Horror anthologies, including ones with a supernatural bent, are nearly as old as TV itself. In their latest form, these series have focused on season-long arcs, with American Horror Story moving from a Murder House to an Asylum to a Hotel (and so on), and Mike Flanagan spinning ghostly, poignant yarns on Netflix. But most of these horror anthologies have been more episodic in their storytelling, from the genre-spanning Twilight Zone (now on its third revival) to Tales From The Crypt to Showtime’s Masters Of Horror.
Mick Garris developed Masters Of Horror for the premium cable network in 2005, after being struck by the idea of a collective of horror movie directors while having dinner with the likes of John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, and John Landis—all of whom directed at least one episode of the show. (An apocryphal anecdote actually credits fellow dinner guest Guillermo del Toro with dubbing the group “masters of horror.”) With such a roster at work on its debut season, Masters Of Horror received a warm critical welcome when it premiered on October 28, 2005. The series returned for a second, less accomplished, season in 2006 before Showtime pulled the plug. Masters Of Horror then morphed into Fear Itself, which lasted a single season on NBC.
The title of “master” is up for debate for some of these directors, along with reliability of the scares in a given episode. But Masters Of Horrors certainly offers some undisputed classics, several gory romps, and more than a few entries that show little signs of life. The A.V. Club has ranked all 26 episodes of this horror anthology to separate the Frankenstein knock-offs from the enduring allegories, and crown one auteur the master of grisly storytelling.
Season one of Masters Of Horror is now streaming on Tubi (with ads). Season two is available for rental or purchase on Amazon.