I’ve always dismissed the TV movie as pop culture filler. Sure, there are classics like THE NIGHT STALKER and DUEL, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. And beyond the allure of B-level stars slumming it on the small screen, TV movies were a product that had a place in their time, but now existed principally as a curio. They weren’t worth wasting 90 minutes on, right?
ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? proved me wrong.
Lovingly curated by TV movie obsessive Amanda Reyes, the book is a wall to wall crash course in the importance of TV cinema. The films themselves can be great, middling, or lame, but the book does a great job at highlighting their most important elements – from their cultural significance to the interesting things they were doing with the medium. Did you know that DEATH CAR ON THE FREEWAY is feminist? Or that that the THE RAPE OF RICHARD BECK was the first widely seen films to deal with male sexual assault? Or that the USA NETWORK had their own empire of original Film Noirs? ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? is ground zero for new areas of the cinematic world one to explore. I got to learn about new filmmakers, new sub-genres and a huge list of films that I have to check out. The only other form of media I remember doing that on a regular basis is SHOCK CINEMA magazine – and that’s because they review a lot of TV movies!
The book begins with a number of fascinating essays on topics like Eco-Horror on the Small Screen or a Retrospective on the TV Films of Wes Craven, before jumping into the meat of the book – an alphabetical listing of every important (and not so important) TV film with biographical info (including air dates) followed by a review penned by great contributors like Lee Gambin, Kier-La Janisse and Motern Media member Tom Scalzo. It’s refreshing to read people dissect films while being aware they were made on razor tight schedules and censorship blockades, and finding the good in them none the less. And while I’ve heard Amanda Reyes say she has no interest in writing negatively about a film, her contributors don’t seem to have any qualms about it! If someone really thinks a TV movie is a stinker, they break down exactly why it fails to live up to its premise while still find unexpected directions to approach it from. Plus, every review has the potential to reveal a sobering fact. I had no idea that William Shatner played the villain in an adaptation of THE HOUNDS OF BASKERVILLES!
In a TV landscape that is all about prestige television that has forgotten the 90 minute film (beyond the endless Hallmark Christmas productions) ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? is essential. These are films that could easily be lost to the fickle memory of time, so I’m glad that people like Amanda Reyes is keeping them in the present.