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by Jim Hemphill
Two of the best films from the golden age of made-for-TV horror are newly available on Blu-ray just in time for Halloween: Buzz Kulik’s creepy 1974 gem Bad Ronald and Dan Curtis’ 1975 anthology movie Trilogy of Terror. Bad Ronald has long been a word-of-mouth favorite among genre fans for its flawless execution of a genuinely unsettling premise: a teenage sociopath hidden away by his mother is left living within the walls of his home after she dies, only to resurface and terrorize the teenage daughters of the new family that moves into the house. Adapting a novel by John Holbrook Vance, screenwriter Andrew Peter Marin crafts an expertly paced model of suspense that carefully manages the audience’s suspension of disbelief, moving slowly enough to carefully layer in each element of the plot and psychology but quickly enough to keep the tension mounting with relentless efficiency. Veteran director Kulik, who just a few years before had helmed one of the greatest TV movies of all time, Brian’s Song, exerts a precise and expressive control over Marin’s material, striking a perfect balance between naturalism and stylization to give the film a queasily voyeuristic quality that really gets under your skin. Yet the movie also has a fantastic sense of humor, thanks largely to the lively casting; Dabney Coleman is particularly amusing as the father of the new household that invades the title character’s space. The real standout among the actors, though, is undeniably Scott Jacoby as Ronald — he’s repellent, funny, frightening, and poignant all in the same film, and the nuances of his work are more evident than ever in Warner Archive’s extraordinary new transfer. If, like me, you’re used to watching Bad Ronald on muddy VHS copies, or even the mediocre DVD that came out eight...
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