“Made for TV” is not a badge of honor as far as movies are concerned, but these six horror films made it work (and scared the pants off of me in the process).
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
John Newland’s terrifying take on a haunted house made its television debut in 1973 on none other than Disney-owned ABC. While it was probably aimed at a younger audience, it’s held up surprisingly well, and its influence is still felt to this day. As a child, visionary director Guillermo del Toro was so taken by the film that he produced his own, big screen version of it over thirty years later.
I couldn’t count on both hands the number of Stephen King stories that have been adapted for film and TV. With such a bulk of work, it’s not surprising that some are great, and others are outright terrible. The Langoliers is luckily among the former category. While the 1995 CGI is sadly lacking, the story is nonetheless compelling, original, and very terrifying.
The Woman in Black
The Woman in Black is a 1989 television drama based on the novel of the same name by Susan Hill. It was an unexpected hit, both with audiences and critics alike, eventually garnering four BAFTA awards. The film’s surprising success led to a big screen re-adaptation of sorts starring none other than Daniel Radcliffe in 2012.
Okay, two Stephen King books on the same list is cheating a little, but It is one of the best horror stories of all time, big screen or small. The three hour film was released as a two-part miniseries on ABC, and on a personal note, absolutely terrified me as a child. Let’s face it, even today killer clowns are pretty horrifying. Both Guillermo Del Toro and Cary Fukunaga have expressed an interest in directing a big screen remake, so it might not be long before our adult selves can be traumatized all over again.
John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns
Masters of Horror was a television series that first aired in 2005. The show featured short films by directors including John Carpenter, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Takashi Miike, and John Landis. John Carpenter’s entry in particular was especially noteworthy. The film follows a rare films dealer who is asked to find a semi-mythical print of a movie. The film was lost after it caused everyone in attendance of its first screening to be driven into a murderous rage. Aside from the awesome meta implications of such a film actually existing, Carpenter managed to bring all of the finesse and subtlety of a big screen classic to television, proving once again that he is truly a master of horror.
Ages before he became the directing icon he is today, Steven Spielberg was just a struggling filmmaker looking for his big break. Prior to this film, Spielberg only had experience directing a few episodes of television, namely a segment on Night Gallery. His first attempt at a feature was Duel, a classic tale of man versus killer truck. The made for TV film, based on a story by Richard Matheson, impressed Universal so much that it led to Spielberg getting the job to direct The Sugarland Express. The rest as they say, is history.