Celluloid Diaries: Book tip - Are You in the House Alone? by Amanda Reyes

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book tip - Are You in the House Alone? by Amanda Reyes

are you in the house alone?

Do you feel nostalgic when it comes to old-school TV movies? Do you want to know more about the subject? In that case, I have the perfect book for you: Are You In The House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 by Amanda Reyes.

If her name sounds familiar, it's probably because you read her website Made for TV Mayhem or her essay on Locusts in When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals. If there's one thing we should say about Amanda Reyes, it's that she's extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject.

The first half of Are You In The House Alone? consists of essays focusing on several aspects of genre TV movies, including famous TV heroes and heroines, eco-horror, rape-revenge and rape-response films, Cold War films, Stephen King on TV, small screen exploitation, forgotten gems, the USA World Premiere Movie, and much more.

The second part is compiled of mini-reviews. After a little overview of TV mini-series (such as The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, Helter Skelter, V, etc.), we are treated to mini-reviews of made-for-television movies divided by era: 1964-1979, 1980-1989, 1990-1999, until cable and the 2000s. Each review starts with a small description of the plot, so you immediately know whether the film is right up your alley or not.

Would you like to know more about Are You in the House Alone? We had a chat with Amanda Reyes about her new book.

How did the idea for this book come about?

My story is a little unique. The publishing company, Headpress, had already begun work on a book about made for TV movies. They had put out some feelers for contributors, and different people suggested me… I believe Mike Watt and David Stewart threw my name out there. David Kerekes who runs Headpress sent me some ideas they had for the book, and we discussed what could be added or what might be beyond their scope. The project was a little mammoth, and eventually, David asked me to take over! I will always be grateful for this opportunity. Once I came aboard as the editor, I dove into filling in the gaps in both the reviews and essay sections. It was a lot of fun, and the contributors were true team players. Most of them were already on board by the time I took over, but I added few more who I knew had expertise on the subjects or movies I wanted to include.

What were your guidelines for them? Could they write about anything they wanted?

Before I came on, we had several reviews and a few essays submitted. The guidelines were relatively basic and flexible. It was mostly about turning in something good. I wanted the writers to throw as much of their personality into their submissions, which was fantastic and in some ways fascinating since we have authors from all over the world. I wanted content, so any TV movie was up for grabs, but I made a rolling list that I would expand periodically to make sure that most of the classics were covered as well as some of the more interesting obscurities. The book offers everything from Duel to lesser-known gems such as Prototype.

As for the essays, with a couple of exceptions, those mostly came from ideas I had. Jennifer Wallis had already submitted some excellent pieces on how rape was depicted on television, as well as child abuse. I brought in Paul Freitag-Fey to write about the USA Original because I knew he was an expert on those films. The essays were more handpicked. I still feel like there’s room for more in-depth analysis on various themes, but this section does capture a lot of what made the telefilm so unique.

I noticed more names in the "contributor notes" than authors for the essays. Did the others write mini-reviews?

Yes, the bulk of the contributors wrote reviews. As much as I love the essay section, the reviews are the heart of the book, and I wanted as many voices as possible representing as many films as possible. There’s a wide variety of opinion in there, some of which I might not have agreed with, but all of which is passionately written. I’m very proud of the final product.

Not all of the films listed are easy to find. What do you recommend to those who want to see the obscure titles?

Well, I don’t like to promote illegal streaming, but sometimes you can just Google a title and find it online. Unfortunately, the majority of television movies have never enjoyed any home video release, and with a couple of exceptions, tend not to rerun. There are distributors, however, who have released some great titles. Warner Archives is an incredible print on demand service, and you can pick up a lot of the classics from them such as Bad Ronald and The Bermuda Depths. Also, Shout! Factory just released The Spell on Blu-Ray, and invited me to do the commentary! But that’s not why I’m mentioning them. To see a telefilm on a Blu-Ray is amazing. There seems to be a bit of trend with this, and I hope we find more and more titles coming to home video soon!

Unfortunately, some of these titles will be hard to locate. I hope the book brings attention to telefilms like Fantasies, which I just screened for the Austin Film Society. I would love to see a film like that get the attention it deserves.

Why are you so passionate about TV movies?

I am a child of the seventies, and the television film was not just a huge part of the cultural landscape, but it was also really prevalent in my own home. I was a film fan, even when I was a child. I would watch anything, but I remember the TV movie served as a gateway for horror. Those early experiences watching Gargoyles and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark left an indelible mark on me, and made me the horror nut I am today! As an archivist and historian, I also think telefilms are worth documenting and historicizing because they provide a lot of cultural context to our world during those eras. That’s a huge driving factor behind why I write about them.

How many mini-reviews are collected in your book?

There are over 200 reviews in the book, with a significant portion covering the seventies, which was the heyday of the telefilm. But there are also reviews for the eighties and nineties, as well as a small section of reviews for a few cult-ish miniseries, along with a special section dedicated to Stephen King.

Are You in the House Alone? focuses on horror/sci-fi/thriller films? Will you ever write a book about another genre of TV movie?

Yes, this book concentrates heavily on genre films. There are a few dramas, comedies, and conventional mysteries, but there’s a lot of oddities in there as well, such as Poor Devil which is a comedy that features Christopher Lee as Satan, and The Last Dinosaur, which is one of those childhood faves I needed in the book!

My specialty is genre films. Before I put most of my energy behind made for television movies, I wrote about slasher films. I would love to do another book that covers genre films, but for now, I’m just concentrating on promoting Are You in the House Alone? and working on my podcast and blog. I’ve been lucky in that a few things have dropped in my lap, and unless I’m so busy I can’t give an offer 100%, I will happily help out where I can.

What's next for you?

I do have some exciting projects coming up! I contributed a chapter to the upcoming Spectacular Optical release, Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror in Film and Television, and I’ll have a couple of essays in the forthcoming film journal, Cinemaniacs Presents. I’ll be speaking at Kent University in England in late October at a conference. And, my podcast has a new episode every month. I wish I could do more!


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