I thought the idiot box was my friend!

Day 9: The day television terrified me

It may seem quaint nowadays, in a time when the immensely unnerving gore and crippling psychological horror of Hannibal airs on network television (click here for visual proof), but there was a time not so long ago when truly adult horror wasn’t a commonly televised event. Not on an ongoing series, anyway (although there was an exorcism subplot on Soap that I remember kind of freaking me out as a child). The most you could hope for was maybe a few Boo! moments on shows like Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

But in 1990, a groundbreaking horror show hit the air and, through a short two-year run, proved itself a major influence on television for decades to come. Twin Peaks (I miss it so much!), while ostensibly a mystery soap opera, contained many elements of horror, and interspersed the cherry pie and log lady moments with scenes of disturbing intensity that continue to haunt viewers.

But for me, the one moment of absolute horror was the revelation that Leland Palmer, possessed by the evil spirit known only as BOB, was the killer of Laura Palmer. In a scene of spiralling insanity, Leland/BOB assaults and murders Laura’s cousin Maddie.

When I first saw this scene (below), I was gobsmacked. I literally could not believe such a horrific scene, although relatively tame by today’s standards, was ever allowed on television. Much of the terror comes from empathy for the characters, of course, but also the editing, the tempo, the music, the raw intimacy, and that unique je ne sais quoi that creator/director David Lynch brings to all his projects.

Eep. Although I love that the late Frank Silva (BOB) was working as a set dresser on the pilot when Lynch saw him and cast him as Twin Peaks’ ultimate evil.

For the month of October I’ll be posting a whole mess of stuff about horror. Because Halloween. Mostly just stuff I like, because I’m lazy that way.