Made-for-TV March

Wicked Wednesday: Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

I love TV movies for many reasons: the dramatic music, the dramatic thunder and lightning, the weirdly PG violence. But often what they are most known for is their content on “lessons” and handling of controversial or taboo topics like sexual assault, eating disorders and runaways.

Many of these more controversial movies were often the most popular. Born Innocent starring Linda Blair was the highest-rated television movie of that year. I still hear women in my life reference For the Love of Nancy (for better or for worse).

One of these tough-topic films is Are You in the House Alone?, a film about a girl who is stalked before being assaulted in her own home.

Gail is a young and talented student. She’s at the cusp of womanhood and is curious about love and desire. Having moved from her home in San Francisco to a new town, Gail has adjusted well. She’s dating boys and making friends.

But after she begins to start dating Steve, she begins to find threatening letters in her locker (with some not-so-great grammar should I add – “I’m watching, you —“). No one seems to take these threats very seriously. This makes it a pretty tough film to watch. She keeps reaching out for help, but there seemingly isn’t any available. Not from family, friends or people in power like her teachers.

She also gets phone calls from a rather creepy voice. Her stalker is clearly a man. It’s her principal who suggests that Gail is looking for someone she knows.

Eventually, the inevitable assault occurs. Despite the synopsis I read, promising a movie about a girl seeking revenge, most of the story is the lead up to the assault. You learn from the opening scene what will happen to Gail. It is an issue that we know what is going to happen so early, but the event doesn’t come until the third act. There isn’t much suspense in that regard.

That being said, I’m not entirely sure if this movie wanted to be a thriller. It feels very much like an after school special in that respect. The last act of the film follows Gail and Steve as they work together to catch the person responsible for her assault. It’s not entirely a happy ending, but it is realistic. Not all victims will see justice in the ways they hope.

You can absolutely tell that this was written by a woman (Judith Parker is credited with the teleplay). It’s handled fairly well for a movie that came out in the late 70s. There’s plenty of misogyny that I personally didn’t like, but I think by the end of the film it’s addressed well.

But Gail’s character is very fleshed out and complex. She has hobbies, friends, flaws, everything that makes her an endearing main character. She’s so easy to root for, that it makes every threat, harm and success have all that much more weight to it. Kathleen Beller is truly great in this.

Some of this might seem heavy-handed. Even Gail’s photography teacher is a creep. And yet, all of this is very relatable on so many levels. Forty years on, and we’re still tackling things like predatory behaviour and white male privilege. As far as TV movies go, Are You in the House Alone? remains one that has aged the best.

***Major spoilers for Scream (2022)***

I can completely see why Jack Quaid was cast as Ghostface. He’s so evil. His dad is equally horrible in this! An uncanny family resemblance!

Wicked Wednesday: This House Possessed (1981)

One of my favourite things about TV movies is seeing familiar small-screen faces. Just this year alone I’ve seen Valerie Harper, a slew of soap opera stars, and now this week – teen heartthrob Frank Hardy himself, Parker Stevenson.

Stevenson, like Harper, is also a bit of a TV movie regular. (We bow to royalty!) Though this is my first time seeing him in one, he’s as delightful and charismatic in This House Possessed as he is in The Hardy Boys.

Gary (Stevenson) is a popular pop musician. During a performance, he collapses due to exhaustion. He’s taken to a hospital for treatment where he meets a young nurse, Shiela.

The youngin’s take a liking to each other. When Gary is on the mend, it’s decided that he will go somewhere to rest and write, and Shiela will go with him as his live-in nurse. The two head out to find a place, but a place soon finds them: a giant modern mansion. This building is so stunning, I really hope the location scout got the biggest bonus.

Though with almost all things, there’s always a catch. On their first night at the home, Shiela begins to hear voices. She tries finding the source but is caught wandering before she can get too far.

The next day, she goes into town where a lady calls her “Margaret”. This confuses Sheila for very obvious reasons. When the disembodied voice also calls her Margaret, it becomes more than just a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Gary’s off-and-on again girlfriend Tanya stops by to stir up trouble in paradise. But the house seems to have other ideas, and soon scares her away with the help of some blood.

The increasingly strange incidents prompt Sheila to come clean to Gary: she knows little about the early years of her life. She was found wandering on the road, and everything before that is just a mystery to her. After being called Margaret just one more time, Sheila knows she needs to do some digging into both her history and the house’s.

The mystery is eventually revealed to be one with plenty of holes in it. Some of the lines connecting the dots are tenuous at best. But we’re not here for the story, really, but for some spooky ambience and imagery.

The scenes from the house’s POV are all done through some security cameras. Though it’s not entirely clear (again) why none of the humans knows this? Does an incredibly famous popstar not hire anyone to do the security? Does he or his nurse not even consider checking it themselves when things beings to go haywire?

As standard for most TV movies of this era, it’s not very heavy on the horror elements. The romances and love triangle are given much more screen time for that. But for an early 80s TV movie, some of the scenes are surprisingly visceral. There’s a bloody shower scene that’s plenty gross and another death scene that made me let out a “CHRIST!”, then one giant “HA!”

This vaguely reminded me of Paganini Horror, which is significantly more fun. That story also features musicians in a creepy yet beautiful home that’s a bit possessed. It’s obviously bolder due to it not having any of the restrictions of network television. But I’m here for anything with spooky houses and cheesy music!

So for that – I give This House Possessed some credit. It’s silly, but often not silly enough, well-acted and has some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve seen in a movie.

Wicked Wednesday: Fall into Darkness (1996)

The 90s were so good at teen drama. From 90210 to Clueless – there was some really iconic stuff in the decade.

But drama that leads to death, fake deaths and plots to frame your friend for murder? Truly iconic, and that’s what you get in this made-for-TV adaption of Christopher Pike’s novel Fall into Darkness.

Sharon is a rising star in the piano world, and a Julliard hopeful. Her playing catches the eye of the wealthy Jerry Price, who invites her to a party at his house one night.

At the party, Sharon learns that Jerry and his sister, Ann, are incredibly wealthy orphans. She meets Ann, a haughty and rude girl. Despite being absolutely catty towards Sharon, the girls become friends.

As Ann and Sharon grow closer, Jerry’s affections for Sharon grow. When he tries to come on to her, though, she rejects him.

Burnt by the interaction, Jerry goes to his friend Chad’s place and gets drunk. It’s that night that the girls learn that Jerry has supposedly taken his own life by jumping in front of an oncoming train.

Ann is distraught. Even more so when Chad tells her why – that Jerry couldn’t take the rejection from Sharon, mixed with his depression. Ann becomes angry and begins plotting Sharon’s demise with the help of her boyfriend, Paul.

For the first part of their plan, Ann invites the gaggle of friends to go camping. During the bonfire, Ann makes Sharon angry by belittling her playing. Sharon storms off and Ann later follows – claiming to want to apologise.

When the girls are in the woods, Ann begins screaming Sharon’s name, setting it up to look like she’s being attacked by her friend. Ann throws herself from a cliff, seemingly to her own death.

From there the boys all tell the police that they believe Sharon has killed Ann. But no one can find the body.

Sharon must prove her own innocence and uncover the truth before the real killer comes for her next. It’s a pretty fun maze of twists and turns. Though eventually (and probably a little too soon) the truth becomes obvious. The story still manages to keep the pace up, though, even when its audience knows where things are going next. I think that’s partly due to how compelling both Tatyana M. Ali and Jonathan Brandis’s work.

Fall into Darkness takes a lot from its predecessors in many ways: a bad boy with Jason Dean vibes, a lack of humour and camp to show that it’s taking itself seriously. It’s not really breaking any new ground. That being said, it’s still a good time, and it’s pretty nice to return to basics here. I have read that this is a not-so-great adaption of Pike’s work, so maybe this is even due a reboot?

Pike is one of the pillars of YA and children’s horror fiction in the 80s and 90s. But somehow, there aren’t very many adaptions of his work. At the time of writing, Fall into Darkness remains the only one. An adaption of superb Midnight Club for Netflix, created by the always-dependable Mike Flanagan, finished production in 2021. If there’s a success there, hopefully more adaptions will follow. I personally am ready to find more of his books and give them a read!

Also, can we get a boutique label to start releasing nice blu-ray editions of these made-for-TV movies. Honestly, the quality of some of these films is so bad! I’d kill to watch these and be able to see what the actors’ faces look like.

Wicked Wednesday: Night Terror (1977)

I love made-for-TV movies. I love Made-for-TV March. A whole four weeks of dramatic pauses for commercials, effective uses of lightning and familiar faces from shows your ma watches. Truly, a most wonderful time of the year.

This week, I treated myself to Night Terror, a suspenseful chase film starring the TV movie legend Valerie Harper.

Harper plays Carol Turner, a frazzled and forgetful housewife. Her family is preparing to move across the country to Colorado for her husband’s job. Now just saying this upfront: Carol’s husband, Walter, is a loser and does not deserve her!

Anyway, the kids go ahead with their aunt and father while Carol follows behind with the station wagon. She intends to meet up with Walter for their second honeymoon before going to Colorado. Only Walter needs to cancel their plans because of work-something-or-another.

Carol’s night only gets worse when she discovers that her son has been sent to the hospital and needs surgery. Panic-stricken, she gets into her car in the middle of the night and heads off to Colorado on her own.

Along the way, Carol realises her car’s gas tank is nearly empty. She sees a cop on the side of the road with another car pulled over, she stops to ask for help. Only when she does, the man in the pulled-over car shoots and kills the police officer.

Panicked, Carol drives off into the night, but her pursuer is not going to let her go. What follows is a pretty lengthy, but intense chase scene.

Carol has to use her wits to get help and avoid the killer. She commits a few faux pas along the way, but she’s ultimately responsible for all her successes. But the killer is pretty relentless and clever, there are a number of times I shouted, “NO CAROL!!!!” at my TV screen, which is surely a sign of good pace!

When Carol is finally victorious and at her child’s bedside, her husband arrives. When he tells her, “You poor baby. You of all people.” without knowing what she’s been through… well, it’s enough to make your blood boil! Please tell me there’s a part two where she kills him and lives her best Thelma and Louise life.

Night Terror is a gem. It’s got a great pace, which I think is greatly benefited by its 70-minute run time. Not only does it clip along nicely, but it looks great too. The rainy night and dry, desert day look fabulous on screen. The killer (played by the super hot Richard Romanus) is excellent. You don’t know much about him at all. He’s really just there to be menacing – and he is!

There are several things that date this one in a not-so-fun way, but if you want a fun thriller version of The Hitcher or Duel. But this one has Valerie Harper, so it has to have an edge in that respect! Harper manages to seem both frantic and compelling while not overdoing it completely. This is why she will always be an icon.

Wicked Wednesday: The Demon Murder Case (1983)

Talk about going out with a fart. After a month of (relatively) fun TV movies, we reach the finish line at a crawl with The Demon Murder Case.

On the surface. This movie has all the right ingredients: true crime, supposed demon possessions, and Kevin Bacon. But what’s delivered in a confused and poorly-paced film that I wish I would have napped through.

Slight based on a true story, the movie opens with a young man, Kenny (Bacon), in a courtroom. What has he done? Well, whatever it is the Devil made him do it.

We then jump back to the time before Kenny’s crime. Young Brian is a nice kid, but has become possessed by a demon. His family try to help him by asking btoh the curch and a couple of demonologists (a fictionalised version of the Warrens) to intervene.

Though neither helps. Brian stays possessed. His family become increasingly frustrated, especially Kenny, who can’t seem to hold his temper. Kenny threatens the demon possessing Brian, ignoring the fact that the experts’ explicitly said not to do so.

Kenny is then possessed by the demon himself. While possessed, he becomes jealous of his girlfriend’s new boss – a man who needs help…grooming his dogs? During a party, the boss becomes drunk and harrassess Kenny’s girlfriend. Then “the demon” takes control and stabs the drunk man.

The police later arrest Kenny. The last act of the movie is Kenny’s trial. Honestly, it’s very boring.

The biggest issue I had with this movie was the pacing. For the first half of the film, we’re watching an Exorcist rip-off. Brian’s demon speaks through him using a gravely voice. He injures himself. He said TV-appropriately unappropriate things to his family.

We’re 30 minutes in when Brian’s exorcism begins. The build up is pretty quick. Then we have to forget about Brian (who, by the way, we have no idea if he’s still possessed) and begin focusing on this Kenny character. Kenny, bless Kevin Bacon, is an incredibly boring and unlikable character. The fact that he’s just suddenly possessed is weird.

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (the real murderer) is the subject of the third Conjuring film, which is (hopefully) being released this summer. It will be interesting to see how the story is tackled. Hopefully there is more focus. The issue with the story in The Demon Murder Case is that it is essentially two in one: Brian’s possession and Kenny’s trial (David Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson in the true tale). By including both, the typical climax, the exorcism, is too near the beginning. All the suspense is spent before the movie is even halfway over.

That being said, the first half of this movie can be visually interesting. At times it’s almost more ambitious than the usual TV move fare at the time. For some reason, these directoral decisions are discarded once Kenny becomes the main focus.

And I do think a story just about Kenny/Arne could be interesting. This is the first case in the US where demonic possession was part of the defence. As I mentioned before, I’m interested to see what happens with the story when it’s in more modern hands.

Wicked Wednesday: Satan’s School for Girls (2000)

When I first started Made-for-TV March, I was surprised at how many TV movies had modern remakes. They don’t exactly seem like the type of thing to be ripe for that. After watching 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls back in 2017, I spotted the 2000 remake and immediately blew it off. At that point, I didn’t want to touch anything made after 1990.

But after a few years of running this, I slowly began to get over my fear of more modern films. Though I vowed that wouldn’t watch the remake until I had forgotten most of the original.

Only… I maybe forgot a little too much. For one, I thought I had really liked the original. Though glancing through my original write up, I was apparently less-than-enthusiastic. And the plot? I had to reread the entire thing to jog any memories at all.

So watching 2000’s Satan’s School for Girls felt like being introduced to an entirely new story. And in many ways, I was.

In 2000’s remake, Beth goes to Fallbridge College for Girls when her sister’s death is deemed a suicide. Her one piece of evidence is a sympathy card from a group simply called “The Five”. She begins to look into the lives of the girls around her, suspicious particularly of the goths.

She soon learns that The Five were a group of women who all went on to become wildly successful. Senators, bankers and the like.

But Beth’s detective work is not as subtle as she thinks. All eyes at the school seem to be on her. And it’s not too long before she’s forced to call upon her own psychic powers to battle the witches at her school.

There’s a lot more emphasis on this story on the girls’ magic. It’s both a strength and weakness of the film. It’s fun watching some witchy fun, and the women here seem to have much more agency than in the 1973 version. But the special effects in the 2000 movie have dated terribly. Considering The Craft was made nearly four years earlier, there’s not really an excuse. That is unless they spent literally all their budget getting Shannon Doherty.

The remake does switch things up enough that it doesn’t always feel like you’re watching the same movie twice. The second half certainly veers away from the original source material more than the first. Much of the climax is longer and more dragged out than the original – which has an ending like a punch to the gut. The ending was easily the most memorable part of the original.

Breaking one of my rules, I took the time to read an original review in Variety after watching the film. What was interesting to me, is that the writer argued that there wasn’t a need for groups like The Five anymore. Women are plenty powerful without having to make a deal with Satan.

Honestly, I’d have to disagree with that point a lot. We see women still getting attacked and murdered just walking home. I would do anything to have more power in life just to protect myself and other women. And what about our trans sisters? When their existence is challenged every day, can we really say women are fine enough in the workplace?

If The Five weren’t so hellbent on killing other people off, I’d say that every woman should consider making a pact with the Devil.

Wicked Wednesday: Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

I’ve been a bit overloaded with true crime stories as of late. My husband and I are watching The Act. I’ve just finished Sinisterhood’s three-part series on Ted Bundy. It was only incidental that I decided to choose Death of a Cheerleader for this week’s TV movie viewing.

TV movies are one of the original masters of true crime. The original award-winning limited television series, if you will. There’s a long history of overblown “warnings” given to viewers through this medium. There’s Menedez: A Killing in Beverley Hills (1994), I Know My First Name is Steven (1989) about a child abduction and even all the way back to 1975’s The Deadly Tower.

This was an era of true crime novels by names like Anne Rule, John Bloom and John E Douglas were being sold at supermarkets. True crime is certainly having a heyday, but it’s not a new trend.

Death of a Cheerleader is based on the murder of 15-year-old Kirsten Costas at the hands of her young, jealous classmate.

Kirsten in this fictionalised retelling is Stacy Lockwood (Tori Spelling). She’s popular and, as these things go, a bit awful. She runs with a pack of seemingly equally-as-awful-but-less-ambitious friends.

Looking up to them all is the talented writer Angie Delvecchio (Kellie Martin). Entering her sophomore year at school, she’s determined to achieve all her goals. She wants to be the editor of the school yearbook, become popular and make cheerleading. And while the yearbook seems within her reach, everyone around her seems to think the last two are a bit out of her reach.

But Angie is determined. She eventually becomes initiated into a group called the Larks, a sorority-like group that supposedly does community work. It seems to all beginning to happen for her. Then in one fell swoop, she learns she has missed out on making both yearbook and cheerleading.

The last thing she can achieve is popularity. When she’s invited to a party one day, she calls Stacy’s parents and claims that there’s a Lark party. She picks up Stacy on her own to drive her to the party. Stacy is initially bewildered but seems excited at the prospect of the party.

But Stacy’s enthusiasm dies out when she learns that neither of the girls was actually invited by the party’s host. Angie has a meltdown and begins professing her admiration for Stacy. It’s all a bit…intense. Stacy gets out of the car and goes to a house to get a ride home.

Not wanting to lose out on her last chance, Angie stalks Stacy. And in the heat of the moment, murders her friend with a kitchen knife that’s conveniently in the car.

The rest of the film examines Angie’s life after the murder. Life at the school without Stacy’s toxicity is an improvement for Angie. But the guilt still gnaws at her. When she eventually confesses to her mother in a letter, all of Angie’s laundry is aired to the community for them to judge.

Tori Spelling is, as always, wonderfully wicked in her role of the mean queen bee. Losing her halfway through the film certainly is a major factor in why everything begins to feel so….slow….

I loved watching the dramatic dynamics between the girls at the school. Unfortunately, it was less interesting watching Martin shuffle her way through her guilt for the last half of the movie (who is, by the way, also very good in this).

The movie seems to have an agenda here: Angie is the real victim. She’s the victim of a society that bullied her into blindly reaching for success. Stacy’s cruelty only fed into those emotions.

But all you have to do is google Kirsten Costas’ name to remind yourself that this very young woman was real. People are complex, and sometimes movies are very bad at showing us dimensions. Sometimes we have so much fun playing make-believe, that we don’t realise the damage we’re doing.

I think in today’s current TV world, this would make a good mini-series. There’s definitely a lot to analyse here. Though Lifetime skipped that idea when they remade Death of a Cheerleader in 2019. I’d love to learn more about Kirsten’s real life and that of the girl who took it.

Also, this movie has Valerie Harper as Angie’s mom! She’s criminally underutilized in this movie. Justice for Valerie!

Wicked Wednesday: Dark Mansions (1986)

It’s Made-For-TV March, everyone! Truly a month that I look forward to every year.

TV movies are brilliant for many reasons. But one reason in particular that I love these films is the dramatic flair. Soap-opera vibes, if you will. Thunder! Lightning! Unexplained powers! And is there anything soapier than Joan Fontaine as the matriarch of a wealthy family in a TV pilot described as “Dallas meets Dark Shadows”?

That question is rhetorical.

The Drake family are incredibly wealthy and own a successful shipyard (ship making?) business. As with any well-kept family, there are cracks in the facade. The brothers bicker. A couple of the cousins are in love. And one of them just happened to mysteriously fall to her death from a cliff…only for her look-a-like to appear months later.

Shellane Victor is the newest employee of the Drake family. She’s there to be Margaret Drake’s assistant and the family biographer. When she arrives at the house, the family all react to her strangely. Almost amazed at what they see.

But the attention is soon off her when the family patriarch, Margaret’s husband, dies while out on the boat with his sons in a storm. Though his niece Noelle had already seen this coming as she has the powers of premonition. (I think.)

Shellane slowly learns the secrets of the Drake family. Some are more confusing than others. One mystery grabs her attention the most. She learns about the death of Jason’s wife, Yvette, who died falling from a cliff. She’s first told it was a suicide. But maybe it wasn’t? She later hears that Yvette might have been pushed or maybe even slipped out of her husband’s own hands.

Stranger than all of that, Shellane discovers she shares a striking resemblance to the late Yvette.

There is plenty of other storylines going on here. Lots of people sleeping with other people. That cousin romance I mentioned. Drama about the father’s will. A little something for everyone.

Though unfortunately, this one is pretty light on the horror vibes (no vampires here), there is plenty of drama to go around. I particularly loved Lois Chiles as the dastardly, scheming wife of a Drake family son. She walked straight out of a scene in Rebecca and into the 80s. You could see how well this pilot was setting up for future misdeeds. It’s a shame we’ll never see them.

The setting for the story is wonderfully gothic: a pair of mansions. One by the seaside cliffs, sitting abandoned. The other an exact replica, almost a ghost of the other. Throw that in with a wicked family and you have TV movie magic.

I’m not really sure what the point of this story was beyond the mystery of Yvette’s death (which is secondary, really). The point of the pilot was clearly meant to tempt viewers to continue watching in the future, not resolve any storylines. Frankly, that doesn’t matter too much when you get to see scene after scene of drama and gorgeous mansions.

Wicked Wednesday: The House That Would Not Die (1970)

You know how that old saying goes: nothing brings lovers and family closer together better than an old-fashioned possession.

No? Not a saying? Well it should be.

The House That Would Not Die has all the hallmarks of horror TV movies from this era. The dramatic pauses, the use of storms for even more drama and kind-of-clunky writing. So basically everything I love. The fact that this story throws in ghosts, séances and possessions means that it was completely up my alley.

The excellent atmosphere reminded me on of my favourite made-for-TV movies: Home for the Holidays. Just with a touch less lightning. So it wasn’t totally surprising to learn that they were both directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (who also directed The City of the Dead).

At the heart of both of Moxey’s films are the women. Here glamorous Ruth and her niece Sara move into an old house after one of their elderly relatives die. They both immediately take to the home and all of its old-timey quirks. Sara instantly feels at home, knowing the house almost instantly.

The two women soon meet their dashing next-door neighbour, the professor Pat McDougal. At a party at his house, they meet his young student Stan. When the other guests meet the town’s new arrivals, they soon all agree to have a séance in the new home.

In the days before the party, Sara and Stan begin to spend more time together. They find an old painting of a man and bring it to the house. When they hang it up, Pat has a rather negative reaction, feeling suddenly ill.

Despite the growing instances of strange behaviour and dreams from nearly everyone, the group continue on with the seance. Only things don’t go very well. The painting falls from the wall and crashes into the fire.

Sara’s behaviour takes increasingly strange turns. She finds herself out of bed at night, crying for help. She begins to forget things when she behaves madly (including attacking our dear Ruth).

But it’s Stan who is the first to realise that Ruth is possessed. Not only is she possessed, so is Pat, who randomly becomes violent and aggressive. Stan drags in Ruth to help research the home, which is clearly linked to the possessions. The gang all band together to discover the truth.

They soon find out that the house was once home to a Revolutionary War General named Campbell. He supposedly went mad after his daughter left. The daughter, Amanda, is clearly the spirit inhabiting Sara.

With their little information, the group decide to have another séance. This time they’re given a clue when the cellar door is blown open by the winds. While Ruth and Stan do their digging in the cellar, they discover a walled-off room.

But before they can even get upstairs, creepy Pat stops them to tell them about the new information he and Sara learned: Amanda had eloped and run away from her father.

With this new information, all the pieces begin to fall into place. The four friends all must face the truth in the room on the other side of the wall.

*DRAMATIC PAUSE*

I loved this little horror-mystery. Certainly a positive note to end another Made-for-TV March on. Sure, it’s a little hokey. But it’s also sufficiently fun with a good story.

It doesn’t hold a candle to Home for the Holidays. It doesn’t have the same punch or thrill to really make it memorable in a year’s time. But with good performances and a fun plot, it’s difficult to argue against spending 70 minutes watching this.

Wicked Wednesday: Deadly Messages (1985)

Coming into the third week of made-for-TV March, things are beginning to feel a bit more…stressful than they were seven days ago. And certainly several degrees closer to a pandemic than we were in week one.

Hell, I’ll back on this in a year’s time and think, “Oh! The Corona months!”

Anyway. It’s been a tough/weird/strange/horrible time. With my trip home to America cancelled, I’m not house-bound like everyone else until this all blows over. Thankfully, it gives me plenty of nights in to watch more movies and maybe even create more content (never going to happen).

Sometimes sitting down to watch a movie for this blog can be a big of a drag. Sometimes I get stuck with a real dud. Usually this is when I force myself to watch anything for a very specific reason. Then I can’t stop, won’t stop watching it.

But since this was an especially stressful week, I decided to allow myself to sample many options until I wound something vaguely interesting. And I found a real winner this week with 1985’s Deadly Messages.

This supernatural-ish thriller aired on ABC, but honestly it’s pretty high quality. It could be that it was directed by the deft hands of Jack Bender, whose long filmography is impressive but most importantly Killing Mr Griffin.

Much of Deadly Messages‘ fun is in reveals and secrets. Laura is a young working woman with a good boy friend and a seemingly normal life. Until one night she returns home from a date to see her roommate, Cindy, get strangled through a window.

Laura becomes instant that her roommate’s death has something to do with the Ouija board they’d found in the closet. She finds her roommate’s notes and learns that Cindy ‘spoke’ to a man named David who was killed in their very apartment in 1978.

But as Laura begins to investigate Cindy’s death, secrets about her own life begin to come to light. After using the Ouija board and fainting, her boyfried, Michael, takes her to see a neurologist. The doctor later confirms that Laura had electroshock therapy in the past. A treatment that was seemingly undoing itself.

Michael begins to look into Laura’s past and begins to learn himself that things don’t add up. Only, according to Laura, she couldn’t possibly be lying.

Deadly Messages was a very pleasant surprise. It’s twisty, turny and suitably dramatic. Half the journey is learning the (slightly) ridiculous reveals. But sometimes you just have to have a bit of cheese on your toast, right? This is a very well-acted film and despite the grainy YouTube quality, was pretty well shot.

There is a lot of exposition dialogue at the end, which makes things fizzle out instead of going out with a bang. Much of the real fun comes when Laura’s life begins to unravel. You know, as horrible as that sounds.

I’m hoping next week’s film is as much as a delight as this one. We all need a bit of cheer in these very cramped, isolated days.