Like any other medium that dips a soon-to-be-severed foot into the horror pool, television has its highs and lows when it comes to the genre. August 8th gives us three very varied examples of “Made for TV” horror films, in terms of tone and quality, all from the first half of the 90’s.
First, on this date in 1990, I’m Dangerous Tonight aired on the USA Network. Given the title, the video cover art, and with this being approximate to the Silk Stalkings era of USA, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this isn’t a horror story, but instead a basic cable capital SOFT softcore thriller. You’d be half-right.
This is a movie about a cursed Aztec cloak that is then turned into a dress that turns its wearer into a killer. That’s… that’s an idea. It’s directed by Tobe Hooper. It has overqualified genre veterans Anthony Perkins and Dee Wallace in the cast, along with R. Lee Ermey. One of the pull quotes on the cover calls it “A nice scary movie,” which sounds like a review Hooper’s quirky, English aunt gave to a stranger in line behind her at the store. And, just because I feel this bears repeating, this was directed by Tobe Hooper. The mind behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also gave us The Aztec Cursed Cloak Dressmaker.
But Hooper wasn’t done with early 90’s TV movies. He also directed a segment in the 1993 anthology film Body Bags, along with John Carpenter.
Originally an attempt by Showtime to have its very own Tales From the Crypt style series, Body Bags was assembled out of three half-hour episodes introduced and interrupted by fourth-wall breaking segments featuring John Carpenter’s “Coroner” character. As you might expect from an attempt to follow in Crypt‘s footsteps, there’s plenty of gruesome, winking humor on display here, although the final story, directed by Hooper and starring Mark Hamill, is noticeably grimmer than the previous two. Overall, Body Bags is a solid watch, and easily the best flick of the three I’m writing about here, although that’s a bit like beating two dead men in a footrace. It doesn’t really speak to how fast you are or aren’t.
Finally, on this date in 1995, Adrienne Barbeau (Carpenter being her ex-beau; we have threads!) co-starred in an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s The Burial of the Rats that was mostly an excuse to film a softcore S&M flick. Whips, chains, ropes, busts and bondage abound in this corny Roger Corman production.