It’s always a gift when we horror fans are treated to a new television series that we can sink our teeth into. When you think about it, with each new show, it’s like we’re being given handfuls of horror movies all at once, rather than having to wait years for sequels to happen.
Now, whether or not a horror TV show turns out to be worth sticking with for the duration of the series is a matter of personal preference, and you’re free to debate that amongst yourselves, but I’d like to talk about something different today.
Today I thought it would be fun to discuss what I consider to be some of the greatest horror TV show intros of all time with you. After all, if a show has an effective intro title sequence, it can instantly draw the audience into that world and set the tone for the rest of the show. It’s a crucial element to countless series, and I’m sure many of you remember some of these intros better than the episodes themselves.
Keep in mind this is by no means a complete list, and I’ll be doing some follow-up articles later on down the road. All right, let’s get started, shall we?
HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!
Deciding which intro to kick things off with was a no-brainer for me because I’ve always loved the classic horror atmosphere established in “HBO’s Tales from the Crypt” title sequence. It honestly feels like you’re on a classic haunted theme park ride.
First off, it’s shot from a first-person perspective, so you immediately feel like you’re the one opening the rusty gate and walking up to the creepy haunted house. From there, we make our way through rooms and hallways filled with furniture covered in cobwebs before we make our way down a winding stone stairway into the crypt as we hear bats squeaking. Once we open the old wooden door to the deep underground, cave-like crypt, we see candles everywhere; and then the Cryptkeeper himself pops out of a coffin to let out a classic John Kassir cackle. Then, to top it all off, the entire screen is covered in green slime as the purple logo appears.
And who composed the creeping theme music for the series? Danny Elfman. That name alone should convince you that the tune is an instant classic. It begins with the strings tip-toeing into the house, followed by a big orchestral finale as we descend into the crypt that couldn’t be more perfect. It’s no surprise that this tune is found on so many generic horror music CDs in seasonal Halloween shops – people simply love it.
There are a lot of great horror-themed TV shows out there, but few are as effectively hypnotic and catchy like “True Blood.” I dare say the title sequence was so good, this intro still kept some fans watching the show towards the end of the series when it had run out of steam.
What made this one so good? Well, for starters, you have the killer track “Bad Things” by Jace Everett as the series theme song. I’ve never been a huge country music fan, but when a song is catchy as hell, there’s no denying it, and this one absolutely rocks. It’s the kind of tune that has you bouncing on your couch in eager anticipation for the show to begin.
Then there’s the imagery. Talk about a perfect way to suck audiences right in and make them feel like they’re entering the chaotic setting of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The imagery is all over the map – erotic dancers on writhing about on stage, children devouring bloody meat treats, personal demons being exorcised in a church, a frog crawling into a Venus fly-trap that snaps shut on it… this doesn’t feel like city life. This intro puts you in the Deep South and keeps you there, right where you belong. Kudos to Digital Kitchen on a job well done.
Here’s another personal favorite of mine. For those unfamiliar with the show, “Freddy’s Nightmares” was an anthology series in which Freddy Krueger was basically like the Cryptkeeper, bookending each episode with some jokes at the expense of the victims. There were a few episodes that he actually starred in (including the “No More Mr. Nice Guy” pilot and “Sister’s Keeper”), and those were easily the highlights of the series for fans like me. I know audiences were divided on “Freddy’s Nightmares” – I happened to love it – but damn if they didn’t have a great title sequence for this anthology series.
The music is chilling, with a delayed guitar effect that almost sounds like its being played in reverse, but the imagery is what’s most effective here. It begins with a “Welcome to Springwood” sign as we’re treated to images of homes with white picket fences, families, and happy children all living in this suburban town. It’s a fantastically understated method of showing all the lives that Freddy Krueger destroyed during his real-life run as a serial killer. We then see the iconic image of Freddy being burned alive by the vengeful parents, and then we see some of his terrified nightmare victims before his glove comes slashing down to form the bloody title sequence.
At the height of my Freddy fandom in 1988 (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was always my favorite), I simply couldn’t wait for each episode to air. Here’s hoping we’ll one day see the complete series receive its long overdue release on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Addams Family!
Talk about an intro that’s stood the test of time, “The Addams Family” intro is a true classic. We all know who the characters are now, but imagine being introduced to this crazy family for the first time back in 1964 and hearing that gloriously goofy harpsichord-driven theme song by Vic Mizzy.
It kicks off with an illustration of an eerie looking mansion along with the title text, then cuts to the Addamses staring directly at you. No blinking, no speaking, just snapping their fingers and boring a hole into your skull with those ultra-weirdo stares of theirs (especially John Astin’s). It’s almost unnerving, but at the same time, you can’t look away.
A testament to just how well the intro works is that I still get the urge to snap my fingers along with it to this day every time I watch an episode.
Here’s one hopefully some of you remember. “Monsters” was a short-lived anthology horror series that ran from 1988 to 1991, but it entertained the hell out of me with fun stories and celebrity cameos. I’ve always thought it was a highly underrated series, and I’ve written about some of my favorite episodes (including “The Match Game”) in the past.
The whole reason I started watching “Monsters” when it originally aired was because I stumbled on this show with a hilariously oddball intro. The theme always gave me visions of an ogre lurching towards me while playing a Casio keyboard with the trumpet sound enabled. The song is cheesy as hell, but somehow, it works perfectly for this.
We start out in space and slowly zoom in on an innocent looking home in suburbia, and we’re brought directly into the living room of a happy family gathered around the television set. Only this isn’t a typical suburban family that we’re all familiar with – we realize it’s a family of mutants as soon as the mother walks in with some tasty treats and we notice she’s a cyclops with horns protruding from her forehead. The daughter, who shares her mom’s good looks, gets all excited when she sees the treats and shouts, “Oh wow! Candy critters!” and begins to chow down on them. Then the mom says, “Oh, great! It’s ‘Monsters,’ our favorite show!” The dad, who looks like a human-potato hybrid, then smiles and shuts off the light; and we see the “Monsters” logo reflecting in his glasses as a deep monstrous laugh is heard.
It’s simple, weird, funny, and drew me right into the show from day one.
I’m pretty sure I’d be burned at the stake if I didn’t mention the title sequence that everybody was abuzz about this summer. “Stranger Things” has an absolutely hypnotic introduction, and nobody in their right mind would fast-forward through it.
Having broken up text slowly floating onto the screen to form the title doesn’t sound all that amazing, but what Imaginary Forces did with such a simple concept was incredibly effective in establishing the tone of the entire series. The ITC Benguiat font that was selected for the sequence is an homage to classic Stephen King novels, and they actually shot each letter individually so they could give the appearance of light passing through them. The subtle flickering gives the text a vintage, yet almost lifelike quality that has you entranced from the very start.
The intro also features a heart pulsing 80s synthesizer-driven theme song by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon – the first time we all heard it, we knew we were in for something special. If nothing else, you know a title sequence is good when countless articles have been written online, breaking down every single aspect of it.
All right, that’s all for this first piece in my “Greatest Horror TV Show Intros” series. Be sure drop a comment below, on the Dread Central Facebook page, or tweet me at @imockery with your suggestions for the upcoming second installment!