OK, that makes no sense, but look! The description:
A Colorado family man fears an escaped mental patient who killed his first wife and son.Look again! The cast, honey, the cast: Genie Francis of General Hospital! Leigh McCloskey of Dallas! Marcy Walker of Santa Barbara! Victoria Wyndham of Another World! It's like Battle of the Network Soap Stars from Stacie's Childhood up in here. Now, normally I don't review these sorts of movies, but I thought the words "escaped mental patient" and "killed" might merit Terror in the Shadows the ol' Final Girl treatment. Besides, in the end, I can do whatever I want.
Right off the bat, I learned a little bit about prejudice from this film. See, after reading the description, I assumed that the cuckoo nutso in question would be some dude. Imagine my simultaneous delight and deep deep shame when Terror in the Shadows opened in an asylum and said cuckoo nutso turned out to be Marcy Walker of television's Santa Barbara. Lesson learned? Vengeful mental patients can be either gender...or perhaps, even both. Or neither!
Marcy Walker is Christine. Christine is crazy. Christine escapes the hospital by hiding an I.V. pole in her jammie jams and then using it to conk out a guard. Within minutes she's hitchhiking her way outta Albany, New York and telling "Timmy" that she's coming for him. I loves me some soap stars acting crazy.
Christine makes it to Ohio and gets picked up by some sad-sack woman who has no one in the world to love her. Christine knows an opportunity when she sees it and, having had enough of the whole thumbing a ride thing, conks the woman with a big rock and steals both her car and her identity. Yes folks, Christine is all about the conking.
Meanwhile, in Colorado...
Leigh McCloskey of television's Dallas and Genie Francis of television's General Hospital are Alex and Sarah Williams, who have been happily married for about a year. Alex is a high school teacher, Sarah owns a coffee shop, and their biggest worry is that Sarah's son Brian likes scary stuff. Horror movies and ghost stories are off-limits; they're damaging, you know...and that's so true- I mean, look at me. Reading Famous Monsters of Filmland as a child seriously fucked me up, y'all. I can barely function and remain civilized.
Alex gets a call notifying him that Christine has escaped and Sarah is all "Huh? Who's Christine?", so Alex decides to come clean about his past in delicious TV-movie fashion. See, originally he told Sarah that his first wife and baby son died in a car accident, but that was such a lie! Their son was adopted, and the birth mother was Christine- a real nutcase who didn't remember that she gave the child up for adoption. Convinced her child had been kidnapped, Christine killed Alex's wife and then managed to drop the baby before she could make her getaway. The baby died and Christine got shipped off to the asylum. Alex thought that was the end of the story, but now Christine is coming to get him,
Christine makes it to Colorado in record time and has no trouble finding Alex and his family. When I say "record time", I'm not kidding- Christine is in the Williams house and there's still a good hour and a half remaining in the film...I guess she's waiting for the right time to strike or whatever rather than going into Operation: Get 'Timmy' all willy-nilly. All willy-nilly, I say. She hides out in their basement, sneaking upstairs at night to stare at Brian and pilfering cans of tuna to survive, all the while looking sullen and crazy.
In order to "get closer" to Brian, Christine wrangles herself a job at Sarah's coffee house. Here we meet Kay (Victoria Wyndham), who runs the shop with Sarah. I immediately peg her as The Main Character's Friend Who Is Always Suspicious Of The Too-Good-To-Be-True New Person And Will Go On To Discover The Too-Good-To-Be-True New Person's Secret And Therefore Will Be Killed Before She Can Notify Her Best Friend About Her Startling Discovery. Julianne Moore in Hand That Rocks the Cradle, anyone? Really, if you've seen one of these thrillers, you've seen them all- not that I'm complaining.
Alex receives another call from the police, this time letting him know that a body was found in Ohio and they're sure it's Christine. But we know the truth- we know the body is not Christine, but rather it's the sad-sack that Christine conked! Don't let your guard down, Alex and Sarah! The streets of Colorado still aren't safe!
Alex and Sarah do let their guard down, however, and brazenly decide to go out to dinner. Brian gets the babysitter to let him watch a horror movie: Bloody Zombies. When we see footage from "Bloody Zombies", however, it's actually George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. While I gave myself props for my mad recognizing skillz, the moment served as a sad reminder that one of the greatest horror films of all time is in the public domain for people to do with as they please. Countless inferior DVD releases and clip usage galore, and Romero doesn't see a dime (and yes, I'd feel bad for John Russo as well, but then he went and released that horrendous '30th Anniversary Edition' with all the new footage, so John Russo can suck it. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh. I've met him and he's very nice, but still). Anyway, Christine, listening to the zombie movie madness goings-on through an air vent, gets peeved that "her son" is watching a horror film- "Little boys shouldn't watch horror!" What the fuck is with these people and the condemning of the horror? Pfft, like Christine is one to talk, what with the whole stabbing and baby-dropping and the various conkings. In a righteous maternal fury, Christine cuts the power and heads upstairs...where she...oh god, this was so scary...manages to take the tape out of the VCR without anyone seeing her! BRR! A chill of fright went up my spine even now, just typing about it.
Meanwhile, back at the coffee shop...
Kay does indeed find out about Christine's secret...guess how? Yes! Via a newspaper clipping that Christine keeps in her purse! How awesome is that? Much as I predicted, Kay's discovery leads to her demise when she meets the business end of...err, well, that's a mystery. See, this is a modern-day made-for-TV film, so when push comes to shove all we see is Christine turning off the lights in a, uh, threatening fashion and that's that. The next day Sarah finds Kay's body in a pool of blood, so we can assume that Christine made with the conking yet again.
At this point, I'm thinking that it's time for Christine to make her fucking move already and take Tim- err, Brian away or whatever the hell it is she intends to do. Lo and behold, she takes my advice! Christine volunteers to take Brian out for a while so Sarah can rest and recover from The Death of Kay. Then she sets her plan of evil in motion by slipping Brian a milkshake mickey. Oh, the deviousness!
The police have finally figured out that the body found in Ohio is not Christine, and they call Alex yet again to let him know...and then Terror in the Shadows becomes a non-stop white-knuckle roller coaster thrill ride you'll never forget (that's totally my bid to get quoted on the DVD case)!
Alex goes searching for Christine and Brian! There's a sudden thunderstorm! Alex finds them and tries to convince Christine that Brian is not Timmy! Christine gets her conk on yet again and Alex is down for the count! Brian wakes up and wonders where he is! Sarah discovers Christine's secret basement hidey-hole! Christine inexplicably returns to the Williams home! Sarah and Christine have a hee-lar slo-mo fight! They move their fight outside into the relentless pouring rain! Alex returns and runs over Christine, ending her reign of lite terror! Brian calls Alex 'dad' for the first time and everyone is super psyched, hugz all around, the end.
Well, despite the absolutely blinding mega-watt star power attached to Terror in the Shadows, I have to admit that it's a (not at all unenjoyable) bit of a letdown. There's simply not much terror to be found anywhere. Marcy Walker plays a decent cuckoo nutso, but she's not really given much of a chance to actually do anything. She spends her time hanging out in the basement with her ear pressed to a heating duct, listening to the Williamses, and then when she makes her way upstairs in the dead of night she doesn't seem particularly threatening- unless staring and cooing weirds you out, which I guess depends on who's staring and cooing. Her bid to get 'in' with the family and get closer to Brian is pretty lame as well- Christine is no Peyton Flanders, if you can dig it. But then again, who is?
Like I said, though, the film is still fun to watch. The acting is what you'd expect from a bunch of soap stars, and the plot adheres to the tried-and-true thriller formula. Again, it's a contemporary made-for-TV film, so it's no Home for the Holidays or Dark Night of the Scarecrow; it's bland and unhorrifying, so you most likely won't see much of its ilk here again, unless I change my mind. I am a woman, after all, and changing our minds is what we do. Men never do that sort of thing. That's why men still think the earth is flat.
Regardless of whether or not the Lifetime flicks show their faces at Final Girl again, that doesn't mean I won't still be watching this sort of crap. Next up: Joan Van Ark of television's Knots Landing in...With Harmful Intent!