No Halloween’s complete without a variety of television to go along with all those movies. Sometimes you want a quick scare for the fall season.
Well, Father Gore’s got your back, as always!
Here’s a list of TV episodes from a bunch of excellent shows. Hopefully there’ll be a few things to freak you out proper. Each of these is more than worth your time, so dig in.
Season 3, Episode 13: “Syzygy”
There are dozens of episodes from The X-Files fit for this list— in fact, there’s three actually on this list! And though this list isn’t ranked, Father Gore might have to pick “Syzygy” from The X-Files Season 3 as one of the creepier episodes of television ever.
Take some humour, plus Scully and Mulder sexual tension, then toss in the urban legend of Bloody Mary, two strange and dangerous high school girls, a little astrological weirdness, and you’ve got the “Syzygy” recipe. The less you know, the more you’ll be surprised. A wild forty-five minutes of TV befitting any dark, stormy night.
Masters of Horror
Season 1, Episode 1: “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”
Don Coscarelli’s offered the world Phantasm (+ sequels), The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tepand Survival Quest. What more do you vultures want?!? If he hasn’t satisfied you yet, there’s the first episode of Masters of Horror, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”— better still, this one-hour episode from Coscarelli is based on the Joe R. Lansdale’s short story of the same name.
It’s backwoods horror story, and also a story about the horror women experience at the hands of men. Ellen (Bree Turner) must not only survive her abusive survivalist husband Bruce (Ethan Embry), she later encounters a serial killer called Moonface (John De Santis) after crashing her car on an isolated mountain road.
This is a knock ’em down, drag ’em out slasher-style episode, complete with a cameo from none other than Angus Scrimm. Both Turner and Embry are great in their roles, and it’s the former whose performance really offers up macabre delight in the end.
Season 1, Episode 19: “Mirror, Mirror”
Plot: horror novelist doesn’t believe in real horror until he’s followed everywhere by a disfigured man and starts questioning reality.
Production: Amazing Stories was already the child of Steven Spielberg. This episode was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Joseph Minion (After Hours), and it features a lead performance from Sam Waterston, as well as Tim Robbins in the role of the eerie phantom man with the horrifying face. Plenty to enjoy here, from seeing Scorsese work his magic on the small screen, to Waterston’s effective descent into paranoid madness as he feels the fabric of reality slip out from under him. One of the best Amazing Stories.
The Twilight Zone
Season 2, Episode 22: “Long Distance Call”
There are dozens of The Twilight Zone‘s episodes deserving of being on this list, so there’ll be a Best Of list at some point in the future. My choice for an episode to watch during Halloween season would be “Long Distance Call”— a subtly scary story about a little boy communicating with his dead grandmother via toy phone.
What begins as the tale of a lonely boy missing grandma becomes horrifying when the episode’s coming to a close and the viewer figures out what’s going to happen in the end. Might not be one of the highest rated of the show’s chapters and it doesn’t matter, the whole thing’s truly chilling in a quiet, subdued kind of way.
Season 2, Episode 9: “Croatoan”
Anything horror to do with Roanoke – whether American Horror Story‘s My Roanoke Nightmare, a mention in Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, or anything slightly connected to the Lost Colony – is always creepy. One weird historical story, so naturally that makes for good fodder in the world of all things spooky.
Supernatural admittedly isn’t a favourite show on my list. There are absolutely great episodes despite that sentiment. “Croatoan” uses the Roanoke tale in a different way than most other stories. This is crazy demonic possession horror and it’s all around awesome. Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) experience intense drama between them while trying not to get killed in a town overtaken by demons. Perfect for Halloween!
The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 1: “What Lies Ahead”
As much as I love The Walking Dead it’s often more intense than actually terrifying. Not saying there aren’t scary episodes, there certainly are— case and point, “What Lies Ahead” from Season 2.
This episode’s ending is tragic, as Carl (Chandler Riggs) happily sees a deer in the forest only to be shot by a stray bullet. Before that there’s lots of juicy horror. This season begins with Sheriff Rick (Andrew Lincoln) withholding a secret about what the scientist at the CDC told him, too. “What Lies Ahead” contains solid zombie action to satisfy fans of the sub-genre. Best = a harrowing sequence on the highway where the group are scavenging and nearly overtaken by walkers. Everybody hides under cars/anywhere else they can manage to squeeze. One of the eerier group panic moments of the entire show.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Tale of the Lonely Ghost”
As a kid I was a lover of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because it actually scared me. Certain episodes stuck with me, none more so than “The Tale of the Lonely Ghost.”
This episode features a girl named Amanda (Laura Bertram) staying with her cousin over the summer. It starts out in a typical pre-teen situation— the cool cousin doesn’t want her around, so Amanda’s got to prove herself. She gets tricked into going into a supposedly haunted house by herself, leading to the discovery of a ghost. It’s actually a tragic story of loneliness and the devastation of a mother/her family. Along the way there are legitimately frightening moments. They continue to be to this day, and Father Gore’s turning 33 this year. They’ll still be frightening at 43, too.
Season 2, Episode 2: “The Host”
The X-Files is a gold mine for scary + weird stuff. It’s got all the sci-fi and horror and surrealism necessary to cover every sub-genre base of horror and science fiction. “The Host” is all around one of the show’s episodes with the unsettling goods.
This has it all: mystery and intrigue, shady stuff going on in city spaces, Mulder getting into tough situations while Scully does important legwork, and, last but not least, a ghastly creature that’ll pop up in one of your nightmares eventually. The creature’s not simply gross to look at, its whole story is disgusting, what with the sewage and parasites. Do yourself a favour and throw this on when you need a Halloween spook that’s both nasty and scary.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 4, Episode 10: “Hush”
There’s more than one spooky episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hard to top “Hush” in that regard. The above image is enough to sell this for horror fans who’ve not yet had to pleasure of seeing it.
“Hush” features a group called The Gentlemen – one of whom is played by Doug Jones – who’ve got their own nursery rhyme like Freddy Krueger. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the Scoobies, along with the rest of Sunnydale, lose their voices, and have to silently communicate to try restoring everyone’s ability to speak. This is a unique slice of TV, given there’s only 17 minutes of dialogue in a 44-minute stretch, so it’s interesting to see Joss Whedon (writer + director here) work some magic to keep things suspenseful and exciting. It’s all about those awful Gentlemen. They’re horrible to look at, let alone see behind you when you least expect it!
Hammer House of Horror
Season 1, Episode 5: “The House That Bled to Death”
“The House That Bled to Death” is one of the gnarliest Hammer House of Horror episodes. It’s literally soaked in blood! Good tension and suspense. This doubles as an exploration of trauma, specifically in children. As things escalate – leading to a pipe spewing blood at a birthday party – the daughter of the family experiences the greatest of horrors, and by the end seems like maybe she’s… enjoying it?
You be the judge. A must-see for horror hounds. The entirety of Hammer House of Horror is so worth watching if you have a deep love of the genre, doubly so if you really dig British horror.
American Horror Story
Others can feel how they want about American Horror Story. For Father Gore, it’s a fantastic anthology series with tons of imagination alongside TONS of appreciation for horror. Those who say Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk don’t know horror/aren’t horror fans are, frankly, talking out their ass.
The pilot for American Horror Story introduced so much terror in its opening hour. The style of the show’s evident within minutes. Murphy and Falchuk’s willingness to get nasty and horrifying right away grabs attention.
We see a hideous creature in the basement. Two ginger twins get slaughtered. There’s a BDSM leather suit hanging in the attic, and someone’s been putting it on, tricking the new lady of the house into having sex believing it’s her husband. The whole episode’s bonkers horror. Hard to understand why anybody would outright hate it if they love the genre.
Season 2, Episode 23: “The Time is Now”
I tried keeping this list limited to stand-alone episodes you can watch without needing to be in on the full plot of a show/season. Millennium‘s season finale “The Time is Now” is so fucking good it’s hard to leave it off. This episode really does require you to be in on the overall plot of the series and its second season. Regardless, the whole thing’s a troubling, trippy experience.
One sequence plays out to “Horses” by Patti Smith in its entirety as apocalyptic visions destroy Lara’s (Kristen Cloke) mind. Later, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) goes through his own upsetting madness, hiding away in a cabin with his family to avoid the infection about to spread everywhere and destroy civilisation. The end of Season 2’s scary in such small ways, also in very big ones, too.
Masters of Horror
Season 1, Episode 13: “Imprint”
If you’re into Takashi Miike, this episode will come as no surprise. If you don’t know Miike, might be best if you prepare yourself. The most disturbing Masters of Horror episodes, tied with Jenifer by Dario Argento.
“Imprint” is the story of an American man named Christopher (Billy Drago) in the 19th century who returns to a Japanese island where he met a prostitute years before and fell in love. He comes to find the woman met a tragic fate. Plenty of typical Miike nastiness— the story’s heartbreaking, only made more difficult by the gruesome focuses of Miike. Another one you’ll have a hard time forgetting.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Tale of the Phone Police”
Another Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode that’s somehow still frightening to me today. “The Tale of the Phone Police” is a great story from the Midnight Society because it involves the fears of being young, when prank phone calls were awesome to do with your friends at sleepovers. Except the two boys in this tale find out there’s a sinister group called the Phone Police who take care of naughty kids tying up the phones.
The Phone Police are akin to a shadowy government agency doing bad things behind the scenes. There’s something really creepy about anything involving people listening to your phone calls, let alone mysterious men who’ll come whisk you away if you abuse the lines.
American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 11: “Spilt Milk”
Do you find grown men with a breast milk fetish scary? What about a Leatherface-inspired killer? “Spilt Milk” is a particularly gnarly episode of American Horror Story‘s second season, Asylum. Father Gore loves this season, it combines so much macabre madness.
In this episode alone we go from aliens to Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) making her daring escape and later confronting Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), to a sinister bookend with Lana trying to breastfeed her young baby who’ll later become Bloodyface the 2nd (Dylan McDermott). A series favourite.
Season 4, Episode 2: “Home”
The X-Files return with another episode for the list. “Home” takes the backwoods horror genre, complete with inbred murderers, and throws Scully and Mulder right in the middle of the terror. Our trusty FBI agents find themselves in a small town looking into the case of a newborn baby found in a shallow grave. The local sheriff tells them about a family, ravaged by inbreeding, who live near where the baby’s corpse was found. Inside the family’s home is a horror none of them could imagine.
Already too much information! Watch this episode. It’s the best of backwoods horror jammed into 44 minutes possible.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Season 4, Episode 9: “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”
Lots of young people watched Are You Afraid of the Dark? but it was a required staple of weekly TV viewing if you were a Canadian kid crazy about horror. The show’s greatest quality was it extended into all possible areas of the horror genre, covering sub-genres, and coming up with interesting angles the genre hadn’t seen or hadn’t seen enough of, anyway.
“The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner” feels like it could’ve been part of one of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, as a young comic book lover/hopeful artist accidentally unleashes a villain from the pages of a comic and has to stop the Ghastly Grinner himself from turning everyone he knows into drooling, cackling zombies! Pretty awesome stuff, and genuinely creepy.
The Walking Dead
Season 4, Episode 16: “A”
What makes a lot of The Walking Dead so scary is all the brutality people are willing to do to one another just because civilisation has fallen apart. This is never more on display than in “A”— Season 4’s violent finale.
While Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Carl (Chandler Riggs) sit by the side of the road at night for a rest, they’re rushed by the Claimers, who’ve got beef with the Sheriff. When Carl and Michonne are threatened with rape, and Daryl’s near beaten to death, Rick is pushed beyond the limits of control. Rick’s one act of horrific power saves them, though he’s irreparably changed by what nearly happened. Going forward from here it’s a different game, for him, and for all the characters, including Carl. Before the first 15 minutes of this episode are over you’ll be full of horrified and elated adrenaline at once.