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Monday, January 23, 2006

1.44 --- Gramma

Reviewer's note : And again...Gramma is 1.44, Personal Demons 1.45, and Cold Reading 1.46.


Directed by :
Bradford May
Written by : Harlan Ellison (story by Stephen King)
Starring : Barrett Oliver, Darlanne Fluegel
First aired : 14th of February, 1986.

Little Georgie (Barrett Oliver, The Neverending Story, D.A.R.Y.L.) is mortally afraid of being left home alone with his grandmother. When his mother (Darlanne Fluegel, Eyes of Laura Mars, Once Upon a Time in America) leaves for an afternoon, Georgie is adamant he won't get scared.

His self-assurance lasts exactly five minutes, until he hears grandma's ghostly wail asking for tea. He fixes her some of it and brings it to her, but her sudden jerk move scares him and he spills it all over the floor, fleeing away. Driven by curiosity, he returns to the place where he spilled the tea and finds a secret stash under the floorplank, where he digs out some books.

The books turn out to be Necronomicon (yes, that Necronomicon), and grandma's personal diaries, from which Georgie concludes grandma was a witch. He returns to her room, and finds his grandmother dead. Leaving the room, he forgets to cover her face with the sheet. He goes back there again, but grandma is all of a sudden alive, and she snatches Georgie into her bed, slowly dragging him towards her as he's kicking and screaming.

Some time later, Georgie's mother return, and Georgie, sitting at the table with a sad expression, informs her gramma's died. She hugs her little boy, telling him that he shouldn't worry, as she will always be with them - a statement which rings closer to truth than she can imagine, because all of a sudden Georgie's eyes don't look all that human anymore...


On a select number of occasions, this new Twilight Zone went off its beaten path and well into Tales from the Darkside / Tales from the Crypt territory. Sometimes, like in Teacher's Aide, it was awful. Some other times, like in The Elevator, and now, Gramma, it was pretty good.

First thing one notices while watching this episode is that the Harlan Ellison script is based on a short story by Stephen King, arguably world's most famous horror writer. Let this not fool you or give you false expectations - the plot is paper-thin, and the twist is predictable (probably because there are only three characters involved, and the third one is away for the whole duration of the show). King might be hogging the credit, but this is purely director Bradford May's show - May's direction, coupled with a great performance by youngster Barrett Oliver (now an accomplished photographer), makes an otherwise dull story well-worth watching, and delivers a few scares and creepy bits as well. Particularily entertaining are Georgie's internal dialogues, in which his scary self is being confronted by his more adventurous self. The wit of those "exchanges", along with May, really carry this one.

Gramma herself, played by Frederick Long, sadly looks like a wrinkled up muppet once revealed. It would have been better if they stuck with showing her hand only (which is legit creepy).

Comments on "1.44 --- Gramma"


Anonymous greatstar said ... (6:11 PM) : 

This episode and The Elevator were the benchmarks for fear in my youth. Surreal to revisit those memories again. Thanks Mairosu!


Anonymous Paul said ... (12:05 PM) : 

Barrett Oliver has decent screen presence, but his voiceover acting is just horrible... This is a shame, since we have to listen to his thoughts for about 80% of the episode.


Blogger Stephen Robb said ... (2:37 AM) : 

I think we have to look at the subtext a little. It's not about monsters, King wants you to remember when you were ten, and the first time you met someone really old, and it's terrifying. They don't quite look human, they don't move like humans. Adults aren't bothered by this but for kids, it's their first spooky experience.


Blogger William Hunter said ... (10:16 AM) : 

This might be the worst adaptation of anything, ever. The real sad part is that you can tell they tried. They tried to mix the attitude of a young contemporary boy with Lovecraft. They tried to express the loathing that the young and alive have of the old and dying. They tried to capture the stream-of-consciousness rococo of King's internal dialogues. And they failed miserably.

They might have actually had something if they had gotten a better actor, but the boy here delivers his lines in such a ham-fisted way. Again, you can tell they were going for something. They were trying for realism with the boy's reaction to things. The problem is that in a dramatic presentation, YOU NEED ACTING. Everybody knows you're not watching a documentary, you're watching a fiction narrative. In the book, you can read the boy's thoughts on the page that escalate in an increasingly frantic manner, and you can read the words in your head and remember the times you yourself have been frantic and apply that filter in your own head. But on the screen, YOU NEED ACTING. The dialogue needs to be presented in a dramatic way, and the kid in this just doesn't cut it.

So, what you're left with is probably the worst episode in the 1985 TZ revival. Too bad. At least they tried, I guess.


Anonymous Adrock said ... (9:42 PM) : 

Agree with William Hunter. Barret Oliver's acting kills any sort of tension. We gather that gramma is actually a Lovecraftian demon, and the mother seems thrilled that gramma died... but, if she's actually a demon, why DID the mother leave Georgie alone with her?

It's one thing to write a coming of age story where Georgie learns to stop being afraid of aging, dying, and death... but in this story, gramma is a literal demon and everyone knows it and Georgie loses his soul over it. What's interesting about that? There's no twist ending.


Blogger MrSinatra said ... (10:58 PM) : 

A solid silver, but nothing special. My nana tho? Hated it.


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