This episode of the Horror TV Shows We Miss video series was Written and Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Adam Walton, Produced by John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
The Chiller Channel was a huge gateway for me. I had been exposed to whatever my mom watched previous to that, or whatever weird shit I found at 2AM… it’s more than you think. Chiller brought me the things I missed out on when they originally aired. One of those is Night Visions.
Night Visions originally aired in 2001, though it was meant to air the year prior, but one of our previous series, Freakylinks took its place. I’m not upset about this– Freakylinks was the series we deserved. Then on July 6th, 2001, brooding punk poet and man of many black tees, Henry Rollins entered our homes through the small screen. He’d probably give me shit for using the word brooding. I do love me some Rollins poetry though. If you are familiar with Uncle Hank, you know he is more intimidating than terrifying. More on that in a moment…
Night Visions was an anthology series created by Dan Angel and Billy Brown. Angel has certainly dabbled in some of the more noteworthy of the genre from John Carpenter’s Body Bags to Goosebumps to The X-Files. Then on the other hand, Brown has just as many credits and many of the same as his partner in crime. Brown has tag teamed on many of R.L. Stine’s TV projects. I get it. If Stine called me up to work on literally anything, I would be there. Horror fangirly dreams aside, Night Visions was pretty stacked for the given budget. They had actors like Timothy Olyphant, Thora Birch, Cary Elwes, Malcolm McDowell, Miguel Ferrer, Natasha Lyonne, Pam Grier, Amanda Plummer, and Aidan Quinn. You have writing and directing talent that includes Jose Rivera, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, and Keith Gordon. This sounds amazing so far, right? Right.
I think the series often getting mixed up with the likes of Outer Limits, Twilight Zone (the newer ones), and to some extent, Beyond Belief is a bit of an injustice. Unfortunately it didn’t get the fair chance it originally deserved. There was a bit of overlap as those 3 shows were running around the same time. The showrunners had a clear idea of what they wanted the series to be, and it just quietly slipped through the cracks. First starting with Fox, who thought it was strong, but also wanted to add their flair. Which brings us back to Uncle Hank. It wasn’t originally intended for the series to have an actual host, if anything, it would be something more of a voiceover/narrator. The network actually made it a make or break situation– they either had a host or they had no show. Apparently, Gary Oldman was interested in taking on the role, but the studio pushed ultimately to have Rollins who they had been courting so to speak. Rollins was supposed to have a recurring role on X-Files and instead they got him for this. Rollins liked the idea of being a Rod Sterling, we all do, so I can’t blame him. It irks me slightly that some viewers are critical of having Rollins as a host. I think it’s actually one of the more memorable things about the series.
I’m going to spoil these a little throughout so if you’ve never seen this series, maybe skip then circle back to this part when you’ve done the deed.
A View Through the Window (Ep 3): This episode trips me the hell out, much like that Monsters episode, The Waiting Game. I wanted to start with this one because I think it’s an episode that everyone references when it comes to the tops in anthology horror. From the beginning, you have no idea what’s going on. I spent most of the time with my wheels spinning. I really wanted Bill Pullman to get his happy ending, and I naively thought this was achievable. The tale is based on a short story called Window from Bob Leman. Pullman plays Major Ben Darnell, a Physicist Army Major who is brought to the middle of a desert on a special assignment. When Ben gets there, he finds what appears to be a one-way window with a view to a family on a prairie, having split with his wife losing his child, he begins to romanticizes a life he could still have. The army is trying to break through the window, and he finds that at certain times the barrier breaks… and that’s all you need to know at this point. Pullman himself directed this one and I think he did a rather lovely job in regards to the imagery and how the story is portrayed on screen. I have a feeling that several of you have had nightmares about this one.
The Maze (Ep 11): I pretty much adore everything about this episode, and I think a big reason why has to do with the fact that it parallels my own dreams. Do you ever have that? Even more bizarre that it’s Tobe Hooper’s vision and this is not the first time this has happened with him. The idea that this maze serves as a portal through time is kind of great on several levels. I didn’t think that the episode would go where it did a couple of times, and you’re thrown off immediately. It starts with Amanda Plummer– just envision me pointing at my TV like Rick Dalton. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a DVD or DVD player in exchange for a date. It’s like a white van candy scenario for cinephiles. Thora Birch is an awesome lead, and definitely a legend amongst the spooky, cynical gals. The episode also utilizes liminal Horror before we coined the phrase. The ending serves as a bittersweet reminder to us all.
Bitter Harvest (Ep 8): Who is one of the all-time creepiest dudes? My number one guy. You likely will not guess on the first, or probably second and third tries– it’s Jack Palance. I mean, Torture Garden, Alone in the Dark, Craze, and this episode. When I was little, I had this irrational fear of old people, and thanks Jack Palance for reminding me. I think that’s kind of the beauty of Palance as an actor. He’s intimidating and his voice makes you feel like crawling under your blankie. In the episode he plays Jake, the neighbor on the farm to Brendan Fletcher’s character, Shane, who keeps trespassing to fish in his pond. One day the old man, Jake catches him and while trying to chase him, Jake slips into a running wood chipper and loses both of his arms. Instead of telling Shane’s parents that he’s the reason behind the accident, he tells them that he was fishing in his pond and in exchange for this wants Shane to help him around the farm. What Shane doesn’t know is that the old man is pushing for a little karma. There’s so many unsettling moments in this and the relationship between Fletcher and Palance only elevates the tension. The ending is f*cked, but the roller coaster of emotions that you’re taken on are a delightful thrill.
Patterns (Ep 13): I feel like I would fail you all if I left this episode off the list. Another reason we’re choosing it has to do with the chemistry between the two actors, similar to why I chose Cutting Cards in our Tales from the Crypt episode. In this case you get Malcolm McDowell and the late and extremely great, Miguel Ferrer. The focal point of the episode revolves around Martin, portrayed by McDowell, who must persuade psychiatrist Dr. Dan Critchley, played by Ferrer, that his tics are the key to preventing the world from ending. Now if I’m being truly honest, Cutting Cards edges this one out because Walter Hill. Writer Phillip Levens does make this one worth the watch, but it feels like it needed more time. Levens wrote and served as story editor on some of my favorite Smallville episodes so he stays in my good graces forever. The final ten minutes of the episode stand out as the most powerful, and McDowell’s closing line leaves you thoroughly satisfied.
The Occupant (Ep 6): This is one I missed on the first go around. I’m kinda glad I did because I think younger me would have been scared to be in the house alone. Well, adult me actually got pretty freaked too. Even though the whole alone in the house thing is not new to Horror, it still plays with you after, if it’s done well. Bridget Fonda, who I dearly miss seeing on-screen, plays Mary, a single woman who believes someone else is living in her home. This is a bit of a different twist on, there’s someone inside the house. No, it’s not some psychotic British guy or some college freshman. I think the story is really good at building tension and revealing the truth slowly. It keeps the surprise twist hidden until the end, which makes it super interesting to watch and keeps you hooked until the big reveal. Can I also add that anytime anyone is hiding in a closet in a Horror movie my blood pressure automatically goes up? You think that after seeing this scenario play out several times that you would have some sort of expectations, but the expectation is that you’re just going to fall for it all over again. God I love this genre.
For this series, having only one season, I must admit that I love all the episodes. Which ones are your favorites?
Where to Watch:
If you seek it out, you will find it. Want something more physical? Naw. You get nothing. Can we go back to our early 2000s roots and just burn it on a DVD-R? I’m somewhat surprised this never got a physical release, and also never went to streaming. Should I blame Fox? I have no problem with this.
How it Ended/Where are we now?:
With Night Visions getting moved from Fox to Sci-Fi mid-season and ending with a weird anthology movie which was just the last few episodes minus a host, we should have known that a second season was not in the cards. I will be forever grateful that it went into syndication on Chiller though. There are episodes I feel like I may have caught on Fox, but I remember watching it in its entirety on Chiller. Fox didn’t know what they had, which is not a surprise from a network that will either pull good shows or run them into the ground. Remember when Fox was a genuinely great network? How long ago was that?
Night Visions didn’t pull any punches. For what they had to work with, they left lasting impressions with the tales they presented each week. The great tragedy of Night Visions was that we had such a strong start and never got another season.
A couple previous episodes of Horror TV Shows We Miss can be seen below. If you’d like to see more, and check out the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/horror-tv-shows-night-visions/