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6 Terrifying TV Shows to Keep You Up at Night

by Danny Gallagher, posted Oct 28th 2010 5:00PM
A scary kid watch TV, oooooooThere's something inherently eerie about the warm glow of a television in a dark room, a spooky and mysterious warmth that sends shivers through the hairs on the back of your neck.

Of course, since staring at a blank screen all night isn't very interesting unless some lost spirit is trying to communicate with the living world through it (if that's the case, please invite me to your party, I'll bring dip), one of these scary TV shows will help set the mood on Halloween night.

If you pop one of these shows in the DVD player, not only will your friends laud your impeccable taste in terrifying television, they'll probably be too scared to leave your house until at least Veteran's Day.

1. 'Tales from the Crypt'
This one's a bit of a no-brainer, which is also a pretty apt description for some of the poor souls who become subjects of the Cryptkeeper's torrid tales of terror. This classic horror series, based on the equally classic horror comic published by Mad Magazine creator William M. Gaines, breathed new life into the horror anthology series by abandoning the rigid, wussy standards of the FCC and jumping into the warm, freeing embrace of HBO. The pay cable world gave the creators and rotating panel of directors like Robert Zemeckis and Walter Hall free rein to coat the studio walls with bile and blood. From the ultra-horrid-looking Cryptkeeper to the downright chilling morality stories that punished the wicked, every episode took advantage of that freedom.

Here's a clip from my personal favorite episode, called 'Abra Cadaver,' starring Beau Bridges as a scheming scientist who gets back at his brother for a near-fatal prank by killing him just enough so he still feels the full effect of not being alive.

2. 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker'
Long before 'The X-Files' hit the airwaves, series creator Chris Carter was inspired by this short-lived cult series about a monster hunter who fought real vampires -- not these brooding, shirtless, emo-blood suckers. (I tell ya, these vampires today.)

Reporter Karl Kolchak always seemed to have a knack for finding the hot story, except most of the stories involved everything from decapitated bodies to victims drained completely of blood. Of course, he didn't just jot down notes and type them out on an IBM Selectric on three hours sleep. He absolutely destroyed them -- and these weren't your bush-league monsters. He took on such towering tall tales of terror as a giant man-eating moss monster, an undead Indian spirit played by Richard Kiel and vampires that could make the 'Twilight' wussies into .. even whiner wussies.

3. 'Tales from the Darkside'
George Romero's films always make for great Halloween viewing, but his long-running TV exploits are just as dark and sinister -- and (believe it or not) have nothing to do with zombies.

Following the success of 'Creepshow,' Romero and company created a scaled-down anthology series with considerably less blood and bile but plenty of natural creepiness and some great scares. Along with the help of his makeup maven Tom Savini, Romero's 'Darkside' brought all sorts of extremely scary and sinister monsters to terrorize the human world for reasons none of us can fully understand. The most famous and scariest is "Halloween Candy," a tragic little tale about a terrorizing troll who tries to teach a cranky old man the true meaning of Halloween by testing the limits of his (and our) nervous system.

4. 'MTV's Fear'
Ghost-hunting reality shows have become such a part of the TV norm that now they're only really scary when you hear the SyFy Channel is producing yet another spinoff of 'Ghost Hunters.' There was a time when the concept of a haunted house reality show was actually new, and MTV made it haunting and scary. This reality game show put a group of dumb teenagers and twentysomethings in a very haunted place and sent them on various missions, usually by themselves, to complete tasks that would taunt the spirits into coming out to play. The creepiest part (for me at least) was the host: a cold, sinister voice on a computer issuing "dares" to each contestant.

In this episode, the contestants have to spend a certain amount of time alone in various parts of an abandoned prison where -- some say -- the spirits never got out for good behavior.

5. 'Masters of Horror'
This series of feature length movies hired some of the brightest and baddest directors of horror classics -- 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' mastermind Tobe Hooper and 'Phantasm" director Don Coscarelli, to name a few -- to turn some of the most ingenious and twisted short stories into epic films of terror and horror. Some of the more memorable titles in the collection include horror writer Bentley Little's "The Washingtonians," about a group of renegade historians who know the true history of America's founding father, and "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road," based on a story by Joe Lansdale, the man who also inspired the classic Bruce Campbell action horror flick "Bubba Hotep."

6. Any 'Twilight Zone' episode involving dolls
'The Twilight Zone' may not have gallons of gore or blood-hungry cannibals to scare you into vegetarianism. Hell, it doesn't even have color. But it would be impossible to leave out Rod Serling's seminal '60s series, which still manages to be just as creepy and scary as anything on The Chiller Network, late-night Cinemax or daytime Lifetime.

The scariest monsters, however, weren't giant rubber monsters posing as beings from another planet or some lost souls in search of revenge. The truly scary creatures in Serling's ingenious world were seemingly lifelike but actually lifeless things that could develop a soul and a will of their own. They started as hauntingly evil but were either benevolent and misunderstood like the department store mannequins in "The After Hours," or cold and uncaring like the ventriloquist dummy in "The Dummy." Perhaps the creepiest creature in the entire series was Talky Tina from "Living Doll."

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Danny Smith


October 28 2010 at 10:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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