How horror TV embraced our demons

In the new horror series on television, the real monsters are us

Looking for a last-minute Halloween costume? Consider going as John Carroll Lynch. The veteran character actor has been absolutely horrifying in two very different roles on TV this fall. In SyFy's Channel Zero: No-End House he's played "The Father," the cannibalistic husk of the heroine's dead dad. And in American Horror Story: Cult he's reprised his role as "Twisty the Clown," the show's shabby, grotesquely grinning psychopath. The latter is a conventionally nightmarish vision of Americana gone wrong. The former is ... something else.

Horror has a spotty record on television, probably because TV has long been a medium that prefers to put viewers at ease, rather than freaking them out. In the '60s, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits were notable exceptions. But while those two anthologies featured plenty of terrifying moments, they also bounced from horror to other, lighter fantasy genres, like science fiction. Later that same decade, the ABC soap opera Dark Shadows followed the tribulations of a vampire and his relatives, but emphasized gothic romance over things that go "Boo!"

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