TV Horror


HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, PART Three:
HORROR TELEVISION
by Michael Shonk


   In the final part of my three part look at horror entertainment, I look at television.

         Part One: Horror Cartoons

         Part Two: Horror Radio.

   Television is a visual medium, something that can limit the horror story. Too much visual horror can offend the viewer and not enough can disappoint the viewer. In the early days of television the amount of graphic violence and gore was limited for TV’s large mass audience. But as times and culture has changed the horror genre has reflected those changes.

   In the ROUTE 66 episode “Lizard’s Leg & Owlet’s Wings” Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. wonder if there is a future for the old style monsters.

ROUTE 66 (CBS, 1960-64): Created by Stirling Silliphant and Herbert B. Leonard. CAST: George Maharis as Buz and Martin Milner as Tod.

   The series followed the adventures of two men in a Chevrolet as they traveled across country.

   “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” (October 26, 1962) Written by Stirling Silliphant. Directed by Robert Gist. GUEST CAST: Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney. Buz and Tod get jobs at the Chicago O’Hare Inn where they help groups set up their conventions or meetings. Buz’s first assignment is to take care of fifty young beautiful secretaries while Tod gets stuck with Karloff, Lorre and Chaney who are planning to start a film production company. The three famous horror actors argue over whether to produced movies with new monsters or stay with the classics.

   Silliphant’s script examined the power of fear and love, but suffers from dated characters. Silliphant does have one of the women in charge complaining about men getting better pay than women, but he also had the women faint at the sight of Lon Chaney in a werewolf costume.


   A popular form of horror on television has always been the supernatural story, not only in America but in England as well. Englishman M. R. James (August 1, 1862 – June 12, 1936) is considered one of the greatest writers of ghost stories.

OMNIBUS (BBC, 1967-2003) was a popular documentary series that included occasional fiction.

   “Whistle And I’ll Come To You” (May 7,1968). Produced and directed by Jonathan Miller; story by M.R. James (“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”). CAST: Michael Hordern as Professor, Ambrose Coghill as Colonel, and George Woodbridge as Hotel Proprietor. *** A Professor on holiday finds an ancient whistle next to a grave. The inscription reads whistle and I’ll come to you. The Professor blows the whistle and his life is changed forever.

   I am not a fan of ghost stories so I have not read any of M. R. James’ work. This adaption by Jonathan Miller is regarded as the best of James’ work.

   This ghost story was not what I expected. There was no action or conflict or screams. Instead the drama relies on the characters. Michael Hordern captures the Professor, a man used to living alone with his books. The pace is slow and the background soundtrack has natural sounds rather than music. It all gives the story a feeling of reality.


DARK SHADOWS (ABC, 1966-1971): Created and Executive Produced by Dan Curtis. CAST: Joan Bennett as Elizabeth Collins Soddard, Alexandra Moltke as Victoria Winters, Louis Edmonds as Roger Collins and Mitchell Ryan as Burke Devlin.

   DARK SHADOWS is one of my favorite TV series from my childhood that happily holds up today. It is a gothic horror soap opera where every character has a mystery. The low production values and black and white video adds to the uneasy mood. This is a perfect example of why restoring every television series into high definition blu-ray quality is a mistake.

   “Season One Episode One” (June 27,1966): Story Created and Written by Art Wallace. Directed by Lela Swift. CAST: Elizabeth Wilson, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Conrad Bain.

   Young Victoria leaves the only home she has ever known – a founding hospital – to take a governess job for the wealthy eccentric Collins family. Meanwhile the Collins family has their own secrets.


   How can anyone do a list of any genre of TV shows without including a TV detective series? The horror genre has offered many to chose from, I picked SPECIAL UNIT 2.

SPECIAL UNIT 2 (SYFY, 2001-2002) Created and Executive Produced by Evan Katz. CAST: Michael Landes as Detective Nicholas O’Malley, Alexondra Lee as Detective Kate Benson, Richard Gant as Captain Page and Danny Woodburn as Carl the Gnome.

   The Special Unit 2 is a little mentioned part of Chicago police department. The Unit’s duty is to enforce the law among the supernatural community known as links.

“The Eve” (October 31, 2001) Written by Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle, Directed by Oscar Costo. CAST: John de Lancie, Stefan Arngrim and Christine Caux. *** It is Halloween, the least favorite day for Special Unit 2. Humans are dressing up as links (monsters and demons) making it impossible to tell the good guys from the bad. A powerful link is willing to kill for a key that Special Unit 2 had taken from him years ago.


   Comedies in the horror genre are not uncommon. There is ADDAMS FAMILY, REAPER, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and TOPPER. One of the better examples is EERIE, INDIANA.

EERIE, INDIANA (NBC 1991-92, 18 episodes; Disney Channel, 1993, 1 original episode and the original 18) Created by Karl Schaefer & Jose Rivera CAST: Omri Katz as Marshall and Justin Shenkarow as Simon – Creative Consultant: Joe Dante (GREMLINS)

   This cult favorite features two boys exploring their hometown of Eerie Indiana. By all appearances Eerie is your typical small American town but it is really the center of all the weirdness in the Universe.

“The Hole In The Head Gang”(March 1. 1992) Written by Karl Schaefer. Directed by Joe Dante. CAST: John Astin, Justin Whalin and Claude Akins. *** Marshall and Simon meet the ghost of Grungy Bill, the worst bank robber in all history. Grungy had failed to rob the bank of Eerie thirteen times – the last attempt he forgot his gun. Now despite being dead he wants to make another attempt to rob the bank.


   Horror shows are getting better and more graphic. Networks such as FX (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), AMC (WALKING DEAD), SHOWTIME (PENNY DREADFUL), USA (FALLING WATER) and SYFY (CHANNEL ZERO) are producing great horror series.

WYNONNA EARP (SYFY, 2016) Created and Executive Produced by Emily Andras. Based on a graphic novel series created and written by Beau Smith. CAST: Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna, Shamier Anderson as Dolls, Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday and Dominique Provost- Chalkley as Waverly Earp.

   WYNONNA EARP is a western horror series about a demon-fighting descendant of the great Wyatt Earp. This kick-ass series was one of my favorites last season and will return for a second season sometime in 2017.

“Purgatory” (April 1, 2016) Written by Emily Andras Directed by Paolo Barzman. CAST: Michael Eklund, Katherine Barrell and Greg Lawson*** Wynonna reluctantly returns to her hometown and resumes her family responsibly to keep the demons Wyatt Earp had killed from escaping Hell.


   It is unlikely this episode will remain on YouTube for long so here is the SYFY official video explaining the series premise.

   Note the comment from Beau Smith that he created the comic book premise due to his love of Westerns and the old Universal Movie monsters. This brings us full circle from ROUTE 66’s belief the Universal Monsters would live forever.

   The supernatural horror genre may be more graphic today but it maintains the same goals it has had from the beginning – to explore the emotion of fear.


BONUS VIDEO: Temporarily available to watch is the first episode of the new entertaining SYFY horror series VAN HELSING. It is a Van Helsing you have never seen before.

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, PART ONE:
HORROR CARTOONS
by Michael Shonk


   Welcome to this three-part look at horror, beginning with cartoons. Of course as always I try to avoid the obvious examples. Feel free to mention your favorites in the comments.

   Let’s start with one TV series on the silly rather than scary side. COUNT DUCKULA is a small green vegetarian vampire duck. The series was a spin-off of popular British cartoon DANGER MOUSE. With the fun spy spoof DANGER MOUSE a success on American cable network Nickelodeon, those at the network asked for a spin-off and COUNT DUCKULA was created. He appeared in a few episodes of DANGER MOUSE before getting his own series.

COUNT DUCKULA (Nickelodeon, 1988-93, Thames Television, Cosgrove Hall Films)

No Sax Please, We’re Egyptians.” (September 6, 1988)

   The Count had been killed many times but his immoral butler Igor had the power to bring the vampire duck back to life. But during the most recent resurrection a mistake made by the Count’s idiot Nanny resulted in a self-centered cowardly Count Duckula with a fondness for vegetables rather than blood.

   In this the first episode of the series Duckula, Igor, Nanny and unknown to them some thieving crows travel to Egypt in search of the Mystic Saxophone. The story is a good example of the series style – silly absurd humor that can resemble vaudeville and an art style that is pleasing but limited.

   Recommended for all ages.


   Next is AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD. Screw-On Head is a supernatural hero in a steampunk alternative reality.

AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD (Sci-Fi, Kickstart Production, Livingdeadguy Production, Harmony Gold, Liongate, 2006)

“Pilot.” Based on comic book by Mike Mignola. Written, Developed and Executive Produced by Bryan Fuller. Directed by Chris Prynoski. Voice Cast: Paul Giamatti as Screw-On Head, David Hyde Pierce as Emperor Zombie, Patton Oswalt as Mr. Groin and Molly Shannon as Patience.

   It is 1862, and two old ladies (one a werewolf) and a monkey kidnap the foremost expert on ancient evil text. President Lincoln calls Screw-On Head as the President believes this is the work of Screw-On Head’s arch-nemesis Emperor Zombie.

   The animation, Bryan Fuller’s (HANNIBAL, PUSHING DAISIES) script and a talented voice cast all add to a delightfully entertaining horror adventure story. Sadly the Sci-Fi (now Syfy) cable network turned it down.


   Mike Mignola has found more success with another of his comic book creation, Hellboy. Hellboy has been in endless comic books, paperbacks, featured in two theatrical films starring Ron Pearlman and two animated direct to DVD films. BLOOD AND IRON is the second animated film.

HELLBOY: BLOOD AND IRON Cartoon Network, 2007; Starz Media in association with Revolution Studio / Film Roman. Based on the Dark Horse Comic Book “HELLBOY” created by Mike Mignola. Creative Producers Guillermo Del Toro and Mike Mignola. Written by Kevin Hopps. Story by Tad Stones and Mike Mignola. Directed by Victor Cook – Supervising Producer and Director Tad Stones. Voice Cast: Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, Selma Blair as Liz Sherman, and John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm.

   A monster from Professor Bruttenholm’s past may be trying to return. The Professor leads a group from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to investigate a haunted house. It does not take long for Hellboy and his friends to encounter the supernatural. The house proves to be home for hundreds of ghosts and a variety of monsters including the vampire from the Professor’s past and Queen of Witches who wants Hellboy to leave his human friends and return to Hell.

   The movie does have its scary parts and is well directed, but the script offers no surprises. Still BLOOD AND IRON offers something to get you in the mood for Halloween.


   Horror is one of the more popular genres in Japanese anime. But a word of warning: most of Japanese anime should be considered for mature audiences. The two shows I picked have more violence and blood than the American audience is used to seeing in a cartoon. Both feature the first episode from a longer series, yet can be enjoyed without seeing the rest of the series. Those wanting more of CLAYMORE and HELLSING can find both series dubbed and subtitled on Hulu.

CLAYMORE. Nippon Television2007 / VAP / Avex Entertainment / Madhouse / FUNimation . Screenplay by Yasuko Kobayaski. Directed by Hiroyuki Tanuka. Voice Cast: Stephanie Young as Clare, Todd Haberkorn as Raki.

“Scene One: Great Sword”

   A demon known as a Yoma is killing human villagers. A Yoma has the power to assume the shape of any human so the villagers are forced to ask for the help of a Claymore. Claymores are half-Yoma and half female human. Humans fear and hate the Claymores, but only a Claymore can identify a disguised Yoma, and only a Claymore is powerful enough to defeat a Yoma.


HELLSING. Fuji Television, 2001-02. Geneon / FUNimation- Pioneer L.D.C / Gonzo. Based on the comic by Kouta Hirano. Screenwriter: Chiaki J. Konaka. Directed by Yasunori Urata. Voice Cast: Crispin Freeman as Arucard, Victoria Harwood as Integra Hellsing, and K.T. Gray as Seras.

“Order:01 The Undead”

   The British government is helpless against a growing threat of vampires. To keep the secret from the public, they hire the Hellsing Organization to take care of the blood sucking monsters. We are introduced to Arucard a powerful vampire forced to kill his own kind at the orders from his master Integra Hellsing.

   Unfortunately the YouTube video cannot be embedded here because it has been rated TV-MA and “may contain content intended for mature audiences.” You will have to follow the link and log in to confirm you are old enough to watch it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TxnL5VYgoY


NEXT: PART TWO – HORROR RADIO.

COMING SOON – THE TV EDITION
by Michael Shonk


   Most TV junkies claim Fall premiere week as their favorite time of the year, but mine has always been the May upfronts. Upfronts are parties the networks throw for major advertisers, ad agencies and the media in attempt to get them drunk enough to believe next Fall’s TV series will be the best ever and hope they forget the lies the networks told about the quality of last season’s shows.

   In the past, May was the most dramatic month for the TV fanatic. TV viewers embraced hope of the new, relief when their favorites survived, and the devastation when they didn’t. But it is just not the same anymore.

   The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CW) have joined cable networks in the effort to supply original programming all year round. New television series never stop coming. The Big Four and-a-Half networks just announced their fall lineup with huge fan fare ignoring that September is no longer the best month of TV.

   Pushing the limits of space here, let’s check out the highlights of what is coming this week, this Summer, this Fall, and in 2017.

   Just because the main season is over, it doesn’t mean the broadcast networks abandon original programming. WAYWARD PINES is back on FOX. CW has the final season of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. CBS has the return of ZOO and two new series starting in June that sound better than any of CBS new fall shows. AMERICAN GOTHIC tells the story of a family that has discovered one of them is a serial killer. From the creators of THE GOOD WIFE, BRAINDEAD is a comedy thriller about a young woman who discovers aliens are eating the brains of politicians and government workers. NBC has the Olympics this summer but also airs AQUARIUS.

      NBC medical drama NIGHT SHIFT returns for its third season:

   Cable networks offer original scripted programs in May and June including AMC’s new crime drama set in a restaurant, FEED THE BEAST, and the last season of HELL ON WHEELS, HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, TNT’s LAST SHIP, MAJOR CRIMES, MURDER IN THE FIRST, and RIZZOLI & ISLES (final season), TBS’s ANGIE TRIBECA, Cinemax’s OUTCAST, Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, ADULT SWIM’s DECKER: UNCLASSIFIED, and SYFY’s 12 MONKEYS.

   The heck with Marvel and DC, give me an IDW comic book like the fun horror/western WYNONNA EARP.

   Cable original scripted programs continue through the summer with returning series such as SYFY’s KILLJOYS and DARK MATTER, FX’s TYRANT and THE STRAIN, STARZ’s POWER, USA’s SUITS and last year’s hit MR. ROBOT.

   New series include Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS set in the 1980s, a supernatural series centered on a missing boy, SYFY’s post-apocalyptic drama AFTERMATH, and TNT’s GOOD BEHAVIOR based on the Letty Dobesh books by Blake Crouch.

      Based on Stephen Hunter’s book POINT OF IMPACT, USA network new series SHOOTER premieres in July.

   This fall live television, especially sports such as the NFL and World Series, will distract the viewing public. Cable lead by one of the most watched TV series in all television, AMC’s WALKING DEAD will hold its own. TNT reboots TALES FROM THE CRYPT, this time from M. Night Shyamalan.

         Netflix starts another series featuring a Marvel comic character – LUKE CAGE.

   Midseason 2017 promises to offer some entertaining new series on cable networks. USA’s FALLING WATER is a supernatural thriller about three strangers who find they can share dreams. SYFY’s horror anthology CHANNEL ZERO,

      Syfy’s THE EXPANSE, the best TV series I watched in 2015-16, will return for its second season in January 2017.

   Top network CBS will add three new dramas this Fall. BULL starring NCIS Michael Weatherly as Dr Phil back when he was a consultant specializing in manipulating… uh, I mean analyzing juries. Medicine meets technology in the new drama PURE GENUIS.

      The pilot of MACGYVER had many behind the scenes problems. Let’s hope Macgyver can find the right knick knack to save the show.

   Two new CBS series wait for their turn and midseason. DOUBT a lawyer show starring Katherine Heigl, and TRAINING DAY, based on the film. But more important are two series that CBS hopes to premiere in 2017 on CBS ALL ACCESS, its streaming service. First original new series will be the sequel to THE GOOD WIFE. The second is perhaps TV most famous franchise in history. It began on NBC, cancelled and resurfaces as a successful film series. It was used to establish Paramount in the syndicated market. It began UPN (now CW) and tried to save the network before the merger with WB. As Paramount continues to pump out theatrical films, CBS will use STAR TREK to jumpstart its streaming service.

         Without a title or any idea what it is about, the new STAR TREK series is the most anticiated television series of next season.

   Among the CBS series returning in the fall are BLUE BLOODS, CODE BLACK, CRIMINAL MINDS, ELEMENTARY, HAWAII FIVE-O, MADAM SECRETARY, NCIS, NCIS: LOS ANGELES, NCIS: NEW ORLEANS, and SCORPION. While CRIMINAL MINDS – BEYOND BORDERS will be back in 2017.

   SUPERGIRL reminded CBS what its TV audience likes, so the new shows look like the old shows and SUPERGIRL flew off to CBS little sister CW. The comic book superhero will feel comfortable with the rest of DC comic superheroes, ARROW, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and CW’s top show FLASH. CW continues to specialize in comic books, horror and the weird.

      New this fall to the mini-me of broadcast networks is FREQUENCY based on the film.

   Returning during midseason will be THE 100, iZOMBIE, THE ORIGINALS, SUPERNATURAL, and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.

   Midseason, CW will add FOX reject RIVERDALE, based on the characters from Archie comics focused on a murder mystery. But this is not Scooby Doo or your old Archie (even the comic books are not your old Archie), this Archie deals with “adult issues” such as him sleeping with his teacher.

   While CBS remains the top network, NBC is close behind. Its two biggest hits are SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and THE VOICE, each hogging up much of NBC’s fall schedule. This fall NBC adds five games of Thursday night football (CBS shows the first five, NBC has the last five). Without any major holes in its fall schedule, NBC saved its most promising new series for midseason, adding only three to the fall lineup.

      NBC’s only new drama this fall is TIMELESS, the most promising series of the many this season featuring time travel.

   Some of the series returning this fall are BLACKLIST, BLINDSPOT, CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, CHICAGO PD, GRIMM, LAW AND ORDER SVU. SHADES OF BLUE will have to wait for SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL to end.

   Other new shows waiting for their turn include comedies POWERLESS (insurance office comedy set in the world of superheroes), TRAIL & ERROR (court comedy). New dramas are BLACKLIST – REDEMPTION (spinoff), EMERALD CITY (based on Baum’s Land of Oz books), MIDNIGHT, TEXAS (based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris (TRUE BLOOD)), TAKEN (prequel to film series) and what would any NBC list be without another Dick Wolf CHICAGO series, in this case CHICAGO JUSTICE.

   There is hope at FOX. This year they have the Super Bowl guaranteeing better numbers at the end of the season. Ratings are changing, and FOX is pushing the hardest to find a way to count those of us who no longer watch TV live or on a TV set.

   TV is about to enter an era of MONEYBALL. For those not familiar with baseball or the movie or the book, sabermetrics uses an endless amount of numbers to measure performance. Networks like FOX are all ready there, someday the media will catch up.

   Speaking of baseball, FOX will have the World Series this fall as well as new series PITCH (story of first woman to play in Major League Baseball). Other new series of interest coming this fall are THE EXORIST (based on William Blatty’s novel), and LETHAL WEAPON (based on the film).

      My pick for first fall show cancelled is FOX’s SON OF ZORN, an animated barbarian tries to cope in live action modern world.

   Shows returning in fall include BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, insane GOTHAM, LUCIFER, ROSEWOOD, SCREAM QUEENS, and QUINTCO. Series returning in midseason include SLEEPY HOLLOW and the final season of BONES.

   Among the new series waiting for 2017 are APB (rich man buys a police precinct), MAKING HISTORY (time travel comedy), SHOTS FIRED (racially charged shooting involving a cop), and PRISON BREAK (sequel to 2005 TV series).

      FOX is hoping 24 – LEGACY will be as successful as the original 24.

   ABC did not have a good year. Its president of programming was sacrificed to the Nielsen Ratings Gods in prayers for better numbers in the demo.There was not enough time to change the fall offerings, but it is expected ABC will copy CBS and NBC with less soap operas and more procedurals.

   ABC’s new fall dramas of interest to us begins with DESIGNATED SURVIVOR starring Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ends up President after a terrorist attack takes out most of the leaders of the American government. CONVICTION with Hayley Atwell (AGENT CARTER) as a spoiled former first daughter who is forced under threat of jail to lead a small group investigating cases where the convicted might be innocent.

      NOTORIOUS is about the seduction between law and the media.

   Returning this fall are HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and ONCE UPON A TIME. While these returning series have to wait until midseason their turn – AMERICAN CRIME, THE CATCH, SCANDAL and SECRETS & LIES.

      Among the new ABC shows waiting for midseason is TIME AFTER TIME, based on the movie and stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells.

   Over one hundred TV series in the 2015-16 season were cancelled or ended. RIP.

GHOST STORY “The New House.” NBC. Pilot episode, 60m, 17 March 1972. Sebastian Cabot (host), David Birney, Barbara Parkins, Sam Jaffe, Jeanette Nolan, Caitlin Wyles. Written by Richard Matheson. Producer: William Castle. Director: John Llewellyn Moxey.

   As the pilot film for a proposed series, Ghost Story: The New House was aired in the spring of 1972, paired up, I am told, with the pilot for another series, the name of which I do not know, nor of course do I know whether the other would-be series was successful or not. [LATER: But see the first comment!] Ghost Story was picked up, however, with the first episode of its first and only season airing on 15 September 1972.

   There were in total 23 episodes in this anthology series with a supernatural slant, including the pilot, but it ran into difficulty 13 shows into the run. The series went off the air briefly on 22 December 1972, and when it came back on 5 January 1973 under the title Circle of Fear. Sebastian Cabot as the host was dropped, and the emphasis was no longer on ghost stories.

   Ghost Story came along a year before Thriller, a somewhat similar series created by Brian Clemens appeared in the UK, and even though the shows I’ve seen so far from the latter have been uneven in quality, unfortunately I think the worst has been better than “The New House.”

   What it is is the story of a young couple, the wife pregnant, who move into a new house, only to find that it was built on the land where a young girl in the 18th century was hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. Soon the wife begins to hear strange noises at night, with no apparent cause, even though she wakes her husband up to go check. He is very exasperated by this, since he hears nothing.

   There was one short scene that made me jump, close to the end with the power off (in the story) and a thunderstorm crashing all around the house, the wife alone with the newly born baby.

   Other than that, I was not convinced. Neither star seemed to really get into the spirit of things, nor — even though I am sure this was done deliberately — do I believe that newly built homes in the US with dishwashers and modern two-car garages are conducive to ghostly hauntings. They seem to do this kind of story a whole lot better in England.

   I also think that once you accept the premise that ghosts can exist, and that they are not necessarily friendly, that they ought to act logically, not bang around and make nuisances of themselves when they really have evil intent in mind.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          


INTRUDERS. BBC2 / BBC-America, 2014. John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain, Millie Bobby Brown, Tory Kittles, Robert Forster, Alex Diakun. Series developed by Glen Morgan and written by Morgan, Kristin Cloke, and Darin Morgan, based on the novel by Michael Marshall Smith. Episodes directed by Daniel Stamm and Eduardo Sanchez.

         “In the beginning there was death.”

   Intruders is an eight episode television series from BBCA based on the works of novelist Michael Marshall Smith who also writes as Michael Marshall (The Straw Man). Smith pens horror as well as crime fiction, and his “Straw Man” series is perhaps the most innovative and best serial killer trilogy penned, far exceeding Thomas Harris post-Silence of the Lambs output in the genre.

   Intruders is horror, but it is also a puzzling mystery, fantasy, and an atmospheric and often disconcerting series mindful of something that might have run in John Campbell Jr.s classic pulp Unknown. This one owes as much to Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think or Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife as Stephen King.

   Jack Whelan (John Simm) is a former cop turned writer married to beautiful Amy (Mira Sorvino), an angel of sorts who saved him from the bottle. When an old friend from high school, Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles) shows up asking for help to solve the disappearance of a man called Bill Anderson whose family was murdered, Jack has little incentive to help, but his life begins to spin out of control shortly after when Amy disappears after curious behavior.

   Meanwhile nine year old Madison O’Donnell (Millie Bobby Brown) is a strange child living on the Washington coast with her mother in a summer home and is behaving strangely herself, especially after Richard Shepherd (James Frain) turns up and shows Madison a sand dollar, giving her his black business card bearing the number 9, then threatening to kill her. Like Amy, Madison runs away, and, like Amy, she shows surprising skill at doing it.

   Jack’s world spirals out of control as he begins to unravel his wife’s lies, leading him back to Gary Fischer and Bill Anderson who are tied to Amy in ways he could not suspect, and draws him into conflict with Richard Shepherd and his mentor Frank Shepherd (Robert Forster) and the people they work for, the mysterious Rose Gilchrist, and something called Qui Reverte, a mysterious group who hands people strange business cards with a 9 on them, and an even stranger manual to surviving death.

   I won’t be giving too much away to reveal the Qui Reverte claim that no one in their group dies They believe they have lived multiple lives over the centuries. Richard Shepherd is a just that, a shepherd, a figure who helps members cross over for their various rebirths — even killing them when they resist — or rather when the other soul in the body they are reborn in does.

   Amy is somehow tied to all this, as is Madison, who is apparently possessed by Marcus Fox (wonderfully creepy Alex Diakun: “What goes around comes around.”), a long lived monster the Qui Reverte condemned but who was saved by Richard whom he bribed to shepherd him back. Under his power Madison is a deadly killer in unsuspected form, and some to the most disturbing scenes in the series involve this nine year old killer (usually shown off camera, but still disturbing) under his influence.

   Jack is a reasonable and rational man who believes his wife has been taken over by a cult following her miscarriage, but it becomes increasingly hard to remain skeptical as he delves deeper into the Qui Reverte, and finds himself sometimes allied with the murderous Richard Shepherd who for some reason twice refuses to kill him.

   I watched this first when it was serialized on BBCA, but recently binge watched all eight episodes in two days where I appreciated even more the novelistic approach of the series and how well it adapts Smith’s novel (not without some changes).

   There is little gore here, it is much more about mystery and atmosphere and the almost Woolrichian fate of Jack Whelan as his world falls apart and everything he believed proves a lie or a half truth at best. At times you may be as confused as he is, but stick to the end and all, or at least most, will be revealed.

   The plot is resolved, but left open for more, as new doors open for Jack even as old ones shut, and his journey into Qui Reverte and its secrets just begins. Intruders will draw you in deeper as the mysteries are solved and deeper ones revealed. You may never look at anyone you know the same again after watching it, though.

   Like the best of this kind of horror fiction, it is the frisson and not the gore or the monster leaping out at you that you will recall. If you wonder where intelligent horror went, after all the big screen splatter fests, gimmicky hand-held cameras, and gore, this is one place to find it.

   In its own quiet way this tough smart little horror outing is ultimately more frightening than all the Jason’s, Freddie’s and vampires creeping about and it is presented as a genuine mystery, though, like Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, the solution may be more frightening than the mystery. This hits all too close to home for anyone who has ever wondered about the stranger they share their life with, or how well you know anyone, even yourself.