Why is there no horror on TV at Halloween?

Paul Jones has a bone to pick with schedulers over their lack of commitment to one of the most important dates in the television calendar

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, you could settle down in front of your TV on Halloween and watch back-to-back horror movies all night. 

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But in recent years broadcasters’ commitment to frightcasting has been severely lacking. At the very least, there should be a statute in place ensuring one of the major terrestrial channels shows John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic. Instead, Freeview audiences this Halloween will be hard-pressed to hunt down any proper horror movies at all.

The big five channels offer nothing (yet BBC1 chooses to air a 1986 Kevin Costner film at ten past midnight). Elsewhere, the only primetime supernatural nuggets you’ll unearth are The Addams Family and The Sixth Sense on Film4.

Later, at a push, you might opt for Halloween 5 on 5USA, but you’ll find it brutally truncated at 1am, when the channel becomes subscription-only (and no-one should have to pay for their Horror on Halloween). Of werewolves, vampires or zombies, there is no sign (with the late-night exception of Swedish bloodsucker Let the Right One In, also on Film4).

It’s not just movies, either. Horror fans have a right to expect some decent Halloween-themed programming scheduled especially for our big day (just as those who celebrate Christmas get seasonal specials), but again broadcasters are letting us down.

True, there is Channel 4 documentary Frankenstein: a Modern Myth – and C4 has also managed something of a coup in signing up Robert Englund, aka A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Kruger for an otherwise loosely Halloween-themed edition of Come Dine with Me (presumably he’ll be demonstrating some nifty chopping skills using his famous knife glove) – but that’s it.

Meanwhile, BBC4 has taken the strange decision to screen Horror Europa – Mark Gatiss’s one-off follow-up to his excellent 2010 series A History of Horror – the day before Halloween, and FX has done the same with the return of US psychochiller series American Horror Story, scheduling the premiere for the 30th, rather than the 31st, of October (although it does get a Halloween rerun). Bizarre.

Of course, horror fans could dig out some DVDs or use our PVRs to play catch-up but a) then what are we paying our licence fees for? and b) Halloween horror should feel like a communal experience (even if you are only sharing it remotely with a handful of insomniac loners).

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I swear, if John Carpenter was dead, he’d be turning in his grave.