In the past few years, we have seen a huge explosion of horror or horror inspired television shows. Serial killers with a twist, vampires, zombies, and werewolves have all popped up on our televisions. You cannot turn on the television without seeing a show (or commercial) that has a taste of the supernatural. Even during the Superbowl this year, we had a The Walking Dead inspired zombie commercial starring Norman Reedus.
Now, the question must be asked. With the saturation of horror in media, are we hitting another zenith of horror? There is a cycle in mass media for horror where horror becomes so mainstream that there is an eventual decline in horror. Horror becomes so common place that public interest wanes and horror returns back to the dark corners from which it was spawned.
Let’s start talking about some of the shows (both long and short lived) that have cropped up in the last few years.
The Walking Dead is a break out zombie series that enraptured a generation of horror, zombie, and a mixed bag of fans. The focus of the show was not on the zombies themselves, but it was centered along the characterization of the survivors themselves. The Amazon description of Season 1 of the show does an amazing job of summarizing the plot and the focus of show.
Arguably the biggest hit of the 2010 television season, the apocalypse drama The Walking Dead pulls the zombie subgenre out of its overexposed doldrums and finds, ironically enough, the humanity and emotion beneath its rotting shell. Produced by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and Gale Anne Hurd (Aliens) and based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead follows a band of Atlanta-based survivors of a viral outbreak that has caused the dead to rise up and consume the living. The group’s nominal leader is a sheriff’s deputy (Andrew Lincoln) who wakes from a gunshot-induced coma to find the world in disarray and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, Prison Break) and son missing. His search for his family and the survivors’ attempts to make sense of their lives in the wake of the outbreak is handled with intelligence and sensitivity, which helps to elevate the show beyond the grindhouse take on zombies, which favors spilled guts over character development. That’s not to say that the blood doesn’t flow plentifully here: the special effects are on par with zombie-movie mayhem, but again, they aren’t the show’s raison d’être. Solid performances, including Jon Bernthal as Lincoln’s partner, Jeffrey DeMunn as the group’s leading rationalist, and Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus as a pair of trouble-making rednecks, and gripping suspense make each of the first season’s six episodes compelling from start to finish for both horror fans and those who dislike the genre as a whole.
Two vampire series have rolled out and pulled in an amazing fan base. True Blood is an HBO exclusive series that is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, detailed the coexistence of vampires and humans in the fictional town of Bons Temps in Lousiana.
This quirky TV series based on the novels by Charlaine Harris stars Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who lives in a small Louisiana town that just happens to be cohabitated by both humans and vampires. After a Japanese company successfully comes up with a synthetic blood for vampires to live on, it becomes possible for humans to share the world with the bloodsuckers. Even still, it’s no easy thing when Sookie finds herself harboring feelings for one charming undead fellow named Bill, played by Stephen Moyer. (synopsis courtesy of Fandango)
The Vampire Diaries premiered on the CW in 2009 and is based on a series of novels by the same name. It is a supernatural drama that is based upon a love triangle between the lead protagonist and two vampire brothers, set in a small, fictional town in Virginia. The show has also spawned a spin-off (The Originals) that has been ordered to premier in 2013/2014.
A Virginia high-school student falls for a new boy in class who is actually a centuries-old vampire struggling to live peacefully among humans. Based on the young-adult book series by L.J. Smith. (synopsis courtesy of Fandango)
So, those are three series that have established fan bases (I know there are more, like Dexter, that I could mention, but this article would be way too long if I discussed everything) and now, let’s talk about some of the newer crop of horror inspired shows. There is such a long list of shows that have been released, and we have even more looming in the near future. That’s not including shows that are not your stereotypical horror fare but have added in an aspect of horror (the White Walkers in Game of Thrones is a good example).
So, what do we have out right now? NBC’s Hannibal, A&E’s Bates Motel, Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, FX’s American Horror Story, BBC’s Being Human, the WB’s Supernatural, and NBC’s Grimm are all part of the horror line up. I haven’t had the opportunity to check them all out, but I know some are amazing while others are lacking in plot, character development, etc.
We have even started to hear some news about two additional series that will be released shortly. We have Sleepy Hollow and Dracula. You can take a peek at the synopsis below for both shows. Just reading the synopsis for Sleepy Hollow fills me with a feeling of premature dread and disappointment. I really, really have a lot of concerns for the show. As for Dracula, I’m curious.
Sleepy Hollow is a modern-day retelling of Washington Irving’s classic. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to find that the world is on the brink of destruction and that he is humanity’s last hope, forcing him to team up with a contemporary police officer (Nicole Beharie) to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers.
Dracula comes to London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to the Victorian city. In reality, Dracula seeks revenge on those who betrayed him centuries earlier. As Dracula’s plans move toward fruition, he falls hopelessly in love with a woman who may be a reincarnation of his deceased wife.
So, these shows are (mainly, I know I’m sure to miss some) where we have been, where we are at right now, and where we will be shortly as it applies to television. Tell what you think. Do you think we will be progressively moving forward as it goes with horror or are we entering a saturation of mass media that will herald in another dry spell for horror fans? Let me know what you think!