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Bingeing on Halloween Horror

Several cable and streaming networks are jump-starting the Halloween season by debuting horror-themed scripted series, adding to the genre’s already crowded lineup.

Streaming service Hulu kicks things off with the Oct. 10 rollout of its 10-episode horror series Freakish, which follows a group of small-town high school students struggling to survive against predatory mutants.

For Freakish, Hulu will adopt the Netflix binge-viewing model, releasing all 10 episodes concurrently. It will also team with social-media service Tumblr to offer two free episodes of the series each day starting Oct. 10, Hulu said.

On cable, Syfy and Pop will both look to scare up viewers with new original series. Syfy on Oct. 11 will launch its first-ever anthology series, Channel Zero. Season one revolves around a man’s obsessive recollections of a 1980s kids’ TV show and the role it plays in several nightmarish events from his childhood.

The anthology format and genre should combine to provide Syfy with a wide swath to tell stories that appeal to the growing base of horror fans, said Bill McGoldrick, executive vice president of scripted content for Syfy parent NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment.

“In a land of clutter, the expectations for a horror TV series are pretty basic: I want to be scared and I like that shot of adrenaline I get, and I want to revisit that as much as I can,” he said.

Pop on Oct. 14 will debut Wolf Creek, a six-part thriller series based on the 2005 horror theatrical film of the same name. The cultural focus and excitement around Halloween makes October the perfect time to launch the series even despite the competition from new and returning broadcast-network shows, Pop president Brad Schwartz said.

“Being a pop-culture channel, we like playing with what people are talking about, and obviously in October Halloween dominates the pop culture sensibilities,” he said.

The new series will join a number of scripted horror-based cable series looking to generate a ratings bite over the next few weeks, including the seventh season of basic cable’s most watched series, AMC’s The Walking Dead on Oct. 23; BBC America’s The Living and the Dead on Oct. 27; and IFC’s Stan Against Evil on Nov. 2.

The shows follow the Oct. 2 launch of the sophomore campaign of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead, as well as the Sept. 14 premiere of FX’s American Horror Story: Roanoke, which scared up 8.3 million viewers in live-plus-three-day Nielsen ratings.

The Walking Dead’s success in particular has created an appetite among viewers for bolder content on television, Schwartz said, which allows networks and producers to offer more violent and gruesome content than in previous decades.

“When you see all the gore in Game of Thrones and in a lot of premium content, I feel like television has gotten to a place where it can do provocative, scary suspenseful thriller-type content. It’s interesting to see so many people playing in the genre — some are offering slapstick horror, while others are suspenseful — but it’s fun to see.”