The 20 best horror TV shows to binge and feed your dark soul

10. Hemlock Grove

The show: When Hostel director Eli Roth is on production duties, you better be ready for some serious horror. Netflix Original series Hemlock Grove revolves around a Pennsylvania steel town plagued by the murder of a teenage girl. Despite werewolves and vampires aplenty, the creators of this show managed to neatly sidestep horror cliches in favour of something truly scary.

Why we love it: As werewolf transformations go, Hemlock Grove definitely wins the award for the grossest. Eyes pop from their sockets, teeth tumble from gums, and then the werewolf form eats the torn flesh that’s fallen to the floor. Yum. Oh, and then there’s also the moment when a hunter has all of her flesh torn off while she’s still alive. There’s a slayer/flayer joke to make here but I feel too sick. 

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9. Penny Dreadful

The show: A smorgasbord of Victorian horror fiction, Penny Dreadful combos up vampires, werewolves and a deliciously dark performance from Eva Green to create three seasons of impressively theatrical TV. Josh Hartnett, Billie Piper and none other than Timothy Dalton, all chew up the scenery in a beautifully rich 19th century London while fighting demons, witches and the forces of darkness. 

Why we love it: Even though it jumps the shark slightly in season 3 with a trip to the USA and a brief dalliance in horror Western territory, Penny Dreadful has some genuinely terrifying and twisted moments. The frequent demonic possession of Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives make for goosebump-inducing scenes, and the relentless horror of Helen McCrory’s coven of witches is a disturbing descent into a gory hell.  

Read more: Why we didn't actually deserve Penny Dreadful

8. Fear the Walking Dead

The show: People just can’t get enough of Robert Kirkman’s zombies. The Walking Dead’s prequel spin-off is now in its fourth season and while it started out at the very beginning of the outbreak, the undead apocalypse has well and truly arrived. The first season was far more of a family drama than everyone was expecting, but subsequent seasons have been a little more like The Walking Dead and we’re expecting a crossover any time now

Why we love it: Because good zombie dramas come in twos. Thankfully Fear the Walking Dead has a very different central team from Rick and co. so you can happily watch both shows simultaneously and you’ll get twice the undead tension and stress. Plus, by the end of mainlining three seasons you’ll have a full zombie survival plan outlined that’ll guarantee the safety of you and yours when the staggering horde inevitably come knocking at your door.

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7. Channel Zero: Candle Cove

The show: Based on a Creepypasta legend, this underrated dark gem centers around the sinister connections between an old kid's TV show and a serial killer who prowled Iron Hill, Ohio 30 years ago. Mike Painter's twin brother was one of the victims, and he returns to the town just as the local children start behaving really, really badly. Y’know, the sort of badly that not even 25 to life on the naughty step can fix. 

Why we love it: It's home to one of the strangest, nastiest monsters we've ever seen - dentists will love him - and nags at the memories most of us have of weird, twisted puppet shows we watched after school. I mean, have you seen Bagpuss lately? 

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6. Bates Motel

The show: Now finished with 50 impressive episodes under its belt, Bates Motel has been an under-the-radar kind of show, but one that really deserves a lot more credit. A reimagining of Hitchcock’s horror classic Psycho over five seasons, the story follows Norma Bates and her son Norman who buy a motel in the coastal town of White Pine Bay following the death of her husband/his father. It’s their weirdly close bond (and we mean really weird), that provides the crux of the show.

Why we love it: The horror of this show comes from the sheer unpredictability of its main characters. By episode 4 of the first season it’s very clear that Norman Bates is a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket, when, in a fit of rage, he attempts to kill his brother with a meat tenderizer. Oops. Throw in brilliant performances from Vera Farmiga as mother dearest and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Freddie Highmore as a certain young man with murderous tendencies and this is some seriously dark television. Oh, and it’s hard to switch off from the Norma-mummified-in-the-basement image once you know it's coming. 

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5. The Strain

The show: Oscar-nominated writer Guillermo del Toro and FX worked wonders on this creepy viral vampirism show, which opens with a whole airplane full of people dead from a mysterious disease. Based on the book of the same name by del Toro and Chuck Hogan The Strain follows Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the CDCs New York-based Canary Project, as he becomes the leader of a war to save humanity from genuinely scary vampires. And, don’t worry, there’s no glittering in the sun or romance in sight.

Why we love it: There’s vampires, and then there are vampires who lose their hair, their heart, their personality and actively hunt the people they love with six-foot long stingers and infected worms that emerge from their mouths. The show was deemed so grotesque and graphic when it first aired in 2014 that it received countless complaints. To be honest, that only makes me love it so, so much more.  

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4. American Horror Story

The show: Glee must have really done something to its showrunners Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy with all that wholesome teen singing and romance. The first project from the pair since they left Glee Club, 2011’s pilot of American Horror Story was the beginning of seven years of frankly disturbing television. From Murder House and Asylum to Coven and Freak Show, American Horror Story has mixed up an exceptional ensemble cast to create an impressive offering of scares. While often variable in quality - yes, Roanoke, we’re looking at you -  there’s nothing like Falchuk and Murphy’s relentless pursuit of terror. 

Why we love it: Because you can never have enough Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson and fictional senseless murder. While Lange has sadly hung up her AHS shoes after scene-stealing performances in seasons 1 to 5, Paulson is constantly electric viewing. For the scariest seasons, you’ll have to choose your phobia - psychotic ever-smiling clowns or pig headed cult members? - but when it comes to hardcore grim, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything as disturbing as the Nazi ruler of Asylum, or the H.H Holmes style murderous serial killer of Hotel. Oh, and, just to sway you, the the latter also has Lady Gaga in a frankly drinkable performance.  

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3. The Walking Dead

The show: Now in its eighth season, the zombies of the world just won’t stop picking off Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. Still loosely following Robert Kirkman’s apocalyptic graphic novel, The Walking Dead has by now repeatedly convinced us that humans are the problem, not the staggering undead. Who knew the people with brains instead of the creatures that want to eat them would be the problem?

Why we love it: You’d think that after all the death and bad luck that has followed the motley crew, we’d be used to the fact that anyone could become zombie bait at any moment but The Walking Dead still manages to hit us where it hurts. Right in the feels. While season 7 is a bit of a disappointment compared to the seriously sharp writing of previous years, the tension and drama of the undead end of the world is still a must watch and essential horror TV viewing. Just don’t get too attached to anyone. No, really. It never ends well. 

Read more: 16 unbelievable The Walking Dead season 8 fan theories for your consideration

2. Stranger Things

The show: Netflix hit the jackpot with the Duffer Brothers perfect trip back to the ‘80s. Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour and the now stratospherically famous Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things is the ultimate blend of horror and sci-fi as a young boy goes missing in the town of Hawkins where all manner of strange phenomena is haunting its inhabitants. Plus, if you can’t cope without knowing more, Stranger Things season 2 is mere days away.  

Why we love it: What to pick? Winona Ryder as she is hanging Christmas lights to try and speak to her missing son in an alternate dimension? Millie Bobby Brown’s determined and Eggo hunting Eleven? Or even the sheer horror of the Demogorgon, a creature from the realm known as the Upside Down, hunting the real world. Add a spot on synth soundtrack and characters that you genuinely care about and Stranger Things is, quite rightfully, one of the horror shows to beat. 

Read more: The 10 classic '80s movies that inspired Stranger Things

1. Hannibal

The show: Based on Thomas Harris’ infamous characters, Hannibal ticks every box on our amazing horror TV show list; gore, twisted crime scenes, a serial killer, intrigue, mystery, and a cannibal with an exceptional taste in suits and a human recipe Rolodex. Hannibal is also one of the most stylish TV shows of all time with deliciously decadent shots of not so mystery meat that you shouldn't want to eat but still do. 

Why we love it: So many delicious reasons. Hannibal and Will’s relationship that gives us all the feels, the man who was transformed into a cello, the perfect slices of human fois gras, the episode when Hannibal discovered a colour wheel of dead bodies sewn together in season 2. The sheer wondrousness of Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson... Sure, the third season goes off the rails a tad but for the first two perfect series, Hannibal is dangerously good horror television. 

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Rachel Weber
Managing Editor, US

Rachel Weber is the US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+ and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She joined GamesRadar+ in 2017, revitalizing the news coverage and building new processes and strategies for the US team.