Having a great title sequence for a TV show can really set the tone for an entire series, and immediately transport viewing audiences into a different world. In my previous installment, I covered some of the best horror intros from shows including “Monsters”, “The Addams Family”, and “Tales from the Crypt.”
I was really glad to see that so many of you agreed with my initial selections, and you also made some fantastic suggestions of your own. So, let’s do this. Let’s continue our TV exploration with another batch of some of the greatest horror show intros.
Tales from the Darkside!
Starting things off, we have one of most simple, yet effective horror show intros you’ll ever come across. “Tales from the Darkside” proves that even if all you have is nice, sunny nature shots for your montage footage, you can still give it an ultra-eerie atmosphere that will work perfectly for any horror show. For starters, the music really does the trick – three notes repeated over and over, while a synthesizer plays dread-inducing ambient tones. It doesn’t matter how nice the creeks and farmland bridges look… you still have this overwhelming sense of unease as the footage continues to play.
Of course, having the late, great Paul Sparer providing the chilling voice-over really pushes things even further. “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a darkside.” Talking about setting the mood with a scary narrator! And just as he says “darkside”, the screen colors switch to an inverted black & white as the red show title slides in. See what I mean? Simple, but incredibly effective. Is it any surprise that this intro has stuck with fans of the series for so many years?
Much like “Monsters”, I’ve never understood why more people don’t talk about “The Hitchhiker” very often. It was a great horror series that started out on HBO and ended up moving to the USA Network back in the glory days when “USA Up All Night” was still on the air. The show had an intro that instantly grabbed your attention, because unlike some of the more schlocky horror-comedy shows like “Tales from the Crypt”, “The Hitchhiker” came off as dead serious.
A mysterious, wandering hitchhiker (played by Page Fletcher) walks down a desert highway, carrying a large backpack. What’s in it? Stories? Weapons? Body parts from unsuspecting motorists who were foolish enough to give him a ride? We’ll never know. What we do know is that this guy was no nonsense, walking with a completely cold, impassive expression on his face. Hey pal, if you want to get a ride, you might try smiling here ‘n there. Then again, as he introduced and concluded each episode with a hard lesson that some characters had to learn, the last thing you wanted him to do was blurt out a pun. He was the exact opposite of the Cryptkeeper.
I’ve also had the theme song from this intro in my Halloween music rotation for ages, as it’s an absolutely morbid sounding tune. A constant, pulsing beat that seems akin to a heartbeat, and the repeated sound of a shaking rattlesnake tail makes you fear for whatever is coming around the corner. I sure hope some of you remember “The Hitchhiker”, as it’s one horror series that definitely deserves to be revisited – both for the foreboding intro and for some truly memorable episodes.
The Twilight Zone!
While I’ll always love the original intro for “The Twilight Zone” series, it was the 1985 version that stuck with me the most. It starts off with what appears to be a stop-motion animation sequence as some windows to a cabin overlooking a nightfall scene slam shut. A spinning orb then appears on the center of the screen and we’re treated to a variety of trippy images moving inside of it. I was always excited to see that big, fat tarantula scurry across the orb, followed by the creepy doll with eyes slowly closing. It all concludes with an atomic explosion, and the ghostly visage of Rod Serling, followed by a skeletal illustration that morphs into “The Twilight Zone” logo.
Naturally, the classic theme song we all know and love is still in there too. And speaking of the theme, here’s a bit of trivia that some of you may not know – Jerry Garcia was the composer of it. Not exactly the first guy you think of when it comes to composing intros for sci-fi / horror shows, but he certainly made a memorable one for this series.
You didn’t really think I’d forget about “The Munsters” after I already covered “The Addams Family” in my previous installment, did you? While I’ll give the Addams the advantage for the theme song, our Munster pals still had a great tune that works fine for any monster party, a visit to the beach, or both. And just like their Addams counterparts, the intro accomplishes exactly what it needs to do by familiarizing the audience with the main characters.
And man, you gotta admit… Herman Munster really knows how to make an introduction. He bursts through their giant front door, which leaves a hole shaped like his Frankenstein-like body that the rest of the cast emerges through. It’s a fun intro that showcases all these wacky characters, and it still puts a smile on my face to this day.
The show actually went through a number of different intro sequences, but this one was always my favorite. I should also note that it was originally in black & white, but the colorization in the above video was too nice to pass up.
“Hannibal” just might be the most beautiful horror-drama series to ever appear on television. The intricate meals that were created for the show were equal parts gorgeous art and horrible nightmares. There’s simply no denying that we hadn’t seen anything like them before, especially on a major network like NBC.
I suppose it’d almost be easy for some to forget that “Hannibal” had an intro, as it was so brief, and was followed by some of the most intense episodes I’ve ever seen. But just as Hannibal’s recipes were works of art, the title sequence is fantastic as well. Those 20 seconds of blood flowing against a white backdrop, slowly forming the semi-translucent faces of Hannibal and the other main characters are absolutely hypnotic.
Lastly, this one was suggested to me by several readers, and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it in ages. “Eerie Indiana” was an NBC show that originally aired back in 1992, and was basically about a teenager living in a strange neighborhood who ends up encountering various urban legends and other odd scenarios. The intro really sets the vibe as kind of a halfway serious / halfway comedic show. I always likened it to “The Adventures of Pete & Pete”, which was also on the air around the same time.
It starts off with our protagonist, Marshall Teller, hanging out in an old attic that the kids from The Goonies would love to hang out in. He turns on a lamp and begins writing a narrated letter explaining, “if you’re reading this document, it means I’m either dead, or have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.” He then goes on to talk about just how squeaky clean the neighborhood of Eerie, Indiana is, and how its completely normal appearance is actually quite deceiving. Soon we see all kinds of strange visuals: a creepy mailman, a basketball team bouncing their balls in perfect unison as they walk along the street, a strait jacket hanging from a laundry line, and even a guy who looks like Elvis in hiding coming out on his front lawn to get his newspaper.
And then the classic visual that I’m sure any fan of this show remembers – a black crow sitting atop the “Eerie Indiana – Population 16,661” sign. But it’s not just your average black crow… it’s one with a human eyeball in its mouth. Gotta love it!
From there, we see the spooky “Eerie Indiana” title appear on the screen as we’re treated to a montage of oddball visuals including classic horror films, novelty X-ray glasses, and even the infamous wobbling Tacoma Narrows Bridge. All this while Marshall and his best friend Simon ride their bikes and run through all this chaos. It’s a truly great intro, and while the series only lasted for 19 episodes, I hope watching the intro convinces some of you to give the show a try.
That does it for this second piece in my “Greatest Horror TV Show Intros” series. In case you missed it, you can read part 1 here to see some of the other intros I already covered. Are there any others you’d like to see me discuss in the future? Be sure drop a comment below, on the Dread Central Facebook page, or tweet me at @imockery or with your suggestions for my installment!