Hi, I’m Liz and I am a couch potato. I enjoy way too much screen time and if I was at the chocolate factory I’d be “Liz TV”. We are in a golden age of TV here in the US but thanks to the magic of the internet there some of the very best shows from around the world are right at your fingertips! No more hunting down DVDs that may or may not be the right regions for your player, no more illegally downloading poor quality shows and hoping it is actually the show you want. Now horror fans can watch the very best from the past and present from the comfort of your couch- pants optional!
My taste runs the gamut (you can see my top 25 and my top 10 of 2018 to see what I mean) but I tend to lean toward gritty serial killer and cop shows over haunted houses and creature features. Moreover, not all of my favorite shows are horror with a capital H. This list includes horror comedy, sci-fi, thrillers, and some are impossible to categorize. Others are just plain weird, but I promise you they are all really dark and really good.
There are also so many more fantastic horror shows out there from Europe and the UK, so use this list as a jumping off point. Maybe you’ll discover that you love French police procedurals (je les amie), or that the wacky British horror comedies are more your speed. Or, that while Denmark may be one of the happiest places on earth, it’s also one of the weirdest. There is so much available now that a country thousands of miles away can be streamed into your living room with the click of a button.
1. Fortitude (2015, UK)- created by Simon Donald
I have been wanting to talk about Fortitude on TST for a while now because I think it is one of the best TV shows I have ever seen and lucky for us, it’s horror. Fortitude ticks all the boxes in my wheelhouse: exotic and cinematic setting, an all star cast with top notch acting, fully realized characters and a 100% balls to the wall bat shit crazy story line!
Season one stars Stanley Tucci as DCI Morton who travels from London to the Norwegian Arctic town of Fortitude to assist the local police headed by Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer of Game of Thrones fame and my dream audio-book narrator) in investigating the first murder in Fortitude. The victim is professor Charlie Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston the 9th doctor- see I told you this was all star) who has unearthed a preserved mammoth from the ice outside of town. It is so cold in Fortitude that nothing ever decays. This grizzly crime kicks off a streak of violence (more murders) and mayhem (a prehistoric parasite that infects some of Fortitude’s most vulnerable residents) that rocks the small community to its core.
How the plot continues to unfold in the following seasons can only be described as total insanity and I can’t even begin to summarize all the plot lines but Dennis Quaid joins the cast as an arctic fisherman and crabber and what happens season 2 episode 9 rivals any horror movie out there; it may even be a bridge too far for some.
Zip up your parka because all episodes of Fortitude are available to stream on Amazon Prime.
2. Glacé aka The Frozen Dead (2017, France)- created by Gérard Carré based on the novel by Bernard Minier
Set in the stunning French Pyrenees mountains in the village of Saint-Martin-de-Comminges, The Frozen Dead has one of the most gruesome opening scenes on television: an eviscerated and decapitated horse is found at the top of a frozen cable car track.
After the discovery of the murdered animal, the human bodies begin to pile up and it is suspected that the current crimes are linked to that of serial killer Julian Hirtmann who is incarcerated in the local high security psychiatric prison. Returning to the town he’d left behind, chain-smoking police officer Marin Servaz (Charles Berling) heads up the investigation that uncovers more crimes and secrets than snowflakes in this intense and horrific French thriller.
The setting and the weather are truly characters in this miniseries based on the bestselling novel of the same name, and like Fortitude, it is a great way to escape the heat of the summer.
The Frozen Dead is available to stream on Netflix.
3. La Mante (2017, France)- created by Alice Chegaray-Breugnot, Nicolas Jean, Grégoire Demaison and Laurent Vivier
The second of three French offerings on this list, La Mante caught my attention from the get go because the serial killer, dubbed “The Mantis” in the press, who the cops have to turn to to catch a killer reenacting the crimes of 25 years prior is a woman. I know the set up is a classic troupe and may be getting a little stale but- twist!- she’s also the (incredibly handsome) main investigator’s estranged mother!
La Mante dives into the effects that deep undercover police work has on the officers entrenched and their families as well as a very strained mother/son relationship. It also has some really creative kills and it deserves a place in your queue if you are a fan of police procedurals with visceral reveals and a pulse pounding pace. You don’t have to take my word for it; Stephen King tweeted, “I’m enjoying LA MANTE (Netflix). It is surveying previously unexplored realms of gruesomeness. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a man slowly drowning in an industrial washer before”.
La Mante is a 6 episode miniseries that is available to stream on Netflix.
4 & 5. Inside No. 9 & Psychoville (2014/2009, UK)- created by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton
I don’t really know how to categorize these two shows as they are not in the traditional horror buckets, but they are dark and very, very weird so I think anyone who is reading this will dig these shows. Both Inside No. 9 and Psychoville were created by and star British actors and comedians Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton who may be familiar to you if you’re an Anglophile as I am.
Inside No. 9 is an anthology series and all the skits take place in buildings, home, apartments, or hotel and office suites that are the titular “number 9”. The opening episode called Sardines sets the tone of the series as a group of party guests play a hide and seek game called sardines where as a person is found, the seekers join them in the hiding spot until they are crammed in like sardines. However, in this particular game it’s more than just physical discomfort the guests experience. The only other opening episode of a series that kicks off with this same sort of impact is “The National Anthem”- episode one of Black Mirror…
Psychoville is described by the BBC as “a spine-tingling, jaw-dropping, thrilling comedy”. It’s about a group of eccentric and bizarre characters who are all being blackmailed, most notably David Sowerbutts a serial killer obsessed savant, Mr. Jelly a one armed clown still trying to book children’s parties and Oscar Lomax a blind millionaire who lives is a creepy mansion with his “commodities” (stuffed animals he’s collected akin to beanie babies). Really, do you need to know any more?
6. Zone Blanche aka Black Spot (2017, France)- created by Mathieu Missoffe
Zone Blanche (translated as Black Spot for Netflix meaning a dead zone for electronics) is a French/ Belgian TV show that is set in the fictional forest town of Villefranche that is plagued by a murder rate over 5 times the national average. When a new prosecutor arrives to poke around and see what’s causing all the deaths, he discovers the local gendarmerie (kind of like the state police) lead by captain Laurène Weiss are not immune to the unexplained phenomena blanketing the small town.
Zone Blanche has it all: supernatural occurrences, bloody violence, eco-terrorism, adorable guinea pigs, a magical/haunted forest complete with scary creature and of course a few sexy french trysts, all played out with that French chic je ne sais quoi that makes this show one of my recent favorites.
Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Netflix and my fingers are crossed that a third season will be coming soon.
7. Dead Set (2008, UK)- created by Charlie Brooker
It is no secret that the Brits love reality TV so it should come as no surprise that during its heyday one of the biggest reality shows, Big Brother, got spoofed. Featuring cameos from real housemates, Dead Set takes place during an “eviction night” on the set of the hit show while on the same night riots are breaking out across the UK caused by unknown circumstances (hint, zombie apocalypse). All the shows’s producers are concerned about however, is if they’re going to be preempted by the breaking news story and lose their top ratings. For five episodes you follow the reality shows production team and the housemates as they realize what is really going on and decide weather to leave the relative security of the sequestered house or brave the outside world to save their loved ones.
This shows is absolutely hilarious, with most of the laughs being brought by the show’s producer Patrick (Andy Nyman) as he battles his way out of the studio and into the house, but Dead Set comes from the mind of the man who later brought us Black Mirror, so you know this won’t be all fun and games. If you wish The Walking Dead was a comedy (and only a few episodes long), then this show is for you!
The one and only season of Dead Set is available streaming on Netflix.
8. Wire in the Blood (2002, UK)- created by Coastal Productions based on the novels of Val McDermid
For fans of movies like Silence of the Lambs and TV shows like True Detective (forgetting season 2 ever happened) and Mindhunter, Wire in the Blood is a show you’ll want to sink your teeth into. BBC regulars Robson Green and Hermione Norris star as Dr. Tony Hill, a brilliant psychologist who falls somewhere on the spectrum but who can get into the minds of the most derange killer and DCI Carol Jordan, the no nonsense officer who heads up Bradford’s Marjor Incident Team and regularly enlists Tony to assist in the investigations of some of Britain’s most brutal crimes. This may sound familiar as this type of relationship has become a troupe of the thriller genre, but in this series the acting is so superb and the crimes are so bazaar that all is forgiven.
While the show does become plagued by a “will they or won’t they” dynamic the chemistry of Tony and Carol is as intense as the crimes they solve. Carol Jordan is replaced in season four and the show does suffer but it is still a solid choice.
Series 1-6 (ranging from 3-5 episodes each) are available to stream on Acorn TV or can be purchased to stream on Amazon.
9. Dark (2017, Germany)- created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese
Dark is a time twisting German language sci-fi series set in the fictional town of Winden, that is reeling from the disappearance of a young boy named Mikkel, the son of a Winden police officer who’s brother had disappeared 33 years before in 1986. On the same day, high school student Jonas is returning to Winden after months in a psychiatric facility to cope with the suicide of his father. Dark explores the interconnected relationships of four families in Winden as they learn of the wormhole like effects of a forest cave system that is located beneath the town’s nuclear power plant and attempt to link of Mikkel’s disappearance with the events of 1986 and 1953.
As beautifully rendered as it is difficult to follow (the internet is your friend when trying to keep timelines straight) Dark is a fantastic series to lose yourself in.
The 18 episodes of season 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netflix, with a third (and supposed final) season in the works.
10. Riget aka The Kingdom (1994, Denmark)- created by Lars Von Trier
Way back in the 90’s, before Antichrist and The House that Jack Built, the bad boy of cinema Lars Von Trier made an incredibly weird but utterly watchable miniseries for Danish TV called Riget which means “the realm” or “the kingdom” in Danish. Set in the neurosurgery ward of Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet (Kindgom hospital), the series follows doctors nurses and patients as they experience strange happenings with two cafeteria dishwashers recapping and expounding on the situations much like a Greek chorus.
There are multiple story lines running throughout the series: horror alum Udo Kier is a gargantuan baby, a murdered young girl roams the corridors, a secret society performs rituals in the basements, a haunted ambulance appears nightly in the ER bay and to cap it all off the hospital was built on ancient marshlands. Stephen King developed an American remake that was on TV in 2004 but my advice is to read the subtitles and stick with the original.
The Kingdom is an 8 episode mini-series that is streaming on Kanopy which is free if your library supports the program and you have a library card. There is TONS more horror streaming on Kanopy as well so get to your library!