To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.
Television-based anthology series had not been recognized for their aesthetic quality and star power until Steven Spielberg came along with Amazing Stories in 1985. His connections allowed him to hire big names in the industry. There was also a significant budget compared to the show’s contemporaries like Tales from the Darkside and the Twilight Zone reboot. The series aired on NBC and had the look of big-screen films. In many regards, Amazing Stories lived up to its title.
The show was not wholly loved by critics, though. Some found it disappointing given the involvement of directors like Bob Clark, Clint Eastwood, Tom Holland, Tobe Hooper, Martin Scorsese, and Robert Zemeckis. Even so, Amazing Stories lasted two seasons and generated a following in spite of a lukewarm welcome.
Peter Hyams would become more notable in the decade following Amazing Stories; he is known for genre films Timecop and End of Days. However, he directed one of the better episodes in the first season. “The Amazing Falsworth” follows the title character, a psychic magician working in a night club, as he incidentally learns the identity of the notorious Keyboard Killer. The unidentified strangler slipped into the aforesaid club’s audience after murdering two people, and Falsworth “saw” his crimes after coming into physical contact. However, he was blindfolded at the time and didn’t catch the murderer’s face; only an apartment number from his short-lived psychic connection. Now, a detective follows up on Falsworth’s partial vision in hopes of finding the Keyboard Killer before he picks his next victim.
“The Amazing Falsworth” understandably earned writer Mick Garris an Emmy. It is a suspenseful tale with a solid performance from its lead, Gregory Hines. As with most episodes in the series, the cinematography is top-notch. The giallo influence is felt throughout — the killer wears black gloves, neon lighting amid a somewhat seedy atmosphere, and infrequent opera music references are tied to the antagonist. The on-screen attention owed to hands, another trait of Italian thrillers, is notable, too.
On top of the whodunit aspect is a memorable plot twist that audiences may not see coming. It adds to an already outstanding episode that is, by leaps and bounds, better than many other entries in an inconsistent show.