Saturday Nightmares

A look back at one of the USA network's scariest shows
July 15, 2013
Horror movies have always been a big part of my childhood. I must have been around four years-old when I first saw the original Halloween (1978) and ever since then I was hooked. From then on I was always trolling the TV channels in search of programs that go bump in the night.

Back in the 80s and early 90s the USA network kicked major ass! It was the place to go to see all of your favorite horror movies. Every Saturday night they served up a buffet of goodies entitled Saturday Nightmares. As the name suggests, Saturday Nightmares was a horror-themed show that included a scary flick as well as a few 30-minute fright shows - The Hitchhiker, The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater.

Now if these offerings weren't enough the show also offered up a few "shorts" to help fill in the time slot, particularly, when a movie's run time was slightly shorter than the allotted two hours. More on these "shorts" a little later. First, let's take a look at some of the movies.

These films included the classics such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, etc. but also included some more obscure horror films, some of which left a big impression on my young mind. Three films in particular.

Tourist Trap (1979)

This is one messed up movie. It really is. No. It really. Really. Is. The plot includes your typical horror movie set up - Teens get stranded on the side of the road; One teen goes off to find help; Finds an old abandoned house and... you know the rest. So what does this film offer to help make it stand out amongst the rest?


Lots and lots of mannequins!

Plus, this guy...

One scene that involved the villain covering a victim's face in plaster was all too disturbing for my young mind, so much so that I ended up changing the channel. Years later I tracked this film down and I must admit, it's quite a fine little gem from the late 70s era of horror.

Now if Tourist Trap wasn't enough to keep me from ever sleeping soundly again then the next film would certainly seal the deal.

The Children (1980)

I have yet to revisit this film. I only remember bits and pieces from my childhood. Therefore, I can only comment on what I remember and what I remember was scary as hell!

Basically, there are these evil "children" that have the ability to melt their victims by touching them. The scenes that depicted the charred remains of the victims still haunt me to this day. Plus, the zombie-like movements of the children as they stalked their prey.

There's just something uber-creepy about kids in 80s apparel creeping around in the dark and melting people's faces off. I'll have to track this flick down and give it another viewing, see if it's still as scary as I remember it to be.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Finally, we have the classic 1974 Hammer film, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. This has got to be one of the goriest films of its time. I still can't believe the USA network was allowed to show this film back in the late 80s and early 90s. As a kid I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Again, this is another film I have not seen since childhood so I am completely going by childhood memories to write this article. One such memory involved Dr. Frankenstein sawing the head open of a cadaver and removing the brain!

Just in case the gore wasn't enough to disturb film-goers, the filmmakers made sure that their Frankenstein's monster would be the ugliest one ever seen on screen. He truly was one ugly ass beast. Probably, still the ugliest incarnation of the monster ever designed. I mean, come on now... He's even hairy!

Along with these and other films were the 30-minute fright shows that I mentioned earlier - The Hitchhiker, The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater. They were quite similar in tone to the Twilight Zone. I only remember a handful of the episodes. Although entertaining, none of them left much of an impression on my young mind. At least nowhere near as much as the "shorts."

Now for the best part of what Saturday Nightmares had to offer...

The "shorts."

I don't remember them all but the few that I do remember were incredibly effective short horror films. They were these little independently produced films inserted somewhere between the end of the fright shows and the beginning of the evening's feature film. They were very short, maybe 10 to 20 minutes long, and incredibly frightening. The two that stick out the most for me were Panic (1978) and The Dummy (1982).

Panic tells the tale of a woman who picks up an old lady hitchhiking on a dark, cold, rainy night. It doesn't take long for the woman to realize there is something very wrong with this "old lady."

Panic (1978)

The Dummy is a true horror masterpiece. It's short, sweet and straight to the point. It begs the question - what would you do if you were trapped inside your apartment, alone, with a murderous ventriloquist dummy? The soundtrack is something straight out of a nightmare.

The Dummy (1982)

Hope you all enjoyed going down memory lane with me. In closing, I would like to leave you with the very cool introduction to the The Ray Bradbury Theater. R.I.P. Ray.

Intro to The Ray Bradbury Theater
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