Though genre fans often bemoan horror remakes, there is something to be said for the TV series that have successfully rebooted old concepts into ongoing series. Some ran for few seasons and others for many, but by fleshing out iconic horror staples, TV shows based on horror films have given the world a surprising number of hits.
Most horror films only run for 90 minutes are so, and while the genre is well-known for making a big impact in a little time, it also doesn’t always leave a ton of time to explore themes or characterization. While these shows might not be better than the films they’re based on, they succeed by including easter eggs for fans while incorporating new directions the films didn’t have time or space to explore.
It may not have fully ignited the Stephen King fandom, but Castle Rock remains easily one of the best horror series of the modern age. Incredible performances from icons like Sissy Spacek, Melanie Lynskey, and Tim Robbins alongside newer faces like Yusra Warsama, Andre Holland, Bill Skarsgård, and Barkhad Abdi (among others) mean that the professionalism and love of the source material practically radiated from the screen. This is the rare show that holds up both as a tribute and a totally separate entity as individual sagas intersect with classic King characters.
While the first season focused on death row attourney Henry Deaver receiving a mysterious call that leads him back to Castle Rock, Maine, the second season serves partially as a prequel to one of King’s great masterpieces, Misery. With Lizzy Caplan absolutely owning the role made famous by Kathy Bates, this was the rare story in which sympathizing with the villain only made her about a hundred times scarier. This series could have gone on for twenty seasons and we’d have tuned in for every episode.
Another series that was not long for this world, The Exorcist introduced us to two priests at very different stages in their lives. Keane (Ben Daniels) is denounced by the greater church after he becomes involved in various exorcisms while Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is the popular lead of a church with everything to lose. When they take on a case, audiences initially had no idea how deeply it would be tied to the mythos of the original film.
While the second season delved much further into the priests and their individual stories as they accepted their fate as exorcists, the first season was more about each of them facing their doubts. Both seasons are stellar, but the first season also has the added benefit of a great performance from Geena Davis, who seeks help when her daughter becomes possessed.
Swamp Thing is a property that has gone in a lot of directions, to say the least. His comic debut could be easily classified as PG-13 style horror, the film version lands mainly in the realm of low-budget cult classics, and the Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette Saga of the Swamp Thing graphic novel often cited as one of the greatest comics of all time. Marrying these takes along with the many others that have come throughout the years is no easy task, but the CW series makes it look easy.
Scientist Alec Holland is murdered by corporate criminals, and a sentient plant bonds with his remains in order to create a new being. Focusing on Swamp Thing’s comic book partner Abby Arcane, this series did an excellent job of setting up the story. Tragically cut short due to a number of outside factors, this is a show that very much fell under the radar in the worst way. Fortunately, the episodes that exist make for some bingeable TV, and very much bring the character into a more modern context.
The original Child’s Play (1988) was a grisly horror film that included commentary around consumerism of its era as a single mom struggles to find a highly sought-after “Good Guy Doll” for her young moppet Andy. Over the years, this story evolved to self-referential horror comedy (Bride of Chucky) and borderline existential crisis (Seed of Chucky). Yet, it wasn’t until the Chucky show of 2021 that all the puzzle pieces of the previous films formed into a cohesive whole.
Following a young queer kid named Jake as he attempts to navigate being bullied at school and forming a serious crush on a true crime podcaster, this show brought Chucky back while bringing in just about every reference to the prior films that could fit within the episodes. This series pulls together all the horrific elements of the story right along with the comedic parts, but excells due to the greatness of its cast. Every actor brings a lot to the table, and the show even features double performances from Devon Sawa and Fiona Dourif (who, in a truly inspired move, plays Chucky, who is voiced by her father, actor Brad Dourif, in flashback segments).
Ash vs The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead trilogy is famous among horror fans, particularly those who love a good low-budget romp through Hell. While the first take was more or less a standard “cabin in the woods besieged by ghouls” story, it certainly added a unique aesthetic to the mix that only increased with the sequel. Meanwhile, the third entry is absolute off-the-walls time-travelling horror comedy zaniness that is easier to watch than it is to describe.
Actor Bruce Campbell is a genre great, and fans constantly demanded to see him return to the role that helped put his name on the map. The chance arose with this series, which brought in many of Sam Raimi’s favorite actors while telling a brand new story of Ash. Having mostly wasted his life after the events of the first films, his purpose is reignited by, what else? More demons.
First released as a movie starring Kristy Swanson in 1992, the original story was significantly lighter in tone and a lot sillier. Though it remains a fun watch, if the film version had been the end of Buffy’s story, it’s unlikely that the character would be as widely remembered as she is today. The fact is, adding a recurring cast of characters and forcing Buffy to slow down a little bit made her exponentially more relateable for many viewers, and she remains an icon of late 1990s TV.
Being a fan of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer is more morally complex than it used to be, but there’s no denying that this is a series with sweeping influence. The show lasted several seasons and the story of the Slayer was continued in various comic series after the last episode aired. Buffy is a compelling protagonist, but in the end it’s the revamped (haha) cast of characters that made the show truly great.
The original Psycho (1960) is generally consider to be one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces, and it’s true that its power to drag its audience into its game remains a masterstroke of filmmaking. The sequels are less good, to put it kindly, but they delve much further into Bates’ capacity for gaining people’s sympathy. All this set the stage for The Bates Motel.
Though very few of us clamoured to hear more about Norman Bates’ absolutely weird relationship with his mom after the credits rolled on the original film, we’re glad that’s what we got. The Hitchcock version went out of its way to shift sympathies to Norman after he murders Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). This shifting of audience loyalty is a major part of what makes it such an impactful and troubling film, and that goes double for the show, which gets very much inside Norman’s head during his teen years.
Silence of the Lambs introduced many audiences to the villainous Hannibal Lecter, an aesthete cannibal who assists Agent Clarice Starling in her investigation of an unknown serial killer. Racing against the clock to find the murderer in hopes of preventing further fatalities, Starling and Lecter develop a fascinating, occassionally adversarial relationship that defies easy categorization.
However, it turns out that his interaction with Starling wasn’t his first ongoing flirtation with an FBI agent in over their heads. A major element of the series is the development of the relationship between Hannibal and agent Will Graham. While their love may not be destined to have a happy ending, they inspired the ship name Hannigram and a whole fandom around their relationship, and frankly, that’s beautiful.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
The Lois Duncan novel on which this story is based is more of a slow-burn mystery involving a manipulator with multiple identities, while the late 1990s saw the concept turned into a teen slasher film that remains massively influential. The TV series combined elements of both, using a case of mistaken identity to give audiences a thriller that occassionally erupts in full-out blood-and-guts horror.
Though there was plenty of potential material for a second season, according to showrunner Sara Goodman, this series was capped at eight episodes. Yet, what a season it is, full of enough twists and turns to give even the most jaded mystery fan a run for their money. The gorgeous scenery, spot-on humor, and bizarre cast of characters makes this one of the underrated great of 2021.
The original Scream films utilized the classic telephone-based horror of prior films like When A Stranger Calls to modernize an old urban legend. Mixing comedy and teen hijinks into the mix, the franchise was so successful that we’re still seeing sequels. While the TV series leaned away from the original cast, it made some interesting updates along the way. By the time the first season hit the air, most houses no longer had landlines, giving the show an opportunity to examine the world of cyberstalking and bullying.
The first two seasons make for some very entertaining moments, but the third season managed to be its best yet when it made the choice to steer away from previous stories in all but theme. Recasting and refocusing, this ended up being the final season, but it introduced audiences to Deion Elliot, a football player with a mysterious past who is targeted by a killer. Scream is a franchise that always delivers, and that also applies to the show.
Keep Reading: 11 Horror Movies That Rocked an Anthem
The winners will be announced on March 20.
About The Author