Main cast: Morton Downey Jr (Horton Rivers), Dorothy Parke (Sam), Peter Van Norden (Booth), Warren Burton (Roland), MK Harris (Trip), Ami Rothschild (Lisa), Candace Savalas (AD), Jeannie Epper (Ada Ritter), Victor Paul (Rudy Deluca), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Charles Piscerni
Horton Rivers is the obnoxious host of a trashy investigative documentary show named after him – Horton Rivers Live -and he gets away with his rude, pushy antics because the show is popular. When the episode opens, we see the filming of his latest episode – an excursion into a haunted house in which Ada Ritters once murdered her elderly guests for their social security checks and buried the bodies in their basements. All live, of course, with his cameraman Trip taking all in and a psychic Roland alongside him to provide commentaries. At the other side of the camera, we have the producer Sam. She may be sleeping with Horton but she loathes him too, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the crew.
As you can guess, once Horton and his crew enter the Ritter House, scary and even fatal things begin to occur. Will poor Horton make it out alive or will this be his final episode?
Television Terror predates the footage found and Paranormal Activity-like nonsense that plague horror films today, and yet, it demonstrates how effective one can build tension and atmosphere without the overuse of lazy slow-motion camera pans in darkness that lead to a jump scare. Tightly paced, with great build up and just enough scary moments to lead to a gripping denouement, this episode is easily one of the better episodes in the entire series. Morton Downey Jr is great as this egotistical asshole… or you can argue that he’s just playing himself, heh, and this is a brilliant meta kind of casting.
And since this is a Tales from the Crypt episode, the horror is still tinged with macabre humor (love the pedobear commercial), and even better, there is a good reason for the cameras to keep rolling. In this case, it’s all for the ratings, as Horton learns too late that he has trained his staff too well. Never gets in the way of ratings, after all!
The logistics of the show is bewildering at times, but what’s an episode in this series without lapses in logic, right? Besides, I find it easy to overlook them when the end result is so much fun.
Really, from its sheer impact to its occasional strokes of genius, Television Terror is one of the must-see episodes of the series. If you have to watch just one episode, this is a good choice.