Horror on TV



I’ve talked about Horror on TV before, but I really want to focus on how difficult it can be for maintaining the suspense. With a movie the elements of horror, suspense, and shocks or clues are piled up throughout the movie. As a result, there is a more standard pacing to movies that can be toyed with slightly. The thrills feel natural and because it is a movie all the elements can be added in without the effect being watered down. Unfortunately, TV doesn’t have the same gift of a time constraint that movies do. Instead, TV horror must manage to balance out horror elements and developments throughout 42 minutes for a series of episodes.

Balance of Episodes

Night ZeroWith horror it needs to be established within the first episode, that something intense will happen. The promise of horror is what will keep people coming back, which is why the horror needs to be established early on. After the promise of horror is established each succeeding episode needs to raise or alter the stakes in a way which keeps the horror present. That means that the various elements that make the show horror and not a standard drama need to be utilized effectively. That means a careful balance throughout each episode of its allotted elements. Not having everything balanced, but containing all the elements condensed into a small section of the episode.

Horror on TV

Papa Legba

Papa Legba

There has been an increase of horror on TV in recent years. I’m not talking about light horror, but as of late there has been some really intense and grotesque horror that has been brought into the mainstream. One of the most high profile of these new shows is Hannibal. As horror on TV gets more prevalent the more will need to be done to master this craft. While there are a number of horror TV shows on air, a number of them struggle to maintain the tensions that make horror so thrilling on a regular basis. For example, The Strain is proving to be an interesting horror series thus far, but if the second episode is indication of the future of the show then they will need to work on the pacing of the horror. Aside from a slight scare at the start of the episode, the majority of the horror events were piled on in the last 5 minutes. That meant that the first 37 minutes(episode time, not with commercials) was loaded with all the other content. While the episode left you with a feeling of excitement because of the burst at the end, the episode as a whole didn’t feel quite as intense. Then there are shows like Helix who managed to space thrills throughout the episode, but the intensity of the scares tapered off significantly after the first few episodes and didn’t return until the end of the season. It comes down to the major challenge that a horror show runs in to. How does one keep a serialized show scary week after week? It’s a tough question and likely one of the main reasons that shows like The Walking Dead instead focus on the human drama and the effects that the situation they are in have on them, rather than the specific elements of horror. By doing that when something horrific happens it still manages to maintain a shock value, not just because it is more grotesque than the last time, but because you feel a stronger connection to the characters making it more tragic.

What horror shows do you think are the best done on TV?

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