The idea sprung from a series of dinners that Garris had held with other horror film directors, and the satisfying experience and the directors' admiration of each others works lead Garris to create this series in 2005. The basic idea was a series of one-hour films, each directed by a well-known horror director. The series featured contributions from directors as diverse as Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter and Takashi Miike, and received wide critical acclaim.
The series ran for two seasons on Showtime. Fear Itself, another Genre Anthology in the same format and created by the same team, premiered on NBC in 2008, and was cancelled after its first season. Another similar show called Masters of Science Fiction (again from the same creators) premiered on ABC in 2007, but only ran six episodes before being cancelled. Masters of Italian Horror is also in the works, focusing solely on Italian directors. IDW Publishing is also adapting several of the episodes as comic books.
For tropes from specific episodes, check the Recap page.
- Black Comedy: And a lot of it. Certain episodes can easily pass as an Affectionate Parody of similar stories, while others are clearly made with pitch-black comedy in mind.
- Fan Disservice: Fanservice scenes often blended with gore or other horror tropes.
- Fanservice: Quite a lot of episodes feature nudity or sex scenes.
- Gorn: Loads of it. Takashi Miike (who else?) had so much in his episode that it was banned from broadcast.
- The Hero Dies: Many a Downer Ending would end up with the hero being killed by the episode's monster or villain.
- Playing with a Trope: What is of much interest to us Tropers is how the series play with standard Horror Tropes. Take "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road"; at the beginning, it looks like a typical hapless-female-chased-by-a-psycho. Then it turns out she is not that hapless, being the wife of a Crazy Survivalist. And so on.
- Something Completely Different: Each season of the anthology (usually set in modern day Everytown, America) had one episode set in the early 19th century and another filmed in Japan and directed by a Japanese director.
- Torture Porn: Several episodes, especially in the second season.
- 13 Is Unlucky: Both this show and its successor Fear Itself had 13 episodes per season.