I’m going to have to be honest with y’all. I have not loved each and every Comic-Con at Home panel I’ve virtually attended. Some, like the Lovecraft Country panel or the Upload panel, have featured engaging moderators and participants who were game. Others have…not. So I approached the horror showrunners Comic-Con panel with trepidation. Thankfully, though, my nervousness was all for naught. The panel was great!
Who Was on the Horror Showrunners Comic-Con Panel?
The talk was way more fun to watch than this sedate screenshot shows, I promise.
First of all, Tananarive Due moderated the panel. You might know from her academic work, her writing, or her appearances in films like the documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. The horror showrunners who comprised the panel were Jami O’Brien (NOS4A2), Meredith Averill (Locke & Key), and the legendary Greg Nicotero (Creepshow). It also included Nick Antosca and Don Mancini, who worked together on Channel Zero and are now working on the upcoming Child’s Play TV adaptation Chucky. (Mancini created the Child’s Play franchise, if you didn’t know.)
No Spoilers, But Smart Talk about Horror
Creepshow, image via Shudder
Let’s face it, some of these panels can be a little anti-climactic, especially if they’re for upcoming shows or movies. After all, none of these folks want to give away the game. So you ask them what we can look forward to and they issue vague statements about exciting plotlines and surprising developments.
Perhaps knowing this, and having several showrunners on at once, Due wisely steered away from simple plot talk. Instead, she focused on both macro and micro issues of horror TV. For instance, Due and the showrunners discussed the ongoing popularity of scary shows, particularly in recent years.
The Sea Change in Horror
As Antosca said, “Historically, you see horror having a renaissance in moments of cultural unrest. You look at the movie that made me want to tell stories and be in the horror space which was Night of the Living Dead, which I saw probably at eight or nine, way too young to understand that it was a microcosm of society and this group of people who were like, you know, a set of different parts of America beset by an other. And there’s a whole allegory there. I think the best horror, the horror that we love and that really lasts is about something else.” He also mentioned that our current moment is the perfect time for horror, saying, “And I think that we have an opportunity in horror now sometimes to explore the sense of pervasive dread all around us, which is more true right now than ever.”
you-know-who, image via United Artists
They also discussed the limitations or lack thereof in making horror on TV. Antosca, for instance, was a writer on the network show Hannibal. Some of the images on that show were more outré than those in iconic horror films. (As such, I shan’t display any of the murders from the show on this family website.) Nicotero pointed out that another example would be the difference between George Romero’s Living Dead movies and The Walking Dead today.
Mancini, who also worked on Hannibal, attributes part of the change to “stylization…the implication of violence.” As he put it, “The fin that is cutting across the surface of the water is arguably just as terrifying as seeing the jaws clamping down on someone.”
But sometimes you just need spice. So rest assured that Chucky is going to curse, even on Syfy.
To Binge or Not to Binge: Horror Showrunners Comic-Con Panel on the Streaming Wars
Locke & Key, image via Netflix
This being the modern age, though, talk about TV unsurprisingly turns to talk about streaming. Due then asked the showrunners what they preferred as viewers. Do they like to swallow a show whole or watch it weekly?
Opinions, of course, were mixed. Nicotero says he likes both. He remembers the pleasure and anticipation of reading TV Guide for hints. Averill said that she loves binge-watching. However, she also appreciates a show that can keep you coming back weekly, like Channel Zero. Antosca agreed with Averill, except without the praise for his own show–that would have been weird. He also likes Hulu’s hybrid model, where they start a season by dropping a few episodes, then switch to weekly for the rest.
Antosca’s colleague Mancini and O’Brien, though, like to keep it classic. Mancini said, for example, “It’s nice to have those water-cooler moments to inject that into the culture when you have that week-long pause.” O’Brien answered more as a showrunner, saying, “I do think that episodes stick with you better when you watch them week to week, than when you just kind of binge the whole thing.” She also said that her writing staff works “…really hard on making these episodes in addition to making the series-long arc.” No shocker, then, that she wants us to savor them.
Hear from the New Masters of (TV) Horror
This, of course, is just a summary of some of the topics Due and the showrunners considered. During the talk, they chewed on several other aspects of making spooky TV today, in addition to talking influences. All in all, it was a reminder that there are real folks behind the TV we watch and it’s comforting to know that some of them, at least, care about what they’re making.
Watch the panel yourself below. And watch Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror on Shudder.
What do you think about the state of horror TV today? Let us know your thoughts on social media or by yelling them in the comments below.
featured image of NOS4A2 via AMC
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. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.