Horror fans now have the chance to binge their scares like never before.
CBS All Access’ new iteration of “The Twilight Zone, which premieres Monday, boasts modern horror maestro Jordan Peele as executive producer and narrator. It is one of many horror anthology shows to make it to air in recent years. In addition to the revival of the iconic Rod Serling-created franchise, viewers are already able to enjoy current horror anthologies such as: “Black Mirror” (Netflix); “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” (Amazon); “Into the Dark” (Hulu); “American Horror Story” (FX); “The Terror” (AMC); “The Haunting” (Netflix); “Folklore” (HBO)
And several more are on the way. There is Greg Nicotero’s “Creepshow” series coming to Shudder, Lena Waithe’s “Them” — which got a two-season pick up at Amazon — and Steven Spielberg’s reboot of “Amazing Stories” at Apple. Sources also say that a reboot of “Outer Limits” is in the works at a premium cable network.
The wealth of such shows comes despite the fact that anthologies in general are proving to be hard sells at networks and streaming services. According to multiple TV lit agents who spoke with Variety, networks are “not hungry” for anthology projects at present. The agents said they do not advise clients to do anthologies because they are “thankless” and writers stand to make very little money from them. Unless the project is a big piece of IP or has strong auspices, it generally will not get much traction.
Yet television horror projects are hot commodities right now. Several agents said that more of their clients are pursuing horror projects — both writers who want to write specs and original ideas and producers with significant IP who want to develop shows for both adults and YA audiences.
The success of Peele’s blockbuster film “Get Out” is cited as having revitalized interest in the genre.
Of course, horror anthologies are nothing new on television, going back to the days of the original “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” in the 1950s and 60s. But with the incredible popularity of modern anthologies like “Black Mirror” and “American Horror Story” — both of which premiered in 2011 — the format has found new life in the era of streaming.
Jeremy Gold and Marci Wiseman, co-presidents of “Into the Dark” producer Blumhouse Television, told Variety what they think has spurred the renewed popularity of horror anthologies.
“‘Black Mirror’ certainly gets a lot of credit for hitting the reset button on the resurgence of anthological storytelling with a creepy, scary twist,” said Wiseman. “The innovation — and certainly something we played with on the feature side of the company — is what’s exciting about doing television anthologies is these kind of smuggled-in social commentaries or things that are in the zeitgeist that provoke your interest.”
“I think that in this world of so much endless bingeing, to be able to have something where you don’t need to make a commitment to every single episode is really refreshing,” Gold added. “You can jump in, take down one or a couple of them and not worry that your friends are going to spoil it or not worry that you’re behind is really freeing from an audience standpoint.”
But it is not all smooth sailing. TNT announced in 2016 with much fanfare that it was partnering with M. Night Shyamalan to reboot the 90s HBO horror anthology “Tales from the Crypt.” However, in 2017, network head Kevin Reilly said that the project was dead due to an issue with the rights to the series.
Then there are shows that evolved into anthologies post-premiere. When Netflix announced the renewal of the popular horror series “The Haunting of Hill House,” the streamer also revealed that the second season would feature an entirely new cast and a new story based on Henry James’ horror novella “The Turn of the Screw.”
“As there are more horror offerings in entertainment in general, more people have come to the idea that they are horror fans,” Wiseman said. “It’s like getting on an amusement park ride. It’s an opportunity to have that kind of thrilling experience you have when you experience this type of genre. It satisfies a little bit of an itch.”