Last time, we took a look at the best horror series from 1950 through 2000. This time around, we are going to tackle the rest of time, including the horror boom we have witnessed this past decade. As you’ll see in the previous article, some of the best and most iconic horror television came to us before the millennium. While series from the last 19 years may not have the same gravity as their predecessors, there are hundreds of them to choose from. So, what made television studios try their hands so often at making spooky shows? To answer that, we need to take a look at what happened to the United States on September 11th, 2001.
Now, I’m not going into the events of the day or debate you on whether or not jet fuel can burn through steel. What I am going to do is remind of you of what you were doing on September 11th. You were sitting in front of a television, watching the planes as they flew into those buildings over, and over, and over again. You watched live as close to 200 people jumped from the top of the buildings, choosing to hold hands and fly instead of being caught in the inferno. You sat on your couch, in your kitchen, at school, at work, in the electronics section of Walmart and watched true horror for the first time. Then, you watched as the same footage was replayed thousands of times over the next decade. We watched our friends go off to war (three schoolmates for me), and then watched as what was left of them was lowered into the ground.
“What erupted from [our] need for control is almost two decades of gorgeous and terrifying television the likes of which we may never see again”
We are a generation that grew up watching actual horror unfold in front of our eyes on a 24-hour news cycle. This didn’t desensitize us to horror, though, as some people like to posit. It created in us a need for horror on our televisions that was fictionalized. We needed an escape. We are a generation that was trained to fear everything, so we decided to control what we feared. What erupted from that need for control is almost two decades of gorgeous and terrifying television, the likes of which we may never see again.
To honor the past few decades and to remember the world we survived, let’s take a look at the top 7 horror television series that came out after the year 2000. Like the previous list, this one is imperfect. It’s incomplete, I’m sure. Please don’t come at me in my DM’s because I betrayed you for forgetting your favorite show. I kept the list at seven entries so that you wouldn’t have to spend 3 hours reading this article and so that my editors wouldn’t send a hitman to my home. Without further ado: The 7 Best Horror Television Series From The Year 2000 Until Now.
7. A Haunting (2005-2007, 2012-2017)
The world has been inundated with paranormal re-enactment shows since the year 2000. I have an entire channel on my cable package that I call the “Spooky Interview Channel” due the amount of shows it pumps out. The majority of these shows are filled with terrible acting, unbelievable narration, cheap horror effects and treat the material with an attitude that borders on disrespect. That is not true of the best of these series A Haunting.
A Haunting is the perfect combination of spooky and interesting. It’s like House Hunters, only with way more indigenous spirits and scratchy demons. Each segment usually follows a recent divorcee or a family on hard times moving into a new house for a fresh start. Then the spookiness begins, and this show does not hold back. This is the only horror re-enactment show that has given me nightmares, and I’ve watched them all. The acting can be a little inconsistent, but the narrators are believable, and the demons and shadow people find a way to burrow into your mind for the rest of the night. It’s perfect.
6. Supernatural (2005-Present)
I know, I know. You don’t have to yell.
No television series is great after 10-plus seasons. It just doesn’t happen (Unless you’re Law & Order, which was great well into its teenage years), but you can’t summarily dismiss the brilliance of a show’s first years because they ran out of ideas when that show hit the equivalent of 5thgrade. This is the case with Supernatural, which has given us hundreds of hours of thrilling television throughout the years and introduced millions of kids to the spooky world we live in.
No other show, besides The X-Files, has done as much for amateur cryptozoologists and spirit hunters than Supernatural has. I have to admit, I quit watching after season 7, but the seasons preceding it were filled with Wendigos, Demons, Shapeshifters, Djinn, Vampires, and devilishly handsome men. Almost every episode in the first few seasons sent me to my laptop like Sam Winchester to research the creature they were hunting that day. I loved this show, and it deserves a place in all of our hearts and on this list.
5. Black Mirror (2011-Present)
Let’s go back to the early days of this millennium for a moment. I know, I’m sorry. It wasn’t a pretty time to be alive. I mean, popped collars were pretty dope, but we had a separate phone, camera, iPod, and calendar. We had to catch Pokémon with cards. It sucked. After 9/11, we as a culture were willing to do anything to keep it from happening again and if the government needed to keep an eye on our emails or listen for terrorists on our phones, then so be it. We need to allow them to monitor what we do so that we can still enjoy our new, exciting technology. What’s the harm?
The harm is demonstrated in each and every episode of Black Mirror. This series examines how technology and the powerful people who control it can destroy you and your entire life. Instead of making our lives easier, Black Mirror shows us the damage that can be done when we give in to the technology gods in our homes. We no longer own our own lives, it is being controlled by the corporate money-making machine in our pocket. Filled with paranoia and scarily realistic settings, Black Mirror plays like a new version of The Twilight Zone. Only, instead of the gremlin being on the wing of the plane, the beast is named “Alexa” and sits on your kitchen counter.
4. Channel Zero (2016-Present)
Anthology series where every season tells a different story contained in a shared universe have become all the rage lately. American Horror Story began the trend several years ago, and it seems like every studio has picked up that baton and is trying out the new formula. Although there are so many trying, none have been as successful as Syfy’s Channel Zero.
Having recently finished up its fourth season, The Dream Door, Channel Zero takes everything that these other anthology series have gotten wrong and turns them into positives. Each season is a brisk 6-episode arc that delivers tight storytelling, expansive character development (because they focus on a few characters instead of multitudes), and nightmare-inducing scares and creature design. So many people have slept on this incredible series, but I promise that if you head over to Shudder and start watching tonight, you won’t stop until you’ve reached the last episode. You don’t have to be sad it’s over, though! Each season is derived from a creepypasta, and it gives credit to those stories, giving you the opportunity to read the tales that inspired the scares.
3. The Exorcist (2016-2018)
We all knew, going in, that The Exorcist was up against the wall. Not only was it based on a beloved film that ended pretty dramatically and definitively, but it also was being aired by Fox in dead timeslots. They didn’t put much into promotion, and the ratings showed. This may be the least-watched series on this list, but that needs to change. Not only is The Exorcist one of the best horror series of all time, but it also takes that beloved story and expands its universe in an amazing way.
The show gives us two priests, the naïve Father Tomas and the excommunicated Father Marcus, who join forces to save the life of a local Chicago girl who is possessed by a familiar demon. Then, as the second season begins, they hit the road to help those they come across with supernatural beings taking residence inside their souls. While this story is thrilling and touching, the real draw for this series landed with season two’s family in need of help.
This unconventional family, led my their father (played by John Cho), is being attacked by a demon that is trying to find a way into their lives. The season was the series’ last, but it was such a touching, loving, terrifying, and awe-inspiring story that was filled with scares and exceptional acting. If you haven’t watched this series yet, you absolutely haveto give it a shot. Don’t let the ratings fool you. The Exorcist was a hit.
2. True Detective (2014-Present)
Hear me out on this one. Forget about the Vince-Vaughn-As-A-Goodfella second season of this show (but seriously, the second season is not that bad. Watch it again. It has some real high points) and focus solely on the story of Rust Cole and Marty Hart as they investigate the cult killings popping up in their Louisiana Parish.
The Yellow King. The horns on the sacrificial bodies of their victims. The insidious behaviors of those in power and the cover up from the religious cornerstones of the community. Toxic masculinity. Existential pessimism and Cosmic indifference. Backwoods serial killers and the ancient cursed city of Carcosa. This show has it all. It is as terrifying of a season of television as we have had since the millennium started, and it’s the realism it depicts that makes it so much more horrifying.
If you think for one second that cults like this don’t exist, you’d be wrong. Children are victimized every day, and religious institutions in our country have all had a hand in covering up the crimes of their priests or pastors. This all happens in our world, and it is far more terrifying than a clown jumping out from around a corner. The decadence and insanity that fills every frame of True Detective with a yellow tinge is enough to scare even the hardest of horror fans.
I have never watched a more beautiful television show than Hannibal. I mean, Planet Earth is gorgeous and all, but it doesn’t fill me with dread quite like Bryan Fuller’s series about the world’s smartest cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. This series, which was criminally cut short after just three seasons, was the most visually audacious and perverted show to ever be shown on network television.
Hannibal told the story of Lecter in a way that made you almost love the man. You admired him for his class, his cunning, his special sets of skills. You gawked at the horror in this show, whether it was the artistic body recreations in Italy or the guardian angels in the hotel room. Nothing could prepare you for how violent, how gory, or how touching this series was. It’s a series that examined the very nature of evil in such an unflinchingly brutal way that it was difficult to determine whose side you were on. As the psyches of Lecter and his muse Will Graham became more and more shattered, you were sucked into the desire to put them back together again. Consequences be damned.
“Nothing could prepare you for how violent, how gory, or how touching [Hannibal] was”
So, there you have it! Just like the previous list, there were dozens that I struggled to leave off. The Returned, Masters of Horror, The Terror, and Penny Dreadful were torturous choices for me to omit. As it is, these are the 7 best horror series that have aired since the year 2000.
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