Hasitha Fernando with eight horror TV shows to binge this Halloween…
It’s October. It’s spooky time. And what better way to celebrate Halloween than kicking back and binge-watching a few scary TV series that are readily available on some of your streaming services? But with the availability of multiple streaming platforms, which churn out content at an unimaginable pace, it has proven to be quite a challenge for viewers to decide what to watch and what to ignore. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered on that front and taken on the glorious burden of selecting a few TV series for your viewing pleasure. So, without further ado here are 8 TV series which debuted this year that deserve to be binge-watched this Halloween.
The Haunting of Bly Manor – Netflix
A young nanny is hired by a mysterious man to care for his orphaned nephew and niece at the family country home, Bly Manor.
Starring Victoria Pedretti, T’Nia Miller, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Rahul Kohli, Amelia Eve, Henry Thomas, Tahirah Sharif, and Carla Gugino.
The eagerly awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2018 Netflix TV series The Haunting of Hill House, Bly Manor follows a vastly different narrative unfurling in an anthology format. This time around Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw and his collected works, are used as a basis to construct a complex, bone-chilling tale of gothic-romance and creepy things that go bump-in-the-night. You may feel slightly obfuscated seeing the same actors from Hill House portraying different characters in this new chapter, but that’s just a minor caveat. As with the previous entry, performances all-round are simply phenomenal with the clear standout being T’Nia Miller as Mrs. Grose. It’s safe to say that horror auteur Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) have once again created a masterpiece in small-screen horror with The Haunting of Bly Manor, that is required viewing this Halloween.
The Outsider – HBO
A seemingly straightforward police investigation into a young boy’s murder takes a bizarre turn into the supernatural.
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, Cynthia Erivo, Paddy Considine, Bill Camp, and Jeremy Bobb.
One of the most engrossing supernatural crime-dramas to emerge from a mainstream television network, The Outsider is one suspenseful, emotional ride from start to finish. From the get go the show will hijack your senses along with your attention with its suspenseful narrative and poignant performances, of that there is no doubt. Featuring a stacked cast of talented character actors which include Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman and Cynthia Erivo, this Stephen King adaptation can certainly be declared as one the best small-screen adaptations of his more recent efforts. And with King’s recent reveal that season 2 is moving forward, fans of this HBO series certainly will have a real treat to look forward to down the line.
Lovecraft Country – HBO
A man embarks on a road-trip across 1950’s Jim Crow America searching for his father and gets more than he bargained for.
Starring Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance, Michael K. Williams, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Wunmi Mosaku, Jordan Patrick Smith.
This show is positively bonkers and I mean it in every sense of the word. Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country subverts familiar genre tropes whilst throwing some intelligent socio-political commentary into the mix as well. Most of the episodes are self-contained but there is a central story arc that spans throughout the series, that strings everything together. Amalgamating multiple disparate genres ain’t an easy feat but showrunner Misha Green (Underground) accomplishes just that, utilizing Ruff’s source material as a jumping-off point and expanding on its themes and concepts. Performance wise both Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors shine adding depth and gravitas to their respective characters. Just watch it, but go in expecting one wild ride.
Dracula – Netflix & BBC
Count Dracula journeys from his origins in Easter Europe whilst fighting Van Helsing’s descendants and beyond.
Starring Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark
A great update on the Dracula mythos courtesy of Sherlock showrunner’s Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt, this mini-series certainly is a must see for those looking for a great story coupled with some excellent scares. The show does throw a proverbial curved ball half-way into the narrative, by shifting the story to a more modern setting which makes for a very unique albeit strange experience. Claes Bang delivers a more nuanced and thoughtful take on the famous titular antagonist, making him more of an anti-hero than a villain by the time the show concludes. An interesting interpretation but one that is likely to alienate some hard-core Dracula fans. Nevertheless, this blood-soaked tale of gothic horror is certainly worth a look during this season of All Hallows Eve.
Penny Dreadful – City of Angels – Showtime
When a grisly murder shocks Los Angeles in 1938, two detectives become involved in a mystery which has its roots buried deep in the city’s troubled history.
Starring Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovato, Nathan Lane, Rory Kinnear, Lorenza Izzo, Kerry Bishé, Michael Gladis, Adrianna Barazza, Jessica Garza
After a four-year hiatus Showtime’s critically lauded TV show makes a strong comeback with an alluring new entry, which swaps a fog smothered London in favour of a sun dappled Los Angeles circa 1938. Also absent are the overtly Gothic trappings and bleak literary melancholia from the previous seasons. But don’t let this change in setting fool you, City of Angels is as harrowing and baroque as the series’ predecessors replete with its own brand of horror and intrigue. Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer is having a proverbial ball here, portraying a multitude of different characters which include the show’s primary antagonist. Also, worth mentioning are Daniel Zovato and Nathan Lane who portray the hapless detectives that become embroiled in this supernatural mystery. A gripping tale from beginning to end, City of Angels definitely is worth your time this Spooktober.
Monsterland – Hulu
Only a thin line separates man from beast, as broken people are driven to commit desperate acts in an attempt to reconstruct their lives.
Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Mike Colter, Kelly Mary Tran, Charlie Tahan, Taylor Schilling
This isn’t your typical horror TV series. This eight-episode anthology series is quite bleak and dark, but what makes it scarier is how relatable the themes they tackle-which range from depression, anxiety, loneliness and grief- are. The fact that each episode unfolds in a different city of contemporary America demonstrates that these ‘horrors’ are not something confined to a specific location or locality, which is the case with most horror narratives. Based loosely on Nathan Ballingrud’s stellar short-story collection titled North American Lake Monsters: Stories, Monsterland blurs the line between that which separates man from beast, by exploring the more dark and primal aspect of the human psyche. If you are fan of slow-burn thought provoking horror featuring captivating performances and intriguing story arcs, reach out for this. You shall not be disappointed.
Ju-On: Origins – Netflix
Ju-On: Origins is the latest entry of the Ju-On franchise, which explore the dark origins of the now infamous curse.
Starring Yoshisyoshi Arakawa, Yuina Kuroshima, Seiko Iwaido, Brock Powell, Koki Osamura, Ririka
With the Ju-On series’ concepts stretched and overused beyond the point of no return, it seemed like breathing new life to the franchise was something akin to a pipe-dream. Impressively though, this Netflix TV series composed of six thirty-minute episodes accomplishes just that and much more. Far edgier in tone, this new entry is also way more brutal and hardcore than any of its predecessors, containing some seriously disturbing and brutally shocking moments. And although it plays by the franchise’s previously established set of rules, it is by and large its own beast which is actually a good thing. The performances which are also uniformly stellar across the board, elevates the material making it more impactful and visceral. An absolute must see if you wish to be scared shitless.
Helstrom – Hulu
The children of a mysterious and powerful serial killer track down the worst of humanity with their skill and attitude.
Starring Tom Austen, Sydney Lemmon, Elizabeth Marvel, Robert Wisdom, Ariana Guerra
Not being overly familiar with this particular Marvel comic book property, Hulu’s Helstrom certainly surprised me when it debuted this month. Whilst not reaching the quality of The CW’s Supernatural – which is the other horror tinged TV series featuring siblings that comes to mind – Helstrom does have great entertainment value packed with some decent horror elements, which more than suffices. Both Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon impress as the series’ leads, possessing great chemistry and innate charm. It seems highly unlikely that Hulu will renew the series for another season but that remains to be seen. In summary Helstrom doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in terms of innovation and originality, but there’s still quite a bit to enjoy here if you are a fan of horror.
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.