October fast approaches and the greatest holiday of the year — Halloween — is near! It’s that time when horror takes center stage. There was a time not long ago where horror and television weren’t a great mix. In the 80s, while Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees were murdering sinful teens, television was dominated by severe melodrama, mystery-of-week formulas, and three-camera sitcoms with laugh tracks. In the 90s, Scream redefined the slasher, and while the film kept the gore, it also lightened up the tone with a sense of humor. By the early oughts, the slasher had seemingly been killed on the big screen, murdered by ‘found footage’ and zombies. But like the antagonists of the genre, you can’t keep a masked killer down, and the slashers have entered your home through your television.
Last year FOX premiered Scream Queens from creator Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee). From the opening scene to the final moments of the 13-episode season, the show proved to have a vicious sense of humor and an absolute love for the slasher genre. Scream Queens gave viewers the gore, fantastic characters to root for and against, and whip-smart dialogue. Emma Roberts, the centerpiece of the show, delivers some brutally fantastic lines as self-absorbed Chanel Oberlin and takes ‘bitch’ to a whole new level. By the end of the season one, Chanel isn’t the one you’re hoping will die next.
MTV, already with a hit horror-ish show in Teen Wolf, has produced two seasons of Scream based on Wes Craven’s 90s horror hit Scream. Without cheating on the gore, Scream does justice to the source material, stretching out the story of masked killers in a small town over ten horror-filled episodes. Just like Scream the movie existed in a world where horror cliches are well-known, Scream on MTV subverts the genre and adds a layer within it all as it takes place 20 years after another slasher tortured the town.
Tucked away in the big, bold world of streaming services is Chiller, a channel devoted to horror which has added to the growing list of slasher shows with a great, eight-episode series called, appropriately, Slasher. A young woman comes back to live in the house where her parents were murdered by a slasher years and years prior. She’s hoping to come to terms with what’s happened but instead comes face to face with the very monster who killed her parents while a new slasher roams around killing townspeople with sin-filled pasts.
It’s hard to pinpoint how horror snuck its way onto television. Shows like Dexter blurred the line between hero and killer. American Horror Story and The Walking Dead are mainstays on television today. For now, the slasher movie is lying mostly dormant, regulated to a purely b-movie existence on streaming services. But slashers on TV seems like a perfect match now. The stories are closer to home, more personal, and more terrifying.