The Kindertrauma Castle just got HBO in anticipation of TRUE BLOOD, I have a stack of unwatched DVDs acquired from a horror convention and Netflix Streaming continues to taunt me with its well of obscurities so why do I, when the world’s asleep, continue to slide down the YouTube flume? It’s just that there is so much hiding out in that joint that you can’t find anywhere else! Physical copies of many of these gems are hard to come by and I’ve learned the hard way that anything found on YouTube must be quickly viewed as it could disappear back into the nowhere zone forever without warning. Now that so many once elusive titles are just a click away from your door, YouTube is like the last uncharted forest for those of us who remember and mourn the thrill of the hunt. Television movies especially sing to me like sirens and stumbling across a good one that I’ve missed is like stepping into a comfy time portal.
Going into DEADLY MESSAGES (1985) all I knew was that it stared that lady from ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? (KATHLEEN BELLER) and it involved a Ouija board. No gamble there, by merely existing this movie poured milk on my flakes. How could I resist such an innocuous title? DEADLY MESSAGES is just too perfect. BELLER is Laura Daniels, a deliciously spazzy sprite who witnesses a murder and is routinely dismissed by the police. No matter how many times a guy with a hunting knife attacks her, there’s just never enough evidence from the encounter for anyone to not think she’s a hysterical nut. Confiding in her Ouija board provides little solace, as the planchette seems to side with her stalker by saying, “I am going to kill you!” All of this is pretty routine and vaguely hilarious and thankfully takes place during the Christmas season.
Then things take a turn for the amazing. Laura is fired from her job when none of her references pan out and then her long-suffering boyfriend Michael (MICHAEL BRANDON) is told by her doctor that during a brain scan it was discovered that she has been the recipient of shock therapy! Michael confronts her with this info in a restaurant decorated with ROBERT LONGO paintings but she, with her shirtsleeve dangling in spaghetti, insists she has no idea what he is talking about. Next, at a bookstore Michael discovers a series of Nancy Drew like mystery books with a heroine named Laura Daniels. All of the fictional character’s exploits resemble the stories he’s been told by Laura and it appears her entire identity is a big fat lie! Laura insists that she is on the up and up but when her investigation leads her to a mental hospital and the head nurse greets her with “Welcome home!” it’s obvious that the person who knows the least about Laura is she herself (the revelation in considered alarming enough to warrant the coveted HITCHCOCK zoom. ) There’s an explanation of sorts but you’re not getting it from me.
What can I tell you, DEADLY MESSAGES is as silly and implausible as the day is long. I don’t care because it’s damn entertaining too. It makes perfect sense to me that the director (JACK BENDER) and writer (WILLIAM BLEICH) went on to do the superior T.V. movie THE MIDNIGHT HOUR too. Both films have a very cinematic feel for something made for the small screen and are host to loads of splendid atmosphere. As DEADLY MESSSAGES plows towards its climax it’s all howling winds, blowing leaves and over the top musical cues and who can ask for more? It neatly transforms into a different type of movie altogether and I was kind of stunned that something so typical at the starting gate ended up so wonderfully off the wall and quirky. Considering its somewhat hokey woman in peril premise it impresses with several aggressive set pieces, a sneaky sense of humor and a penchant for keeping the viewer guessing. Cliches abound (including DENNIS FRANZ showing up as a cop!) but DEADLY MESSAGES is most fun when it refuses to go by the book.
NOTE: For even more on DEADLY MESSAGES jump on over to TV movie central, our pal AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s MADE FOR TV MAYHEM!
Thanks for the linkage!
Love your review of DM. I also think it’s got a “big” feel to it, and I thought it was a theatrical when I first stumbled upon it. I love Beller and Brandon, btw. They are so good in this silly little film that I just enjoy more and more with each viewing!
I’m so glad you mentioned the video dating service job & the very eighties Cindy. The part that I felt was hardest to swallow was the extremely unprofessional mental hospital! But breaks from reality kind of suite this movie well. Once you get to the wacky motel owners watching “The Tingler” you kind of realize how much fun they were having with the material.
Thanks for watching this with me A, as usual you caught a bunch of cool stuff I missed! Since The Midnight Hour made it to DVD maybe there’s a chance that this one will too someday. It’s a keeper.
I’ll add this to my YouTube bookmarks – which are almost as long as my Netflix queues. And I don’t even review movies!
Thanks for another cool rec.
I am in love with this Youtube channel called TERRORTVLAND!
Whoever runs it is amazing.
I just figured out if I watch the movie in a playlist, then I don’t have to keep restarting the videos and they will play in order by themselves..
I have a feeling you’ll dig this one. It’s perfect for the wee hours.
Yeah – I actually subscribe to TVTERRORLAND (and 70sHorrorRealm) – to my great chagrin. I usually bookmark them cause my pea brain forgets so easily these days. But I think it might also have something to do with hoarding. 🙂
So if you are familiar w/ TVTERRORLAND then maybe you know the answer to a burning question I’ve had for a while now. How is it that they are able to upload ENTIRE movies? And if they can do it why doesn’t everybody else? I am totally baffled by that. And I love them for it.
I just noticed that what I said wasn’t too clear. I meant that they sometimes upload whole movies in one shot – instead of 10 minute segments. I wish everybody would do it that way and I wonder why others don’t.
I didn’t see there were full movies unsegmented too! Hopefully that will be the wave of the future!
Whoever is responsible for that channel does a great public service! So much good stuff there!
Certain YouTube “director” accounts from before 2007, or “partners” (that I assume bring in lots of revenue) have no limits on length. But those accounts are usually original content. So I think you’re right that these could be unavailable at any time if the wrong person finds them! But so many of these old movies have had their rights mismanaged and not properly secured that there may not be anyone with the authority to protest.
Otherwise everyone was limited to only 10 minutes (technically 11 minutes) until almost a year ago when that limit was just recently raised to 15 minutes. So that’s why!
Ah, that makes sense. So by design really Youtube wants to keep the clips at a limited length. I think you’re right too that some of the movies are so obscure that the owners have lost track of them. I saw he has Terror at the Red Wolf inn” on there and I know that one is public domain.
I also saw they have DYING ROOM ONLY anyone who has not seen that one check it out! I think I’ll be reviewing that one soon, it’s so good.
Great movie… I remember recording this onto VHS when it originally aired and loving it.
A few years back I found a DVD boot copy online.
One of my favorite ‘Trauma’ actresses Sheri Stoner of Reform School Girls infamy makes a wonderful cameo as the psychic friend in the opening scene.
Also the wonderful, pulsing, electronic score is by none other than Brad Fidel of Terminator fame.
Hunt this down on DVD if you can find it, you’ll not be disappointed in this 80’s TV treasure.