Take a look at any and all supernatural tales, and you’ll find that they are deep down about three things: They’re either about family, about death, or about mental illness. From “The Babadook,” and “The Conjuring,” to “The Haunting” or “Rebecca,” every great ghost story deep down is about those core themes. “The Haunting of Hill House” is the most riveting ghost story and horror series I’ve seen all year, and I say that as someone who has seen the supernatural sub-genre reduced to nothing but a series of shocks and bumps on the wall when films like “The Ring” and “Grudge” were popularized in the early aughts. To their credit, they are fine ghost films, but I missed the more humanistic elements.
Dan Curtis’ “Trilogy of Terror” is a TV movie that grew so famous that it ended up being considered one of the best horror movies of its decade. Released during a time where networks were tackling TV movies with immense zeal, “Trilogy of Terror” has become a horror classic since its airing, even if I’m not a fan. It’s hard to hate, though. There’s Karen Black taking on all of the major female roles in the film, and the Zuni Fetish Doll, a movie monster who has become the quintessential horror killer doll. “Trilogy of Terror II” premiered on the USA Network in 1996 with Dan Curtis returning to direct, and while it’s not a great movie, it’s fine enough.
“Modern Family” is one of my favorite sitcoms on television, it’s a hilarious, often heart felt look at the idea of modern families that break the conventional mold of the nuclear family. The cast is brilliant, the writing is great, and you can’t help but engage yourself in their mishaps and activities. While “Modern Family” doesn’t celebrate Halloween every year, every time it’s delivered a Halloween episode, it’s a cause for celebration, because they’re very good about paying tribute to the holiday while also making us laugh. These are the Halloween specials so far from Worst to Absolute Best.
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.
Also known as “Casper Saves Halloween” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost: He Ain’t Scary, He’s Our Brother,” the titular ghost’s Halloween special is about as rough around the edges as you’d expect from a production from the company from 1979. Around that time Hanna Barbera had absolutely no limits about whom they gave a show to, and Casper took time out of his series “Casper and the Angels” to help save Halloween. As opposed to his short lived series where Casper teamed up with two futuristic space cops. No, really.
If any case could be made for the advantage of running zombies in the zombie film sub-genre, “Dead Set” would easily trump any argument against the device. I’m a zombie enthusiast who loves the lumbering dead, and in all honesty prefers them above all. “Dead Set” not only endorses the idea of running zombies, but makes turns them on to a world of lazy, complacent television addicts, with remorseless fervor. Like the reality shows that have become fixtures of civilization, we’re turned in to blood thirsty monsters that feed off of one another, and show little empathy for the weak.
“Fear The Walking Dead” is to “The Walking Dead” what “Law & Order: SVU” is to “Law & Order.” It’s another series in the same universe but with its own scenarios and characters. It’s unfortunately taken three years to find its footing, despite its very good ratings. It packed with it a great cast of Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, Ruben Blades, as well as a ton of diverse side characters, but still never quite took off as a strong tale about the apocalypse. Now with its soft reboot and a new cast the series is better than ever, in spite of the audience kind of dropping it by the wayside. Regardless, season four was a huge step up for “Fear the Walking Dead” and I hope season five continues down this path with an even better, stronger villain.
When Rob Lowe was originally approached about his remake of “The Bad Seed,” he commented that his film version is a drama more than a horror movie. While the original 1956 movie starring Patty McCormack was a horror movie with a dramatic tinge, by God Rob Lowe makes sure that his version of “The Bad Seed” is a drama. Even the unraveling of a parent realizing their child is a psychopath with only the goal of self preservation is painfully bent for the sake of drama, and less horror. Lowe fails, especially because the realization that their child is a psychopath with zero emotion should be a living nightmare. Not some kind of twist in a melodrama.