21st Century Horror Anthologies: A Guide

author img
BY February 19, 2020

As we have more and more choices for TV viewing, providers are scrambling to fill their platforms with enough content. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing more limited series, including anthology programs. And like the last century, horror anthology shows have remained a popular option. In fact, 21st century horror anthologies might be more popular than their predecessors. But there’s a wide variety of them out there, so here is our guide for you.

(First, our ground rules again: This guide will cover shows that change story per episode, not per season like The Terror or American Horror Story. We’re also not covering horror comedy or children’s horror…yet. In addition, these are generally American shows, because that’s what is most available to us.)

The Horror of the Aughts: 21st Century Horror Anthologies and Their Beginnings

21st Century Horror Anthologies Fear Itself, image via Lionsgate Television

It’s no secret that real-life horror invaded and infected fictional horror at the beginning of the 21st century. After the tragic events of September 11 and the never-ending wars that followed, it came as no surprise that we saw that trauma reflected in art. The anger, grief, and terror we felt manifested itself in the “torture porn” that haunted multiplexes, as well as in the rising popularity of zombie stories. This was artistic expression in which human life was cheap and people met brutal ends. And at the same time, our technological capability kept advancing, encroaching on our lives like one of those zombie viruses. Along with in films, we can also see these elements–the rising tide of technology, the political becoming very personal–reflected in 21st century horror anthologies. First up, the first decade.

Dark Realm

Okay, so I watched…some of an episode. Hosted by Eric Roberts, who delivers his lines like he’s late for a plane, this series is only for completists (and Joe Elliott fans). It aired in syndication in 2001, and then was rerun on Chiller at the end of the aughts. As far as subject matter, it’s pretty standard for horror anthologies: Faustian deals, haunted objects, were-creatures, etc. To me, the IMDB reviews are more entertaining than any episode, but your mileage, as always, may vary.

(available nowhere but our memories and occasionally on video sites like Youtube)

Night Visions

From the sound of it, this show never stood a chance. Host Henry Rollins remembers it as the next step after Fox wanted him to appear on The X-Files. However, co-creator Billy Brown didn’t want the show to have a host, and that was just the start of his troubles with the network. For example, Fox execs deemed some stories he wanted to shoot, like one by Dean Koontz, as too scary. At the same time, the brass complained that the stories they had weren’t scary enough.

The show, comprising two stories in an hour-long format, eventually debuted on Fox as a summer replacement series. On Friday nights. Again, during the summertime. And it was the summer of 2001. Although it had big-name actors and directors like Tobe Hooper, it unsurprisingly wasn’t picked up as a regular series. And that’s a shame, because it was really before it’s time. Episodes, including those scuttled for September 11th updates, eventually reran on Syfy (back when it was still spelled Sci Fi) and on Chiller, though it’s never made it to streamers or physical copies.

(available on Youtube)

Masters of Horror

Now we’re getting somewhere. Created by director Mick Garris, this show, whose title was coined by director Guillermo Del Toro, debuted on Showtime in 2005. A who’s-who of contemporary horror directors helm each episode, which are based both on stories written for the show and on old favorites like Lovecraft and Poe. As these are the masters of horror, many episodes aren’t for the faint-hearted. Showtime itself put the kibosh on the Takashi Miike-directed “Imprint,” apparently because of its graphic nature. My favorite episode remains “The Screwfly Solution,” a tale of a plague-driven dystopian future that may interest Handmaid’s Tale fans. And fun fact: That episode is based on the story by sci-fi writer James Tiptree, Jr., who was revealed in 1977 to be Alice Sheldon.

(available on DVD, on Tubi for free, and pay per episode on multiple other streamers)

A Haunting

Spun-off from two specials, A Haunting in Connecticut, and A Haunting in Georgia, this show purported to reenact real-life spooky stories. Specifically, as it says on the tin, they showed reenactments of alleged paranormal encounters. Each episode followed a similar format: a family or an individual runs into some ghost trouble, tries to live with it, and then contacts a specialist. This ripped-from-real-life format, obviously, isn’t typical of 21st century horror anthologies. However, it deserves inclusion because several times, the experts were Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose work inspired the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. (In the business, we call it the CCU.)

(available on TLC.com, DVD, subscription streamers like Youtube TV, pay per episode on other streamers, and it reruns on Discovery networks like the Travel Channel)

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Based on the stories of little-known horror author Stephen King–no, I will never tire of this joke–this show was a mid-aughts summer series. Despite the title, though, not all of the hour-long episodes were based on stories from King’s short-story collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Five of them were, but two came from Everything’s Eventual, and one, “Battleground,” is my favorite story in The Night Shift. Killer toys, dude!

(available for pay per episode on several streamers, including Prime Video)

Fear Itself

This short-lived anthology show was kind of a spiritual spin-off of Masters of Horror. Like the previous series, Mick Garris created Fear Itself, and both shows shared a few directors. (This time around, though, they managed to find a lady, American Psycho director Mary Harron, to helm an episode.) Episodes feature appearances by actors like Anna Kendrick, Elizabeth Moss, and Eric Roberts, who really gets around. To my great personal disappointment, an actual monster wrote my personal favorite episode. The rest of the writers, thankfully, are perfectly decent, though. And so is this show, especially for a network series.

(available on DVD and Youtube)

21st Century Horror Anthologies in this Decade

21st Century Horror Anthologies Black Mirror, image via Netflix

As we entered the 2010s, technology crept even further into our lives. M.T. Anderson’s book Feed came out in 2012 and reads now like an oracle. Anderson’s dystopic future, where schools exist only to make children into better consumers and almost everyone is biologically connected to a distant version of the internet, doesn’t seem that far-fetched. While political hot topics have changed somewhat since the aughts, our fears over technology, including privacy issues, have only intensified. This decade’s shows are a perfect example.

Black Mirror

And what better show is there to exemplify that than the show whose title references our ubiquitous companions, our phones? From the start, with the barn burner of an episode that is “That National Anthem,” Black Mirror has laid bare the technological horrors that are or could be. While not strictly horror–one of the best episodes is, in fact, a love story–there are several that leave the viewer with the same unsettled feeling that a good scary story does. The endings of episodes like “White Bear,” “Shut Up and Dance,” and “Crocodile,” for example, cannot be described any other way than horror. It may not be terror, like a good scary story, but it’s horrible, nonetheless.

(available on Netflix)

Electric Dreams

Like Black Mirror, this is British and really more of a sci-fi series. The stories, after all, are based on the work of Philip K. Dick. However, like Black Mirror, there’s still a disturbing edge to them. Science-fiction, as you might know, isn’t a genre known for its overwhelmingly positive themes. (Or maybe I’m just biased, as a gal whose favorites run more toward stuff like “There Will Come Soft Rains.”) As such, these episodes tell tales of an uneasy future. Or is it now? (Nah, it’s in the future.)

(available on Prime Video)

Lore

Based on Aaron Mahnke’s podcast of the same name, Lore uses reenactments and real footage to tell true stories of the past. These stories explore, for example, the possible origins of vampires, the truth behind the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, and Hinterkaifeck, a still unsolved 20th century German murder mystery. And it stars actors you’ve heard of, like Robert Patrick and Colm Feore. Episodes range from around a half hour to slightly under an hour. It’s great for people who like to learn and be scared at the same time.

(available on Prime Video)

Into the Dark

21st Century Horror Anthologies “Culture Shock,” Into the Dark, image via Hulu

Each episode of this Hulu series is technically a movie, but I make the rules, so it still counts. Anyway, each feature-length episode draws its inspiration from a different holiday. With the second season, they’ve begun repeating holidays. That’s understandable, as there are only so many major ones. (Sorry to anyone desperate for that Arbor Day horror flick. But you could write it yourself.) Beginning with its first episode, the Halloween-based film, “The Body,” each episode, from different writers and directors, varies in quality. The best I’ve seen so far has been the Independence Day-inspired “Culture Shock.”

(available on Hulu, like I just said)

Two Sentence Horror Stories

Speaking of wildly varying quality, there’s this show. Inspired by a Reddit post, which asked folks to write examples of the title–a horror story in two sentences–this show began life as a webseries. Then the CW picked it up as a summer 2019 show. Each half-hour episode spins a creepy yarn based on a different one of those two-sentence tales. Some episodes fizzled out, but there were a couple of stand-outs, including “Hide,” which has a gut-punch ending.

(available on CWTV and Netflix)

Creepshow

I’ve already covered this show in my review of the premiere, but we obviously have to mention it. It is, after all, the most recent example of 21st century horror anthologies. Like its 80s film predecessors, it tells a story by a different horror author in each 30-minute installment. Like any anthology show, there are hits and misses. But these are short episodes and they’re all generally entertaining. “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” wouldn’t have been my Full Throttle pick, by the way, but that’s okay. My pick, “Faun,” will be a feature film at Netflix.

(available on Shudder)

***

And that is your guide to 21st century horror anthologies. In case you missed it, here’s my guide to the horror anthology shows of the 20th century (so old!). And if I missed something, especially if you want to tell me about non-American shows, please let us know. Should I have covered Channel Zero, for instance? Drop some spooky science in the comments or on social media.

(featured image from “Hide,”  Two Sentence Horror Stories, via The CW)

TV Shows

Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

Leave a comment

Related

MarvelMoviesTV Shows
Disney+ Releases Extensive List of What Titles Will Be Available On Day One

Disney+ is almost here, less than 100 days away from launch. The upcoming mega-contender in the streaming wars released the titles that will be available on the service from its first day. Other impressive titles will show up shortly thereafter, though those can be subject to change. The cost will still be around $7 per […]

BY Joshua M. Patton August 4, 2019
BooksTV Shows
American Gods Season 3 Expands An Already Huge Ensemble Cast

American Gods season 3 just started filming, and is adding new faces to the show’s roster of deities. Danny Trejo, Julia Sweeney, Dominique Jackson, and the rapper Wale are joining the cast of the Starz series in season 3. This news comes on the heels of reports that Marilyn Manson is also due to appear […]

BY Emily O'Donnell November 22, 2019
TV Shows
Evil Renewed for Second Season by CBS, Will Only Run for 13 Episodes

In our breakdown of the Evil series premiere, we laid out how the series put a fun, maybe-mystical spin on the weekly procedural. As the episodes have gone on, the show strikes a nice balance of serialized storytelling and miracle-of-the-week cases for our core characters to investigate. CBS thinks they’ve done a nice job, too, […]

BY Joshua M. Patton October 24, 2019
Revenge of the Sith Retro Review – The Game

As a child of the mid 90s, I grew up heavily impacted by the Star Wars prequels. I remember attending a birthday party to see The Phantom Menace, having no knowledge there were others released decades ago. I became obsessed, and after seeing The Clone Wars, I was all aboard the hype train for Revenge […]

BY Taylor Bauer February 18, 2020
Best Rebuilds for NBA 2K20 – MyLeague Tips

I’m a huge fan of NBA 2K20, but most of my time is spent in one area of the game. While some work to become dribble gods on MyPark, I stick to MyLeague. Solely, for the the experience of managing a team. Working to rebuild teams on MyLeague is the reason I average over 200 […]

BY Taylor Bauer February 17, 2020
E3 Veteran Geoff Keighley Skipping Conference in 2020

I think one thing I love about video game journalism is getting to talk games. On the best day, covering gaming news involves great reveals, exciting titles, and hopes for my favorite series. On the worst day, I can usually say the downers about gaming journalism involve the industry. Sometimes, profits and sponsors get in […]

BY Taylor Bauer February 17, 2020
Marvel’s Avengers Pre-Order Deals: Where to Get The Best Bonus

Pre-ordering games used to be a way to make sure you had a highly anticipated title as soon as possible. Now, pre-orders are a sort of incentive for extra content and goodies. A fun bonus is usually enough to get me to pre-order a game, and an upcoming Marvel video game fits that bill for […]

BY Taylor Bauer February 14, 2020

Trending

Black History Month Graphic Novel Spotlight: Jerry Craft’s New Kid, the Newbery Medal Winner

Somewhere along the way in comics and graphic novels, superheroes stopped being for kids. At the same time, we’ve seen an increase in graphic novels of all kinds for kids. Books like American-Born Chinese, Bone, and Amulet show a wide variety of stories. Sure, comics for grown-ups also have a great variety, but the non-superhero […]

BY Roman Colombo February 20, 2020
Toss A Coin To Multiple Witchers: Season 2 Of The Witcher Announces New Cast Members

Save up your coins because the season 2 of The Witcher will have (at least) two more Witchers to toss them to. Actors Paul Bullion (Peaky Blinders) and Yasen Atour (Young Wallander) have joined the cast of the Witcher for season 2. Bullion will play the character of Lambert, another Witcher from the School of the […]

BY Emily O'Donnell February 20, 2020
Taika Waititi To Direct Jude Law In Upcoming Horror-Comedy Series The Auteur

Taika Waititi is on a role. He directed one of the most beloved films in the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok. And, more recently, he won his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with Jojo Rabbit. So, what’s up next for one of the most promising directors working today? A Showtime series! Taika Waititi will be directing The […]

BY Meghan Hale February 20, 2020
Chris Pratt Showed Support For Tom Holland During Sony and Disney Drama

Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are both well-known for their appearances in a variety of Marvel films. Holland has quickly become one of the most beloved actors to play Spider-Man. Pratt will forever be our Star-Lord. Though the two characters are heroes on very different levels, their on-screen charisma will forever make them a joy […]

BY Meghan Hale February 20, 2020