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Blu Review – Televised Terror Volume One (Vinegar Syndrome)

Blu Release – 4/5

Are You in the House Alone?
Director – Walter Grauman (Tales of the Unexpected, The Golden Gate Murders)
Starring – Kathleen Beller (The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Godfather Part II), Blythe Danner (Paul, The X-Files), and Tony Bill (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Barb Wire)
Release Date – 1978
Rating – 3.5/5

A lot of the made for television movies from the 70s and 80s get a bad rep from genre fans but there has been so many films from that time that were very entertaining. I’m one of the biggest champions of sleazy movies but there is something fun about a horror or thriller that was made for cable. Even though they lacked nudity and gore they still find a way to entertain.

When Vinegar Syndrome announced volume 1 of their Televised Terrors box set I knew I was adding it to my collection. The three films in the set were new to me and I couldn’t wait to dig into them. The first one on the chopping block was 1978’s Are You in the House Alone?

**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a young high school student who begins to receive mysterious notes on her locker. At first she suspects a former boyfriend but as the notes grow she suspects it was someone else. Her suspicions ring true when her a friend of hers makes his way into her house and rapes her. Forced with being ostracized for telling the truth or catching him red handed she sets out to capture pictures of him harassing other women. **Spoiler Alert**

A lot of movies piggy back off other films and sometimes they are able to do it successfully. Are You in the House Alone aired in 1978 and one year later the classic When a Stranger Calls was released. Both films have similar stories but it’s easy to see that When a Stranger Calls took one aspect of the film and turned it into every parent’s nightmare while AYitHA gives the viewer a dark look into the horrors that almost every teenage girl has experienced to some degree especially during this timeframe. It’s a great film and one that pulls on your emotions. As a father of two little girls I found myself very unnerved by this one.

The acting in this one is great. Beller is a fantastic lead and does an amazing job. She carries emotions very well in the scenes and makes the story so heartbreaking. I really enjoyed her performance and I don’t think the film would be nearly as intense if someone else was cast in the role. The supporting cast does a decent enough job but the performance that really caught me off guard was from a very young Dennis Quaid who portrays a spoiled rich kid that uses his family’s position in society to get away with incredibly vile acts. I did not see that coming and he did a phenomenal job.

The story for this one keeps the viewer guessing as the story progresses. We begin the film knowing she is raped but we go back to a time before it happens where the film sets up several red herrings to throw the viewer off. It works for the most part and is a lot of fun guessing who the scumbag really is. With that being said, the red herrings and dead ends do get a little dull as the film progresses. Something new needed introduced to keep the viewers on their toes.

Finally, don’t expect to see any blood with this one. It’s character and story driven with no blood or gore for the hardcore horror fans. Overall, Are You in the House Alone? is a fun one if you give it a chance. It’s not the type of horror most of us would go out of the way for but it’s entertaining if you are open for it. I highly recommend it.

Special Features:
Region A Blu-ray
Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive
“Creating Musical Themes” – an interview with composer Charles Bernstein
Audio essay by film historian Amanda Reyes
English SDH subtitles

Calendar Girl Murders
Director – William A. Graham (The X-Files, Death of a Cheerleader)
Starring – Tom Skerritt (Alien, Contact), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct, The Quick and the Dead), and Barbara Bosson (The Last Starfighter, Murder One)
Release Date – 1984
Rating – 3.5/5

Tagline – “The fantasy girls of the month. Knocked off, one by one… January, February, March. Poor miss April”

When Vinegar Syndrome announced their first Televised Terrors box set I was extremely interested in it. Made for television horror films tend to be more tame than most other genre titles but their stories typically pull you in better than theatrical and straight to video releases. I was really interested in Are You in the House Alone? and Child in the Night but Calendar Girl Murders didn’t look like one I wouldn’t like. However, I went into this one with an open mind and really enjoyed it.

**Spoiler Alert** The film follows an adult entertainment business owner who is celebrating the success of his new calendar girls with a huge party when one of the models jumps to her death from atop the building. However, it was soon revealed that she was pushed. Not long after this more models turn up dead. The detective assigned to the case quickly gets to work and partners up with a former model to uncover who is responsible for the murders but the real killer was under his nose the whole time. **Spoiler Alert**

Honestly, Calendar Girl Murders may have been my favorite film in the set. I loved how it was more of a mystery set against the backdrop of beautiful women in swimsuits. It’s as sleazy as television can get for the mid-80s and I enjoyed it.

The acting in this one is surprisingly well done. Tom Skerritt does an amazing job at an overworked detective who is hard on crime but easy on beautiful women. I loved his character and how well be brought him to life. The supporting cast is just as entertaining which made for a very fun and enjoyable experience.

The story for this one is not really horror but it is a fun murder mystery that has that mid-80s slasher like killer reveal. In fact, this one plays out like a paint by numbers slasher minus the masked killer and memorable kills. We follow people as they are killed off by an unknown killer all with connections through the calendar models. If the film would have included bloody and gory deaths along with a memorable killer it would have been a fantastic slasher. However, the way it is it’s still an entertaining film.

Finally, we get some blood and very generic death scenes that fit the story but are very forgettable. The film focuses more on who is killing than the killings themselves. Overall, Calendar Girl Murders is a surprisingly fun mid-80s made for television movie that doesn’t bring the gore but is still entertaining enough. I highly recommend it.

Special Features:
Region A Blu-ray
Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative
Extended audio essay with film historians Amanda Reyes and Sam Pancake
English SDH subtitles

Child in the Night
Director – Mike Robe (Hollywood Beat, Nightmares and Dreamscapes)
Starring – JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Day After), Tom Skerritt (Calendar Girl Murders, Alien), and Elijah Wood (Cooties, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Release Date – 1990
Rating – 3/5

Tagline – “The secret of a grisly murder, locked in a child’s mind”

When I saw the news of the Televised Terrors from Vinegar Syndrome I was really interested in Child in the Night the most. Are You in the House Alone? and Child in the Night was the two that caught my eye but Child of the Night was the movie that sold me on the set. This 1990 made for television flick starring a young Elijah Wood looked really fun and I was digging the original poster for this. I saved it for last in my movie marathon and coincidentally it was the weakest in the set. I enjoyed it but the other two films were better in my opinion.

**Spoiler Alert** The film begins with a wealthy business owner and his son visiting his office near the marina when he is attacked and killed with the son witnessing it all. However, the son tells the police and a child psychologist that he didn’t see anything. When more murders happen by the same modem it’s a race against the clock to get the boy to talk before more innocent people are murdered. **Spoiler Alert**

Child in the Night had a poster that made me think this was going to be a slasher like film. I love the artwork and really wish the film would have been more grittier and more inspired by the slashers of the 80s. It wasn’t but it was still a well put together murder mystery.

The acting in this one is great. Skerritt is once again giving us a hardened detective that has to be stern when the times calls for it but also has a softer side. He’s a fantastic actor and I hate that I’m just now realizing that. It was also great seeing JoBeth Williams in another genre effort. Poltergeist was one of my first purchases when I started collecting horror films and I’ve always found her performances to be extremely underrated. Wood delivers a solid performance especially for his age but it doesn’t stand out like Williams and Skerritt does.

The story for this one is decent for a murder mystery but it’s not as much fun if you watch it back to back with CCM like I did. Child in the Night plays out almost like Calendar Girl Murders but with some changes to scenery and the type of characters. CCM followed Tom Skerritt as a detective who partners with a model to track down a killer who was snuffing out models and anyone else in their way. Here Skerritt partners with a child psychologist to find a killer who is snuffing out people who are associated with the business that was owned by a young boy’s son. Similar stories but I personally enjoyed CCM over CitN.

Finally, the film has blood but no practical effects or kills that you can enjoy. Just like the other two films in this collection this one is focused on story and character development over carnage. Overall, Child in the Night is the low point of the set but it’s still a fantastic watch. I still recommend this one but I wouldn’t watch it back to back with the other two films. Check it out, It’s worth your time.

Special Features:
Region A Blu-ray
Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative
Audio essay by film historian Amanda Reyes
English SDH subtitles

Written by Blacktooth

(Staff Writer) Lover of all things horror and metal. Also likes boobs and booze.

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