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It's the Booze Talkin': Is horror on TV taking over horror at the movies?

03.25.2014by: JimmyO

One of my earliest horror memories was taking in the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in all its black and white glory on a rainy afternoon. This experience scared the living shite out of me and I’m a much better horror nut for it. Yet aside from commercial laden airings on a local station, those were the days when my favorite scary movies were generally in theatres or on home video – occasionally you’d have a creepy TV movie like “Trilogy of Terror” or years later “Stephen King’s It” which at the time would suffice. And yes, there were a handful of great television shows that dabbled in the darkness. You had the gothic vampire soap “Dark Shadows” or the telling of twisted terror with “Tales from the Crypt.” As the years progressed however, horror became a much larger part of television programming.

For many of us, “The X-Files” provoked a ton of nightmares and numerous hours of spooky viewing. Sitting back and watching an episode like “Home” or even “Tooms” was something I’d never thought I’d witness on an hour long program. After this classic series the idea of genre programming began to expand itself in ways I’d never have imagined. Between the ultra-hip and entertaining “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in the late 90’s to the wild and wooly “True Blood” a few years later producers found that audiences liked a little spooky TV with bite. In between, there was a Buffy spin-off “Angel”, as well as other CW friendly shows like “Charmed”, “Supernatural” and “The Vampire Diaries.” Even still, this new age in counter programming was becoming more commonplace.

Today you can find uniquely horror themed television everywhere you look. If you are hunting for ghosts, you can find their shadowy figures lurking in shows like “Ghost Adventures”, “Ghost Hunters” or “Paranormal Witness.” There is a horror make-up game show called “Face-Off” and even a sort of paranormal antiques series called “Haunted Collector.” In fact, nearly every single time a new season of said haunted series is about to premiere, you can entertain yourself with hours on end of the previous episodes. There is a plethora of shows exploring nearly every aspect of horror that you could possibly imagine, yet the genre isn’t limited to modestly budgeted “reality” programming.

Horror has become a major part of mainstream television offering riskier stories and sometimes far more fascinating characters than we are seeing in the multiplex. With only a few scary flicks hitting theatres that aren’t called PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, television has amped up the genre with award winning programs. When is the last time a horror flick received award recognition for one of its stars? Well television has that covered as Jessica Lange won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe in 2012 for her work on the critically acclaimed anthology series “American Horror Story.” The actress has had her fair share of award recognition at the Academy Awards, yet it is genre TV that has once again put the spotlight back on this incredible talent.

There are even a few familiarly terrifying faces in the cinematic world capturing our attention on the small screen. Both “Bates Motel” and “Hannibal” have revived such classic characters as Norman Bates and Hannibal Lector. These are two names I’d have never imagined I would see on a regular basis in a weekly series yet here we are giving new life to these legendary silver screen villains. Let us not forget the recent reincarnation of the Gecko Brothers in Robert Rodriguez’ new series based on his own film “From Dusk Till Dawn.” This retelling has received a whole lot of attention since its premiere on Rodriguez own El Rey Network.

Then you have a couple of series inspired by written works including “The Walking Dead” as well as the murderous vengeance of “Dexter.” The surprising thing about most of these episodic programs are the boundaries that they push. From nudity to gore to extreme adult content, many of the series are finding tons of freedom thanks to cable. You couldn’t get away with much of what is shown nowadays years ago on television. The gore and violence on something like “The Walking Dead” is just as eye-popping as anything you’d see in a theatre. Let’s face it, television has expanded its horror horizons creating work that is much more viscerally satisfying and shockingly disturbed than most of what you’d see at a bargain matinee. Plus cable or Netflix is a whole lot cheaper than taking a date to the latest scary feature.

Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but is horror on TV taking over horror on the big screen? This is not to say that you can’t find quality scares in the theatre, but with the amount of great television, there is no comparison. There are shocks a plenty whatever you are in the mood for and it is all right there at your fingertips with the remote. From “The Walking Dead” to “Hannibal” or “Bates Motel” to the upcoming The Strain, Penny Dreadful and Salem, to my personal favorite, “American Horror Story,” horror has found a new home, and the monsters are a whole lot closer than they used to be.

Extra Tidbit: With all the horror goodness on television, what is your favorite?

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