Top 10 Spooky Shows for your Quarantine Halloweekend
Horror in the age of quarantine.
Happy almost-halloween! It’s about two months until the year ends, and I know it’s been a scary one, but just hang in there, okay?
As a screenwriter, I’ve always loved writing for television more than for film. And while most of what I write are drama-comedies, I love watching horror. Psychological horror, thrillers, classic jump scares, mystery, whatever — as long as it gets my heart pumping and I’m lying awake for hours afraid to shut my eyes, its a yes from me!
Okay. Put your witch hats on and let the thrills begin…
STREAMING SPOOKY SZN TOP 10
10. Two Sentence Horror Stories (2019 — )
Coming in hot at number 10, its Two Sentence Horror Stories. Let’s be honest: this was supposed to be a writing exercise, not a 21-minute episode. Which doesn’t make it easy for this horror anthology to build tension with enough twists before the payoff. So, why is it on the list?
Two Sentence Horror Stories taps into universal primal fears, filtered through the anxieties of all of us living in a digital age. But you have to do the thinking, because the show doesn’t have enough time to think for you. If you’re not careful, it will just be another show to mindlessly watch. But if you want the most out of it, approach Two Sentence Horror Stories with a wry smile and use this series for gruesome comedy rather than fear. I wouldn’t put the success of your Zoom Halloween Party on its shoulders, but it’s fun, I promise.
9. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018–2020)
Don’t get me wrong. I love her. But it’s very, very cheesy. Because by season 3, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina embraces its inner Riverdale. I despise Riverdale. Do I watch it anyway? Absolutely. Maybe I’m ruining my credibility here by admitting that I watch shows I hate, but let me tell you why:
This show is hilarious. The facial expressions. The love triangles. The dialogue. There’s even time travel. Season 1 of Sabrina had me intrigued by the supernatural politics, the show diving into the concept of Sabrina questioning and challenging her religion (they worship Satan), as well as exploring the sexist dynamics in the hierarchy of witches and warlocks. Interesting stuff, right? The sudden goofiness of season 3 may have the show feeling like a spooky soap opera, but it’s so much more fun. Also, season 3 has songs. And they dance. I (love to) hate it.
8. Hannibal (2013 — 2015)
I promise, this show I actually do like — wholeheartedly. Hannibal chronicles the early days of cannibal serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lector, as a determined young FBI criminal profiler attempts to understand the killer’s disturbingly haunted psyche. It’s a psychological thriller with quite a bit of gore (if you’re into that). But what did you expect? It’s about a cannibal.
Now, many shows and movies that follow a serial killer (especially a male serial killer) end up low-key romanticizing the dude. Remember Ted Bundy? But Hannibal thrusts viewers inside the head of a murderer. The show invites viewers to identify with Hannibal. And it’s uncomfortable. Hannibal Lecter is a bad person, and the show makes that painfully obvious. But you’ll still find yourself questioning why you feel the way you feel as he gorges on his victims…brilliant!
7. Scream Queens (2015–2016)
Cancelled after just two seasons, you may be wondering why this show is even on my list. The truth is: I love stupid horror comedies. But it has to be a “good” kind of stupid. The kind of stupid that has you rolling with laughter instead of rolling your eyes. Couple that with some well-timed jump scares, some M&Ms, spiked apple cider and a Zoom call with your friends, and it’s sure to feel like a sleepover from the good old days.
Scream Queens is basically the horror version of Mean Girls, and a horror comedy reality show at its finest. Oh, did I mention it also stars Keke Palmer and Ariana Grande? Literally so wild. This show changed my personality.
6. American Horror Story (2011 — )
The modern mecca of all things spooky lies within the storylines of American Horror Story. This anthology horror series covers everything from haunted houses and summer camp slashers to witches and murderous clowns. It spans 9 seasons, and while each season has its own storyline, past characters reemerge throughout the series. So it’s best to watch this show chronologically.
With Angela Basset and Sarah Paulson among the cast of recurring actors, you can bet the character performances are stellar. And I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t recognize Lady Gaga in season 6 until halfway through the second to last episode. It’s hard to choose a favorite season, but for ultimate spookyness I’d have to go with season 1, Murder House, if only because I’m a sucker for classic jump scares. Make it to season 7, “Cult,” and you’ll be (un)pleasantly reminded of how scary our actual reality is…
5. Penny Dreadful (2014–2016)
Boy, is this show terrifying. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because the second episode made me cry. Like, my heart leapt out of my chest and I screamed so loud I made myself cry. Anyway.
A ragtag team of ghost hunters, including a gunfighter, a medium, an explorer, and a scientist (Victor Frankenstein, himself), work to fight vengeful spirits in 19th century Victorian London. A period-piece horror show? Yes, please! Penny Dreadful has vampires, zombies, and various creatures from the underworld — so if you’re looking for a show with the classic Halloween monsters, this is it. Like, people are literally getting murdered and possessed in every episode. We love to see it.
4. Over the Garden Wall (2014)
I am a firm believer that so-called “kid’s shows” are often scarier that self-proclaimed “adult horror.” To put it simply, there’s this lady in it named “Auntie Whispers.” Enough said.
The references and homages, the darker content mixed with surreal humor, the cute animation used to convey some truly horrific imagery, the lack of definitive explanation…this miniseries is incredibly well-written and executed. The songs are well-placed and are either really sweet or very fitting and poetic. The theories people have about this show are great, so even after you’ve finished watching, you’ll have an entire cult following to satisfy any questions you have after that perplexing final episode.
3. Ratched (2020 — )
Oh. My. God. I love this show. Maybe it’s unfair that I put it on here, since I’m only on the sixth episode, but it’s so good. Remember Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Well Ratched tells her origin story from becoming a nurse at a psychiatric hospital to a literal monster.
The show is gorgeous — from its coloring to its cinematography to its editing. And it’s rare for a show or film to do so well in just two of those categories, let alone all of them. Its 1940s Northern California setting is sweeping and beautiful. I’d want to live there…but without all of the murder and stuff.
Dealing with topics like mental illness, death, and sexuality all while navigating a riveting crime mystery, Ratched keeps you on your toes. The series’ multiple twists and use of reverse dramatic irony will have you questioning whose side Ratched is really on, only to realize she’s on one side and one side only…her own.
2. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Haunting of Hill House easily falls into my top streaming shows, period. Basically, a family attempts to deal with the trauma of growing up in a haunted house, but spirits of the past make it difficult to move on.
And this show has it all. Mystery, jump scares, ghosts, suspense, psychological thrills, you name it. And, get this…the nonlinear storytelling is done extremely well. I was always left with a chill, looking over my shoulder as I grabbed a glass of water before bed, staring at that corner of the room that a demon is definitely hiding in. Watch it alone if you dare.
You’re definitely in for a terrifying, whirlwind of a weekend when bingeing this series. The writing is impeccable, the mysteries and reveals are legitimately shocking, and you’ll be rooting for every captivating character…until the very end.
Before we get to number one, here are some #spooky shows that I love but aren’t on this list (mostly because I haven’t watched enough episodes):
Twilight Zone (2019 — ), available to stream on CBS
Channel Zero (2016–2018), available on Sling, Fubo and Amazon Prime
The Fall (2013–2016), available on Tubi, Sling, and Amazon Prime
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…
1. Lovecraft Country (2020 — )
There was quite a contest between Lovecraft Country and Haunting of Hill House. In the end, Lovecraft won out because of its seamless integration of science fiction into the horror genre, which I haven’t seen done well since Stranger Things. This genre-hopping show has comedy, thrills, depth, and a storyline that is gloriously bonkers.
The plot direction of this series is genius. What else would you expect from executive-producer Jordan Peele and show-runner Misha Green? Lovecraft deals with both racial and supernatural horrors (in the form of some very scary monsters), and follows Atticus Black, his friend Letitia and his Uncle George as they embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of Atticus’ missing father. Watching the show, you can tell the writers are having a blast. One episode evokes an Indiana Jones-style adventure, another is a classic haunted house story, and yet another is a science fiction story involving the multiverse (time travel, anyone?). I really don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave you with this:
This show is brilliant, the cast is brilliant, and the season finale is wild.
There you have it! My top 10 shows for your quarantine Halloweekend. Pick and choose as you will.
And while the holiday may look a little different this year, I hope you spend some time making fall treats and scaring yourself. I know I will.