It's been a particularly good year for horrific TV. Not only did our favorites get bloodier and more intense, non-genre shows got in on the action; more shows had Halloween episodes this year than can I remember in recent years. There was so much good stuff out there, in fact, that we just had to give the non-genre shows their own list. So now, in no particular order, I present to you 2010's Most Horrifying Moments in Television.
First up, our freakiest moments from FEARnet's favorites:
The Walking Dead Premiere Episode.
The Walking Dead is, frankly, a revolutionary show. The subject matter, the gore, and the production values are rare to find on premium cable, let alone basic cable. Plus, you've got to give respect to a show that opens with a little girl being shot in the face. Sure she was a zombie girl, but still.
True Blood "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" - Tara turning Franklin's head pulpy
This was a pretty gory episode, with exploding vampires and hungry werewolves. But Tara's abuse of Franklin was something special. Tara starts by tearing a big chunk of flesh out of Franklin's neck as "foreplay." When Franklin falls into a bloody, post-coital sleep, Tara starts wailing on him with a medieval mace. Blood and gore splatter the room, and you can actually see Franklin's head deflate into the mattress. When Tara is done with him, Franklin is little more than a puddle, with some hair and bones sticking out.
True Blood "Hitting the Ground" - Lorena's explosive death
When vampires are staked, there tends to be a certain amount of splatter. Lorena's death, though, was something special. Fountains of blood sprayed every which way. I believe I originally described the effect as what happens when Mentos meet Diet Coke. Just geysers of blood. It doesn't seem possible that a body could hold that much blood. Honorable mention goes to Russell, who beheads the Magister later in that episode with one, clean swipe of blade.
Dexter - The Barrel Girls storyline
A dozen girls kidnapped. Chained up, held as prisoners to be gang-raped, whipped, beaten, and used as an ashtray. Stuffed alive into a barrel filled with formaldehyde, then electrocuted to death. Rape, torture, and murder is pretty horrifying in and of itself. But the idea of a "rape club" with a cult-like leader is just downright nauseating.
The Vampire Diaries "Plan B" - Damon torturing Mason
This scene was brutal, less for the graphicness of it, and more for the intensity. Damon wants Mason to tell him why Katherine wants the moonstone, and the only way he can think to get the info out of him is torture. Damon takes his time teasing Mason with a hot poker. He is almost loving in his caresses with wolfsbane as it scorches his cheek, but violent when he chokes Mason with it. Damon savors Mason's suffering. Getting info out of him is almost secondary to his sick pleasure. And when Mason finally gives up what he knows, Damon is almost disappointed to not have a reason to continue his torture. His only consolation is ripping out Mason's heart with his bare hand.
And now, spooky fun from the far reaches of the satellite dish....
The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horrors XXI"
This year's "Treehouse of Horrors" was exceptionally good. The episode's tales were actually scary (well, scary-based). The Twilight spoof was dead-on. The other two original segments are fun and horror-related: Homer and Marge plotting to kill a castaway before he can kill them, and Bart and Milhouse discovering that old-fashioned board games can be more violent than video games.
Chuck - "Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror"
This episode of the action/comedy spy show was awesome, even while it was derivative. Similar to the Scarecrow from Batman or FEARnet's own Fear Clinic, Robert Englund plays a mad scientist who releases a fear-inducing toxin. The ending was a little contrived. Englund's character is not susceptible to the gas because he has become desensitized to it. He wanders into a Buy More Halloween display, the Aisle of Terror, where video displays resensitize him to the gas and drive him mad. Robert Englund brings manic fun to every role he plays.
Community - "Epidemiology"
At the school Halloween party, the punch is spiked not with booze, but with a "bio-hazard substance" that turns the Greendale students into zombies. It is a classic zombie invasion: the students initially think they are coming down with the flu. The dean locks everyone in the library, so there is no escape. "Survivors" manage to quarantine themselves in a separate room, but the zombies soon break through and start turning everyone.
Criminal Minds - "Our Darkest Hour" and "The Longest Night"
Tim Curry plays a serial killer. That right there should be enough to send shivers down your spine and make you reach for the remote. Curry's character, Flynn, has been killing randomly throughout Southern California for two decades, sending the city into a Night Stalker-like terror. Flynn's trademark is that he only hits during power outages. Curry plays the role fiercely - you could almost smell his rotting teeth through the television; and after the episode, I needed a shower.
Psych - "Dual Spires"
Psych is well known for genre spoofs, with its spot-on homages to An American Werewolf in London, Friday the 13th, and Hitchcock. While not strictly horror, Twin Peaks is rife with weirdness, and Psych's tribute is perfection. While visiting a tiny logging town for the local Cinnamon Festival, Shawn and Gus find themselves in the middle of an investigation when a body wrapped in plastic washes up on the shore, a la Laura Palmer. The episode is loaded with nods to Twin Peaks like amazing pie and damn fine cider. The dead girl is named Paula Merral, an anagram for Laura Palmer. The theme song is sung by long-time Lynch collaborator Julee Cruise. And the cameos are a who's who of Twin Peaks: Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Robyn Lively (Lana Milford), and Lenny von Dohlen (Harry Smith).
Honorable Mention: The Office - "The 3rd Floor"
The NBC sitcom is known for its webisodes. This Halloween, Erin, Kelly, and Ryan decided they were done with their music videos, and turned to horror movies. The result is a killer made up of the parts of other killers, stalking the employees on... "The 3rd Floor."
That wraps up our picks for the best TV of this year. Be sure to check out our picks for the Best Novels here, the Best Comics here, the Best Games here, and the Best Movies here and Unreleased Movies here. And keep checking back for our choices for the Best Music and the year's biggest surprises and disappointments!