The early ’70s were a great time for horror on TV. Dark Shadows opened the door for a heightened sense of fear that went beyond Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense and Scooby Doo.
1971 saw two groundbreaking events. First, Dark Shadows was cancelled by ABC. Ratings were still good, but they had been higher before parents and “morals” groups started campaigning that the horror/gothic/soap opera was scaring our precious little snowflakes after school. Many affiliates showed something else in the afternoon during the Dark Shadows spot, but later showed, usually on the weekend, all five episodes back to back during late night.
Despite that, the show was cancelled. Then Dark Shadows creator/producer Dan Curtis produced the original TV-movie, The Night Stalker.
The impact of one single little vampire movie — written by Richard Matheson, based on an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice — could hardly have been imagined by the ABC suits. For years after its premiere, Night Stalker still held the record for being the most seen show ever on television. A vampire movie. Ever.
They made a sequel, which was lackluster at best, and then a one-season monster-of-the-week TV show that is fondly remembered by geeks who were kids at that time, but was, in reality, hardly scary and a pale shadow of the original.
It cried out for a sequel, and 20-some years later, they made one — a new tv series that had nothing that the original had. It didn’t even last a season.
Night Stalker should be reimagined again — as a movie, with impact, special effects, and, more importantly, good characters and good writing.
They’ve done it now with a property I never would have thought deserved to be remade: a tv-movie from 1973 starring Kim Darby about — things — living in her chimney.
Guillermo del Toro has taken a cheesy, low-budget tv movie and turned it into what appears to be a mid-budget, spooky, atmospheric thriller — but you’ll have to go here to see the trailer.
We need more cheese. We need more of our processed ’70s cheesy shows and movies updated for today — and updated well. Not just to be popular, but to work — to capture the imagination, to recreate the feeling of awe and wonder we all felt while watching the originals.
Yes, remake Night Stalker. Again. Remake Gargoyles, a nice bit of cheese and rubber costumes and visible zippers that scared the beejeezus out of 13 year olds like me. Remake Night Gallery — and make it scary as shit. And remake Trilogy of Terror — perhaps the scariest killer doll story ever made.
But grow them up. Make them better. Not campier, not cheesier.