The invention of the television introduced convenient content to the masses. The nuclear family was built around the living room television set. For decades, television stood unmatched – championing the drive-in theatre, the great outdoors, eating at the dinner table, and finishing your homework right after school.
Like many fantastic discoveries, this one also comes with a few lousy side effects. Studies argue that watching too much TV can cause obesity, laziness, lower fertility rate. Over the years, horror filmmakers have played upon these concerns to create some truly interesting synopses regarding the ills of the magic entertainment box, The Television.
Here are 10 Horror Films that Terrorize with Television!
10. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Dr. Dan Challis thought he had seen everything working the late shift, until one night when a distraught man clutching a Halloween mask is admitted to the hospital. Subsequent and unfortunate events lead Dr. Challis and the man’s daughter Ellie to the small town of Santa Mira where the mask had been manufactured. The entire town lies under closed-circuit TV surveillance and the residents seem terribly unreal.
After a tour of the Silver Shamrock mask factory and a few random encounters with silent thugs who look like they could be a group of Las Vegas Kraftwerk impersonators, Challis and Ellie discover what horrors are really in-store; a planned mass exodus of children who wear the Silver Shamrock brand mask while watching the company’s TV commercial on Halloween night. What evil monster could kill millions of innocent children on Halloween night through modern latex mask technology? Can Dr. Challis and Ellie stop the television broadcasts before it’s too late?? And what kid in their right mind would be at home watching TV on Halloween instead of trick-or-treating??? The tag line on this film was ‘The night nobody came home’, making me wonder where they were all supposed to watch the commercials?
9. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Henry and his pal Otis are in the market for a new television set. Otis had gotten so fed up with the old rabbit ears on his previous set that he kicked the screen in. They soon find themselves in a seedy back-alley television store where customers are usually not very welcome to come in and shop. After the pair’s unusual demeanor yields lousy results in haggling the rude and unfriendly clerk for a $50 dollar COLOR set, Henry decides it is time to take the old black and white cheaper model and smash it over the TV peddler’s head. In his nicest serial killer voice calmly says; “Otis, plug it in”. This brutal television scene stands out on top in my demented memory banks.
8. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
In Dream Warriors, aspiring actress Jennifer Caulfield just wanted to sit on the couch, burn herself with a cigarette, catch up on some tube. When she decides to study up on her acting skills with a little late night television, she is alarmed when late night TV personality Dick Cavett gets a frog in his throat, turns into Freddy Krueger and vulgarly insults Zsa Zsa Gabor. When the TV signal in the psyche ward she occupies immediately goes south, she is quick to see what she can do to get her nightly entertainment restored. Transformer-like arms shoot from the sides of the wall-mounted TV making things more interesting, lifting her from the ground. We then see Mr. Krueger’s protruding head rise from the top of the set and Jennifer has the 3-D experience of her life.
7. Poltergeist (1982)
In Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, The Freeling family apparently love going to bed with their television on. As the programming day concludes with the usual patriotic sign-off, the TV static sets in and this is where the fun starts. The Freeling’s youngest child, daughter Carol Anne, becomes mesmerized in the abrasive television screen feedback. Things escalate after a ghostly vapor forming a skeletal arm comes through the TV screen, catapulting Carol Anne’s strange interest in the disruptive signal. Carol Anne refers to the new entities in the home as “The TV People”.
After an intense storm rocks the house, culminating in the spooky old tree practically eating her brother Robbie, Carol Anne disappears. Her only trace is a faint voice calling for help seemingly coming from within the television screen. The family enlists a team of paranormal researchers to monitor the house through CCTV in attempt to bring back Carol Anne, and to flush out the poltergeist.
6. Ringu (1998)
In Ringu, a mysterious VHS video tape has been making the rounds. Said to be cursed, watching the tape will apparently result in the viewer immediately receiving a phone call from an unknown source stating that they will be dead in one week. When a couple watch the tape together, they then embark on a one week mission to decrypt the images presented on the television screen in an attempt to save their own lives, before it is too late. This stylishly crafted horror film is so unnerving that it ignited the phenomenon that is now commonly known as J-Horror, sparking sequels and many imitations as well as an American remake series. With an unknown force being seemingly transmitted through the television, the creep factor in this remarkable low-budget Japanese horror film is abundant.
5. TerrorVision (1986)
Stanley Putterman is setting up a brand new Do-It-Yourself satellite dish in his family’s backyard, coinciding with the planet Pluton’s sanitation department’s scheduled release of a garbage monster into its star system. The intergalactic trash heap beam erroneously ping-pongs its way through space, and ultimately lands right in the Putterman’s new dish. The garbage monster is now trapped in the television signal at the Putterman’s home, showing its grisly eyeballs on the TV screen prompting the young Sherman Putterman and his conspiracy minded, lizard tail farming Grampa to take action and defend the awkwardly adorned homestead. Grampa of course has a fortified bunker on the premises, and the horrific comedy ensues.
When the monster releases itself from the TVs in the home, Grampa is immediately melted down to a cat barf puddle on the carpet. Sherman’s sister Diane and her metalhead boyfriend O.D. come home to find the mess and help Sherman not become a rug stain himself. Fictional horror movie host Medusa comes by after her late night stint on the local television station to see what the commotion is for herself, making this goofball movie even weirder. A touch of E.T. meets Fright Night, but not really. Make up effects by wizard John Carl Beuchler adds a wonderful cherry on top of this 1980’s horror dessert.
4. They Live (1988)
A mysterious drifter aptly named Nada wanders into town and quickly realizes that something very strange is afoot. A TV hacker has disrupted the regularly scheduled program with a bearded man warning of a big alien takeover. The bearded man in the broadcast states that television transmissions are eliminating the human race’s subconscious, turning all of us into thoughtless accomplices. While most shrug this broadcasted warning, Nada notices other subtle inconsistencies in the immediate environment surrounding him. Nada enlists his fast friend Frank, and the duo are set (pun intended) to take on the legion of alien entrepreneurs who are making our earth their “third world”.
The aliens look human to most, to those unaware and without specially made sunglasses. Through subconscious mind control, humans everywhere have been unknowingly forced to OBEY, SUBMIT, WATCH TV and MARRY AND REPRODUCE. While this film is more of a science fiction/action fare, its poignant and possibly even prophetic subject matter makes this John Carpenter film very scary.
3. V/H/S (2012)
A somewhat bumbling group of A Clockwork Orange-esque burglars are hired by persons unknown to steal a certain VHS videotape from a dark house which happens to have its insides corroded with numerous VHS cassettes. While there, they find an old man in his favorite armchair, possibly deceased, “watching” a mountain of television sets all with static and video feedback spilling into the bleak room. After this discovery, an avalanche of video transmissions entice our voyeurism by playing a few selections from the pile. From a blood-barfing hotel room porno-demon, to a digital stalker in the woods hunting innocence like if Predator was the killer in the Friday the 13th films, the virtual VHS format used in this nifty little indie film really puts you in the role of a removed television viewer. Though, the array of seizure-inducing vertigo camerawork might be enough to make you want to kick your own real TV set in.
2. The Video Dead (1987)
A package containing a television set meant for the “Institute for the Study of the Occult” mistakenly arrives to the home of Mr. Jordan (played by none other than The Greasy Strangler himself, Michael St. Michaels), a “pretty famous writer”. The TV set has a mind of its own, turning on by itself to the horror film Zombie Blood Nightmare. The zombies emerge from the screen, leaving a trail a blood and guts all over the house and neighborhood. Jeff and his sister Zoe move into the house a few years later, rediscover the TV in the attic, and with the help of a militant Texan named Joshua Daniels, they take on the legion of zombies in their own personal blood nightmare.
1. Videodrome (1983)
David Cronenberg’s 1983 classic mind-melter Videodrome is perhaps the quintessential “Television gone bad” movie. In the film we follow the exploits of Max Renn, the president of Civic TV’s controversial cable channel 83. When a show devoted to to torture and murder called “Videodrome” is picked up on the pirate satellite, Renn becomes instantly obsessed with it. Soon Renn’s reality becomes very thin, morphing with the images as presented in the various Videodrome segments. Once presented with a virtual reality headset, the lines of what is real and what is a hallucination become very blurred.
With lines like “The television is the retina of the mind’s eye” coupled against the plethora of screens galore, Videodrome’s subversive commentary on a society on the brink of technological advancement through televised media puts this film at the top of the tube chain.
Those are our picks of 10 Horror Films that Terrorize with Television! How’d we do? Can you think of any other horror flicks that came from the tube?