Once upon a time Doctor Who was the standard bearer for British telly that made viewers want to hide behind the sofa. In recent years though, tales of vampires, werewolves and other paranormal beings have risen in popularity and by the look of UK television schedules, British networks have obviously picked up on the trend.
Always at a disadvantage over American horror series with much bigger budgets, the Brits have been able to figure out a way to be scary with more suggestion and less CGI. They also have a tendency to employ strategically placed humor to counter the tension and violence; thus making it more palatable to slightly sensitive audience members like me, for instance.
Seeing as Halloween is fast approaching, I’ve compiled a list of eerie series perfect for putting you into a spooky mood. So turn off the lights and settle in for a creepy telly marathon.
Jekyll (2007). Written by the prolific TV genius Steven Moffat, Jekyll is a modern sequel to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Dr. Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt) has recently started transforming into a dangerously violent and libidinous alter ego and therefore has abandoned his family out of concern for the safety of his wife (Gina Bellman) and children. What he doesn’t realize is that there are other parties who are keenly interested in the doctor, his condition and his connection to Stevenson’s “fictional” creation.
Jekyll is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video or for purchase on Region 1 DVD.
Dead Set (2008). A horror/satire mini-series written by humorist/screenwriter/broadcaster Charlie Brooker, Dead Set takes place during a fictional run of the reality show Big Brother. While a zombie epidemic rages all around England, the Big Brother housemates are oblivious to the carnage happening right outside their door. But come eviction night they quickly become aware of their predicament and must find a way to work together rather than tear one another down.
The cast includes up-and-coming actress Jamie Winstone; Luther’s Warren Brown; sketch comedian extraordinaire, Kevin Eldon; and real-life Big Brother presenter, Davina McCall. The series is available to view on YouTube or to buy on DVD on Amazon.
Being Human (2009-2013). I have gushed about this series in a previous post so I will summarize here by saying: Despite conventional supernatural wisdom, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost find themselves in a cohabitation situation. The vampires are always plotting to take over the world and the werewolves are their sworn enemies, but it is the ghosts (when righteously provoked) who are the most powerful entity of all.
And while the cast members do change over time, the composition of the trinity remains constant - an essential component of the show right up to the very end.
Being Human series 1-4 can be streamed on Hulu and Netflix, but if you want to see the final series you need to go to Amazon to stream or purchase it on Region 1 DVD.
Misfits (2009-2013). Surly juvenile delinquents may not be typical super hero material, but when five young adults performing their community service get caught out in a freak thunder storm, that’s sort of what happens. Each member of the group acquires a very specific power which corresponds with their own personality flaws. Unfortunately while they’re trying to come to terms with their newfound gifts, they must also find a way to hide a few accidental deaths in the probation department.
Misfits is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Instant Video or to rent on Netflix DVD.
The Fades (2011). Teenager Paul Roberts (Iain de Caestecker) has been having horrifying, prophetic dreams. But it isn’t until he comes face to face with the Fades, spirits of the dead trapped on Earth, that he realizes his nightmares are real. Paul learns that he is an Angelic, one of a rare few who can actually see the Fades and that his importance in defeating these cranky and vengeful souls has been foretold.
The Fades won a BAFTA in 2012 for drama but was cancelled anyway due to high production costs. Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video have this series in their streaming library. You can also own it on Region 1 DVD.
Bedlam (2011 – 2012). Flipping an old insane asylum into a block of upscale flats seems like a smart real estate development project, right? Well, that is the premise of Bedlam, a paranormal series about the sinister hauntings of said housing complex. The residents of Bedlam Heights turn to Jed Harper (Theo James), a ghost whisperer of sorts, to discover what’s angering their ghostly neighbors and how to drive them away from their pricey homes for good.
Bedlam can be streamed on Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. It’s also available on Netflix DVD.
What sort of supernaturals make your skin crawl? Add to our marathon list by sharing your favorite scary British shows in the comments section below.