Last Halloween, we unearthed a special three part series that revealed our picks for the “Scariest Movie Moments.” If you’re still looking for the perfect fright film to watch during the witching hour, it’s a can’t miss guide. From well-known classics to gore obscure, there’s something for horror fans of every stripe.
While big screen titles are still the lifeblood of the genre, TV series and made for television movies have a long tradition of bringing tales of terror into our living rooms. To that end, we’ve narrowed down hours of network programming into a short list that includes some of our all-time favorite television specials and series episodes. Each of these thirteen selections is also a stand-out example of small screen scary. Turn the lights on and enjoy.
NOTE: Titles available for streaming on Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Instant Video are noted as such. Clicking on any image below will take you to the Amazon product page for the DVD and/or Blu-ray release of that title.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
“Hush” (S4, E10) is one of the best episodes of the series. It’s also the scariest, thanks to a quartet of truly evil baddies known as “The Gentleman.” They steal the voices of their victims to prevent them from screaming. Adding to the creep factor, The bulk of the episode has no spoken dialogue. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
“Sanctuary” and “Death and All His Friends” (S6, E23 & E24). The sixth season of the sudsy ABC drama wrapped with a dark and shocking finale. A shooter turns Seattle Grace into a bloodbath over two excruciatingly tense hours. It’s a dead-serious outing that trades the usual melodrama for uncompromising brutality. Stream: Amazon Instant.
This CBS summer series was an extended slasher film. At least one character is offed in every episode, often in brutally creative ways. Adding to the tension, the identity of the killer isn’t revealed until the finale. Though the entire run is grim, violent and scary, a harrowing battle to the death makes “Gasp” (E12) the episode that sticks with you. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.
A regular on many “cancelled too soon” lists, this creepy and well crafted ABC series is equal parts family drama, sci-fi thriller and gothic horror. It’s a slow burn kind of show that draws you in and keeps you guessing. Things get full-tilt disturbing in “Round Up” (E21), a series highlight. You can pick up the 22 episode “complete series” DVD set for under $10 on Amazon. Stream: Amazon Instant.
KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER
Darren McGavin is spot-on as Carl Kolchak, a tabloid reporter with a knack for working a crime beat populated by vampires, ghosts, demons and ghouls. Two stand-alone movies and the first batch of weekly episodes are the strongest with “The Zombie” (E2) getting the nod for the scariest of the bunch. It only lasted one season but the show has become a cult-hit. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
“Sylvia” (S7, E17 & E18) was a jarring departure from the norm for this long-running hit. This heavy two-parter had it all: body image crisis, gender politics, the rape of a young girl, her subsequent pregnancy and the fallout from all of that. You want more? The attacker stalks his victim wearing a freaky porcelain mask. Yikes! Stream: Amazon Instant.
This 1979 CBS mini-series remains one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel. It’s an atmospheric and genuinely chilling tale of a small town about to be taken over by a nasty looking vampire. James Mason, oozing sinister evil as a guardian of the fanged one, heads a first rate cast. Be sure to screen the full-length cut rather than the truncated alternate version.
TRILOGY OF TERROR
This 1975 ABC horror anthology would have faded into obscurity were it not for “Amelia,” the third and final segment of an otherwise forgettable movie. 70’s B-movie queen Karen Black is trapped in a locked, luxury apartment with a Zuni fetish doll that has suddenly come to life. The little bastard is pissed and he’s out for blood. It’s a balls-to-the wall battle royale that ends with a nifty little twist.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
“Living Doll” (S5, E6). There are literally dozens of episodes from this classic series that make your blood run cold. What separates our pick for scariest from all the other options? Meet Talky Tina, the toy from hell. Ostensibly the story of a family in crisis, the addition of an increasingly menacing doll adds a delightfully scary twist. Telly Savalas is first-rate here. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
“Lonely Souls” (S2, E7). This was the episode that finally revealed “who killed Laura Palmer” while also treating us to some of the most frightening images ever seen in primetime. Take, for example, that handsome guy to the left. He’s Killer Bob, an unforgettable villain and the stuff of nightmares. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
THE WALKING DEAD
“Days Gone Bye” (S1, E1) kicked off the exceptional first season of this AMC hit. It’s a bone-chilling exercise in visceral horror that offers us a front row seat to a world gone mad. When a show zombifies a little kid, you know it’s not going to pull any punches. One of the best drama pilots in TV history. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.
“Squeeze” (S1, E3) introduced us to genetic mutant Eugene Victor Tooms, a frightening fellow with a taste for fresh human livers and the ability to squeeze into the narrowest of spaces. Doug Hutchison plays Tooms to terrifying perfection. He makes a return visit later in the season (EP 21, “Tooms”) but this first outing is vintage X-FILES. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
“Home” (S4, E2) is easily the most disturbing and controversial episode of the entire series. It’s also scary as hell. Though the plot is heavy on perversion and inbreeding, snappy dialogue and flourishes of gallows humor elevate the proceedings. Extra points for turning a Johnny Mathis song into a harbinger of death. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
So, what do you think? Did we hit most of the highlights or is one of your scary TV favorites missing from the list? Let us know. If you’re reading this on the post page, you should see the new Facebook comments area below. If not, CLICK HERE to go to the actual post page and scroll to the bottom of the article.