Horror on television is experiencing a boom that viewers haven’t seen since the old days of Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock. With shows like American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and Hannibal, there’s plenty on the air to keep even the most insatiable viewers busy. Even during the slim years, however, there were pockets of horror programming that slipped through the cracks. Here are five forgotten horror shows that came and went before they even had a chance.
Freakylinks was a show that was developed by Haxan Films (the creators of The Blair Witch Project) for the Fox network in 2000. It starred Ethan Embry as the operator of a website called Freakylinks.com who, along with his team, investigated claims of paranormal activity and supernatural occurrences. In many regards, Freakylinks was a poor-man’s The X-Files, with the gang checking out a different monster-of-the-week during every episode, their collective experiences hinting at a larger mythology. That mythology was never fully realized, however, as Freakylinks lasted only one season. The curious can find episodes of the show on YouTube. Here’s the first one.
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Before there was Paranormal State or Ghost Hunters, there was Fear. Fear was part game show, part paranormal research show, and it aired on MTV in the early 2000s. Also known as MTV’s Fear, the show tossed a group of kids into a supposedly haunted place and made them investigate the spookiness, with a monetary reward waiting at the end for those who did not chicken out. It was a cool prototype for the modern ghost hunting shows, but with more of an exploitative methodology; the producers always seemed like they were purposely trying to scare the hell out of the contestants. Just like Freakylinks, many episodes of Fear can be found on YouTube. Here’s the first one, in which the unsuspecting players investigate West Virginia State Penitentiary.
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3. Fear Itself
When the Showtime network elected to not renew Masters of Horror for a third season, series creator Mick Garris took his concept to NBC, and the resulting series was Fear Itself. Fear Itself basically WAS the third season of Masters of Horror, following the same formula of teaming up established directors and writers to make hour long horror films. Because they were airing on broadcast television as opposed to pay cable, episodes of Fear Itself had to be edited for content, as well as shortened in order to make room for the commercials. Even with the limitations, Fear Itself was still probably one of the scariest shows to ever air on network television. It was put on hiatus during the 2008 Olympics, and was never brought back. Again, thanks to YouTube, here’s the first episode, “The Sacrifice.”
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4. The Hitchhiker
Back when HBO Original Programming was in its infancy, the cable channel produced the anthology show The Hitchhiker. Every Saturday night from 1983 to 1987, audiences were treated to a cool story along the lines of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, each one introduced by Page Fletcher, the Canadian actor who played the show’s titular host. The Hitchhiker had a decent run, but the show was soon replaced on HBO by Tales from the Crypt. Luckily, select episodes continue to live on in the cyber world. Here’s an episode from the fourth season called “Homebodies.”
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In the fall of 1981, prime time television was awash in sitcoms and soap operas. Looking for something different, ABC rolled the dice on an anthology horror show called Darkroom. Hosted by James Coburn, Darkroom followed the formula of revered anthology shows like Night Gallery and The Outer Limits, bringing together different writers, directors, and actors to produce two or three tales of terror that were crammed into an hour of programming every week. In ABC’s eyes, the experiment was a failure, and Darkroom was cancelled before the end of its first season. Four episodes that went unaired by ABC were later compiled into the now-classic horror anthology film Nightmares. Because of the obscurity of the show, existing copies of Darkroom episodes are of very poor quality, but they’re out there. Here’s the first one.
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