Why TV's horror shows aren't just for Halloween anymore

Scream Queens Abigail BreslinFoxAbigail Breslin stars on the upcoming Fox series, ‘Scream Queens.’

After the success of “Bates Motel,” “American Horror Story,” and “The Walking Dead,” television is expanding further into the horror genre with MTV’s “Scream” and “Scream Queens.”

“When you have something that’s successful, there’s a lot of attempts to duplicate it,” The Paley Center’s TV curator, David Bushman, told Business Insider. “In recent years, you have shows that have been passionately been embraced by audiences, like ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Buffy [the Vampire Slayer].’ Producers are seeing that certain things are striking a chord.”

In fact, the horror trend isn’t just seen on the small screen. Horror movie releases are also becoming more year-round affairs, rather than Halloween fare. Last year, we saw “The Conjuring” open to almost $US42 million June, “Insidious Chapter 2” opened with $US40 million in September, and “The Purge: Anarchy” opened in the No. 1 position in July with $US29 million, according to TheWrap.

“I think everything is cyclical and I think horror as a genre is something that has been on TV throughout the years, but it’s something people always come back to,” MTV’s “Scream” executive producer, Tony DiSanto, told BI.

But why are we presently seeing so many scary shows popping up on the small screen? Bushman believes it’s a combination of factors.

American horror story makeupFX screencapMakeup transforms actor Evan Peters on FX’s ‘American Horror Story.’

1.) The rise of cable. Cable TV has probably done the most to help bring horror-based shows back to TV. Unlike the broadcast channels, cable can afford to take a chance since it requires much less viewers to make a a hit. And horror usually appeals to loyal, niche audiences.

“Being able to find niche audiences has a been a good thing for the horror genre,” Bushman said. “Instead of having to attract seven, eight million viewers as on the broadcast networks, these shows can have audiences of three, four million.”

The walking deadAMC screencap‘The Walking Dead’ made zombies all the rage again.

2.) More opportunities to be unpredictable. “For horror shows to work, they have to be unpredictable,” Bushman said. He said one big aspect of this is the ability to kill main characters.

“It’s now permissible to kill off major characters,” Bushman continued. “TV needed to shake things up, because of the competition. You can do that now. ‘Scream’ just had a major character that was killed. Practically every season, ‘The Walking Dead’ kills major characters.”

Mtv screamMTVMTV’s ‘Scream’ reboot recently killed a major character.

3.) TV horror shows are more accessible. “A lot of horror movies are rated R. There’s something cool with kids and horror. So TV is the first exposure for horror, because they’re unable to do it in the movie theatre.”

Of course, that means today’s horror may be more attuned to modern tastes: They’re more comedic.

“I think what’s consistent about the horror that’s connecting now is that it’s fun,” DiSanto said. “It’s a ride, and I think people are scared but they’re having fun watching it and I think that’s also why you’re seeing, surprisingly, you’re seeing a huge female audience, too, with a lot of this horror.”

And they’re more self-aware.

“They’re more self aware because ‘Buffy’ and ‘Scream’ introduced that,” said Bushman. “We’re so much more knowledgeable, and so much more conscious of storytelling method. And in order to be current, you have to be that way.”

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