In 2019, fans of chilling television didn’t have to search hard to find something scary to watch. From the French horror series Marianne to the return of freaky favorites like Castle Rock and American Horror Story, viewers had a wide variety of quality horror programming from which to choose. And with the end of the year upon us, now's the perfect time to look back on what we witnessed and toast those shows that left us terrified.
Whether you’re in the mood for a light fright or searching for scares that will linger in your mind long into the night, here are our picks for the best horror TV shows of 2019. The best part? Most of these shows have wrapped up their seasons for the year—meaning you can binge every episode in one monstrous marathon session! So dim the lights and settle in. Let’s close out the year with one last scream.
Ask horror fans to name the scariest thing they've seen, and many would likely name the 1973 possession classic, The Exorcist. But with the September 2019 release of Marianne, that answer might just change. The eight-episode series follows edgy horror novelist Emma Larsimon (Victoire Du Bois) as she's forced to confront the human manifestation of one of her fictional creations, a demonic witch named Marianne. Possessed by this very witch is Madame Daugeron, powerfully portrayed by French actress Mireille Herbstmeyer. Visually stunning and nightmarishly terrifying, this one will stick with you for a long, long time.
Season two of Hulu’s journey through the Stephen King multiverse traces the origin story of one of King’s most notorious characters: Annie Wilkes. First introduced in King’s 1987 novel, Misery, and played by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film adaptation, Wilkes transforms from a young woman to a monster you can’t help but love in this season of Castle Rock. Lizzy Caplan portrays Annie Wilkes. A profoundly talented and criminally underrated actress, Caplan does a fantastic job of absorbing the Wilkes-isms that Bates introduced and putting a fresh spin on them. For fans of the book as well as the movie, this coming of age storyline is a bloody, and often heartbreaking treat. What's more, King’s number one fans will take great pleasure in spotting Easter eggs and lesser-known characters from King's other works. That Ace Merrill... You just can’t keep a bad King character down, can you?
There's something wonderfully refreshing about a Spanish-language show, centered on horror, airing on a major cable network. Los Espookys, which debuted in June 2019 on HBO, is about a group of friends led by Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) who are in the business of horror. Specifically, they create cleverly constructed horror scenarios for their roster of eccentric clients. All six episodes of the first season are packed with genre-specific humor, quotable lines, and creative costumes. Bonus points for Fred Armisen in the role of the car attendant with a heart of gold, Tico, the comedic genius of Julio Torres as Andrés, and for an overall amazing soundtrack of Spanish electro/goth deep cuts.
Though only three episodes long, the fifth season of Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed sci-fi horror series Black Mirror amps up the near-future nightmare fuel to chilling effect. The latest season stars Anthony Mackie, Miley Cyrus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Topher Grace, among others.
Similar to Marianne, Typewriter is a Netflix original that centers on a literary storyline. Set in Goa, the show follows a group of ghost-hunting school children who together investigate a haunted villa. So the legend goes, one of the villa's prior occupants, an elderly novelist, died while writing a book called The Ghost of Sultanpore. It seems the typewriter used by the doomed writer to compose his work still lingers in the home—and will wreak havoc on anyone who disturbs it. Typewriter delivers a great take on the haunted house narrative.
American Horror Story: 1984
For the ninth season of AHS, show creator Ryan Murphy summons the spandexed spirit of 1980s slasher horror. This season follows AHS regular Emma Roberts as Brooke Thompson, an unsuspecting wallflower who sets out to make some extra cash as a camp counselor. Brooke soon finds herself in the middle of a campy blood bath. Joining her at the doomed summer camp are AHS alums Cody Fern, Billie Lourd, and Lily Rabe. Sadly, the show's main stars, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, are absent this year. Even with the cast changes, AHS: 1984 is a fun new entry in the horror anthology series, packed with twists, turns, and gory humor.
The hotly anticipated third season of Stranger Things hit Netflix on the 4th of July—timed to coincide with the new season's dark summer vibes. It's summer 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana. School is out, temperatures are high, and the newly opened Starcourt Mall is the talk of the town. But strange and sinister forces are at work, attempting to re-open the Upside Down. Now Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Lucas, Steve and the rest of the Hawkins crew must come together to fight back the otherworldly evil that threatens Hawkins.
This CBS supernatural thriller debuted in late September, and it’s already been picked up for a second season. The show stars Katja Herbers (Westworld) as Kristen Bouchard, a forensic psychologist who teams with priest-in-the-making David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) to puzzle through twists and turns of the demonic variety. Think X-Files meets Murder, She Wrote.
Two Sentence Horror Stories
Anyone familiar with creepypasta stories knows all about Two Sentence Horror Stories. This anthology series, which debuted on The CW this August and is streaming now on Netflix, taps into instant-nightmare narratives like “I felt my skin crawl. Then I saw the head of the worm push through." Some things you just can’t unsee, and you’re going to dream about your teeth falling out after bingeing this spooky series.
What We Do In The Shadows
A comparatively lighthearted take on the genre, What We Do In The Shadows is a comedy horror series created by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords, Eagle Vs. Shark). It's based on the 2014 vampire mockumentary of the same name, which Clement co-wrote, directed, and starred in alongside Taika Waititi. The series, which premiered in March 2019, follows a family of Staten Island vampires. Hilarious and with more than a few truly creepy moments, the first season of WWDitS can be binged in a single sitting.
By now, horror fans have seen their fair share of zombie horror. For a fresh take on the undead apocalypse narrative, check out Black Summer—brought to life by the same production company that created Z Nation. Rather than centering on a group of armed men, Black Summer kicks off with a mother, Rose, played by Jaime King, who gets separated from her daughter at the worst possible time. She then fights like hell to keep sane as all hell breaks loose and the undead descend.
The Twilight Zone
The original Twilight Zone, created by Rod Serling, left an indelible mark on horror television. Sixty years after its 1959 premiere, horror filmmaker Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) gives us his version of the anthology television series. Peele’s Twilight Zone is nice and grim, which suits us just fine. The series has been picked up for a second season, giving us something to look forward to in 2020.
While primarily a crime drama, The Prodigal Son has more than enough horror elements to close out this list. Michael Sheen stars Marin Whitly, a family man and infamous serial killer known as "The Surgeon." Whitly's behind bars now, thanks to his son, Martin; as a child, Martin pointed police to his father. Now grown, Martin (played by Tom Payne) is a criminal profiler, and has not spoken with his deadly dad in years. But when a copycat killer strikes, mimicking his father's brutal methods, Martin must confront the demons of his past. Graphic, grim, and just a little bit over the top, The Prodigal Son is a nail biter.
Featured still of 'Marianne' via Netflix