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Review: I Saw the TV Glow. A fascinating work of psychological horror

  • Release year: 2024
  • Director: Jane Schoenbrun.
  • Producers: Ali Herting, Sam Intili, Dave McCary, Emma Stone and Sarah Winshall.
  • Screenplay by: Jane Schoenbrun.
  • Cinematography by: Eric Yue.
  • Music by: Alex G.

Synopsis: a kid falls in love with a TV series that a girl from his school shows him. Both of them will eventually figure out where this fascination comes from.

Shotgun Commentary: engaging and trippy horror fantasy with a very clear and relevant message.

Owen (Justice Smith) and Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine).
Source: I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024).

Review

I Saw the TV Glow follows Owen (Justice Smith) in what at first appears to be a journey of self-discovery, but quickly turns into a dreadful nightmare. The use of resources that horror and fantasy can provide in order to describe the feelings of dread and confusion that one can feel while trying to find their sexual identity is a masterful move. It provides an easy-to-understand narrative that, albeit crude due to its horror nature, explains in very clear terms the experience of being transgender and how that can affect your place in society. A story that will hopefully make people be more understanding and empathetic, and less afraid of what they can’t understand.

What is pink anyway?

The film begins with a very young Owen, who falls in love with a TV show called The Pink Opaque. Even though he has never seen more than the advertisements, he is incredibly attracted to it, and this leads him to meet Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine), another student in his school who also loves the show.

Owen (Justice Smith). Source: I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024).

The series itself is very much like a cheesier version of Supernatural (2006-2020), but its meaning inside the film is way deeper. It reminds of the homonymous art installation by David Daigle, who named his work The Pink Opaque due to pink representing “the inside of us and in turn our most vulnerable parts. The holes to the inside of our bodies are all pink regardless of our gender and race. Pink is our commonality”. When the series is seen from this point of view, it gains a completely new meaning, as does the connection between Owen and Maddy.

Twists and turns

Mid-film, the movie cleverly uses certain incidents to hint the nature of Owen’s reality. However, they do not prepare us for the whole truth, which starts getting clearer once Maddy mentions how he sees his life from outside (breaking the fourth wall in a very Fleabag (2016-2019) fashion, but way less funny), or how time doesn’t move quite right (ever seen Dr Who’s Forest of the Dead (2008)?). This is the exact moment when the whole movie turns 180º and becomes absolutely FASCINATING.

Justice Smith delivers a great performance that begins with a very annoying and inexplicably constant puberphonia that soon takes on a very dark meaning, becoming another detail of the horrifying truth. This is just one of the many little details that Smith brings to the narrative in a challenging role that he absolutely nails.

Owen (Justice Smith). Source: I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024).

As for Lundy-Paine, her performance pales in comparison to that of Smith, but is good enough to set the mood. Despite a pretty over-acted scene that is borderline cringy, her character is interesting and surprisingly a bit different from all the other Ramona Flowers-looking rebel teenage girls that Hollywood likes so much (Scoot Pilgrim vs. the World, 2010).

90s fever

The 90s aesthetics have definitely substituted the 80s nostalgia from a few years ago. With more and more features using this decade as inspo for their production design, it comes as no surprise that a film of wondrous horror and twisted self discovery also decides to follow this trend. A tendency that seems to be more acute in films where teenagers and their coming-of-age narratives are central to the plot.

The neons and high contrasts still rule the image, a bold reminder of the 80s, but the backdrops, decorations and characters’ looks scream the 90s. This combination makes sure you stay fixated on the screen despite the mediocre beginning of the story, giving a chance for the audience to discover the true value of the movie.

Ice cream van. Source: I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024).

All in all, I Saw the TV Glow is a twisted horror story with a lot more heart than it gives away at first sight and heaps of imagination to make it stand out as one of the best horror films of the year. The protagonists are familiar, but don’t reach cliché status, and the action gets more interesting with every passing minute. If you are a patient spectator who loves a psychological thriller, do give this a chance!

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Normal people don’t just stand in random places without moving for no reason.
  • If you love your kids, you shouldn’t scare them into not being able to talk to you.
  • Sometimes things look crazy, test all theories before dismissing them completely.
Frank (Fred Durst). Source: I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024).

What’s your take? Have you watched I Saw the TV Glow? What do you think of the ending? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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