Making a TV series based on a horror movie can be really tricky. Usually, it doesn’t work. Sometimes you have a show that can be good, like Freddy’s Nightmares, which has a couple of really fun episodes, but doesn’t maintain a level of quality by any stretch.
While shows based on movies have always been commonplace, there’s a major renaissance of this kind of thing happening now. We’re getting a lot of shows based on horror films, and to I think everyone’s surprise, most of them are actually turning out to be pretty good.
There are exceptions, of course, but I think there are some shows out there that are really doing interesting and fresh approaches to classic characters and storylines. Many of them I was skeptical of at first. Even with fan-driven stuff like Ash vs. Evil Dead, I wondered if it would actually possible to deliver the energy of that franchise on a weekly basis without running out of steam.
We’re in the middle of a huge TV horror renaissance and some of our favorite movies and franchises are benefiting from it.
Scream: The Series
I would not have expected Scream to make the top five, even after the first couple of episodes. I enjoyed it more than most did at that time, but understood the complaints. When it first began airing, I would not have imagined it would beat out things like Hannibal, which had an incredibly strong first season and began to falter after, for me, but it did. While Scream’s debut season was pretty good transitioning to really good at the end, its second season went all-out. The show has all the iconic elements of the movies, but it wound up completely doing its own thing. I think that’s what made the difference.
Ash vs. Evil Dead
Ash vs. Evil Dead, as I somewhat mentioned before, should not have worked. I love that character and I love that franchise but it is incredibly hard to do without feeling stale or without rehashing the same jokes or old material. All of that makes the fact that it did work all the more outstanding. Bruce Campbell slipped back into this character with astounding ease. Once it gets going, it’s as if we never left. The format really allows us to get a feeling for Ash and who he really is deep down in a way that the movies never did. On top of that, the final three episodes are pretty much the best Evil Dead 4 we could have asked for.
Out of all the retreads of classic horror icons currently happening on TV, Bates Motel is the one I’ve been hooked on from the very beginning. It’s telling a tale that horror fans all know and love, but at the same time it’s adding elements to the mythology that we’ve never seen before. It creates this perfect balance of watching this iconic story unfold while at the same time having no idea what to really expect. The performances by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga are constantly astounding from week to week.
Friday the 13th : The Series
Alright, so this one might be a polarizing choice, but there’s always been something that fascinated me about it. It’s the Halloween III of the Friday the 13th umbrella—and I think it’s almost equally underrated. Sure, Jason might never have made an appearance, but the plot was genuinely interesting and there were some episodes that were great. The structure of it kind of preceded The X-Files by having a different story every week with different monsters, but keeping the same characters and basic premise. There are some episodes that really stand out. I mean, Cronenberg even directed one! I even think it earns the Friday title because just about everyone associated with those features were involved. It was like Masters of Horror for guys who made Jason flicks.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It almost stuns me to list this here because it’s so easy to forget that that’s what this is. Buffy is an incredible success story of a writer who didn’t quite get to make the movie he wanted to make the way he wanted to do it. It had been his passion project since he was a teenager, had been taken out of his hands and totally failed at the box office. But then he was then given the reigns to redo it for television where it became a huge, worldwide cult phenomenon. It was a show that deserved every ounce of recognition. Buffy was smart, funny, it was something that teenagers could aspire to and relate to on a very deep level. At times, when it was at its peak, it was the best genre television show of the time, maybe of all time. It’s incredibly hard to balance smart and funny and scary with believable teenage soap opera drama. I took a semester long college course on this show years after it ended. That’s the kind of legacy Buffy has left behind.