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The Year in Horror, 2015: Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of Horror Television

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As the landscape continues to grow in a promising direction, there’s no denying that 2015 marked a banner year for horror television. While PENNY DREADFUL and SALEM offered some of the strongest sophomore seasons in recent memories, many other pieces of serialized scare fare proved that they not only still have gas, but are breaking new ground in the process. And with 2015 nearly in our rearview, FANGORIA has decided to catalog our favorite offerings from televised terror titles from the past year…

Honorable Mention: HANNIBAL, “The Great Red Dragon” (dir. Neil Marshall)

While HANNIBAL’s fate was unfortunately sealed before the debut of Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde, the character’s nearly-silent debut on the show was among the most creepy moments throughout the third season. Yet what truly made the Neil Marshall-directed episode stand out was seeing Will Graham back in the saddle, doing what he does best for the first time since Hannibal left him a bloody, broken mess in season two.

 

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  1. SCREAM: THE TV SERIES, “In The Trenches” (dir. Leigh Janiak)

Even though SCREAM: THE TV SERIES’ first season could be described as uneven at best, this writer agrees with FANGO’s Kristen Adelwerth in that when the show was at its high point, it soared. Luckily, the Leigh Janiak-helmed seventh episode of SCREAM: THE TV SERIES had it all: tension, bloodshed, mystery, solid performances and a shocking climax, all of which combined to form the most memorable hour of the program thus far.

 

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  1. DINNER WITH FAMILY WITH BRETT GELMAN & BRETT GELMAN’S FAMILY (dir. Jason Woliner)

Easily the darkest 22 minutes of comedy on television in 2015, DINNER WITH FAMILY gave Brett Gelman and frequent collaborator Jason Woliner the depraved, surrealist platform to create something that was genuinely dread-inducing. And while the final product is ultimately a twisted, experimental exercise in hilarity, the journey is nonetheless uniquely unsettling in its own right.

 

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  1. BATES MOTEL, “Norma Louise” (dir. Phil Abraham)

BATES MOTEL’s third season was a step in the right direction for the tonally inconsistent series, but rarely did the show get better than this intense episode. Between Norma’s drunken confession, Romero’s attempted assassination (and retaliation) and the big reveal of Norman in “Mother” mode, this episode gave audiences a glimpse of the series at its most PSYCHO.

 

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  1. HANNIBAL, “Digestivo” (dir. Adam Kane)

Bryan Fuller’s artful horror outlet has never (and I mean never) been as sleazy, despicable and deranged as in “Digestivo.” With the final confrontation between Hannibal, Will and Mason Verger, as well as the reveal of Verger’s nightmarish surrogate, HANNIBAL pushed the edges of network television can allow to stomach-churning new depths.

 

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  1. PENNY DREADFUL, “The Nightcomers” (dir. Brian Kirk)

In Patti Lupone’s second appearance on this list, PENNY DREADFUL embraced its most gothic side with “The Nightcomers,” an episode largely contained in flashbacks. While PENNY DREADFUL’s second season had plenty of terrifying moments, few resonated with audiences as well as this performance-driven exercise in tension that built upon the mythology and fears of Vanessa Ives.

 

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  1. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL, “Devil’s Night” (dir. Loni Peristere)

In a season many are claiming to be the among best the show has had, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL offered its most fun and freaky hour with “Devil’s Night.” An ensemble piece with phenomenal guest stars and a wicked premise, “Devil’s Night” felt effortlessly like the creepshow AMERICAN HORROR STORY often strives to be, injecting the series with equal parts horrific Americana and mischievous perversion.

 

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  1. HANNIBAL, “The Wrath of the Lamb” (dir. Michael Rymer)

The final episode (to date) of HANNIBAL was exactly the emotional powerhouse that we all expected, but no one could have expected the episode to be as visceral as it would eventually be. Though carrying the air of finality, HANNIBAL gave Graham and Lector a fitting goodbye while offering a grandiose and gruesome last stand for Francis Dolarhyde.

 

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  1. SALEM, “Cry Havoc” (dir. Nick Copus)

To be fair, SALEM’s second season was spectacular from start to finish, making whittling down the most memorable episode a fairly intimidating task. Yet “Cry Havoc” earns the honor as one of the best hours of horror television this year thanks to its unapologetic decision to indulge: fantastic FX, shocking violence and top-tier performances allowed SALEM’s second season to run before it walked.

 

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  1. THE WALKING DEAD, “JSS” (dir. Jennifer Lynch)

With a stellar sixth season that offered some of the series’ best episodes to date, it’s been fascinating to see Jennifer Lynch rise up to fill the 2015 absence of Ernest Dickerson as THE WALKING DEAD’s premiere episodic director. And good lord, does Lynch’s direction steal the show with JSS, a brilliant hour of horror television that gave Carol her most badass moments to date while reinstating the importance of human danger on the zombie series.

 

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  1. ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, “El Jefe” (dir. Sam Raimi)

Hail to the king, baby. While some may lament the use of CGI during certain moments of the ASH VS. EVIL DEAD pilot, there was something inherently magical about Sam Raimi wielding both fun and fright with infectious passion and masterful craftsmanship. But few can deny that “El Jefe” was the perfect vehicle for the returning Bruce Campbell as the title character, proving that the braggadocious deadite-killer is just as badass today as he was 30+ years ago.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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