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2023 was a tumultuous year for television, but amid the turmoil was some standout horror programming that celebrates the genre’s versatility, from “The Fall of the House of Usher” to “Swarm.”
The television landscape grows increasingly proliferated as streaming services continue to spawn and transform like hordes of zombies. There have never been more places to consume content, which in itself can be both exciting and overwhelming for audiences. Horror has been warmly embraced by television and the prospect of a graphic genre program is no longer the gambit that it used to be. Programming from across the world collectively taps into the universal fears that get under the audience’s skin, many of which become even more intense through extended binge-watch sessions. There’s something for everyone when it comes to 2023’s eclectic horror series, whether it’s killer dolls in the White House, inspired reimaginings of Edgar Allan Poe, or resurrected exorcists fighting against an apocalypse.
Here are the 10 best horror TV series of 2023.
Slasher: Ripper, Season 5
Slasher is a seasonal anthology series that’s hacked and slashed its way across three separate networks until it’s found a consistent home as a Shudder original. Slasher is far from perfect, but the extreme gore and creative kills that consume each season make it worthy of including at the tail end of the year’s best horror television. Each Slasher season presents a new masked murderer who wreaks havoc through different genre staples. Slasher: Flesh & Blood, the series’ fourth season, was a high point for the horror anthology. That being said, there’s still plenty to admire in 2023’s fifth season, Slasher: Ripper.
Slasher: Ripper turns the clock back to the 19th century for some sinister period piece horror that operates like a bizarro take on Jack the Ripper, albeit with a loaded “Eat the Rich” ethos. The murderous “Widow” wipes out Toronto’s rich and affluent in grisly ways as a hard-boiled detective, Kenner Rijkers, attempts to stop the chaos and prevent his own execution. Slasher’s limited budget means that this 19th century horror story occasionally feels watered down, but the show’s extreme eviscerations are still front and center.
Creepshow, Season 4
Shudder’s Creepshow is a passionate ode to the pulpy B-horror hijinks that would fill the pages of EC Comics during the ’40s and ’50s. Four seasons in, Creepshow is still one of TV’s best horror anthology series that gains strength through its ability to never take itself too seriously. Each Creepshow episode delivers two tales of terror, some of which are adaptations of short stories or completely original ventures. The series doesn’t always reach the high bar that was set by the original feature films. However, the show attempts to offer something for everyone through its diverse morality tales of terror.
Admittedly, Creepshow’s fourth season loses some of the heavy-hitting talent that made the past seasons such a delight, like Joe Lynch and Rob Schrab, but there’s still exceptional work by Greg Nicotero and Jamie Flanagan. The latest season comfortably toes the line between horror and farce, which includes a loving tribute to George A. Romero that literally reanimates the grandfather of zombies and past Creepshow director. A fifth season has yet to be confirmed, but Creepshow continues to be one of the most rewarding and entertaining Shudder original series.
American Horror Stories, Season 3
American Horror Story proper has had a mixed bag of a season that’s based on source material for the first time, as well as it being the first time that series co-creator Ryan Murphy is not the showrunner. AHS: Delicate’s female-driven revisionist take on Rosemary’s Baby hasn’t been the (IVF) shot in the arm that fans had hoped. However, the self-contained episodic spin-off, American Horror Stories, quietly turned out a satisfying selection of four scary, timely stories. “Bestie,” “Tapeworm,” and “Organ” are some of the strongest ideas to come out of either American Horror Story series in years and feel like they could be edgy A24 films if they were just slightly extended (although “Daphne” does feel like “Diet Black Mirror“). Disturbing visuals, tragic characters, and haunting body horror make American Horror Stories’ third season a delight to binge.
Netflix’s Bodies is True Detective meets Dark meets Cloud Atlas, as done by Christopher Nolan. The supernatural crime thriller explores four detectives’ investigation of a murder in London that happens across four separate time periods: 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053. Bodies is rich in rewarding character development, recurring motifs, and an overlapping mystery that’s tightly mapped out so that the narrative never goes off the rails or collapses under its own lofty ambitions. It’s remarkable to see how this one murder mystery operates in each of its respective timelines, as well as how these dots connect. Bodies doesn’t over-extend itself and its creeping incorporation of sci-fi elements and time loop intrigue culminates in a gratifying, gripping experience.
Janine Nabers and Donald Glover’s seven-episode Swarm tells a terrifying story of obsessive fandom that connects with blunt intensity. Dominique Fishback gives a tour de force performance as Dre, a maladjusted superfan of Ni’Jah, a Beyoncé analogue. Dre is like the Rupert Pupkin and Patrick Bateman of the YouTube generation. Her rabid adoration of the pop star pushes her to murderous places that abruptly strike and continually keep the audience off-kilter. Swarm is such a delicate exercise in tension that doesn’t give the audience an escape from its creeping chaos. It evokes the unusual energy of Glover’s Atlanta, where anything feels possible, whether that’s graphic murder or a solid guest starring role from Billie Eilish as a cult leader.
In a year where The Idol dominated conversation, Swarm repeatedly stings its audience and allows its venom to gradually spread. Swarm, if nothing else, deserves a lot of respect for its meta structure-breaking penultimate installment, which recontextualizes the entire fever dream of a series as an expository true crime program that manages to be both poignant and provocative. It perfectly encapsulates this modern look into parasocial relationships, delusion, and obsession.
The Boys: Gen V
The Boys, based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series of the same name, came around at the perfect time when superhero fatigue was hitting an all-time high. The Boys’ subversive look into the disturbing power fantasies and corruption that surround God-like individuals has been a welcome salve to the endless deluge of Marvel and DC content. That being said, The Boys has now been around for long enough that it’s beginning to turn into the very thing that it was lampooning. The Boys’ growing connected universe has also given some fans pause, but The Boys: Gen V has been a welcome surprise and an entertaining mix of comic book spectacles and horrifying violence.
Gen V is set at the Godolkin University School of Crimefighting where it follows college-aged “supes” who aspire to join Vought International’s Justice League-esque super-team, The Seven. Gen V operates like a more unhinged version of X-Men that’s somehow filled with more egos, gore, and graphic sexuality than its parent series. The looming threat of corrupt corporations and human experiments means that the characters and audience never get a chance to truly relax in Gen V. The lead character’s “hemokinetic” powers allow her to manipulate blood, which leads to appropriately gruesome setpieces, particularly the showdown that concludes the season. Brash, bloody, and unbelievable, Gen V is a breath of fresh air in a quickly-decaying genre.
Sweet Home, Season 2
Netflix has found tremendous success with its South Korean productions and Sweet Home is an excellent adaptation of the webtoon of the same name. Sweet Home tells a story that’s both familiar and wildly inventive. A monster apocalypse floods the streets and forces society to hide in their homes with little recourse. Cha Hyun-soo finds himself at the darkest point in his life after he loses his family to a car accident and moves to an apartment complex, which turns into a sanctuary when the world ignites with infected monsters. Cha Hyun-soo discovers a new sense of purpose after he co-opts and tenuously controls his own monstrous infection and figures out how to fight fire with fire.
2023’s second season pushes Cha Hun-soo and the rest of the Green Home residents out of their comfort zones when they’re forced to flee their apartment complex, brave the horrifying outside world, and find refuge somewhere else. Sweet Home’s apocalyptic dread hits hard and the series excels when it comes to these vicious monsters and the growing fallout that throws the world in disarray. 2023 has been rich in supernatural dystopian stories on television and film. However, Sweet Home stands out from the pack and functions as a strong gateway into South Korean horror, as well as a thought-provoking examination into the end of times that’s just as interested in its human survivors as it is in the monsters who prey upon them. Sweet Home already has a third season confirmed for 2024, which makes it the perfect time to catch up on this South Korean masterpiece.
30 Coins, Season 2
Álex de la Iglesia’s 30 Coins is easily the wildest horror series on television that you’re not watching. The HBO series about an ex-convict exorcist boxer who may or may not have one of Judas’ thirty pieces of silver made its debut in 2020, but its wilder second season has proven to be one of 2023’s biggest surprises. 30 Coins functions like an ultra-violet riff on Evil that follows a disgraced exorcist, Father Vergara, engages in monster-of-the-week madness that gradually slouches closer towards Bethlehem in each passing episode. 30 Coins has everything that one would want from a nihilistic exorcist series, as well as plenty of things you’d never know you needed, whether that’s cows giving birth to humans, rogue supercomputers, literal trips to hell, and unearthed UFOs.
30 Coins’ ups the stakes in every way possible through its introduction of Paul Giamatti’s apocalyptic billionaire, Christian Barbow, who plans to use Judas’ coins to wipe out humanity and begin anew. Season two culminates in one of the most audacious season finales you’ll ever see that teases Lovecraftian chaos and a third season that’s set to completely rewrite the status quo. Few series are as brave and as bold as 30 Coins, which is reason alone to check out the series. However, the constant gore and demonic encounters help 30 Coins resonate on an episodic level that’s just as satisfying as the gonzo grand narrative that continues to unfurl.
Chucky, Season 3
Don Mancini’s Child’s Play horror franchise has surpassed expectations and feels fresher than ever after its transition to television after seven subversive slasher movies. Chucky is a true love letter to the movies that’s the rare case of a story that’s both indebted to the franchise’s convoluted lore, but also completely accessible to newcomers. Chucky’s third season radically sends the murderous possessed doll to the White House, where Devon Sawa (in his fourth role in the series) plays President James Collins. Chucky doesn’t tone down any of its ideas or brutal violence — there’s actually a voodoo doll inspired sequence this season that involves a potato peeler and fingers that makes the Evil Dead Rise’s grater sequence look like loving foreplay.
Chucky is genuinely disturbing. However, it’s also acutely hilarious with its continued meta-drags on Jennifer Tilly and the tender relationship that’s formed between Jake and Devon is truly sweet and accepting. Season three of Chucky has been divided in two parts, with its final four episodes set to air in 2024. That second half, it’s already been announced, will feature John Waters as Wendell Wilkins, the creator of the Good Guys dolls. We can’t wait.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Mike Flanagan continues to prove himself as one of the most exciting and consistent names in modern horror. Flanagan’s horror contributions for Netflix, like Midnight Mass, The Haunting of Hill House, and Gerald’s Game, have all been home runs. His swan song for the streaming service, The Fall of the House of Usher, is a patient, meticulous, heartbreaking, giallo remix of over a dozen different Edgar Allan Poe works. Flanagan crafts a masterfully layered narrative that assembles an all-star cast out of his repertory players that includes the likes of Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Rahul Kohli, Kate Siegel, and Bruce Greenwood — in what’s easily the best work of the latter’s career.
The Fall of the House of Usher plays out like “Murder Succession” with pulpy, gothic tales of doom that cleverly update Poe’s classics, while it ruminates on deeper questions of legacy, grief, and obsession. Flanagan’s use of color is on a whole other level and some of the grisliest death sequences from the filmmaker’s career are contained to The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s a horror series that’s as contemplative and melancholy as it is terrifying. Now, time to watch that “Lempire” monologue for the umpteenth time.