Here are 10 Great Horror TV Series You Can Stream Right Now
Horror on television is a pretty mixed bag. It isn’t easy to maintain the horror aesthetic over long form storytelling because horror is always about keeping something hidden, creating a sense of gloom and apprehension in the viewer. Television often struggles to do this because it needs to pad its runtime with plot, and it cannot keep the viewer hanging for too long without some big reveal. Thus, shows are often forced to show their hand too quickly, eliminating any kind of suspense or drama. However, some shows have found creative ways to keep the thrills coming. Here are just ten horror shows that I have loved that you can scream…I mean stream right now.
*Note: All streaming platforms are US-based. Many of these shows may not be available in all countries/territories.
Bates Motel (stream it on Peacock)
A prequel to the classic slasher movie Psycho, this show follows a young Norman Bates (Freddy Highmore) as he and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), decide to move to a new town and open their own motel. The series starts off a bit slow as an off-kilter teen/small town drama, but the show does a beautiful job of slowly ratcheting up the intensity and tension as it progresses. Season Four is especially a highlight as we finally see Norman transform into the figure we know from Psycho. Highmore and Farmiga both give award winning performances, injecting both pathos and horror into their performances. The ensemble also includes a young Olivia Cooke (House of the Dragon‘s adult Alicent) and the final season stars Rihanna(!) as Marion Crane.
Channel Zero (stream it on Shudder)
While American Horror Story is the biggest name in horror anthology series, the best was Channel Zero, which originally aired on the Syfy network. The series ran for four, six episode seasons that each told a story based on a different copypasta. Some are spine-tingling (Season 1) while others are gory and bloody (Season 3), but no matter what you are guaranteed a great time. The series was created by Nick Antosca, who also has writing credits on Teen Wolf and Hannibal (see below!), and was the creator of The Act and Candy (both true crime shows on Hulu).
Penny Dreadful (Stream it on Netflix and Showtime)
Shows that mash-up a lot of different IPs together (Once Upon a Time, Grimm, etc.) are not new, but none has been more successful than Penny Dreadful. A gothic and macabre mashup of some of your favorite spooky tales – Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dorian Gray, and more – this series is steeped in Victorian fog. I don’t think any other show really understands the tone of gothic romance better than this one, and it is no surprise that the show’s writer, John Logan, was initially a playwright. The dialogue is absolutely gorgeous, as is the set design. If nothing else attracts you, Eva Green’s performance as the central Vanessa Ives is iconic, and should have swept the awards circuit. Just make sure to skip the spinoff series (City of Angels).
The Flanagan-Verse (Stream them on Netflix)
The master of modern horror on television is Mike Flanagan. Between his two series in the “Haunting of…” franchise (The Haunting of Hill House and the The Haunting of Bly Manor), the impressive vampire drama Midnight Mass, and the YA thriller The Midnight Club, Flanagan shows he understands the relationship between horror and the human psyche better than anyone else. His shows are not only thrilling with genuine scares, but they are also filled with deeply rich and complex characters. Start with any except The Midnight Club because that show was cancelled without resolution, but the other three are all five star series.
Evil (Stream it on Paramount Plus)
Following a Catholic priest and psychiatrist as they investigate possible possessions, this might possibly be the weirdest show on this list. What shockingly started as a CBS procedural (the network with all of your grandparents’ favorite shows, like Blue Bloods and NCIS), the show was quickly moving to a streaming platform where it could really stretch its legs and come into its own funny and bonkers potential. Evil, starring Katja Herbers, Mike Coulter, and Michael Emmerson among others, has episodes that genuinely terrifying combined with some of the most creatively campy moments on television. Bonus points: if you are a fan of musical theater the show casts a ton of Broadway performers in its guest roles!
Wreck (Stream it on Hulu)
The newest show on this list, Wreck is one of those shows with a premise that seems so obvious that it is surprising that it has never been done before. The show opens with a young woman on a cruise ship running from a masked murderer (here wearing a giant duck mascot costume) before we flash forward to her brother getting a job on the same cruise ship to investigate her disappearance. What results is a horror comedy that is both irreverent and addicting. The twists and jokes keep coming as we learn more about the underground workings of the cruise ship and as the mystery depends. What surprised me the most was that the show developed a real sense of depth and social commentary, as well as being on the queerest horror shows on television.
30 Coins (Stream it on HBO Max)
This Spanish-language program follows an ex-Catholic priest with a mysterious silver coin that might be one of the Biblical silver coins paid to Judas to betray Jesus. He teams up with a mayor of a small town and the local veterinarian to investigate the spooky and thrilling events going on in the town, as they might be related to the coin. The shows only grows as they find that there is a much larger conspiracy that they ever could have imagined. Of any show on this list this one might bring the most chills, particularly in its first opening episodes (which are by far the strongest in the series).
Hannibal (Stream it on Hulu)
Created by Bryan Fuller, this adaptation of the Thomas Harris Hannibal novels is one of the best looking series on television of all time. It oozes with sexuality and the macabre in such a unique way that it is surprising that it aired on basic network television in the US. Fuller’s interpretation of Hannibal Lecter (played here in a star making turn by Mads Mikkelson) is cold and calculating in an endearing way, and his cat-and-mouse game with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, wonderfully portraying the downward spiral of being gaslit) makes for a stellar three season run. In addition to the show’s visuals, Hannibal‘s strength is the way that it emphasized and commented upon the homoerotic nature of the stereotypical “law enforcement vs. serial killer” aesthetic, which really paved the way for later shows like Killing Eve.
Lovecraft Country (Stream it on HBO Max)
This limited series based on the book of the same name combines Lovecraftian horror with the horrors of structural racism. Each and every episode brings a new kind of horror to the table, whether its eldritch monsters, body horror, ghosts, or the very real horrors of sundown laws. Admittedly, the show works better on an individual episode basis as the overarching plot breaks down a bit, but the show is anchored by wonderful performances from a pre-Marvel Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, and Michael K. Williams in one of his last roles.
Yellowjackets (Stream it on Showtime)
One of my current television favorites, Yellowjackets is about a varsity girls soccer team in the 1990s whose plane crashes in a remote part of Canada. We get a sense of the chaotic happenings of their time there, including blood rituals and cannibalism before jumping ahead to the modern day where we follow four of the survivors as adults. What results is a dual timeline story where we get to see the girls trying to survive in the wilderness, and their adult selves unpack the trauma of their experiences. There are also mysteries, twists, and puzzle boxes galore, resulting in a show that is are more tightly plotted Lost mixed with a feminist take on Lord of the Flies.