Last Updated: June 21st
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. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
John Logan’s playful, yet disturbing, tribute to Victorian horror mixes and matches both original characters and bit players from classics like Dracula to tell an unnerving tale of Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), a former explorer desperately searching for his family with the help of mysterious medium Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), a Wild West performer with a past (Josh Hartnett), and an arrogant anatomist with a dark secret.
Most Chilling Episode: Penny Dreadful made it clear just what it was going to be with “Seance,” where we learn via a party gag going horribly, disturbingly awry both a dark, ugly secret of Malcolm and that Vanessa’s veneer of control is far more brittle than we thought.
9. Stranger Things (2016-)
The Duffer Bros.’ loving tribute to the ’80s absolutely exploded when Netflix put it up over the summer, but if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a lot more to it than just fondly remembering the heyday of Madonna and Eggos. The show’s first season follows Dustin, Mike, and Lucas as they search for their friend Will, mysteriously vanished from Hawkins, IN. They find a strange girl who claims to know where Will is, but quickly fall afoul of government agents, dark forces, and panicked parents, particularly Winona Ryder’s career-relaunching turn as Will’s mother.