Horror Lexicon 16: The TV Set, or Welcome to Prime Time!
For a generation of movie brat directors like Spielberg, Dante, Carpenter, or Hooper, the television represents, on a basic level, the avenue through which clips of favorite old movies make it into a new generation's works of art.
For example, in Halloween, little Lindsay watches a horror film marathon that consists of such classic gems as Howard Hawks' The Thing (1951) and Forbidden Planet (1956).
Importantly, Dante also highlights moments from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) in Gremlins to telegraph the important action of his story. Very soon, Kingston Falls (like the film's Santa Mira) becomes the fulcrum of an invasion by monstrous creatures.
This disturbing cinematic imagery, ostensibly, won't damage Carol Anne's "sight" as much as the static.
Poltergest's brilliant last shot sees the imperiled Freeling family kick a "dormant" TV set out of their hotel room, and then a long, slow camera retraction away from the offending appliance. The implication being that the family would be safe only so long as it eschewed...tv watching.
Once more, TV is an avenue for absolute horror and destruction, a social critique, perhaps of the very form. Does TV destroy children's minds, literally?
In 1988, director John Carpenter went even further in They Live. He began to see widespread "brain death" in America and he attributed it, in part, to the pervasive nature of television in our society.
In some fashion, Wes Craven's Shocker (1989) built upon Poltergeist's example, and introduced a serial killer, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) who could enter and exit from the "TV world" into different victims' homes.
In the American remake of Ringu, called The Ring (2002), the film's monster, Samara, emerged from the television -- again a portal for evil and destruction.
"Welcome to prime time, bitch," he says, and in some way, both his diabolical bon mot and particular mode of violence seems to presage the coming of reality television, in which TV introduces and then quickly disposes of the likes of Richard Hatch, Omarosa, or Justin Guarini. They all had their "big break" on the boob tube, and then got spit out.