Dead of Night (1977)

Once upon a time TV movies were an event. They meant something. They were used sporadically during the year for various networks as a means of attracting big ratings. Once upon a time TV used TV movies as a means of competing with theaters, and ever since that’s become something of a lost medium. Even when I was a kid, the nineties were filled with TV movies both of the Stephen King multi-night variety, and occasional biblical epics, and or science fiction epics like “Taken,” or “Noah.” It was an interesting time. “Dead of Night” is one of the various TV movies that’s gone from TV movie to well acclaimed horror movie, and that might be because of Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson.

“Second Chance” is more a dramatic opening segment where Ed Begley Jr. is a rabid car collector who buys and restores a 1926 roadster with a tragic back story. When he restores it he finds himself warped in to the twenties, confronting an unusual destiny. “No Such Thing as a Vampire” is one of the more sinister segments where young Alexis is convinced she’s being preyed upon by a vampire. When she manages to convince her father, he calls a friend over to explore the circumstances. Finally “Bobby” involves a grief stricken mother who uses the paranormal to summon her son from the grave, but when she gets her wish, something isn’t quite right with him.

While the stories featured here aren’t the most terrifying they have the signature Richard Matheson twists that will likely keep audiences watching with baited breath. I was mostly indifferent with “Dead of Night” but appreciated its atmosphere, and fun sense of horror, even though it opens with a soft ball. Dan Curtis directs every installment with a sense of dread, even “Second Chance” which relies heavily on the ideas of fate, coincidence, and destiny. The vest segment of the trilogy is “Bobby,” a short I knew the twist to mainly because it was remade for “Trilogy of Terror II.” That said, the final segment is still damn good with an immense sense of terror injected thanks to Curtis’ direction. The final segment lives and breathes by its simplicity and it works like gang busters.

Watching Joan Hackett being stalked and terrorized by Lee H. Montgomery’s titular Bobby is intense, and once we understand the situation it’s even creepier. Director Curtis knows to end the entire film with “Bobby” and the film ends on a surefire jolt that’ll definitely please audiences. I certainly loved the bait and switch. “Dead of Night” isn’t a great horror anthology but it’s worth pursuing and watching, if only for the neat plot twists, and great closing segment.