Riverdale may be a campy teen drama from the CW Network, but it’s also the best horror show on television.

While it’s certainly not marketed as horror, Riverdale shares common motifs, plots, and zany references to classic horror films. The show has proven multiple times that it’s meant to be included with other horror TV. It goes further than ripping off aspects and even direct sequences from iconic horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. The teen drama has a dark, almost horror noir element that is continually steeped in all the elements of a good murder mystery. For example, the entire first season is a ‘whodunit’ caper to discover murdered the heir to the Blossom maple syrup empire, Jason Blossom, in cold blood.

While that may sound tame, Riverdale seems to get darker with each subsequent season and has evolved over the course of four seasons from a relatively basic murder mystery to an installment of The Conjuring franchise.

The Black Hood Is A Serial Killer And “Loving” Father

The second season focuses on a serial killer known as The Black Hood in a direct nod to films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown (there’s even an episode with that title) who is hell-bent on punishing the sinners of Riverdale for their crimes. The character is introduced at the end of season one, when he shoots Archie’s father, Fred (Luke Perry), in Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.

Betty ends up receiving phone calls from The Black Hood as he starts to claim more victims and builds an impressive body count for a show that isn’t meant to be horror. He even murders a student, Midge, during the high school’s production of Carrie: The Musical in a very Phantom of the Opera fashion.

Once The Black Hood’s identity is revealed as none other than Betty’s father, the two engage in a Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter style relationship where she periodically visits him in a prison cell (which is almost identical, shot for shot, to the scenes in Silence of the Lambs) to utilize his assistance now and again, since he has a killer’s mind.

The Gargoyle King Is Basically Nightmare Fuel

The third season takes Dungeons and Dragons to a new level of creepy with its nightmare creature, The Gargoyle King, who leads many people to commit suicide while playing a twisted game. While The Gargoyle King doesn’t murder people directly, his entire story plays out a bit like the Saw franchise, where he is the puppet master behind a group of minions who are all doing his bidding by testing people who play “Gryphons and Gargoyles”.

It’s equal parts psychopathic game master and strange cult dynamics, like we’ve seen in movies like Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers with its Cult of Thorn. Granted, there’s no mysterious curse of cult giving The Gargoyle King his powers. He turns out to be a Scooby Doo villain, a real man in an elaborate costume being behind the crimes, which are perpetrated in part by Cheryl’s mother, Penelope, and carried out by Betty’s not quite half brother, Chic.  Also, there was a whole side storyline about a different cult who brainwashed Riverdale High Students and other townsfolk so they could harvest their organs.

Riverdale’s Newest Resident: A Haunted Doll

Though the fourth season is newly underway, its early introduction of a haunted doll seems to be marking a similar pace with keeping horror elements front and center. The doll, Julian, is reportedly inhabited by the disgruntled spirit of Cheryl and Jason’s long-lost triplet, who may or may not be the Antichrist. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has hinted at these demonic aspects of the Blossom family and Blossoms 666, one of the comics, revolved around a storyline where Cheryl and Jason’s third sibling, Julian, was kidnapped by a cult because he was the Antichrist.

Also, the show is meant to tie into The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is a spin-off series and deals heavily with the supernatural, but in a very dark way. Even though it doesn’t lean on its obvious horror elements on the surface, the show is clearly a part of the horror genre and even though its twists and turns shift at breakneck, occasionally exhausting speeds, it’s the best one on TV. Seriously.

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