Plenty of what we see on TV can be considered a horror show (True Detective Season 2, anyone?), but you don't have to be a horror fan to know that TV has become a scary place. That's because networks are increasingly introducing programming that's likely to cause viewers to sleep with the lights on.
Just look at the new and returning shows of the current TV season. In the past couple of months, we've seen the premieres of Fear the Walking Dead and Scream Queens, plus there's the impending return of American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, iZombie and Penny Dreadful next year — just to name a few. Yes, if you're a horror fan, this is just about as gilded as a golden age of television gets.
But of course, with the promise of Halloween at the end of October, we all become something of a horror fan this month. While there are sure to be some new Halloween specials airing on broadcast TV, which are always good for a new fright, it's possible that there just won't be enough programming on actual TV channels to keep you up at night for all 31 days.
Luckily, Netflix is jam-packed with genre TV shows, and horror is no exception. Though its horror movie collection may be more robust, Netflix's scary TV show offerings have just about every popular and critically acclaimed series you can think of.
So sit back and relax — but not too much, because you need to brace yourself for all the thrills and chills that could ever give you nightmares when you watch these 10 terrifying horror TV shows.
1. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957)
Stars: Alfred Hitchcock
If you don't have time to watch Rear Window, Psycho, The Birds or one of Alfred Hitchcock's other classic films, an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents will give you a quick dose of the Master of Suspense. Each installment of this anthology series – which features some thrilling stories worthy of a Hitchcock film – begins with that iconic silhouette of Hitch in profile.
This then gives way to an introduction of the story you're about to see from Hitchcock himself, complete with some dry British humor and a blank stare that will send chills down your spine. The end of each episode comes with some parting words from the auteur that will stay with you long after it's over.
2. American Horror Story (2011-2013)
Stars: Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters
Even if you don't watch this show, you've probably seen the horrifying posters and teasers released in anticipation of each new installment of this anthology series, which should give you a clue that if you want horror in your TV show, American Horror Story is where you should look these days.
The great thing about this series is that each season deals with a different narrative in a different creepy location (a haunted house, a mental institution, a coven of witches, a "freak show" and soon, a hotel), so you don't have to have seen the previous season to know what's going on — although that shouldn't be a problem for binge-watchers, anyway. The first three seasons (Murder House, Asylum and Coven) are currently available to stream on Netflix, with Freak Show arriving on October 6 to give you four different flavors of fright.
3. Bates Motel (2013-2014)
Stars: Freddie Highmore, Vera Farmiga, Max Thieriot
Even though you probably know how Norman Bates ends up in adulthood, this Psycho prequel will still be one terrifying ride. I mean, the only thing more chilling than watching a killer is watching how he got to be that way, right? Plus, seeing onetime child star Freddie Highmore portray a future psychopath is almost too much terror to handle.
4. Black Mirror (2011-2013)
Stars: Hayley Atwell, Domhnall Gleeson, Rory Kinnear, Jessica Brown Findlay
If you have techno-paranoia, you probably shouldn't watch Black Mirror, the British anthology series that has gotten a lot of buzz in the States over the past year — particularly in recent weeks, for its seemingly real-life connections and the announcement that Netflix has picked up Season 3 of the show.
Each episode presents a narrative that explores our relationship with technology, from how social media impacts current events to how it makes us see ourselves and others. You'll soon find that each story seems like it could happen in reality or in the near future — which is just plain scary.
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon
High school is hard enough, but throw in having the weight of the world on your shoulders with the responsibility to slay vampires and other demons, and you can see why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is such a scary series. Sure, Buffy does have plenty of camp thrown in throughout the series – there's a musical episode for crying out loud – but if you look at the horror genre as a whole, you'll find that camp is a major part of it, in addition to the things that go bump in the night. All in all, Buffy will grab you and never let you go.
6. Hemlock Grove (2013-2015)
Stars: Famke Janssen, Landon Liboiron, Dougray Scott
Hemlock Grove is one of the first Netflix Original Series, and it may be surprising that the streaming platform would choose to go with a genre so early on that could potentially be divisive among viewers. But it's not such a risky idea when you consider Hemlock Grove's compelling story. Hemlock Grove basically has everything you could ever ask of a horror TV show: mysterious murders, an eerie town full of secrets and the seal of approval from well-known contemporary horror director Eli Roth, who executive produced the series. The third and final season of Hemlock Grove arrives on Netflix October 23, and you have just enough time to catch up on this series before what's sure to be a creepy conclusion.
7. Supernatural (2005-2015)
Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles
Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) both look like your typical, All-American boys-next-door, but they're actually much more than that. That's because they've decided to follow in their father's footsteps and rid the world of demons and all the other freaky things out there. And if you think that could get really old, really fast, you'd be wrong about that as well. Supernatural is heading into its 11th season on The CW this year, so clearly, it knows how to keep its scares fresh and exciting for viewers week after week.
8. The Following (2013-2014)
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore, James Purefoy
Sure, there's lots of shows about serial killers throughout the history of TV. However, the basic premise of The Following is that FBI Agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has to track down a serial killer who has organized something of a cult of murderers — featuring some of the most gruesome scenes you'll see anywhere on TV today. And that's really saying something.
9. The Returned (2012)
Stars: Anne Cosigny, Frédéric Pierrot, Clotilde Hesme
You may have caught The Returned when it premiered on A&E earlier this year — but forget everything you saw in that quickly cancelled series so you can watch the first season of the critically acclaimed original that's streaming on Netflix now.
The Returned has an automatically creepy premise of people thought to be dead returning to their normal lives, only to find that the same thing has happened to others. Then, even weirder occurrences start to happen in the town — which will soon convince you that The Returned is one of the most unsettling shows you've ever seen.
10. The Walking Dead (2010-2014)
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride
You didn't think we'd forget about The Walking Dead, did you? The AMC drama – returning for its sixth season later this month – helped redefine the zombie genre, after all. Come for the nightmare-inducing, lumbering, flesh-eating zombies. Stay for the thought-provoking exploration of what it truly means to be human.