The Horror Honeys: Supernatural Made For TV!

Supernatural Made For TV!

A Supernatural Honey Homage - by Suzanne

Inspired by GORE-geous Head Honey’s article about horror films to watch with your kids, I started thinking about the things that inspired me as a young horror devotee. Growing up in the 70s and 80s was a great time to discover and immerse in the genre. It was during this time that some genius came up with the TV Movie of the Week. Granted, there was some real trash produced, but, oh, the horror! Two hours, glued to the TV, getting scared out of your mind? Sign me up! OK, some of them aren’t all THAT scary, especially considering some of the theatrical fare at the time, but when you’re too young to go anywhere by yourself, you take what you can get. With that said, I have crawled through the recesses of my brain to dig up some of my favorites that follow the supernatural theme. 

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) – Undoubtedly my favorite made-for-TV movie EVER, this is a yearly watch for me. Addled gentle giant, Bubba Ritter, accused of attacking a child, is hunted down and killed by a lynch mob before they even know the real story. Bubba then exacts his revenge from beyond the grave.  The premise is great and even though the production value is a little low, it’s still a better movie than 85% of what is churned out these days. It has a tremendous cast of character actors. Charles Durning plays the evil pedo-postman, Otis Hazelrigg, so well I still can’t watch him in anything without thinking of this. Honestly, I thought Larry Drake was really retarded between this and LA Law. Bubba is such a sweet and sympathetic character, your heart hurts for him and his mother. Not available on DVD until a few years ago, I wore out a bootleg copy I scored at a convention. This is a great add to your Halloween watch list.

Stranger in Our House (1978) – Also known as Summer of Fear, this early effort by Wes Craven is a winner. Linda Blair is Rachel, a teenager whose life begins to disintegrate after her family takes in orphaned cousin, Julia. When Julia begins to win over Rachel’s family, friends and even her boyfriend, Rachel pegs her cousin as a witch. Of course, everyone thinks she’s a jealous nutter, until it’s too late. Typical. Let’s face it, we’ve all had an older cousin or older sibling who was just a little bit better and we hated them for it. Granted, I never suspected my cousin of witchcraft. Everyone always thought I was the one possessed.

The Night Stalker (1972) – Ah, Karl Kolchak, how I love thee… I’m not sure I can adequately express my love for Darren McGavin’s street-wise, smart-assed reporter. This movie paved the way for a sequel, The Night Strangler in 1973, and then a short-lived TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75), all starring McGavin. Kolchak hunted all manner of supernatural and otherworldly beings, from vampires and werewolves to zombies and ghouls. The two films were written by Richard Matheson and produced by Dan Curtis. The two worked together frequently to adapt Matheson’s stories to the small screen. Sadly, they opted out of the series so it was never quite as clever as the original material and didn’t last.

Salem’s Lot (1979) – This was a mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. I have great love for this movie, which is born more out of nostalgia than the quality of the film. While it does have some wonderful moments, I made the mistake of live tweeting this 3 hour extravaganza a while ago and realized, when REALLY watching it, it’s slow, sort of boring and there are a ton of technical mistakes. Still, VAMPIRES! I’ve always loved the Barlow makeup and James Mason hamming it up as Richard Straker. Plus, David Soul was a real hottie.

Don’t Go to Sleep (1982) – Not many people seem to know this one, but it’s pretty spectacular. Starring, a host of well-known actors, such as Valerie Harper, Dennis Weaver and Ruth Gordon, this film is about the loss of a child and family guilt. Oh, and ghosts. After the tragic loss of eldest daughter, Jennifer, a family tries to move on. There is much debate over who is really responsible, but Jennifer’s ghost, through her surviving sister, Mary, exact revenge on everyone involved so they can be together… forever. It’s a tense, well-acted thriller that leaves you wondering if there really was a ghost or if Mary is just bat-shit crazy.

Midnight Offerings (1981) – After Little House and Afterschool Specials, Melissa Sue Anderson threw her hat into the horror ring. This film came out the same year as Happy Birthday to Me, but unlike the aforementioned slasher, this is a tale of two witches. I remember this one mostly because it was an Ingalls vs a Walton, fighting over a (lesser known) Cassidy. Actually, it’s a pretty cool little movie that gives MSA a chance to be bad and ditch her good girl image. She portrays Vivian, a black witch, who doesn’t let anything stand in the way of her getting what she wants. Enter Robin (Mary McDonough), a white witch just coming into her powers. They fight for supremacy in their small town. As far as I can tell, it’s never been released on DVD so I’ve not seen it in a long time, but if anyone has a VHS and wants to burn me a copy, I’ll take it.

Gosh, I could go on, but you probably have other things to do. This is but a smattering of the fine frights TV had to offer "back in the day." With almost everything available on DVD these days, you can get the goodness without all of the commercial interruptions, 90 minutes of pure enjoyment. Not all of my favorites are of the supernatural variety and some are so well-known, you may not even realize they were made for TV.

Honorable mentions: Trilogy of Terror, Death at Love House, Bad Ronald, Duel, The Norliss Tapes, The Spell, The Initiation of Sarah and Are you in the House Alone?