Sure you could spend the weekend before Halloween prepping your Stranger Things costume. Or, like a real ‘80s teenager, you could save that homework for the last minute, and use those 48 hours to binge on at least one (or more) season of scary TV. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a Halloween lover’s binge guide of past and present shows divided into different categories based on who (or what) scares you.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Netflix)
In between major motion pictures like Vertigo and Psycho, the Master of Suspense over this collection of short-form thrillers. During its seven-season 1955-1962 run on CBS (an hour-long version aired on NBC from 1962 to 1965), Alfred Hitchcock Presents was an early training ground for such future directorial giants as Robert Altman and Arthur Hiller. Only the first season is available on Netflix, but considering that the season consists of 39 episodes — imagine if Game of Thrones was able to manage that kind of output! — you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat all weekend.
American Horror Story (Netflix)
Even if you’ve missed the boat on the latest American Horror Story cycle, Roanoke — which is nearing the end of its 10-episode season — you can still go back and revisit the earlier iterations of Ryan Murphy’s hit horror show. If you can only choose one season, go with Asylum, a twisted tale of madness and religious fervor that remains AHS’s creative high point.
Black Mirror (Netflix)
Charlie Brooker’s cult series — which preaches the perils of technology — just returned for its latest season. It boasts two great episodes (“Nosedive” and “San Junipero”), two pretty good episodes (“Playtest” and “Shut Up and Dance”) and two not-so-good episodes (“Men at War” and “Hated in the Nation”). Pro tip: maybe skip the latter two and revisit past glories like “The National Anthem” and “Be Right Back.”
Tales from the Darkside (Shudder)
Long unavailable on streaming services, George A. Romero’s devilishly delightful syndicated anthology series is newly available on the upstart online horror network, Shudder. And the Night of the Living Dead director brought along some of his buddies for the creepy, lightly gory fun. Stephen King, Tom Savini, Clive Barker and Michael McDowell are some of the horror experts who wrote or directed at least one of the show’s 89 episodes.
The Twilight Zone (Netflix)
Rod Serling’s groundbreaking series expertly toggled between science fiction, horror and dark comedy… sometimes all in the same episode. Vintage stories like “Eye of the Beholder,” “It’s a Good Life,” and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” are still more provocative and daring than many modern-day stabs at horror-laced social commentary.
The Addams Family (Hulu)
Charles Addams’s creepy, kooky family sprang out of the pages of The New Yorker and onto the small screen in this enduring ‘60s favorite. John Astin’s Gomez and Carolyn Jones’s Morticia still get our vote for Best Sitcom Parents, overseeing a menagerie that ranges from Pugsley and Wednesday to Lurch and Cousin Itt, while still making time for each other.
Ash vs Evil Dead (Amazon Prime)
If the recent big-screen Evil Dead remake proved anything it’s that you can’t take Bruce Campbell out of The Evil Dead or The Evil Dead out of Bruce Campbell. Thankfully, the actor’s chainsaw-wielding demon fighter is back where he belongs on Starz’s hit continuation of Sam Raimi’s popular horror franchise. You’ll be laughing and wincing at the same time.
The Kingdom (Amazon Prime)
Not to be confused with its dire American remake, Kingdom Hospital, Lars von Trier’s original Danish miniseries is a darkly demented delight. Set in a decrepit hospital that’s positively vibrating with paranormal activity, The Kingdom takes great pleasure in confounding the audience with increasingly bizarre plot twists and ultra-broad characterizations. It’s a ghost story served up with a wink and a smirk.
Scream Queens (Hulu and Yahoo View)
Season 2 has been a disappointment so far, but the freshman year of Ryan Murphy’s collegiate horror caper still functions as a fun diversion. Plus, you can’t turn down the opportunity to see O.G. Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis back in her natural habitat.
The Exorcist (Hulu and Yahoo View)
Fox’s revamp of William Friedkin’s horror classic just dropped a major bombshell that ties the series into Exorcist continuity in a big way. No spoilers here, though. You’ll have to chase this particular demon on your own binge-watching time.
The Returned (Netflix)
This chilling French ghost story, set in a tiny town where the dead miraculously return to life, got lost in translation when it was remade for American television. No matter: the original series can be viewed in all of its subtitled glory on Netflix.
The River (Hulu)
An ambitious, if foolhardy, attempt to bring Blair Witch-style found footage thrills to the small screen, The River stars Bruce Greenwood as an explorer who vanishes deep in the Amazon, forcing his estranged family to come looking for him. Still riding the success of his Paranormal Activity franchise when the series aired its only season in 2012, co-creator Oren Peli concocted some innovative scares, but allowed the story to get lost in the jungle.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
2016’s official streaming sensation became a summer favorite thanks to its fluid combination of ‘80s nostalgia and sharp, scary storytelling that always stayed grounded in recognizable emotions. Winona Ryder in particular tore into her role of a grieving mother like she was acting in a serious drama. That level of commitment across the board made all of us committed fans of Stranger Things.
Bates Motel (Netflix)
How the heck do you turn Alfred Hitchcock’s immortal Psycho into a successful TV show? Here’s how: casting Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga as Norman and Norma Bates. From the very beginning, their compelling presentation of this very particular, very peculiar mother/son relationship has distracted from any story flubs. And as the show enters its final season with a propulsive new energy, it’s benefiting from the heavy lifting the stars did early on. Expect Season 5 to be a killer last act.
Hannibal (Amazon Prime)
Bryan Fuller’s three-course re-telling of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s life and times is a feast for fans of cult TV. And while some may still pine for another season, there is something to be said for portion control. Better to savor the episodes that exist, and introduce its exotic flavors to your friends and family. Bon appetite.
Harper’s Island (Amazon Prime)
One of the all-time best bad TV shows, Harper’s Island stranded a bunch of ridiculously attractive people on an island and had a mystery killer execute them in ridiculous ways. We give it an F…for Fun.
Ghostface lives to kill another day on MTV’s revival of the ‘90s horror franchise. Drew Barrymore and Neve Campbell may not be anywhere in sight, but there are still plenty of teenagers (or twentysomethings who look like teenagers) for this knife-wielding psycho to prey upon.
The Jinx (HBO Now)
Andrew Jarecki’s addictive docu-series doesn’t just explore a crime — it might actually solve a crime. The Jinx weaves testimony from accused killer Robert Durst, as well as the cops and lawyers investigating his alleged crimes, building to a climactic “hot mic” moment that would even make Donald Trump go “Woah.”
Making a Murderer (Netflix)
Quietly released during the 2015 holiday season, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’s 10-episode documentary was a big Christmas present for Netflix, earning accolades and turning its central case into an Internet cause célèbre. Another round of episodes will be coming towards the end of this year, further exploring the tragic murder of Teresa Halbach and the treatment of the men accused of the crime, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.
The Staircase (Sundance Now)
Originally released in 2004, The Staircase remains a true crime favorite, intricately reconstructing the circumstances that led to the death of Kathleen Peterson. While her husband, Michael, claimed she fell down the titular staircase, evidence emerges that suggests a much more brutal end. Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade expertly paces out revelations about the crime and the man accused of committing it. It’s a reminder that sometimes you can’t completely trust the teller or the tale.
Dark Shadows (Hulu and Yahoo View)
You’ll need much more than a weekend to make it through the entire 280 episodes of the popular ‘70s vampire soap opera that are currently housed in Hulu’s library. Of course, that’s a mere fraction of the show’s 1,225 produced episodes, which are only available in an out-of-print box set. So consider this a mere first bite out of a series that could become a lasting obsession.
From Dusk Till Dawn (Netflix)
Rather than sit back and watch someone else adapt his 1996 vamp-fest, writer/director Robert Rodriguez re-made the movie into a TV series for his El Rey network. Currently in the midst of its third season, the first 20 episodes are available on Netflix. And sure, George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino might not be making cameos, but you do have cult movie icons like Robert Patrick and Don Johnson hanging around.
Penny Dreadful (Netflix)
Vampires are just one of the creature feature species taking part in Showtime’s 19th century monster mash; you’ve also got werewolves, witches and re-animated corpses. Having signed off after its third season, Penny Dreadful is now a closed book, one that’s well worth consuming before the Halloween costumes are put away for another year.
True Blood (Amazon Prime/HBO Go)
Feel free to skip the later, lesser seasons, but in its heyday, Alan Ball’s overheated Deep South vampire saga served up memorable scares and sex in equal measure.
The Vampire Diaries (Netflix)
Leaf through past entries from the first seven seasons of The CW’s soon-to-conclude diary of teenage vampires.
Remember that ‘90s TV series Dead at 21? This Canadian-made series upped the age of death to 22. That’s the cut-off separating the living and the dead after a virus sweeps through the picturesque town of Pretty Lake, leaving only tots, tweens, teens and early twentysomethings behind. Frankly, the deceased might be better off.
The Last Ship (Hulu)
It’s the end of the world as they know it, but the crew of the Naval warship, the Nathan James, is totally fine about sticking to military protocol. The first two seasons, currently streaming on Hulu, are mainly concerned with the soldiers’ attempts to find a cure to the virus that cleared the globe of 80% of its population. That scope expands in the recently completed third year, which is more concerned with the international intrigue created by the collapse of civilization.
The Strain (Hulu/FX Now)
You’ll have to be an FX Now subscriber to catch up on the currently-airing season of Guillermo Del Toro’s viral vampire story. But the previous two years are available in full on Hulu for your gross-out pleasure.
Twelve Monkeys (Hulu)
Viruses and time travel go together like ice cream and sprinkles in Syfy’s surprisingly smart and sophisticated take on Terry Gilliam’s hit 1995 movie. If you haven’t seen Season 1 yet, it’s available on Hulu, where Season 2 should be joining it any day now.
Hemlock Grove (Netflix)
Welcome to Hemlock Grove, PA, where werewolves make up a sizeable segment of the local population. Hostel mastermind and official Friend of QT (Quentin Tarantino) Eli Roth executive produced this wild, wooly three-season series, which stars Famke Janssen and the other Skarsgård, Bill, son of Stellan and brother of Alexander.
Teen Wolf (Amazon Prime)
This ain’t your daddy’s Teen Wolf. Freely adapted from the ‘80s Michael J. Fox comedy, MTV’s series is an entirely different species of high school werewolf saga. Get caught up as the series heads into its sixth and final season this November.
Dead Set (Netflix)
Before Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker critiqued our obsession with media and technology in the guise of a zombie series. This 2008 miniseries, which Netflix scooped up along with Black Mirror, unfolds from the perspective of fictional contestants competing on the U.K. version of Big Brother. Brooker filmed the series on the actual BB set, which only adds to the realism and your eagerness to see the housemates eaten.
Fear the Walking Dead (Hulu)
The Walking Dead‘s sister show is coming off an uneven sophomore season, which makes this a good time to revisit its strong six-episode freshman year on Hulu. More of this next year, guys.
The Walking Dead (Netflix)
17 million people tuned in for TWD‘s Season 7 premiere, which means this prolonged zombie nightmare isn’t ending anytime soon, even as more familiar faces inevitably fall prey to the walking dead or bat-on-body violence. So you might as well get caught up now when you only have six seasons to binge-watch instead of eight or nine.
Z Nation (Netflix)
Syfy’s own zombie series, which just returned for its third season in September, relies on a healthy dose of humor to distinguish itself from the competition. Nothing like a few laughs to help those brains go down easier.