Pop Culture

'Dexter,' 'Hannibal' more about the monster than all that blood

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan on "Dexter."

Summer is about to get really bloody! The return of "Dexter's" eighth and final season on June 30 means that viewers not only get their favorite blood-spatter analyst/vigilante serial killer back, they also get all the messes he helps investigate and of course, create.

"Dexter" leaves behind quite a few bloody murders each year, and its final season will no doubt have more of the same. But even as the Dark Passenger prepares to say goodbye, new creepy baddies -- including Hannibal Lecter -- have started stepping up to fill his bloody spot.

"Vampires and werewolves, those are always going to be cycling in and out. But then what is the scariest thing that is also a real possibility for people in their minds? The serial killer!" said Melanie McFarland, IMDb.com's TV editor. "The serial killer is a real life boogeyman."

And where there are murderers, whether they be supernatural or not, there will be blood. McFarland said that violence -- which tends to come with a bit of the red stuff -- in TV "has been upping the ante for a long time across the board," and not all of it is from killers such as Dexter.

"It's less about the blood than it is about the monster," she added.

Here are eight shows beyond "Dexter" -- both established and newer -- and their own monsters that leave viewers seeing red:

One of the new serial killers to come to the small screen is an oldie but goodie: Hannibal Lecter. This time he's played by Mads Mikkelsen in the new NBC drama, which premiered in April. Given the nature of Hannibal's many, many crimes -- not to mention the other murderers who make appearances -- it's no wonder the program might induce more than a few dry heaves. There are nearly decapitated heads (at the jaw, not neck!), women impaled on antlers, whole strips of skin ripped off from a living body, dismembered body parts and much more. As unappetizing as that sounds, the drama then tries to make viewers hungry by showing Hannibal cooking up some lavish meals that look nothing short of scrumptious -- until you remember his meat of choice.

'The Following'
Another new serial killer who reared his charming head this year was "The Following's" Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), an English professor and failed novelist who built a massive network of cult followers while imprisoned for the the murders of 14 female students. Carroll's crimes -- inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe -- were hardly romantic, and neither was the work of his devotees. The network of murderers left behind bodies with eyeballs removed, victims burned alive and even a basement full of tortured dogs.

'American Horror Story'
The warning is right in the FX drama's title: It's a "horror story," and horror stories are quite often scary and gory -- two things that are true of this program. The first season featured several murders along with bloody ghosts and a disfigured baby zombie thing. Season two offered up a tale in an insane asylum in the 1960s, where a Nazi doctor performed gruesome experiments on the residents, and also had a serial killer who seemed to take inspiration from "The Silence of the Lambs," killing women for their soft, supple skin. Oh, and he has a present day son who likes to follow in Daddy's bloody footsteps.

'Breaking Bad'
It's no surprise the drug trade would involve crime and blood. But the gore on "Breaking Bad" sometimes comes along with a science lesson too. Several bodies have been disposed of by using hydrofluoric acid to "melt" them, leaving bloody, gloopy messes in barrels, unaffected by the solution. (Except for that one time in the bathtub.) Beyond that, there's the gun violence, and who could forget the explosion that left Gus Fring with half a face?

'True Blood'
Blood and gore are just part of the landscape in Bon Temps. Vampires drink blood; they cry blood; and it leaks from their eyes and ears if they don't get a good day's rest. Heck, each time a vamp falls to the true death, there's a virtual explosion red, goopy remains. But even with all the bites, neck breaks and extreme violence the night crawlers are capable of, "True Blood's" werewolves are able to ramp up the gross-outs even more. It's bad enough when the weres go in for the kill in their canine form, but it's positively stomach churning when they revert to their human states to (respectfully) devour a dead member of the pack. At least the fairies give viewers a break -- at their most brutal, they're still just lobbing balls of light around.

'The Walking Dead'
Shows just don't get more violent than this AMC hit, wherein characters routinely machete, smash and crossbow their way through crowds of undead threats. But don't take our word -- or that of any violence-loathing watchdog group -- for it. A recent study conducted by Funeralwise.com revealed that the show racked up a higher body count than any other small screen offering last season with approximately 38 deaths -- per episode! Of course, the vast majority of those killed were technically already dead.

'Sons of Anarchy'
The scariest thing about the bloody violence on "Sons of Anarchy" is just how real it seems. There aren't any vampires or zombies here. The monsters that commit the savage acts on "Anarchy" are all too human. Bikers obsessed with backstabbing, betrayal and paybacks punish each other (and each other's loved ones and innocent bystanders) in savage-yet-mundane ways. Head shots and beatings account for much of the death toll, but the occasional act of extra brutality (like the revenge torching of Tig's daughter) adds a shocking, gut-wrenching twist.

'Game of Thrones'
Beheadings? Check. Disembowelings? Check. Consuming a freshly plucked horse heart? Unfortunately, check. When it comes to jaw-dropping scenes of death and destruction, "Game of Thrones" has it all. In fact, it has something more -- a gruesome bonus. In addition to the violence, it packs an emotional blow. Sure, seeing random warriors fall in battle might make some viewers wince. And seeing a baddie lose an appendage is tough stuff too. But none of that compares to seeing more than one beloved character come to a horrific, blood-spurting end -- at the same time.

Which TV show do you think is the goriest? Click on "Talk about it" below and share your thoughts!