Night Visions has the unfortunate privilege of being one of the many interesting genre shows from FOX television that was under-utilized, under-advertised and ultimately cancelled without so much as a stir from the network. Rather than airing in a prime slot like October, FOX premiered the show during the middle of the summer where pretty much no one would be watching television or interested in a horror-themed anthology series.
One of the many remnants of a dying format of anthology series that once flourished in the sixties (The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits) and revived in the eighties, only to die again in the late nineties once Tales from the Crypt drew to a close, Night Visions saw Henry Rollins serve as its host. Throughout its run, Rollins would appear to introduce the two short segments for every episode – each of which packed a punch of dread and twist endings. These clever endings guaranteed a surefire wallop of a surprise for folks who were interested in something of a throwback to the days of The Twilight Zone where every episode led in to a final twist you’d never see coming.
Admittedly, the show occasionally showed a lack of effort (as made apparent by Henry Rollins’ pre-taped introductions), but compensated with an entire episode run of assorted stories that were horrifying, thought provoking and incredibly brilliant at times. With directors like Tobe Hooper and Joe Dante working on various episodes, it’s sad FOX never took advantage of the show’s appeal to horror buffs. Of all the episodes, the most interesting of the installments were the morality tales, and stories that dived right in to horror.
My favorite episode is “Neighborhood Watch” about a sheltered community in the suburbs where three friendly families spend their days enjoying their picturesque community. When they receive a notice that a convicted sex offender is moving in to the community, a nasty combination of anger, paranoia, and hysteria begin to consume their lives leading in to an incredibly shocking twist ending that you will not see coming. Here’s a few more that are noteworthy:
Dead Air: A classic “radio host gets his comeuppance” episode, where Lou Diamond Phillips plays a late night radio host who gets his kicks exploiting invalids and mentally defective callers on his show. When he gets a call from a young woman who claims she is being stalked by a psychotic killer, things take a turn for the worse when the killer decides to pay the DJ a visit. It’s probably the scariest episode of the series run.
Quiet Please: darkly comedic episode about a man, played by Cary Elwes, who retreats to the woods for the weekend to escape the noise of the city, and the looming threat of the “weekend killer.” When he meets an obnoxious old man (Brian Denney) and his dog, he realizes that finding total silence is going to be harder than he imagined. Especially when the old man seems intent on following him around and disrupting his quest for peace.
Used Car: starring Sherilyn Fenn, a woman questioning her husband’s fidelity who is struggling to conceive a child as a means of keeping her husband loyal to her. When she buys and falls in love with a used car, she begins to realize the car not only has a life of its own, but garners secrets about marriage she never thought were possible. Sad, and creepy, it’s a tale about the sins of the past coming back with a vengeance.
The Occupant: starring Bridget Fonda, this episode is about a divorced woman who is convinced there is someone else living in her house. When TV begins turning on during the night, and plates begin to show up apparently eaten from, she wonders if she’s going mad or if someone has taken up residence with her. The episode builds up wonderfully leading in to a surprise ending that’s both mind blowing and heart breaking.
The Doghouse: reminiscent of Misery, this episode stars Stephen Baldwin as a womanizing musician addicted to gambling, he seeks refuse from loan sharks in the house of a quiet woman (Jane Adams) who has an affinity for training dogs. When she nurses him back to health, he realizes that she and her vicious guard dogs have plans to “domesticate” him. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The entire run of the show garnered some really unique and creepy episodes, and while they weren’t all winners, they had a real sense of irony behind every installment.
Eventually Night Visions was taken off the air by FOX and migrated to the SyFy Channel in America, where the final two un-aired episodes were packaged together as a TV movie and re-named “Shadow Realm” sans the introductions from Rollins and the Night Visions theme song. The “movie” itself is decent, but doesn’t really offer the best of what the show was capable of. It is actually pretty forgettable, which is sad because the show had so many other episodes that worked well with horror, science fiction, and themes of spirituality.
The real shame is that the series hasn’t received a DVD release, and now just wallows in syndication, since I think a respectable release from Shout! Factory’s label Scream Factory would really help fans re-discover a series that deserves praise by horror fans.