Shows Like Tales From the Crypt, Including American Horror Stories - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, August 13, 2021

Shows Like Tales From the Crypt, Including American Horror Stories

At the outset of the 1990s, a show emerged on HBO that would carry the torch from shows like Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, providing horror-based entertainment with a little comedy in the mix. Tales From the Crypt was an anthology of short episodes with wide-ranging stories, many of which were adapted from issues of popular EC Comics publications. Each episode was hosted by a cackling pun-filled creature known as “The Cryptkeeper.” During its seven-season run, Tales From the Crypt showcased plenty of famous cameos as well, with names like Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future), Demi Moore (Ghost), Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Iggy Pop, Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), and many more connected to the show in various capacities.

As the ‘90s came to a close and the 2000s carried on, anthology TV fell out of favor. Shows similar to Tales From the Crypt were passed over in favor of serialized stories and binge-ready streaming content. However, fans of horror anthologies aren’t completely left in the dark, as there are still plenty of shows with a similar format to enjoy from both the past and in the present.

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The Twilight Zone (1959)

Likely the most recognizable name on this list, The Twilight Zone spawned a multimedia franchise that didn’t stop at a television show. Running for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, The Twilight Zone introduced general audiences to a world of the macabre and surreal. Episode genres ranged from horror to thriller, and some showcased mind-bending psychological, existential, and absurdist themes. The show’s success catapulted the name’s staying power into a staple of horror and thriller media, and it would spawn movies, radio shows, comic books, theme park attractions, spin-offs, and traditional literature.

Rod Serling, the creator and host of the series, is also well-known for his combative attitude against broadcast regulators during the 1950s and '60s, and this attitude led directly to the creation of his Twilight Zone. When Serling informed sponsors that his United States Steel Hour teleplay "Noon on Doomsday" was inspired by the racist killing of Emmett Till, he was told that he must make substantial adjustments in order to air his work. As a result of what he perceived as a whitewashing of racial issues, Serling decided that starting his own show was the only response. As he told CBS Anchor Mike Wallace, "I don't want to fight anymore. I don't want to battle sponsors and agencies... I don't want to have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what a television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes."

Many greats in the entertainment industry have named The Twilight Zone as one of their largest influences, including the likes of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and J.J. Abrams (Lost). Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek franchise, even delivered a eulogy at Serling’s funeral, citing his “determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves.” Matt Groening creations Futurama and The Simpsons have regular references to the series. Futurama sports a fictional TV show in its universe known as "The Scary Door" that parodies episodes of The Twilight Zone such as "Time Enough At Last" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Meanwhile in The Simpsons, the show's yearly "Treehouse of Horror" episodes are rife with references to episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Treehouse of Horror XV"s "The Ned Zone." Put plainly, science fiction, horror, and thriller media would not be where they are today without the contributions that The Twilight Zone provided.

Tales From the Darkside (1983)

In the early 1980s, the mind of George A. Romero (Dawn of the Dead) birthed a show filled with plot-twisted conclusions. Running from 1983 to 1988, Tales From the Darkside blended horror, thriller, fantasy, and science fiction into its episode lineups. The show was conceptualized as a Creepshow TV series, but without stepping on any of Warner Brothers’ toes, as that company owned the intellectual property rights to aspects of Creepshow.

Often adapting works from authors such as Stephen King ("The Word Processor of the Gods"), Harlan Ellison ("Djinn, No Chaser"), and Clive Barker ("The Yattering and Jack"), production company Laurel Entertainment did everything in its power to keep their stories fresh and interesting. This led to some great moments in horror television, but also quite a few ridiculous ones, such as an episode ("The Yattering and Jack") where a Christmas turkey comes to life and harasses a household.

It undoubtedly has some very strange episodes, and not all of them are horror, but Tales From the Darkside is still worth a look for those who enjoy anthology formats in general, and don’t mind dipping their toes in sci-fi or fantasy at times.

Freddy’s Nightmares (1988)

Debuting shortly before Tales From the Crypt, Freddy’s Nightmares was a syndicated TV series hosted by none other than Robert Englund’s dream-stalking slasher Freddy Krueger. Between episode portions (each episode provided two stories like Creepshow), Freddy would offer glib or snarky observations about an ongoing episode before providing an epilogue at the end of an episode rife with black humor or eeriness.

The show’s 5:00 pm time slot attracted younger audiences, whose parents weren’t particularly happy with the show’s mature content. Warner Bros. would scale back the adult content of the show in Season 2, much to the chagrin of its adult fans. The per-episode budget was reduced, prompting pushback as well. In the end, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the third season of Freddy’s Nightmares and canceled the show.

Many episodes are quite outlandish, owing to Freddy’s ability to blur the line between reality and dreams. However, the series’ pilot episode may be one of the most underrated portrayals of Krueger on screen. Directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), the pilot “No More Mr. Nice Guy” showed viewers the sordid past of Freddy Krueger. In addition, it covered his child abuse case and his eventual death at the hands of the parents of Elm Street. For fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, this episode is a rare and pure look into the man who would become a monster.

Due to the show’s budget difficulties, it relied significantly on relatively unknown talent to fill out the ranks of its cast. However, there are quite a few names in the show that would go on to be known well. The most notable name is undeniably Brad Pitt (Fight Club), but Freddy’s Nightmares also showcased the acting chops of Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager).

It can be overly camp in quite a few situations, but those that have seen the back end of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise should be somewhat used to that. The show itself is a quick watch and has some great insights into the character of Freddy Krueger, while also sporting moments of comedy and classic anthological horror in many episodes.

Lore (2017)

Adapted from the podcast of the same name by its host Aaron Mahnke, Lore attempted to bring a documentary feel to its anthological stories. Since the podcast itself focused on non-fiction stories of horrible crimes and horrific atrocities, Mahnke attempted to use the same themes in the TV adaptation.

Streamed via Amazon Prime Video, the series was canceled in 2019, but its two seasons provided some interesting historical context while still retaining an eerie edge to them. Lore brought viewers to several different time periods, including colonial New England, 19th-century Ireland, and Renaissance-era Germany. Real-world horror stories include the murders of “Countess of Blood” Elizabeth Bathory, the Black Plague’s ravaging of Europe, the story of the alleged witch Mary Webster, and Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of ice pick lobotomy.

While Lore does take inspiration from historical events, it also stretches them with fiction in order to fit its stories. This departs somewhat from the non-fictional nature of the podcast it is derived from, but the documentary-style spin to the show’s presentation is a fun lens to view these episodes through.

Creepshow (2019)

Not to be confused with the horror anthology film of the same name, the continuation of the Creepshow brand kicked off in 2019 on the streaming service Shudder. Featuring six-episode seasons and two horror stories per episode, Creepshow has been kept very close to the vein of Tales From the Crypt. Many episodes showcase a sneering comedic undertone that underlies the existing story.

Creepshow also occasionally brings along bigger names in for acting and directing roles. For example, Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Tobin Bell (Saw) star in the show’s first episode, and well-known names in horror such as Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) and Tom Savini (Friday the 13th) have occupied the director’s chair. Even musical artists like Kid Cudi, Big Boi, and Lil Yachty have snagged roles in this horror anthology series.

Achieving critical appreciation with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes for going its own way while staying on the path set by the original 1982 film, Creepshow is a bloody good time and features enough talent both behind and in front of the camera to keep viewers engaged.

Two Sentence Horror Stories (2019)

Recently renewed for a third season, Two Sentence Horror Stories presents bite-sized horror entertainment among the superhero-packed broadcast lineup of The CW. Beginning as a collection of short films for CW Seed, The CW brought the show into its primary lineup. Each season is ten episodes long, and the relatively short length of the episodes should please horror anthology viewers who appreciate a good TV binge.

Not sporting the star power that many previously-listed anthologies have, observant watchers may still spot a few actors such as Jim Parrack (True Blood) and Pepper Binkley (Fifteen) mixed in with the cast. While some episodes take a clear supernatural bent, others address real-world topics such as date rape drugs, terminal illness, immigration, the autism spectrum, spousal abuse, low-income housing, and the LGBTQ+ community. There is no doubt that Two Sentence Horror Stories’ myriad directors have different messages to send on many issues that the modern world faces.

As many horror fans know, the genre’s deepest roots come from anxieties and fears of the past, present, and future. Tapping into this wellspring allows Two Sentence Horror Stories to portray a moral stance, not unlike the epilogues of episodes of The Twilight Zone. For horror viewers looking for a more socially conscious and inclusive take on horror anthologies, this series may be a great fit.

American Horror Stories (2021)

A spin-off of FX’s American Horror Story, AHS showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have attempted to give their seasoned universe a new look by giving American Horror Stories an episodic anthology format. Created for FX on Hulu, American Horror Stories is still in its infancy, but showcases many actors from the original AHS such as Evan Peters (AHS Seasons 1-8, 10), Cody Fern (AHSSeasons 8-9), and Billie Lourd (AHSSeasons 7-10).

The show has had a difficult time out of the gate, debuting with a serialized two-parter that somewhat contradicts the series’ nature of being an anthology. It currently only has a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes; however, fans of American Horror Story’s universe and serialized seasons may enjoy many of this spin-off’s tropes regardless. It still retains its black sense of humor and solid production value while examining themes such as sexual identity, social media’s prevalence in society, and even a meta-commentary about streaming services themselves.

KEEP READING: ‘Horror Noire’ Teaser Trailer Gives Quick Glimpses at What Terrors to Expect From Shudder’s Anthology Film



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