Killer TV: 10 Films Where TV Is The Bad Guy
Too much TV is bad for you – or so say the “adults”. Speaking for a generation of ten-year-olds out there – “so what”! But hang on a minute…
For years my childhood was underpinned with adults firing off – “Don’t sit so close to the TV” as if it was something they should say when confronted with a child enjoying the finer points of the Demon Headmaster or Andy Peters in the Broom Cupboard.
“Stop watching television and go outside in the sunshine” they’d say. Of course, once outside, any well-meaning parent can’t then take their eyes off their little darling just in case a skinny, white-haired old man commits a drive-by with a bag of Haribo hanging out the passenger window.
But take the Child Catcher out of the equation and there were still dangers present in the “sunshine”. Riding my BMX bike without the fluorescent bogey-green plastic helmet bought at Christmas by an uncle and aunt lacking any awareness to a ten-year-old’s fashion sense was dangerous enough, but what about the bullies – the older boys with their fifteen-gear mountain bikes (some even had – oh my gosh – twenty-one gears!).
No, I’d rather be in watching Pingu and then Blue Peter (with a short toilet break while – BORING – Newsround has its ten minutes of air time). But maybe the adults are right. Maybe television is bad for a child’s health. Sometimes, it can be a real killer!
“Jaws made us all afraid of the sea. Alien made us all afraid of deep space mineral ore transportation. And Poltergeist made us all afraid of television static.”
The following films make up Killer TV: 10 Films Where TV Is The Bad Guy, a list where television is almost certainly bad for your health either metaphorically, physically or both.
10. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell, 1987)
Freddy Krueger, in his third outing on film, decides to use his victim’s television set as a tool for destruction. Telling the screaming girl: “This is it, Jennifer – your big break in TV”, Freddy shows off his new penchant for one-liners. The pay-off: “Welcome to prime time, bitch.”
9. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
James Woods obviously never listened to his Mum and Dad about getting too close to the television set. In David Cronenberg’s 1983 classic Videodrome, the TV is not something to be messed with.
8. Terrorvision (Ted Nicolaou, 1986)
We all knew those 1980s satellite dishes were dodgy. But someone forgot to mention it to Stanley Putterman whose brand new dish acts as a conduit for outer space’s most evil monster to come down to earth and start chomping on limbs.
7. The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987)
Television decides to take on the man you generally don’t want to annoy. Arnold Schwazenegger has a fight with TV – guess who wins? In Paul Michael Glaser’s film, based on Stephen King’s novel, captured criminals are thrown in front of primetime television cameras for a game to the death. The bad guys are offered a glimpse of hope – win the game and claim freedom – but failure to succeed means only one thing: death.
6. Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001)
Daniel Minahan’s Series 7: The Contenders takes reality television to the extreme. Here the rules of the game are simply – six contenders are randomly chosen to battle, along with the previous series’ winner, to the death in order to win the game. The film shares similarities with The Running Man but plays down the sensationalist aspects of the game show for a more mundane, big brother-style setting.
5. The Video Dead (Robert Scott, 1987)
This classic 1980s straight-to-video horror film sees a television that only plays black and white zombie flick Zombie Blood Nightmare. Unfortunately for those unlucky enough to come across the TV’s path, the zombies have decided to leave the film and enter the real world.
4. Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998)
Hideo Nakata’s film might be more about those pesky VHS tapes but the malevolent spirit of girl Sadako needs a good old CRT television screen to crawl out of for one viscerally frightening sequence.
3. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
Peter Weir’s thoughtful indictment of reality television sees Jim Carrey give a career-best performance as Truman Burbank, the unwitting star of his own TV show. Believing his world to be real, Truman has lived his life from birth inside a huge television set. Secret cameras track his every movement while actors play his friends and family. However, Truman begins to question his perfectly constructed world threatening show creator Christof’s control over his leading man.
2. Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
This haunted house tale from director Tobe Hooper (or, if you’d believe the rumours – Steven Spielberg) sees poor little girl Carol Anne get sucked into the television set after her father builds a house above a cave where a crazed preacher led many people to their deaths.
Jaws made us all afraid of the sea. Stephen King’s It made us all afraid of clowns. Alien made us all afraid of deep space mineral ore transportation. And Poltergeist made us all afraid of television static.
1. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
Frank Hackett, a boss at TV network UBS has a dilemma on his hands. His attention-grabbing, ratings-king Howard Beale has finally gone a step too far. His fans are dwindling, his celebrity waning, his commercial appeal dissipating.
The Howard Beale Show is dead. And now the network has to do something about it despite its chief wanting Beale to remain on air. So Frank Hackett (played by Robert Duvall) believes he has no other option.
He tells his team: “Well, the issue is: Shall we kill Howard Beale, or not? I’d like to get some more opinions on that.”
Faye Dunaway’s cold, callous head programmer replies: “I don’t see we have any options, Frank. Let’s kill the son-of-a-bitch.”
…and so TV bites back once again. It can make dreams and it can break them. The moral of this story is: don’t mess with it!
Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.
Your turn – What are your favourite killer TV films? What other films should have made this list?
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