|Scary TV Shows (clockwise, top-right) Carnivale, Ghostwatch, The Stone Tapes, Supernatural, Dexter|
After a year's break, I finally got around to hosting a poll here at Dan's Media Digest. This one was to celebrate Halloween and determine the TV show most people consider the scariest ever made. 148 people voted and here are the results in ascending order:
Honourable mentions: Dexter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ghostwatch, Hammer House of Horror, Invasion, The Outer Limits, The River, Whistle & I'll Come To You, *Hee Haw (1969-1997), *Children of the Stones and *Afterlife. – 2.04%
Runners-up: Supernatural, American Horror Story, The Twilight Zone, Carnivale, The Stone Tape – 4.08%
Chris Carter's follow-up to The X Files was a much scarier show, if you ask me, because everything about it was designed to be as grim, dank and depressing as possible—with only a few rays of plaintive hope lighting the darkness. Lance Henriksen as consulting profiler Frank Black was on career-best form, and episodes like season 1's "Lamentation" offered audiences genuinely horrific chills straight into their front rooms. The Se7en-influenced pilot with buried bodies with stitched-up faces probably scared a mass audience away, sadly.
In joint fourth place is Stephen King's It, the miniseries from 1990. Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown is one of horror's most frightening creations, as I'm sure you'll agree from the photo above. He's the undisputed king of scary clowns and probably gives Tim Burton nightmares. That face, the voice, that performance, those ugly sharp fangs... oh my God, a truly terrifying character. The actual miniseries has its flaws, but whenever Pennywise is around your blood will run cold.
This '90s cult classic was a fine pick by voters. The mind of filmmaker David Lynch has always been a troubling place, and seeing his imagination come to life in a surreal television soap/murder-mystery was an unforgettable experience at the time. Okay, so the second season failed to live up to the high standard of the first, meaning the majority of this two-season series wasn't actually that brilliant... but there are few TV shows that capture and sustain such a deeply unsettling mood with an atmosphere of foreboding. And when it wasn't being incredibly weird, it could be genuinely scary.
A lot of people probably got their first taste of televised horror via The X Files if they were born in the early-'80s. Chris Carter certainly frightened a whole generation between this and its younger brother ;Millennium. His spooky masterpiece about two FBI Agents investigating the paranormal may have lost the plot after season 6 (and did anyone care about it once David Duchovny left?), those early days were consistently exciting, gripping and creatively written. The show reinvigorated the sci-fi/horror genre to a large extent, and inspired many copycats at the time. It would be great if the voters could mention their scariest episode in the comments below, but I'm guessing the honourable mentions go to Eugene Victor Tooms (the man who could squeeze into any tight spot) and "Home" (the Texas Chain Saw Massacre-esque episode with the degenerate Peacock family). Am I right?
It's perhaps inevitable that a popular TV show currently on-air received the majority of reader votes, but The Walking Dead is admittedly notable for taking a sub-genre that made its name on the big-screen and presenting it as a weekly TV drama. It's hard to imagine a zombie TV show making it onto the airwaves until recently; certainly not with this show's high production values, gritty tone, and copious gore. Is it actually scary though? It has its sick and creepy moments, but I can't say I've ever been troubled by anything. Maybe I'm just tougher-skinned these days.
* voter unique choice