Last Updated: May 20th
Scary TV shows are few and far between. The TV format and horror genre fight one another on a foundational level: Longevity is the chief property of serial TV storytelling and horror is fueled by dead characters. Sustaining a high-stakes lethal premise over the course of ten episodes, let alone multiple seasons, is no easy feat. Some of the programs listed below have devised workarounds for this structural issue by foregrounding a more traditional procedural format and adorning the episodes with horror around the fringes (pun intended). Others keep themselves vital by dynamiting their basic premise at the conclusion of every season and beginning anew after the hiatus.
Making a scary show is tough enough, and making a scary show that’s also compelling entertainment is practically a minor miracle. That’s reflected in the selection of Netflix‘s content library, too — subscribers can browse through pages and pages of dramas and comedies, while the ‘Horror TV Shows’ section encompasses a handful of options. But that small sampling contains quite a few certified gems, not to mention some terrifying programs that don’t quite fall under the horror umbrella. Read on for a reader’s digest of the scariest shows on Netflix currently lurking in wait for you to watch, and know that there’s no shame in sleeping with a night light.
This will be replete with spoilers, so read at your own discretion.
10. Darknet (2013)
Taking cues from recent anthology collections The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, and Southbound, this series nabs a different horror stalwart to direct each self-contained episode. The connective tissue between each installment is the title “Dark net,” a forum web site where users can seek answers for their grimmest, most shameful questions. (How do I get rid of a body? What’s the most effective way to kill someone bigger than you? Etc. etc.) Each episode is really only as good as its director, one of the brightest highlights being the pilot, from Splice director and Hannibal regular Vincenzo Natali. But even the weak spots are still reliably creepy, digging into the unsettling intersection between technology and violence. Its roots as a webseries are clear in ways both positive (the show evinces a scrappy DIY ingenuity…) and less so (…which is a charitable way of saying the production values are nonexistent).
Most Chilling Episode: Episode four in the first and only season relays three equally disturbing tales. In the first, a hospitalized woman incapable of speaking or moving realizes her attacker has returned to finish her off. In the second, a breast augmentation surgery goes extremely awry, and in the most potent of the three, a suicide hotline operator gets a call with life-or-death stakes, but not how he thinks.