From the Dead of Night (1989)

If you want to escape from the long tedious histories and romances of the miniseries genre, go for something supernatural.  “From the Dead of the Night,” just by the cast alone, should be the remedy, but it’s so inane and so boring, that I would rather sit through “War and Remembrance” again.

This time around, miniseries heroine Lindsay Wagner is a fashion designer, but one apparently blocked inspiration-wise.  It doesn’t help, I’m guessing, that she works in studio of almost complete darkness.  Boyfriend Robin Thomas surprises her (after attempting to scare the viewer by showing only his shoes coming up a very loooooong elevator ride) and they have sex a few times, though all Lindsay wants to know is “what do you think about the colors?”  Of her designs, people. 

Lindsay works for slumming Diahann Carroll, wearing a Cleopatra wig and bigger shoulder pads than during her time on “Dynasty.”  Another designer at the shop hates Lindsay, and Diahann chalks it up to Lindsay being “my favorite.”  She will let Lindsay put clothes in the show finally after six years.  In the first ten minutes, we get a parade of outfits so outrageously locked in their time period that this might as well be “Dynasty!”

Arriving at a party for Lindsay’s good luck is old flame Bruce Boxleitner, with a stewardess he met on the plane in Tangiers.  He asks if it’s an engagement party, and seething Robin says, “not yet, but hopefully soon.”  You mean, hopefully soon during the party or soon in general, because the way Lindsay looks at Bruce, Robin’s days seem numbered.  Robin baits Bruce, telling him Lindsay fell in love with him while Bruce was gone.  “I’m an Anthropologist, I travel!” Bruce snaps.  The conversation goes cliche from that high.  Bruce apologizes to Lindsay, she’s bitter and finally it’s interrupted by the stewardess.  Lindsay does what all jilted women do in these situations: she ignores her guests and goes to sit at the pool with her cat.

Getting up, she trips over the cat and falls into the pool, hitting her head and all but dying.  Oh, she sees a flash of light and her spirit leaves her body before a guest sees her in the pool and starts screaming.  Lindsay’s spirit, all in white, as opposed to the black she was wearing for the party, is all smiles and peacefulness (she must know her exact right sleep number).  What her spirit sees is, well, I’m not sure.  There is a tunnel of colored light and images of people, but then she hears Bruce begging her to breathe and telling her not to die.  The images of people have hands that grab for her and her spirit fights to get away.  Finally, her spirit is back in her body and she’s alive, saved from drowning.  It all looked like a very cheap LSD trip.

Lindsay explains all of this to Robin, who doesn’t buy it.  The person clutching her spirit’s wrist was really Robin trying to save her, he says.  She goes off to Dr. Robert Prosky, who chides her.  “You know a good physical every now and then wouldn’t hurt,” he says, as if he’s a Pediatrician.  He gives her some pills and says her “near-death experience is not uncommon,” but his explanation is that it’s a replay of the birth canal experience. 

Leaving the doctor, Lindsay is almost killed by a runaway car on the sidewalk.  “A split second either way and you’d be dead along with her,” the glum policeman says of the situation and the driver being pried out of the car. 

“Sex.”  That’s Professor Bruce’s explanation for why his class is so popular.  Samoans, African rituals, that’s what they all want.  Well, it’s more likely him, judging by a) the looks of the girls in his class and b) the tightness of his jeans.  Or, perhaps since this is Anthropology 101 and everyone looks about 43 years old, maybe they are the worlds oldest undergrads with the world’s youngest professor.  After rambling for an hour, he shoos the students away with “we’ll get to sex soon enough.” 

“I’ve almost died twice in one week!” Lindsay blubbers to Bruce when she meets him for lunch.  It wouldn’t be a Lindsay Wagner miniseries if something like that didn’t happen to her!  Bruce actually believes in her near-death experience and wants to enroll her in a class about it.  She dismisses it, so instead, he pulls out the tarot (pronunciation on the last syllable by Bruce, FYI) cards and does a reading.  The death card is her immediate future.  “It may not be a physical death, it may mean the death of an idea,” he says, trying not to frighten her.  The rest of the cards tell a very grim story, and except for a joke about sexual positions, Bruce seems genuinely worried for her. 

In her building, goblins frighten her in the elevator.  Oh, wait, it’s only kids and it’s Halloween.  Maybe those creepy mannequins in her apartment will be the key to her issues.  Unable to sleep, she calls Robin and asks to go away, the journey perhaps that Bruce suggested was coming in the near future.  Off they fly to Mexico, Lindsay in a coat that looks like it was once an Incan blanket.  Lucky for her, they have arrived just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration.  Lindsay and Robin unwind with what I think is supposed to be a torrid sex scene, but is barely even sexy enough to be called romantic.  They look like two spastic seniors.

Now, at the Day of the Dead parades, there are six zillion people in all sorts of masks that frighten the crap out of Lindsay, exactly the relaxation she so sought.  They are followed by an annoying used car salesman they ditch who chokes to death as Lindsay is being frightened by the sights and sounds of the celebration. 

But wait, the car salesman is on a boat with them as they look at fireworks, not speaking or taking off his mask as he has the last few times they saw him.  Instead, he climbs on top of the little boat and rocks it back and forth until falling in the water.  Like a complete idiot, Lindsay reaches out to pull him back in and of course he pulls her out of the boat, trying to strangle her.  Robin has to jump into the water for the second time in under an hour and save her, though the poor twice dead car salesman gets chopped up by the boat’s motor.  “There was nothing you could do…it happens…We can’t escape death.  When our time comes, nothing on Earth can save us.  Nothing,” says a passer-by, unsolicited. 

Diahann is no help, so Lindsay finally agrees to go to the group Bruce suggested.  It’s essentially group therapy in a very dark room.  Everyone describes the out-of-body experience, one overly-crimped lady noting that she was upset to have to come back to life.  One of the others in the group, Merritt Butrick, has had the exact same experience as Lindsay and tells her she’s in trouble, but he’s such a crackpot that she discounts him. 

A very angry Robin agrees to go with Bruce and Lindsay to a mysterious woman whose apartment manages to combine every bit of cliche knick-knack that the set designer could find to make her seem like an actual seer.  “She has the power of prophesy,” Bruce tells Robin, who answers back, “if she has so much power, why is she living in East LA?”  As Lindsay goes in alone, with the candles, the cards, the palm reading, the covered lamps, etc., the two men argue below the apartment in a giant storm.  We can’t really expect the mystery woman to answer Lindsay’s questions because that would be far too easy and make the movie only about an hour.  Instead, she merely tells her that the six figures she saw in her experience are after her “and must be fought.”  She’s then too upset to talk further and Robin has beaten down her door to get Lindsay home anyway.  He’s so cartoonishly angry that he can’t live much longer by the rules of the miniseries. 

When she arrives at home, Merritt is there, telling her “it’s too late,” “it’s already happening” and scaring her further.  “Do you know anyone who has died?” he shouts as she goes up the elevator.  Well, her mother, the woman in the car that almost killed Lindsay, the used car salesman, and probably the seer by now.  Putting on another of her endless series of overly large coats, Lindsay goes to the house of the woman who died in the car accident.  Living there is the woman who was at Lindsay’s party and screamed loud enough to alert everyone.  Wow, a genuine coincidence.  Or is it…?

Lindsay is told that the woman also had a near-death experience before actually dying.  Coming out of the shower, she was sort of electrocuted, but not entirely, “and then the next day, to have her die in a car accident…” her bereaved husband sobs.  Just like Lindsay!  She has almost died a few times.  She has Dr. Robert Prosky pull the woman’s autopsy records.  Those turn out to be problematic, proving she was electrocuted and actually died, before getting in her car and causing the accident.  Is it bureaucratic mix-up?  That’s what the Medical Examiner calls a “walker,” an error in the police report that shows someone dying twice. 

Robin is getting fed up with Lindsay and her worries.  He explains Merritt as “the 60s were the high point of his life,” before assuring Lindsay that he will take care of her.  Oh, and he proposes again.  When she tells Diahann about Robin, she constantly compares him to Bruce, though it’s not very convincing.  Diahann’s theory is that Lindsay never got over her mother’s death and that’s what is causing all of this.  Yes, discussion of marriage and dead mother are in the same conversation. 

The police show up at Lindsay’s apartment to tell her she needs to identify a victim of a homicide because her information was found on him.  It’s poor Merritt, of course.  For some reason, everyone leaves Lindsay alone in the morgue with the corpse, doing some really horrible acting that is supposed to be either confusion nor sadness or I don’t know what (this ranks high among Lindsay’s worst performances, and there are plenty of those).  The body springs up and tries to grab Lindsay, but the morgue guard shoots it back to death.  Lindsay dissolves into hysterics…again. 

The Medical Examiner explains to her it was “calcium flux response,” saying it’s “one of nature’s more macabre little tricks,” but completely normal.  It makes sense to everyone and it’s said with a straight face.  Even Dr. Robert Prosky believes it and explains that the woman who died twice only seemed to do so because of a clerical error.  In the best moment of the movie, Lindsay tries to explain what is going on AFTER they give her a sedative, so she babbles as her eyes are rolling back in her head.  It’s the kind of a scene a soap actress would kill for but anyone else would laugh at. 

Lindsay’s drugged rantings have Dr. Robert Prosky somewhat interested, so he asks Robin the details of what happened in Mexico, popping a pill and leaning against a door, another surefire sign of a miniseries goner.  After the hospital scene, she has another outrageously hideous acting exercise as she faces a bunch of visions in that loooooooong elevator of hers.  She’s so scared by the time she reaches the lobby that she runs all the way back up THE STEPS to her apartment.  She calls out sick and trades her chunky day wear for some chunky night wear.

To relieve her of the gloom, Bruce takes her to what most would consider the most stressful place on Earth, a carnival.  Ah, masks, rides, fun house mirrors, etc.  That’s just what her cracking mind needs!  She does win a stuffed bear and a stuffed penguin, and the admission that Bruce loves her.  Frankly, the penguin is the only one of the three worth anything. 

Dr. Joanne Linville, the leader of the group, puts Lindsay under hypnosis so she can relive her trip into the pool.  This brings on another incoherent scene for Lindsay, who battles bright overhead lighting with fits and starts of words.  The entire pool scene is replayed again, frame by frame: the splitting from the body, the tunnel of light, the bodies, though this time there is an addition of Robin and Bruce’s faces.  Lindsay is in such a state of twitching that Dr. Joanne brings her out of the hypnosis slower than even her elevator ride.  If this is how a woman counts back from 10, you better hope she’s never officiating a boxing match.  Lindsay leaves the entire session fed up because Dr. Joanne just doesn’t seem to understand what makes such perfect sense to Lindsay, you know, that six mysterious figures are out to get her, that the dead aren’t dead, etc.  Shame on Dr. Joanne for trying to be sensible!

Back at home, a clearly under-sexed Robin barks at Lindsay that “having sex used to be a team sport” when she resists his kissing. 

Dr. Robert Prosky investigates the death of the car salesman, whose cause of death is listed as drowning and…skip it, all we need to know is that he’s a “walker.”  He now knows Lindsay is onto something, but on the drive home, his heart issues flare up and since it’s a rainy night, he has a heart attack.  He doesn’t die, so Lindsay can rush to the hospital and try to talk to him.  Diahann lets her go, but “tomorrow morning, 9am…” she yells after her, never the most sympathetic boss.  Before Robert can have a second heart attack, he goes on about the “walkers” and tells the nurse to have his body burned.  When Lindsay gets to the room, he attacks her in slow motion and terrible make-up.  He’s gone crazy and jumps out the window.  NOW he’s dead.  It took a few tries, but now he’s officially dead, though no doubt he’ll have two causes of death. 

Lindsay, suddenly Catholic, goes to church with Bruce.  She tells Bruce all, though she’s shushed by the priest.  Lindsay wants to go back to the seer, but Bruce says she’s refused to see Lindsay.  However, she does have to go to her fashion show.  “It’s the only sane thing in my life!” she yells at him (in church). 

Here comes the comic relief (if the whole thing weren’t so boring, it would all be comic relief).  Lindsay is easily the worst fashion designer in miniseries history.  The outfits are atrocious even for 1989.  And the scene itself will make you nauseous because it’s shot and edited like an 80s music video upside down.  Diahann brings Lindsay out as the “designer and my new partner,” which is somehow a surprise to Lindsay, who has no idea how to walk a runway. 

“I knew you would come back,” the seer says to Lindsay when she arrives with Bruce.  Wouldn’t that be because Bruce called her and begged for a second appointment?  “For one moment, you walked in the land of the dead, traveled far, saw much.  They thought you were one of them and now the dead want you back,” she tells Lindsay.  The solution is to become a strong person and stop relying on others.  But, it will only happen after six people die, but not just die, die violently.  “Who is next?” Lindsay asks, but of course the seer doesn’t know.  “If you survive until midnight of the next full moon, you will be saved,” the seer says.  That’s two nights away.  Bruce’s brilliant solution is to take her away somewhere, but any idiot knows what the seer’s response will be: “you can’t hide from death.” 

After the appointment, Bruce and Lindsay go into Vern’s Diner, an extremely hostile place, where Lindsay bumps into a particularly ornery truck driver.  He gets squashed by a truck a few minutes later but is there to glower at Lindsay when she leaves the diner.  The dead truck driver follows them, bumping into their car as Lindsay breaks into sentence fragments once again.  If Bruce would pull over and stop the car, this deathly game could be ended, but that doesn’t occur to him.  Instead, he has the truck follow him into a narrow area where it can go over the side of the road and burst into flames while Bruce and Lindsay watch.  The police come, to which Bruce snaps, “damn it, not now!” because this is wasted time.  “If there’s one more of these coming, I want it on my ground!” Bruce asserts before taking Lindsay home to his apartment, which is coated in all sorts of ugly rugs. 

Bruce puts Lindsay to bed and assures her he’s only downstairs.  In more welcoming bluish lighting, she might just be able to fall asleep.  Bruce curls up on the couch with blankets that match his ugly rugs, but Lindsay, either afraid or horny, comes down to the couch and snuggles up with him.  “One more night, huh?  How we gonna get through it?” Lindsay asks the next morning.  Bruce doesn’t know, and doesn’t have time to plan because Robin shows up breathing fire.  Robin is angry at both.  “God damn it, did you sleep with him?” he roars?  “If the most important thing to you right now is if I’ve slipped into the sheets with another man…” she yells at Robin and then leaves, giving up Bruce, her best security. 

The last death is poor Christian Hoff, a flower delivery boy who uses a skateboard.  Lindsay had almost killed him earlier when he darted out of nowhere, but now, as he’s off to deliver yellow roses to Lindsay from Diahann, he experiences his first death (again, the second death is supposed to be the violent one, but this looks pretty damn scary to me).  This gives him an opportunity to scare Lindsay and get her to run through a parking lot at night, another cliche that couldn’t be ignored here.  Run, Lindsay, run, as Christian, his head cocked and blood all over him, chases her on the skateboard.  He’s then hit by a second car and killed a second time. 

“He was the last one.  It’s over,” Bruce says.  Lindsay’s reaction?  You can guess by now.  Incoherent stuttering.  She celebrates by kissing Bruce, though she does have to dine with Robin to tell him their relationship is over.  So, she soaks in a big bubble bath with a glass of wine.  Robin uses his ultra modern car phone to tell her he will be late.  Lindsay puts on a big white chunky goodbye outfit as Robin goes to the ATM, where he’s robbed and beaten.  Lindsay waits by tapping on her fish tank.

Bruce is awakened by the police, who have questions about the truck driver.  I could quote the call, which is pretty amusing, but the point of it is that the truck driver did not die twice.  Bruce frantically calls Lindsay, who is asleep at her fish tank.  That means we are one death short, but Lindsay doesn’t know that when she lets Robin into her apartment, Bruce racing at top speed to get there.  He should have plenty of time because Robin does have to take that looooooooong elevator ride.  Robin is in the middle of strangling her when Bruce arrives, but he doesn’t take the looooooong elevator ride.  He’s tough, so he bolts up the stairs as Lindsay is running through the shadows of her apartment trying to avoid Robin.  She knocks him out with a bottle, but that doesn’t kill him.  He only plays dead (again).  He grabs her foot and trips her.  It’s 11:55 and Robin has to kill her in the next five minutes.  Bruce is arrived and promptly knocked out, so Lindsay does the smartest thing you can do when being pursued by a zombie–she goes to the roof!  With only a minute to go, Lindsay pushes Robin through a skylight (sound the midnight clocks) and he dies his violent death, with a piece of wood through her chest.  To prove he’s not a zombie, Bruce cuts his hand.  “They don’t bleed.  Walkers don’t bleed!” he assures Lindsay. 

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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