I have been saving this particular “Ask JKM a Question” for the Halloween season for a while, since early summer, if memory serves. A reader named Jacob writes:
Serling himself wrote (or adapted to television), many of the most horrific tales, from “The Hitch-Hiker” to “The After Hours” (the one about living mannequins in a department store), to “Eye of the Beholder.” Outside of his own contributions, the series gave the medium pop culture touchstones like Richard Donner’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Living Doll,” the episode about Talky Tiny, and “Come Wander with Me,” about a sinister folk song.
Curtis created the ABC series Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971) which aired every weekday afternoon on network television, and coupled monsters such as the vampire or werewolf with the elements of the afternoon soap-opera. The series’ ostensible villain, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), was both a vampire and an outsider, and became a kind of hero of the counter-culture times (much in the same way that Mr. Spock did.) If you look at the tortured or angsty vampires of later years (Nick Knight, Angel, the Salvatore Bros.), they all have a clear antecedent in Barnabas.
Dan Curtis also directed Trilogy of Terror (1975), the TV adaptation of Dracula (1973), and other efforts from roughly the same period (The Norliss Tapes , Scream of the Wolf ) Curse of the Black Widow ).
It’s amazing to think about, but at the same time the horror genre was experiencing a renaissance in theaters in the 1970s (thanks to Spielberg, Carpenter, Hooper, Friedkin and Craven), Curtis was almost single-handedly accomplishing the same feat with his made-for-television work.
And much like Serling, Carter then created a second TV series of high-quality, and rival popularity, Millennium (1996 – 1999), and again, its bread-and-butter was horror. The X-Files and Millennium have been copied approximately a dozen times at this juncture, with J.J. Abrams’ derivative Fringe even using the tag “fight for the future” (a riff on X-File’s “fight the future”), as the latest example. Now Carter is poised to bring us a new horror series for our time, The After (2014).
Also, Chris Carter's re-invented classic monsters with new twists, in a time in which horror movies were unpopular, and searching for relevance (the early nineties). Basically, every famous monster you can imagine was re-invented on one of his series. You've got vampires ("Bad Blood,") the invisible man ("Unrequited"), the evil doll ("Chinga"), the werewolf ("Shapes"), the Golem ("Kaddish"), the succubus ("Avatar") and so on. While horror had a recession at the box office, Carter's creations made the genre boom at home.
Other important voices in horror television include Richard Matheson, whose work was adapted, as noted, to a number of series, including The Twilight Zone and Ghost Story/Circle of Fear. Similarly, Glen Morgan and James Wong have been important voices for twenty years, writing for The X-Files, Millennium, and The Others.Separately, they have worked on American Horror Story and Intruders.
Don't forget to send me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com