To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.
When looking for some of the creepiest stories to ever be written, one wouldn’t have to search too far and wide. Plenty of the movies and shows we grew up on are based on the works of the Brothers Grimm. Disney has a habit of sanitizing these rather morbid morality tales, but some adaptations are more faithful.
Enter the 1987 anime series Grimm Masterpiece Theater.
This two-season show directly derives its inspiration from the Brothers Grimm. The anime served up these fables without completely excising the more macabre elements. While the anime was typically buoyant in nature, there were those times where episodes were absolutely nightmarish. Haim Saban and Suki Levy eventually dubbed the series into English as Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics. In addition to airing on Nickelodeon in the early 1990s, various episodes were made available on home video.
An example of the anime’s proclivity for horror is “The Old Woman in the Woods,” which is based on the story of the same name. Like its basis, an affluent family is turned into trees by a witch’s gang while traveling through the forest; only a servant makes it out alive. Elizabeth survives her night with the help of a talking owl who somehow provides her with shelter and food. However, he disappears at night with no explanation. The owl eventually reveals he’s been cursed by the very same witch who attacked the servant’s employers. To rid himself of the spell, he needs a magic key from the sorceress’ home. Elizabeth’s quest won’t be an easy one as the place is full of traps and vicious goblins, though.
It’s true the Grimm adaptation changes several aspects from the original. For one thing, the bird in the story is now an owl rather than a dove. Nor were there any goblins at the witch’s disposal. Even so, the revisions add to why this is episode runs so properly. The show often raised the stakes by playing on the fairy tales’ natural potential for horror; these new ingredients never feel out of place or forced.
“The Old Woman in the Woods” is representative of the Brothers Grimm. The evil witch, the downtrodden servant, the handsome prince, and, of course, a magical spell that stands in the way of love. It doesn’t get any more kitchen sink than this. Nevertheless, the series made the most of every story and didn’t shy away from scaring its target audience.