Blood on the box

With an abun­dance of hor­ror shows to choose from on the small screen, Guy Davis gives us a run­down of best ( and the blood­i­est).

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Tele­vi­sion is quite hor­ri­fy­ing at the mo­ment. And that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.

Of course, there have been shocks and scares on the small screen since tele­vi­sion first flick­ered to life – you could go back to The Twi­light Zone or The Outer Lim­its if you wanted to find some old- school chills ( and I rec­om­mend you do if that’s your thing) – but cast an eye over what’s broad­cast­ing lately and you you’ll ll find plenty to give you the creeps.

What’s more, re­cent ex­am­ples of the hor­ror genre have ramped up the nas­ti­ness as well.

Take the re­cent Han­ni­bal, quite pos­si­bly my favourite new show of the year so far. There were fears among fans that when the ex­ploits of mur­der­ous psy­chi­a­trist Han­ni­bal Lecter made their way to TV that they’d be a bit tame com­pared to his bigscreen ram­pages in movies such as The Si­lence of the Lambs.

Not the case. Han­ni­bal pushed the en­ve­lope in terms of graphic gore, although its twisted psy­chol­ogy proved just as un­set­tling – and fas­ci­nat­ing – as any of the grotesque crimescene tableaux the show pre­sented.

But any­one who’s caught, say, The Walk­ing Dead over its past three sea­sons would prob­a­bly be used to that … be­cause that show seems bent on keep­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers of stage blood and fake body parts in busi­ness for years to come.

And au­di­ences seem to love it. The re­turn of the apoc­a­lyp­tic zom­bie drama, air­ing in Aus­tralia on payTV sta­tion FX, in­di­cates its pop­u­lar­ity is as strong as ever.

Zom­bies are pop­u­lar the world over, it seems, with the French putting their own spin on the un­dead phe­nom­e­non with The Re­turned, now air­ing on pay- TV sta­tion Studio.

It’s not quite as grue­some as The Walk­ing Dead – few things are – but this tale of a small town rat­tled by the re­turn of res­i­dents dead for years has an un­der­stated qual­ity that is qui­etly dis­turb­ing. It’s well worth check­ing out if you feel like killing the lights and get­ting a lit­tle spooked.

One of the year’s new suc­cess sto­ries is Ten’s Sleepy Hol­low, which at first glance cer­tainly seems to have its share of hor­rific el­e­ments – what else are you go­ing to say about a se­ries where the main vil­lain is a head­less horse­man who goes about re­mov­ing heads from shoul­ders with a broadsword?

But the key to Sleepy Hol­low’s suc­cess may not be its su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments, although its bonkers mythol­ogy is shap­ing up as an aw­ful lot of fun, but the crack­ling chem­istry be­tween its two leads, Tom Mi­son as time- trav­el­ling cru­sader Ich­a­bod Crane and Ni­cole Be­harie as mod­ern- day cop Abby Mills.

But if pure, undi­luted hor­ror is what you’re af­ter, the lat­est sea­son of Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story – fast- tracked from the US and air­ing on Ten’s dig­i­tal chan­nel Eleven – well and truly fits the bill.

Ti­tled Coven, it’s a story of witch­craft, voodoo and var­i­ous other shenani­gans with the crazy- me­ter cranked up to 11. The pre­vi­ous two sea­sons of Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story weren’t ex­actly sub­tle, but Coven – once again star­ring the great Jes­sica Lange, goes above and be­yond in the best pos­si­ble way.

The Walk­ing Dead, Mon­days, FX ( Fox­tel), 8.30pm

The Re­turned, Wed­nes­days, STUDIO ( Fox­tel), 8pm

Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story, Mon­days, Eleven, 9.30pm

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