One of the greatest TV horror films is called “Bad Ronald,” and it’s so good it reminds me of “Psycho.” It’s about a nerdy, creepy teen (played by Scott Jacoby) who, after accidentally killing a little girl, is instructed by his mother (Kim Hunter) to live in a secret room in their Victorian house. She dies and Dabney Coleman (then a brunette with a full head of hair) and his family move in. Ronald (the creepy teen murderer) must avoid detection by this new family by sneaking around for munchies while they’re asleep. He eventually causes a few more people to die and becomes fixated on the family’s young hot daughters,. He has an unhealthy obsession with fantasy, you see, and when life fails to live up to his fantasies, he gets mad. And deadly.
Why is this such a good TV horror film? Ronald is a genuinely interesting character. He’s nerdy and initially somewhat likeable, and we can see he didn’t have to turn out so badly. His mother’s well-meaning plan of hiding him ends up driving him mad. What’s interesting is how this 1974 film is able to imply so much while showing virtually nothing. We know Ronald’s a perv, for example, even though we never see it. By the extremely abrupt ending, we feel we have genuinely watched the descent of a young man into violence and psychosis. “Bad Ronald” is available on DVD through Warner Brothers Archive for about $15. Don’t miss it!