With the recent passing of Wes Craven, the Internet was flooded with examinations of his work, discussions of his significant contributions to horror cinema, and reminders that he could do other movies (“Music Of The Heart”?!). Among those conversations, I learned of a made-for-TV movie he directed called, “Night Visions.” Intrigued, and possessing both Internet access and youtube, I found the movie in no time and proceeded to check it out.
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven, Thomas Baum
Tom Mackey (James Remar) is your typical “cop on the edge.” In fact, for the first third of the film, he pretty much hits every beat – divorced, hard-drinking, short-tempered, roughs up suspects, argues with the captain (Mitch Pileggi), badge and gun on the desk, etc. He levels out a little when he gets paired with Dr. Sally Powers (Loryn Locklin), a psychologist specializing in criminal psychopathology. She’s interested in examining a killer firsthand, and Mackey’s working a case featuring a serial killer named, accurately if unoriginally, the “spread-eagle killer.” Of course, Mackey and Powers get along like oil and water, until it’s time to act like partners.
In many ways, this is by-the-numbers buddy cop stuff. Mackey’s the tough cop, Powers is the rookie, and as an added bonus, she’s also some sort of psychic… It’s not entirely clear how her abilities work. Sometimes, she just seems to “know” things, while other times, she seems “connected” to a person, and can adopt their mannerisms, patterns of speech, etc. Either way, she eventually seems to tune into the killer, she’s pursued by the killer, Mackey has to save her, and we finish with an ending that suggests that “Night Visions” might have been meant as a backdoor pilot for a series that never happened.
All of this combined should make this a terrible movie. But, I’ll admit to having fun while watching it. It’s not “so bad it’s good,” nor just bad. It’s probably not something I have plans to revisit… But, maybe I’ll keep the youtube link bookmarked… Just in case…. It’s middle of the road, with some hints of a good movie peeking out, and slap now and again of bad TV movie. (At one point, I think I saw the boom mike drift into the top of the frame in the Pileggi closeups when he and Remar are introduced to Locklin’s character.)
Oddly, and I imagine it’s partly due to Pileggi’s casting, but I felt a low-rent,“X-Files,” vibe. As they explored Powers’s, well, powers, I also got a whiff of the TV show,“Millennium,” especially as the movie first suggests that Powers is just smart and observant (season 1), then admits that she’s some sort of visionary psychic (season 2).
If you’re hanging around some Sunday afternoon, and nothing good’s on, find this movie on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z82IYZzXsDk) and check out a piece of Craven’s filmography that you’d probably never heard of, let alone seen.
Special thanks to the Screamcast for turning me onto “Night Visions.”
Director: Wes Craven
Writer(s): Diana Henstell (novel) Bruce Joel Rubin (screenplay)
If you’re familiar at all with Wes Craven’s work, you’ve probably heard of the mess that is “Deadly Friend.” By most accounts, Craven was trying to avoid being pigeon-holed as a horror filmmaker, and attempted to shoot the adaptation of Diana Henstell’s novel, “Friend,” as a supernatural/sci-fi thriller with a dark romantic element. With Matthew Labyorteaux and Kristy Swanson as the leads, a script by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost, Jacob’s Ladder) and Craven, less interested in killing sprees than the monsters of the real world, “Deadly Friend” could’ve been exactly that.
Instead, reshoots, additional gore scenes, and studio interference turned this movie into a genre mash-up that, in one moment, shows Kristy Swanson’s character, Sam, trying to connect over dinner with Paul Conway (Labyorteaux) and his mother (Anne Twomey), and later features Sam murdering Anne Ramsey by exploding Ramsey’s head with a basketball… But, despite what the trailer shows, Swanson is not, strictly speaking, a murderous teenager. She’s merely the victim of a series of tragic events.
Paul Conway is a technical genius, interested in the human brain and replicating it via artificial intelligence. As proof of concept, Paul has build BB (voiced by Charles Fleischer, most well known as the voice of Roger Rabbit) a robotic pal who is capable of learning, thinking, and making decisions. BB defends Paul from bullies, does things around the house, and as the movie demonstrates early, is willing to kill for Paul.
Eventually, BB is destroyed, Sam is fatally injured, and Paul joins his two closest friends together by placing BB’s “brain” in Samantha. As expected, things go horribly awry and the fake blood flows…
Even as mangled as this movie was, it’s still (aside from a final scene that makes NO sense unless it’s a nightmare) fun to watch. I would, however, like to see the original Craven cut. But, I’m reviewing what I saw, not what I wish could be. As such, I’d have to rate this about a five murderbots on a scale of ten, plus an additional point of esteem for the late Wes Craven.
Night Visions: Six psychic visions out of ten
Deadly Friend: Six murderbots out of ten
Night Visions: (full movie): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z82IYZzXsDk
Deadly Friend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQj2GKwKp5w