25 best horror TV shows ever
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Possibly the best ever adaptation of a Stephen King horror novel, by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, this was strong stuff for TV. It’s a slow build, as David Soul investigates an outbreak of vampirism seemingly connected with sinister antiques dealer James Mason. The vampire children scratching at second-storey windows are creepy enough – but then the real villain of the piece is revealed, the ghastly, blue-faced ancient vampire Mr Barlow (Reggie Nalder, Nosferatu incarnate) in a truly jaw-dropping shock sequence.
The great grand-daddy of TV sci-fi and horror, writer Nigel Kneale terrified a nation who’d bought television sets to watch the Coronation. The first Quatermass story described the test-flight of a British astronaut and his agonizing transformation into a malignant growth; later stories involved formless aliens and ancient Martian insects. Kneale went on to predict modern trends with chilling accuracy in The Stone Tape and The Year of the Sex Olympics – his influence is still being felt, nearly 60 years on.
Kolchak The Night Stalker (1974)
Down-at-heel reporter Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin, first appeared in a highly-rated TV movie-of-the-week chasing a vampire in Las Vegas. Kolchak was later given a series of his own, and this in turn inspired Chris Carter to write The X-Files. Memorable Kolchak monsters included a youth-draining succubus, a Hindu demon, an energy being and an Aztec mummy. Avoid the sexed-up remake Night Stalker with Stuart Townsend, which came and went in 2005.
The Twilight Zone (1959)
The definitive TV anthology series still has a bewitching power, and the legendary stories can evoke a scream or two, whether it’s the gremlin on the aircraft wing terrifying William Shatner in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, the mutant doctors in Eye of the Beholder, or a patriarch’s revenge on his money-grubbing family in The Masks. Zone creator Rod Serling returned to TV terror more overtly in his later series Night Gallery with directors including Steven Spielberg.
Being Human (2008)
It sounds like the start of a joke – a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost are sharing a flat – but this series became the best thing BBC3 has done. It was originally conceived without the fantasy elements, then creator Toby Whithouse shuffled his cards, kept the characters believable and likeable, but added plenty of bloody vampire mayhem and the bone-snapping werewolf transformations – Russell Tovey as sad-sack werewolf George suffered for his art. A change of cast introduced fresh blood – sorry – meanwhile a slick American remake is heading off in a different direction.