Halloween is fast approaching and as is always the case, there’ll be a string of new horror movies and TV shows to help pump up the season’s freakish atmosphere. While movies can be watched rather quickly, TV shows require viewers to invest their time, so it’s better to start early. And there are arguably no better small-screen productions than those from the United Kingdom.
The following list contains British shows that are guaranteed to scare even the most hardcore fast. Most importantly, they have solid pillars all around. The acting is good and so is the cinematography, and plot. A good number of them are still underrated because they were never highly publicized by American media outlets, but they remain true gems.
15 Red Rose (2022)
Many horror TV shows tend to ignore the dangers posed by technology in favor of more traditional threats, but Netlfix’s Red Rose charts its path, by presenting a cyber-related nightmare. In it, an app begins terrorizing the recent high school graduate, Rochelle, ordering her to do specific tasks or else she will face serious consequences.
The idea seems borrowed from Black Mirror’s “Shut Up and Dance” — which follows a boy that’s threatened by an anti-malware program — but there are enough unique elements to prevent the show from being a larger clone of the episode. Whether Rochelle ignores her phone or orders Alexa to “turn everything off,” the app still finds ways to bully her. In one memorable scene, her electricity gets disconnected because she didn’t pay, but within no time, she realizes the app has deposited £100. Why all this is happening remains a mystery until later in the series.
14 Remember Me (2014)
BBC One’s Remember Me follows Tom, an elderly Yorkshire resident who fakes an accident in order to persuade his social worker to move him into a retirement home. The exact motivation behind this particular action isn’t clear at first, but this is a show where the viewer’s patience does pay off much later. Inside the home, he befriends a nurse, but things get complicated when his visiting social worker falls to her death through Tom’s window. Part of the evidence suggests that Tom is to blame, while the other part suggests paranormal forces might be responsible.
Generally, Remember Me relies on genre tropes, yet it makes up for that with a magnificent story. There is more to the haunting scenes than it initially seems. Besides that, there are a few moral lessons that would benefit people of all ages. Much praise also goes to the cinematographer and sound engineer. From beautiful views of coastal locations to swaddling waves, there is enough for a viewer’s eyes and ears to feast on as they await a scary twist.
13 In the Flesh (2013 – 2014)
There are tons of entertaining zombie TV shows for those that enjoy the sub-genre, but anyone looking for something that’s a little different would be advised to check out In the Flesh. The BBC Three series is set in Lancashire and centers around a world where the government has found ways to treat zombies and reintroduce them to society. Tolerance is encouraged, so they are referred to as people suffering from Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS). However, the rehabilitation process is challenged by a new radical group that’s against embracing zombies.
Most of In The Flesh’s scenes are tolerable to non-horror fans, but the show has periodic spooky moments which mostly stem from the flashback memories that the zombies had. Because of their restored brain functionality, a good number of them remember the brutal killings and cannibalism they conducted while in dazed states.
12 The Enfield Haunting (2015)
Produced by Sky Living, The Enfield Haunting revolves around the infamous 1977 incident known as the “Enfield Poltergeist,” in which a mother and her two daughters living in a North London council house claimed to witness paranormal activities. Several other neighbors backed the statements, leaving to widespread investigation and press coverage.
While there have been some doubts about the reports, the show presents them as factual for entertainment purposes and so viewers are treated to several chilling moments. It’s the same story that’s presented in James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, but the characters get developed a lot more in the TV show. Even so, the show doesn’t drag itself out too long to the point of losing taste. In just three episodes, everything gets resolved.
11 The Midwich Cuckoos (2022)
The Midwich Cuckoos is set in a town where all women of a child-bearing age suddenly fall pregnant at the same time. The Sky Max series is adapted from the John Wyndham novel of the same name. However, it has minor tweaks meant to differentiate it from Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned, which happens to be the most popular adaptation of the best-selling book. Instead of making the children have shiny eyes as is the case in the movie and the novel, the series makes them resemble their mothers.
Everything about the children — from their mannerisms to the way they walk is super spooky — and even though they don’t commit much harm, the show constantly tricks viewers into thinking they are about to do so. The Midwich Cuckoos also uses its concept to explore female-related themes such as fertility, maternity, and abortion. Those that couldn’t have children suddenly become excited, despite the obvious dangers, while those that attempt to terminate their pregnancies are mind-controlled into keeping them.
10 The Living and the Dead (2016)
The Living and the Dead borrows a thing or two from many of the popular haunted house movies, while still managing to carve its ownroute. There are sudden movements, shaky trees, strange noises, and a sense of isolation. All these ingredients are meant to add flavor to a story about a Victorian psychologist that inherits his dead mother’s mansion in Somerset, England, then ends up encountering paranormal phenomena.
Scary moments aside, Colin Morgan (best known as the titular character in the British fantasy drama, Merlin), gives a really strong performance here. Though everything in his new estate and community appears strange, nothing ever seems to faze him. He exhibits the kind of courage and inventiveness that most horror protagonists lack, and because of that, the show turns out much better.
9 The Baby (2022)
No show defines the phrase, “be careful what you wish for” better than Sky Atlantic’s The Baby. When the 38-year-old Natasha learns that all her friends are having babies, yet she isn’t, she becomes stressed out. She soon decides to treat herself to a vacation, and she is enjoying herself, a baby literally falls on her lap. As expected, she freaks out.
All her attempts to give away the baby end in Final Destination-fashion for the recipients. When she calls the cops, they get crushed by a falling boulder and when she tries to leave the toddler with a gas station attendant, shelves collapse and kill him. To make it worse, the baby mind-controls Natasha’s friends into thinking there is nothing wrong. Soon, she makes an even scarier discovery that might put her life in danger.
8 Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2016)
Abraham Van Helsing, Renfield, Count Dracula, Victor Frankenstein’s monster, and Dr Jekyll have been covered numerous times in many of the widely known monster movies, but Penny Dreadful, provides fresh tasks for them, giving gothic fans every reason to be excited. These characters are more inventive and ferocious here, making the show scarier than anything else that was on offer in the 2010s.
Several other production designs are also guaranteed to wow viewers. The lighting is ever so perfect, creating the necessary shadows required to maintain an eerie feeling. Additionally, the costume designs are very appropriate. After all, this is the Victorian era. On top of that, the Sky and Showtime co-production has very strong protagonists that always keep the legendary villains on their toes.
7 Hammer House of Horror (1980)
ITV’s Hammer House of Horror offers a little bit of everything as it’s an anthology show that features all kinds of terrifying characters that fans would love to see. There are witches, werewolves, ghosts, cannibals, and serial killers, among others. The episodes are all long too (running for an hour each), so viewers are unlikely to be left unsatisfied.
Those that are skeptical about the quality of old horror shows need not worry either since most Hammer House of Horror episodes feature no dated plots. Neither do they have bad visuals. Nearly everything about the show has aged well. Most importantly, the events are terrifying. Channel 4 even listed a party scene in the episode, “The House That Bled to Death” as one of “TV’s Scariest Moments.”
6 Supernatural (1977)
Decades before CW’s Supernatural was made, there was a British anthology series of the same name, and an argument could be made for it being scarier. The BBC1 show has a rather interesting format where a different potential member of the evil “Club of the Damned” tells his own story in each episode. Those that tell fascinating stories acquire membership while those that don’t end up getting killed. The episodes are thus presented in flashbacks.
It’s fascinating how the show acknowledges its own weaker stories by having the narrators punished. But even the tales that are labeled boring are actually quite frightening. To date, there is still nothing like it on TV, and anyone that opts to watch it will have an easy time binging since there are only seven episodes available,
5 Psychoville (2009 – 2011)
Psychoville slightly draws inspiration from I Know What You Did Last Summer as it even begins with five unrelated people getting letters starting with “I Know what you did…” Each of the five individuals is a mean person in their own unique manner, but there happens to be one crime they all did together and the person it affected the most is seeking to punish them.
The killings in Psychoville are all of a ruthless nature. Certain characters get stabbed in the neck. Others get hanged like outlaws of the Old West, and the twists keep coming. Most people aren’t who they truly seem, and whenever the writers aren’t busy writing scenes meant to freak out viewers, they throw in a surprise joke or too. It’s quite a shame that there are only two seasons of it.
4 The Fades (2011)
Before Daniel Kaluuya began fighting evil forces (and men) in Jordan Peele’s masterpieces, he worked on a few critically acclaimed projects. One of them is The Fades, and in it, a student name Paul begins getting haunted by apocalyptic nightmares in which he is introduced to people that died.
These people that Paul encounters are dead people that have been unable to either ascend to heaven because the ascension points have malfunctioned. Bitter, they decide to cause havoc on Earth, forcing a few people to step up and stop them. Proof of the BBC Three show’s quality lies in the fact that it won the “Best Drama Series” BAFTA in 2012.
3 Creeped Out (2017 – 2018)
Creeped Out is yet another magnificent anthology show that allows viewers to pick whatever they like and leave out the rest. Each episode of the CBBC series features is built on a different horror subgenre and features a unique set of characters. The only thing linking all stories is a mysterious story collector known as “The Curious,” who appears at the beginning and end of each episode.
The decision to center all the stories around children makes the show even scarier since they all show more fear and anguish in times of danger. This is a horror tactic that always works and Creeped Out milks it dry. The plots are all simple, sparing the viewer the task of thinking too hard instead of simply enjoying what’s on offer.
2 And Then There Were None (2015)
And Then There Were None is adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name, but it is way spookier than the source material, thanks to the magnificent use of sound and expert camerawork that always makes it look like there is something in the shadows. Like Psychoville, it involves people getting punished for their past sins, only that these victims meet their fates at a South Coast island where they have all been invited.
The BBC One show has a very strong cast that includes Charles Dance and Sam Neil, so the performances are all incredible. The despair and anxiety of the characters add weight to each minute of the show, and what’s worse is that they have no way to communicate with the outside world. If the survivors don’t figure out a way to defeat the villain, they’ll all be dead.
1 Crooked House (2008)
Crooked House also uses narration and flashbacks, with a curator telling spine-chilling stories about a house’s past. Each episode focuses on a different century and details what is rumored to have happened to the occupants at the time. The stories all draw inspiration from Montague Rhodes James’ books as well as the horror movies of the Amicus Productions banner.
This is the type of show that’s able to instill dread through dialogue and voiceovers, instead of just actions and visuals. Watching the curator ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?” and then following it up with a smile is enough to tell viewers that something isn’t right. To top that, a wild revelation is inserted into the climax, leaving audiences forever shocked at what they have just witnessed.