A bowl of candy and a horror movie may be the quickest way to get in the Halloween spirit in a pinch, but there’s also a wealth of TV series out there that capture the essence of the spooky season and offer a welcome change of pace. The amount of options can be a little overwhelming, especially when everyone has a different threshold for fright.
Have no fear, the guide below is here to let you know which spooky show to binge based on a scale of one to four Jack-o’-lanterns. With everything from over-the-top camp to true horror, there’s a television series right for every type of watcher to get in the Halloween mood.
Scare-o-meter rating — one Jack-o’-lantern
For shows that air on the side of treats rather than tricks, look no further.
“The Wizards of Waverly Place”
This Disney classic is a staple for anyone who grew up in the 2000s. The comedy follows the sandwich shop-owning Russo family and their wizards-in-training children. High school troublemaker Alex Russo is the star of the show. It brings all of the spooky supernatural elements a Halloween watch needs — wizards, vampires, angels, oh my — with a heavy dose of youthful humor. It’s the perfect choice for anyone looking for a nostalgic, fun and fluffy watch that won’t raise your blood pressure. Viewers can stream the series on Disney+.
“Sabrina the Teenage Witch”
For another nostalgic choice, this 90s sitcom offers delightful magic and kid-friendly humor that still draws a few laughs during rewatches in adulthood. The series follows the charming hijinks of Sabrina Spellman as she learns to use her secret powers in the mortal world. The show’s Halloween episodes offer an extra dose of spirit; especially season two’s “A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It” as it features a classic high school costume party. Viewers can stream the series on Hulu.
Scare-o-meter rating — Two Jack-o’-lanterns
“What We Do in the Shadows”
Nothing screams Halloween more than quirky bloodsucking fun. For those looking for something a little different, the Emmy nominated “What We Do in the Shadows” is an unconventional comedy that takes the form of a mockumentary. It follows a group of vampires living in Staten Island as they navigate the modern world and their vampire ways. The show is a comedy at heart, despite supernatural themes and a touch of gore. However, it’s way more fun than scary. Viewers can stream the series on Hulu.
This show is pure camp. It’s an over-the-top satire on the horror genre, sororities and pumpkin spice lattes. It has its share of slasher gore, but at its core is an outlandish comedy. Season one begins with freshman Grace determined to join her late mother’s former sorority. But when she meets Kappa Kappa Tau queen bee Chanel Oberlin, a murder mystery suddenly begins. It's clear that sorority life will be more difficult than Grace imagined. Viewers can stream the series on Hulu.
Scare-o-meter rating — Three Jack-o’-lanterns
“Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin”
Despite its association with the fun but plot hole-filled “Pretty Little Liars,” this spinoff is more in line with the high quality of other HBO originals. Millwood, Pennsylvania is the perfect dreary setting for the characters’ dark backstories and the dangerous events that occur. The first season follows a group of high school girls — whose mothers share a mysterious past — brought together by a common enemy. The teenagers’ lives get more complicated when mysterious deaths occur and a stalker named “A” begins to target them. With more believability and gore than the original, this slasher spinoff is genuinely creepy but not to the level that will haunt you later, hopefully. Viewers can stream the series on HBO Max.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”
In stark contrast to the 90s sitcom, this Archie character’s 2018 revival is an eerie mix of supernatural and horror elements. The story begins with teenager Sabrina Spellman facing the biggest decision of her life. She must either follow the path she is expected to — sign her life away to the Dark Lord and to embark on a journey of magic — or cling to the mortal world she would have to give up. Though it exists in the same world as “Riverdale”, Sabrina’s Greendale is a more dark and complicated place that feels as if there’s danger at every turn. The show may not be scary enough to impress true horror fanatics, but it’s surely creepy and unsettling. Viewers can stream the series on Netflix.
Scare-o-meter rating — Four Jack-o’-lanterns
“American Horror Story”
The title says it all for this popular anthology series. Every season has its own unique theme, plot and cast of characters, though they all exist in the same fictional world. What the chapters have in common are the fear they induce, with seasons “Cult” and “Apocalypse” encapsulating the unease. Season one — also known as “Murder House” — follows the turbulent story of a family whose new house turns out to be haunted. The series has garnered critical acclaim and many awards, including sixteen Emmys and two Golden Globes, rendering it worth a watch for anyone who thinks they can stomach it. Viewers can stream the series on Hulu.
“The Haunting of Hill House”
For a truly spine-chilling watch, try the Netflix original “The Haunting of Hill House.” The story jumps between the Crain family’s past and present, exploring the haunting events that drove them from their home. It’s the ultimate ominous miniseries to binge for a good scare as October comes to an end, and it’s known for being genuinely terrifying — prepare to sleep with one eye open. Viewers can stream the series on Netflix.
The best part of Halloween is that there is a wide spectrum of scariness to enjoy — from good, clean ghoulish fun to shocking horror to sinister terror. With a series fit for every fear tolerance, there’s no reason not to binge watch all October long.