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Cat’s Cradle: Watch a horror anthology

The most recent trailer for “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinets of Curiosities" promises a new entry into the canon of horror anthologies. Drawing from the cultural roots of campfire stories recorded in songs, “Long Lankin” or novels, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” this tradition of collective scares inspires horror anthologies in the style of oral traditions.

Horror anthologies have been a part of cinema since the earliest films were made. This can be seen in films such as “Destiny” (1921)  and “Dead of Night” (1945). Though often cited as the progenitors of the genre, these films have not created the lasting impact of “The Twilight Zone.”

The idea for “The Twilight Zone” came from Rod Serling’s rejected telepay that adapted elements of the events surrounding murder of Emmett Till. Executives were initially hesitant with the proposal, issuing edits to change names and places. By the time the project was rejected entirely, Serling’s original message was lost. 

This setback didn’t stop Serling from achieving his goal as a writer: to menace the public consciousness. 

Serling’s menace came in the form of the speculative where his commentary was hidden behind metaphor and analogy.  

The show has become the guiding rod of horror anthologies, with its memorable plots, terrifying monsters and nihilistic irony. It also introduced two key elements that Serling propelled forward in the horror anthology: irony and narrator. 

Drawing from his time as a soldier in World War II, Serling saw a hungry man die from a falling food crate. The horrific irony of the situation was not lost on Serling, which he imbued in his work

Serling’s narration has been recreated and parodied throughout the media. His breaking of the fourth wall invites the viewer in and invites engagement across media lines. Often told in the format of a newscast, Serling’s narration has become as iconic as the stories it bookends.  

Serling’s impact revitalized the genre, introducing audiences to shows “The Outer Limits,” “Tales from the Darkside,” and the “Night Gallery,” a spiritual successor to The Twilight Zone which saw the return of Serling as narrator and writer. Though each show attempts to imitate the formula put forward by Serling, most couldn’t capture the magic of the original series. 

Serling’s format of framing a story with a narrator became a new norm in horror anthologies. This comes in the form of the crypt keeper in “Vault of Horror” and the real estate agent “The House that Dripped Blood” whose role in the narrative is to guide the audience and the film through the narratives. 

Hollywood’s attempts at horror anthologies use similar frames like the comics in “Creepshow.” “Twilight Zone: The Movie'' notably adapted a select number of episodes, without the character of the narrator. 

It wasn’t until the 90s that horror anthologies were revitalized, again in television, with the show “The Simpsons.” Here, horror and comedy blended, as Simpsons dabbled in parody of classic horror properties including films like “The Shining” and the framing devices used in shows like “The Night Gallery.” 

From here, the nature of the horror anthology took on a new dimension, as it wasn’t restricted to only film or a singular series. A horror anthology becomes a seasonal treat to go with the changing of the leaves and Halloween decorations.

Horror anthologies have continued to change, defining a theme for a season like “American Horror Story” and in the film series “V/H/S.” Horror anthologies have stood the test of time. From earliest inception to current announcements, horror anthologies are here to stay and for us to watch. 

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him


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