made-for-tv movie

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: Fantasies (1982)

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

The voice inside my head

As long as I can remember, my mom has watched Days of Our Lives. And for just as long, my mom has complained about it. My grandmother watched Touched By an Angel. My childhood friend All My Children. Though I never watched soaps myself, their power and influence still reached me through many women in my life. (The number of tragic car crashes and affairs my poor Barbies suffered!)

I’m endlessly fascinated by soap operas. When I learned that Fantasies was a TV movie slasher set around a soup, I knew this was for me.

Middleton, USA is a popular soap opera, created by Carla Webber (Suzanne Pleshette). Carla is smart and successful – and witty to boot. It’s all going her way until she receives news that the main baddy on her show has been murdered.

The owner of the network puts Carla and her writers under pressure to rewrite the show and rework the show without their villain. They do, but he’s soon killed off, too.

To get away from the drama and get thinking about the show’s new direction, Carla takes her daughter, Sandy, to their beach house. There Carla bumps into her ex-husband at a party. He’s there with his new, younger beau. Seemingly unbothered, Carla turns her attention to the detective on the case of the murders, Flynn.

Things get plenty soapy as Carla battles her two men. And sure, more actors get killed. But life carries on, right?

Until one night, Carla herself is attacked while in bed. She makes a narrow escape when a delivery man scares away the masked man.

With Carla the next target, she and Flynn are forced to figure out who the killer is – fast. There’s a whole slew of fun and campy suspects: a former star, a crazed fan, maybe even the husband! The movie gives you plenty of red herrings along the way, but this is a soap opera: clues hardly matter!

Fantasies has all the makings of being an awesome movie. However, I think its TV restrictions hinder it from being truly excellent. Any violence is toned down and the focus is mostly on relationships and romance. The soap opera aspects win out over any mystery or horror. It could be truly lush and bloody if remade for the cinema or streaming. However, any remake wouldn’t have Pleschette, which would be a shame. She’s wonderful and charismatic in this. She carries the entire movie on her back!

I also enjoyed a main character who was a bit older. TV movies are usually good at this, as they often focus on motherhood as one of the central themes. Carla was successful and strong and had plenty of her own agency. She might have admitted to writing pious female characters, but she was a little more complex than that.

This might not have been everything I wanted it to be, but I think it’s well worth the watch even if just to see Pleshette look utterly glamorous on screen.

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: Crawlspace (1972)

Somehow, even weeks later, am still in a big movie slump. I have turned my mind to cotton candy by watching endless amounts of trashy television instead. But if there’s one thing I will never say no to, it’s a made-for-TV movie.

I have a big fear of people being inside my home without my knowledge. At night, I think about the Daniel LaPlante case all too much. One of my sisters lives in one of those older houses with the attic door inside the house and it terrifies me. If you stay quiet, you can hear rattling up there. It makes me run like a little girl every time.

When I saw the synopsis for Crawlspace, I was expecting something more sinister. Something that would only fuel my nightmares. But instead, this made-for-TV movie is more about the players in the tragedy.

Alice and Albert Graves are an older couple, recently moves to the countryside from the city. They’re a lonely pair, so when they meet their handyman Robert, they invite him for dinner one night.

A few nights later, they realise that Robert is living in their crawlspace below the house. The odd man initially keeps his distance, but Albert and Alice continue to try and coax him out. They begin to see him as a son they never had but always wanted.

At Christmas, Robert eventually accepts a second dinner invitation and arrives in a suit bought just for him. The Graves are pleased, and they welcome him into their home, even though he still prefers his crawlspace.

When Robert is spotted around the Graves’ homes, the locals begin to talk. The local sheriff stops by, warning the Graves that Robert isn’t to be trusted. But Alice and Albert ignore the warnings, insisting that Robert is just a misunderstood boy.

It’s unclear what exactly is wrong with Robert if anything (though he does sort of look like the Wolfman). His odd behaviour seems to be enough to fuel the locals’ distaste for him.

Things escalate with Robert and the locals as they begin to egg each other on. Robert vandalises a store. Some local boys begin harassing the Graves at their home in return.

But it’s after this that things begin to get really tragic. The movie is hardly a horror movie. It’s really just a sad tale about a group of people who make a lot of really bad choices in the name of protecting each other.

I wish we got to know a little more about Robert’s background. There are a few hints in the objects we see in his crawlspace. As he’s not much of a communicator, there’s never a real chance for him to explain his life. Despite my desire to know more, I do think that having a mystique around him does mean that it’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not Robert was acting in good faith.

This was a nice, sad little TV movie. I think it’s not very flashy by any means, but it does tell a good story and has a great cast. Arthur Kennedy as Albert and Teresa Wright as Alice were both so compelling and believable.

If you really want to ruin any holiday cheer in the air, this is a great, stark tale with a bit of a wintery feel.

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: When Michael Calls (1972)

Cell phones are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we never have to answer a call from an unknown number. On the other, we’ve lost a whole subgenre of horror: the creepy caller.

Sorry, Wrong Number, Black Christmas, and When a Stranger Calls are all in the same pot of creepy-caller movies. And When Michael Calls is a wonderful example of the subgenre within the TV movie world. It’s a slasher mystery filled with a wonderful autumnal ambience.

One day, Helen and her daughter, Peggy, receive a surprise visit from Helen’s ex-husband, Doremus. The separated couple, unsurprisingly, has a very strained relationship. But poor Helen’s day only gets worse when she gets a strange phone call.

On the other end of the line in a person with a child-like voice. The caller claims to be Michael, Helen’s nephew who died in a blizzard years before. She knows it’s him as he calls her “Auntie My Helen”, which apparently only he called her.

Shaken by the call, Helen speaks to Michael’s older psychiatrist brother, Craig. They agree that while strange, there’s nothing they can do about it.

Then one night, Peggy answers the phone. She tells her mother that ‘Michael’ called Doc, a family friend, bad names and insinuated something bad would happen to the doctor. Helen tries frantically to contact Doc, but by the time she gets through on the phone lines, Doc is already dead.

Doremus, who might be a lawyer, is seemingly also a good investigator. After the police sweep the scene of the crime, Doremus discovers that someone has tampered with Doc’s things.

And thus begins a series of murders. All of them link to one person: Michael and Craig’s mother. Helen admits to Doremus that when the boys were younger, she had her sister committed. Her sister tried to hurt herself and the boys, so she had to be put away for everyone’s safety. Apparently, Michael had a problem with that and didn’t want to be raised by his aunt. He had run away during the blizzard, upset at ‘losing’ his mother.

So who is the real Michael? Or is it that after all these years, Michael could still be alive? Helen and those around her begin to question their reality as the situation around them becomes more deadly.

When Michael Calls is a prime example of excellent made-for-TV magic. The cast is fantastic, boasting the talents of Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley and Ben Gazzara.

Maybe I’ve seen too many gialli, but I found the twist easy to guess. That being said, it was still enjoyable watching the reveal. It might be a bit hokey for some, but I love a bit of (spoiler) hypnotism. Whacky and unbelievable as all hell – and it’s perfect television.

It’s likely that I might forget this one, as many other TV movies are a bit flashier. When Michael Calls is very atmospheric and is wonderful at building the mystery. But it is subtle at times. Still, this is a wonderful place to start. If only to watch a young Michael Douglas look very attractive in some wonderous 70s glasses.

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.