Horror series are a real mixed bag, but there are plenty of great, extremely watchable series out there. The best thing about horror series is the ability to draw the story out, deepening the mystery and pulling viewers in bit by bit.
The worst thing about horror series is the tendency to draw the story out for too long, or to take weird turns in the final third. Yes, I’m talking to you, American Horror Story. As much as I love AHS, it seems to go off the rails nearly every season. I mean, I’m being pulled into the story and the characters, and them, BAM! Suddenly aliens show up.
Netflix has had some really topnotch horror series; The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, Marianne, Black Summer…the list could go on and on. But one that has really pulled me in recently is All of Us Are Dead, a Korean series.
Asian horror has been hitting the ball out of the park over the past few years, particularly with films like Train to Busan (which is now my favorite zombie film) and the delightful and unexpected One Cut of the Dead.
All of us Are Dead is based on a popular webtoon called Now at Our School, and most of the horror series is set at a high school in South Korea. The opening scene shows us a teenage boy being bullied and beaten by a group of students on a rooftop. He does fight back at one point, but ends up going over the edge (bouncing off signs and roofs on the way down). Amazingly, he is still alive, though gravely injured.
His father, a science teacher at the high school, rushes to the hospital, and clearly knows something about the situation. Later, another student is bitten by a hamster in the science lab, and just like that, the zombie apocalypse hits hard.
As students are turned left and right, and start attacking, the survivors sequester themselves in classrooms, restrooms, the kitchen…wherever they can. The rest of the series follows these students, and we see friendships and relationships develop. We also see many of the characters die in bloody fashion.
All of Us Are Dead is emotional horror at its best, and it hurts when these brave, resourceful kids get killed or zombified. That’s exactly the way Train to Busan played out, and I always warn people to be prepared to cry the first time they watch it; same goes for this horror series.
Showtime has a few good horror series, but the newest are Dexter: New Blood and Yellowjackets.
The new season of Dexter was very enjoyable for me, because I was a big fan of the series from day one. And, while I wasn’t super thrilled with the ending of New Blood, it made sense, and it also washed the bad taste of the original series finale out of my mouth.
But, Yellowjackets is just as good as everyone says it is. Boasting a compelling, mysterious storyline and a fantastic cast of amazing actresses, it’s a series that you have no choice but to binge. The story in this horror series jumps back and forth between 1996 and the present, following a group of girls’ soccer team players who are stranded in the wilderness when their private plane crashes. Even as adults, the trauma from that time colors their lives.
The horrific plane crash scene alone throws this into horror series territory, and it only gets scarier from there. The cast of younger actresses completely embody their older counterparts, with Christina Ricci and Sammi Hanratty playing the craziest one of the bunch, Misty. Again, no spoilers, but we get our first taste of what Misty is really like shortly after the plane crash, a scene that literally made me yelp.
Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nelisse play the complicated Shauna, who we think we know pretty well…until we don’t. Rounding out the main cast are Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Taissa, who in the present is running for the state senate, Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher as Natalie, a high school drug user who hasn’t really changed much in that regard; she is just angrier as an adult, and Ella Purnell as the popular Jackie, Shauna’s best friend.
We figure out fairly early into the series that the adult Jackie is not present, so we surmise that something happened to her in the wilderness. And we are given a horror-driven peek into ritualistic murder and possible cannibalism that took place during that time.
It came as no surprise to find out that there will be a second season of Yellowjackets, and we will let you know as soon as a date is announced.
Next up is Amazon Prime, which is where you can find Tell Me Your Secrets. This is another horror series that leans more towards thriller, but there are definitely some terrifying elements that I think render it horror.
Emma (Lily Rabe, American Horror Story) is being released from prison into witness protection after serving time for aiding and abetting her boyfriend Parker, who was a serial killer. Her memories are a bit jumbled due to the trauma she experienced, and it’s a great plot device, because we are never quite sure of her innocence.
Amy Brenneman plays Mary, whose daughter was kidnapped by Parker, but her body was never found. So, again, trauma plays a part in Mary’s unwise decisions, one of which is to track Emma down when she finds out she has been released.
To help in this search, she hires John Tyler, a convicted rapist who is desperately seeking redemption after his release from prison. Hamish Linklater (Midnight Mass) is a revelation in the role of John, because we can actually see him fighting his inner demons and trying to make some good of his life.
But, Mary pushes him and manipulates him – even blackmails him into helping her find Emma. Meanwhile, Emma is trying to settle into her new life in Louisiana, where she lives in a house in the bayou. When a teenage girl she befriends is murdered, the mystery deepens.
Amy Brenneman gives a strong performance as Mary, but Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater (who are actually married in real life) really sell this horror series. Rabe shows a mixture of vulnerability and fierceness that makes the viewer really root for Emma, and Linklater’s performance is unsettling and nuanced (much like his portrayal of Father Paul in Midnight Mass).
It’s a shame there is almost no chance of a second season for Tell Me Your Secrets, because I really wanted to find out more.
Hulu has more original horror films than it does horror series, so I am going to recommend a non-original, the gorgeously dark and demented Hannibal, featuring Mads Mikkelsen as the iconic Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and Hugh Dancy as the very complicated Will Graham. While the series left Netflix a while back, Hulu picked it up, so you can still watch.
Set before the events in The Silence of the Lambs, this horror series finds Lecter working as a forensic psychiatrist who is assigned to supervise FBI Profiler Will Graham. Graham is very intense when it comes to his work, and is actually able to visualize himself in the scenarios of the killers he profiles. That’s pretty disturbing, because it makes him (and us) question his sanity; is he a sociopath, like the murderers he analyzes?
Lecter is, of course, very manipulative, and while he initially is trying to keep himself from being discovered (he is a serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies), he soon becomes fascinated with Graham’s ability to empathize with murderers, while also working to apprehend them. The two men form a strange bond that evolves over the three seasons of the series, and this friendship renders them both vulnerable where their jobs are concerned.
There are other strong characters and actors in this intelligent horror series, including Laurence Fishburne as head of Behavior Sciences Jack Crawford, Caroline Dhavernas as consultant Alana Bloom and Gillian Anderson’s Bedelia, who is Lecter’s own psychotherapist. But, this story belongs to Lecter and Graham, and I don’t think they could have chosen two better actors to do the job right.
Taking on a role like Lecter, who was portrayed in such an iconic fashion by Anthony Hopkins, is a pretty strong order, but Mikkelsen completely embodied the role, making it his own.
Though The Silence of the Lambs has been much debated with the “is it horror, or thriller” argument, in my mind, it has always been horror. The villain not only abducts and kills women, he throws them in a pit to fatten them up and soften their skin, then he removes said skin to make himself a “woman suit.” That’s horror. And Hannibal is 100% a gory, disturbing horror series, with all of the blood and internal organs filmed in loving, artistic fashion. It’s a treat for the eyes and the brain.
So, there you go, friends. If you love a good horror series as much as I do, I recommend streaming the ones we just discussed. Enjoy!
We want to know which horror series are your favorites, so tell us all about them in the comments section.