sets the series apart is the amazing cast of performers it manages to attract. Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, James Cromwell, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Dennis O’Hare, we could go on and on listing the talented performers that make up the very talented casts. The performances definitely make the show and transform it from an insane and frantic mishmash of a variety of horror genres, to an impeccably acted, incredibly entertaining must watch series.
This haunting series is critically praised, but sadly overlooked by audiences. The story of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham has become widespread and familiar to many, but this new interpretation is a truly disturbing and grim look into the minds of serial killers. Beautiful cinematography imbues a haunting mood and highlights all the creepy imagery, which includes seriously harrowing murder scenes.
This is not a show for the faint of heart, no shortage of gore and blood in Hannibal, that’s for sure. Some of the most disturbing and subversive moments those concerning Lecter’s culinary inventions. Hitchcock shocked audiences by forcing us (the viewers) to see through the killer’s point of view, but Hannibal takes this even further by creating realistically enticing dishes that would make anyone’s mouth water. I mean, tempting your audience with cannibalism is pretty gutsy.
The Walking Dead
This comic book adaptation has captured the nation with its gritty and bleak portrayal of a zombie apocalypse. The ratings powerhouse has drawn in viewers with its unabashed gore and violence. Aside from the blood and gore and frequent shocking acts, the show does an adequate job in telling the compelling story about otherwise average people caught in extraordinary circumstances. The essential survival story transcends genre and allows for the viewers to relate and emotionally invest in the various characters living in these harsh conditions, something that isn’t usually a priority in these kinds of stories. What you get is involving character stories within an insane and unforgiving landscape.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror
This is the perfect antidote to the more intense and horrific films and shows. For the squeamish, the easily frightened and lovers of comedy, this is the ideal Halloween show to splurge on. These Halloween specials began on the cartoon’s second season (1990) and have become a beloved and anticipated tradition. The special episodes, composed of three short self-contained vignettes, are an array of wild imagery, parodies of well-known horror movies and stories, and pop culture references galore.
It’s not all fun and games, though, while the comedy never escapes The Simpsons, the Treehouse episodes often contain unsettling and surprisingly dark images, to satisfy the horror enthusiasts no doubt. Still, it is much easier to watch frightening material in cartoon form, the artificiality of the medium lets the creators get away with things that could never be pulled of in live action shows, and of course they are able to tell truly fantastical stories with relative ease.
What do you get when you mix a supernatural advocate with a staunch skeptic, make them both FBI agents, and task them with investigating unsolved mysteries from a peculiar collection of unsolved mysteries called the ‘x-files’? One of the most successful science fiction series of all time and true cultural touchstone, The X-Files captured the minds of many a nerd and paranormal fanatics and became the main source of intriguing and mystifying stories of the 90s.
Drawing from classics like The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery the series followed agents Mulder and Scully as they made their way through the many unsolved cases of the ‘x-files’ encountering all kinds of genuinely freaky and scary monsters, mutants, aliens, etc. Add to that unsettling government conspiracies, possible alien invasions, and growing sexual tension and you have the makings of a great, often terrifying show.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Has there ever been a better show that explored the many horrors of teenage anxiety than Buffy? We think not. Before there was True Blood and Vampire Diaries, this was the vampire series to watch and in our opinion remains the superior specimen. From the brilliant mind of Joss Whedon, who set out to create a “High school as a horror movie” series with a kickass female hero, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely one of the most compelling teen dramas of all time and transcends the category itself. Why, you ask? So much of the terror the show creates comes from the real everyday horrors that plague teenagers and young adults, from romantic anxieties, to overbearing parents, to even the death of a loved one.
These everyday horrors are manifested as literal monsters/demons making even the most over the top supernatural beings and tribulations extremely relatable. Along with all the horrific beings and situations, the series employs a witty, often satirical tone with lots of fun banter, which keeps the general mood from sinking into fully miserable and bleak territory. Though the series came to be known and praised for its smart and quick dialogue, one of the best and truly haunting episodes is “Hush” a virtually silent hour of television featuring some of the most visually unsettling bad guys ever, a must watch in any Buffy marathon.
From the insane minds of surrealist filmmaker David Lynch and his partner Mark Frost comes this exceptionally peculiar and unnerving series. Following in the steps of Lynch’s film Blue Velvet, the series takes a bizarre look into small-town USA and the potential evils that lie beneath the wholesome veneer of the average American town. Not your average horror show, the series might fall easier into the category of melodrama, but it contains sufficient odd, unsettling and profoundly disturbing material to warrant a spot in this list.
The show opens with the discovery of the deceased Laura Palmer, a popular and seemingly innocent teenager that quickly rattles the residents of Twin Peaks. Who killed Laura Palmer is the big mystery that captivated audiences and made the show a cult classic. Only two seasons long, the series lost steam after the big mystery was revealed and the story lost focus. Still, that first season is chock full of weirdly captivating stories, characters and situations within a truly unsettling narrative.
The Twilight Zone
It is probably the quintessential horror/science fiction series of all time. Created by Rod Serling, who was frustrated by the creative restrictions he had met previously writing for television, and sought out to tackle more controversial, socially relevant material. Naturally, the science fiction genre allowed him to address relevant social concerns with more freedom and thus became The Twilight Zone. With this sci-fi veil Serling was able to tell often-grim parables on relevant topics like the threat of nuclear warfare, prejudice and xenophobia, and cold war anxiety as well as timeless stores on the human condition. Many of the installments conclude with amusingly twisted endings, the dark final acts take ominous turns and give the episodes memorably grim endings.
So many of these stories have become iconic and reinterpreted and parodied in various works since their initial run. Even if you haven’t seen “Time Enough At Last” (one of the most iconic/famous episodes of the series) you are sure to be familiar with its protagonist Henry Bemis and his pursuit of peace and quiet in order to read his beloved books. The episode’s final beat, both heartbreakingly devastating and darkly comic, has been parodied countless times and reproduced in all kinds of media. Another essential marathon watch is the deliciously amusing “To Serve Man” which has an incredibly over the top and hysterical twisty ending.