Advisory: These intros are best watched in the dark, with plenty of space, completely alone, two feet away from the television set. Bonus points if your house is haunted.
1. Tales From the Dark Side
So it's not your average kind of creepy. It's got more of a 'Little House on the Prairie' vibe, provided pa is about to snap and paint the walls red with his own blood, whilst chanting a sweet song as he occasionally passes glances at his family whom he systematically killed and preserved so they would always remain forever un-corrupted by an ever-changing world. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but wouldn't that make a great episode?
2. The Outer Limits
This one is clever. I can honestly say on a few occasions as a kid, when we had good old-fashioned analog television sets, it was great fun to show this to friends for the first time and watch them freak the hell out.
3. Masters of Horror
It seems like a lot of shows, especially on HBO and Showtime, were starting to get really edgy around the time Masters of Horror came out. What starts out as possibly a bad-looking nosebleed, turns into a torrent of blood...and I say that's a good way to start two things: shows and meals. I especially like how simple this intro is, with the few transitions between a man holding an ax and a skull, an eyeball...
4. True Blood
In the interest of being somewhat up-to-date, I'd like to point out that any time children are eating something raw or bloody in a show, you need to be scared. Granted, this is a vampire show, but still. I'm sure we're all aware of the power of the creepy factor with children in movies and shows, not to mention rednecks, religious seizures, police brutality, creepy rednecks, animal skulls, and naked women. All of these things creep me out. Okay, maybe not animal skulls, but you get my point here.
Though I'd desperately love to see an interview with R. L. Stine in-person, I hope he doesn't carry a briefcase with him. Even billboards get freaked out, and that's saying something.
6. The Twilight Zone
This classic intro gives the whole show a perfect feel. It suits the stories, and it suits the theme. Every time I see this, I know in my heart-of-hearts that every time I step through a door...I'd better hope it isn't the one leading here. Once you go through there, you don't come back out.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street
God, everything about this intro is perfect. It really stood the test of time, and what's more, it launched one of my favorite horror franchises. It honestly makes me want to just turn my laptop off and watch the whole movie all over again (for the thousandth time). Say what you will about Freddy Kreuger in any of his incarnations, a majority of the openings to his films always bring their A-game.
8. Are You Afraid of the Dark
As an adult, you can sometimes forget how terrifying the world really is to a kid. You forget how terrifying the world still is, actually. Nothing changes, despite your age, and this intro stands as a chilling reminder. Even though a majority of the episodes may not have been mind-blowing (given that most kids aren't expert actors), this intro was always a pretty spooky treat.
9. House on Haunted Hill
Say what you will about my parents and their odd choices of films to take me to as a kid, this one I do not regret one iota. The opening is fantastic, and thankfully the rest of the movie is too. It sets a mood that promises either something absolutely amazing, or incredibly disappointing...you'd think nothing could live up to such an awesome title sequence. Thank god it did. In fact, this intro is so fantastic, I'm pretty sure just showing it to someone who'd never seen the film, would be easily convinced to watch the whole thing.
10. Tales From the Crypt
I don't think I need to explain why a gigantic cartoony and scary-looking mansion would grab anyone's attention. It is genius, though, how you're led by the camera through the door, the hallway, down the stairs, into a corridor, to a strange-looking desk, then right past a coffin-gAHH!!! Damn it, he gets me every time...
So there you have it, the top ten creepiest intros/title sequences. There are plenty others, of course, but these serve as a nice illustration that the key to good horror is a good hook. Maybe even one that doesn't get lodged in your back.