Ally Sheedy

Wicked Wednesday: Deadly Lessons (1983)

It’s the third month of the year, which means it’s finally Made-for-TV March again!

This is my third year doing this, and honestly – it’s something I really look forward to. TV Movies are excellent for many reasons. I particularly like the over-exaggerated drama that you don’t always get in regular cinema releases. And I don’t mean it necessarily in a “so-bad-it’s-good” way. Just sometimes things have to be bigger and louder.

Like all the best made-for-TV movies, Dead Lessons knows how to amp up the drama. There is forbidden love, kidnappings, mistaken identities. All the ingredients for a fun 90 minutes. Plus this is one of the more star-studded casts I’ve seen in a TV movie.

Young Stephanie (Diane Franklin) is a new student at a posh boarding school for girls. She’s the odd one out, being poor and from a farm. But she’s bright, other than the fact that she needs to brush up on her French.

She quickly learns that the other girls at her new school are less-than-friendly. They play pranks on her, act snobbishly and Despite this, she still manages to bond with two girls Marita (Ally Sheedy), Calli (Renée Jones) and her Saudi princess roommate, Shama.

On one of the first nights of the summer term, a girl is found drowned in the nearby lake. And thus begins a quick procession of deaths. Detective Kemper is brought in to investigate, but at the insistence of headmistress Miss Wade (Donna Reed) the deaths are kept out of the media.

The students are unhappy with the results of Kemper’s investigation and begin to take things into their own hands, inspired by Steph’s Clue-inspired board game.

Steph’s love interest, Eddie (Bill Paxton), soon becomes a suspect. Many of the murders and investigation centre around the barn and stables where he works. But others, such as the teacher Ferrar also make Kemper’s suspect list. Though the girls are less convinced.

One night, Marita is kidnapped by the school janitor. Then man believes that Martia is his granddaughter. This isn’t true, but he looks mighty guilty from his actions. Martia manages to save herself by creating a signal. The janitor is arrested and seemingly all is well.

Only Steph soon discovers that the danger isn’t over. She comes face-to-face with Detective Kemper, the killer himself. He reveals that he wanted to exact revenge on his mother: Miss Wade. He tells Steph that he was abandoned by his mother soon after his father killed himself. His master plan was to destroy his mother and her school. But the idiot gives his speech out loud and is overheard by police and is arrested.

For me, while enjoyable, Deadly Lessons could have amped everything up another level. The girls were not actually that horrible to Stephanie to make her feel like a believable outsider. The pranks were too few. The girl’s misdeeds are rarely seen on screen. There needed to be less scenes of police discussing things and more of the girls’ lives.

Not enough lightning and thunder, for one. What’s a good TV movie without a scene set during a storm?

I would say this edges much more on the side of drama than a slasher or horror. Though I think those two genres blend more than we ever really acknowledge. It’s definitely a fun movie. Plenty of familiar faces to keep you entertained…even if it took me 50 minutes to realise that Eddie was in fact played by Bill Paxton.

Wicked Wednesday: The Haunting of Seacliff Inn (1994)


What better way to start off October’s Wicked Wednesdays than with a made-for-TV movie? And it starts Ally Sheedy, no less.

While I’m not certain, The Haunting of Seacliff Inn aired in 1994 (most likely on SciFi, as per the old logo stamped on the version I watched). It’s actually a pretty good quality for a made-for-TV movie, with stunning locations and pretty good sets.

Susan (Sheedy) and her husband Mark (William R. Moses) are a pair of yuppies who move to Northern California from San Francisco to open a bed and breakfast. While taking a tour of the area, Susan spots a house on the cliff – surprise – that immediately catches her eye.

She tells the estate agent that she wants to “sleep on it” before she and Mark agree to the purchasing of the little home. But she immediately marches off to the other home on the seacliff to find out more about it.

Inside is Lorraine (Maxine Stuart, who incidentally is in one of my most favourite Twilight Zone episodes of all time, “Eye of the Beholder”), an elderly woman who has lived in the sprawling Victorian home for nearly 50 years – and the house definitely isn’t for sale.

But unfortunately for poor Lorraine, the spirits in the house have other ideas.

After Mark and Susan leave for the night, Lorraine is busying herself when the radio comes on. She turns it off only to hear the radio on in another room. Being this is somewhat a horror film, Lorraine is silly enough to go looking after the noise. Susan finds Lorraine’s body in the next morning, with a bloody wound to her head.

Good-ish news for Susan when she and Mark are put in touch with one of Lorraine’s daughters, who offers up the seacliff home to the couple. Within two months, the house is theirs and they begin the work on their new place.

It’s only a couple weeks into the renovations that strange things begin to happen. Susan sees a rather ominous black dog on the beach. A worker is electrocuted despite being certain that he turned off the breaker. And when the full moon passes through a window in the attic, Susan really begins to feel strange going ons.

Susan eventually meets her neighbour Dorothy, who tells her that the two of them are “sensitives,” meaning having an affiliation with the spirits (not that she’s being a bit touchy, which she really isn’t). Dorothy also tells Susan that the house was completely normal before she and Mark arrived.

But Dorothy further explains that the stuff inside the house could be stirred up by any emotions. Susan admits that she and Mark moved to Northern California after Mark had an affair. So everything in the theory seems to check out, and Susan immediately buys into Dorothy’s explanation, and admits to having seen a ghost when she was young girl, an experience that still has it’s mark on her.

Susan’s ghost story is a bit crap according to Mark, though, and the spirits are a source of irritation in the marriage. One day on the beach, Mark meets Sarah Warner, a pretty woman who is dressed in all white. All signs point to “she’s a ghost” here but Mark’s an idiot so he doesn’t notice anything unusual.

Intrigued by the house, Susan begins to do some research on the home, and learns that it is referred to as the Hastings House, Hastings being the family that owned the home for generations before Lorraine’s family bought it.  Jeremiah Hastings built the house and was one of the leading citizens in the town.

Then on returning home one day, Susan meets Sarah, the inn’s first guest despite the inn not yet being open. She claims to be a writer and totally not fussed about the situation. It immediately becomes clear that Sarah is a total seductress bitch, but that doesn’t stop Mark from being silly about it all. He still marches around with her, enjoying her flirting. That is until he photographs her and she comes on to him.

But really, when your with is Ally Sheedy, there isn’t much of a competition (sorry, Sarah).

After Mark rebuffs Sarah’s advances, she seemingly disappears (she actually jumps into the waves because ghost, duh). But her departure only signals worse things to come for the couple. The tub is left on and floods the home. Even the poor dog gets killed off.

Just when things come to a head for the couple, it’s revealed that Jeremiah Hastings is doing all the real hauntings. He murdered his own wife after cheating on her. It seems to be his plan to get Sarah to seduce Mark so Hastings can have his way with Susan. This is a rather jumbled, quick explanation. And most of the story is given in quick bits of dialogue.

But spoiler alert, Mark saves Susan before… she’s killed (?) by Jeremiah or whatever the ghost was trying to do with her. But the house burns down and the end. It’s one heck of a cliched ending for a story that could have been a bit more clever.

Though this IS made-for-TV land so I’m not really sure what I’m complaining about.