2017 will go down as a truly banner year for the horror community. We had great highs and massive lows. It was also the year of Stephen King where we celebrated genuinely brilliant adaptations like “It,” but bowed our heads in shame at the TV adaptations of “The Mist.” Good god that was terrible. I digress. We lost a ton of horror greats, and a good portion of horror hit makers spent a lot of time trying to convince the public that their films were not horror.
And who can forget the infamous “Post-Horror” crap? One of the bigger news headlines in the horror world that sent 2017 out with a bang has been the news that effective January 1st 2018, Chiller TV is shutting down.
Chiller isn’t the first channel to go down over the span of the aughts, as the excellent Monsters HD shut down in mid-aughts, while FearNet shut down its entire operations much to the ire of horror fans everywhere. There was also the development of the Horror Channel in America that never turned in to anything. That said, the creation and duration of Chiller TV was impressive, which is why shutting it down is kind of surprising.
The channel lasted an entire decade and over the span of its time in various cable markets, it managed to carve out a brand for itself, however small it was. While in the beginning the channel was subjected to re-airing leftovers from its mother network Syfy, repeating really bad indie horror films over and over, the channel tried constantly to become something of a label with Syfy. Over the years the channel aired a series of epic horror documentaries, and even staged its own horror based reality show.
One of the most notable developments from Chiller was the establishing of Chiller Films which, with the partnership with Shout Factory, managed to release highly anticipated films of varying quality. I’d be lying if I said every film Chiller released were even remotely good, but for every “Remains” and “Beneath,” there was solid horror entries like “Ghoul,” “Siren,” “The American Scream,” and the great anthologies “Chiller Visions,” which allowed various horror indie filmmakers to deliver great short films with recurring themes.Shortly before Chiller basically threw in the towel, they began airing their original horror series called “Slasher,” which was a shockingly good and eerie mix of a slasher, murder mystery, and small town drama. The series never returned officially on Chiller. Sadly in 2016 the channel seemed to lose a lot of what made it so much of a novelty, as the programming seemed to revert back to nothing but Syfy leftovers like “Fact or Faked?” and “Haunted Highway” marathons, and replays of “Ghost Hunters” and “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” believe it or not.
In 2017 when my cable provider took Chiller down from its line up officially, I was disappointed but I could kind of see the writing on the wall for the channel. It just wasn’t as good as it once was. When news broke that Universal was completely shutting down the channel in 2018, I was once again disappointed but not at all surprised.
In any consolation, ten years is a decent run for a niche channel, as most of the channels established in the aughts never quite last too long. Remember the “Esquire” Channel and “G4”? And despite their best efforts, “Spike” TV stopped being the “man channel” years ago and is now the “We throw any shit at the wall and see what sticks” channel.
Oddly enough my main love for Chiller came with the marathons of eighties and nineties horror shows that once aired in syndication. At one time they were airing rare series like “Night Visions,” “Beyond Belief,” and “Ripley’s” as well as classic horror like “Tales from the Darkside,” “Monsters,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Friday the 13th.” I happily watched hours upon hours of those series re-visiting their greatness.
It’s surprising that on cable television, horror channels have struggled to stay on markets for a very long time. In a period where horror is as popular as ever, and horror movies are so cheap to make, you assume there would be about six horror channels on cable alone. With the changing demand for television and programming, the end of Chiller TV was inevitable. In either case, there is hope as now horror streaming services are taking the place of traditional channels. Horror fans looking for fixes of classic programs and movies need only look online for what suits them.
That said, as a TV junkie, I’ll miss Chiller TV. It might just be the last gasp of cable television appealing to a niche audience, which was what made cable so novel back in the day.