They say every woman should have a little black dress in their closet. A murderous red dress might not be as essential but, whether Amy (Mädchen Amick) wants to suffer for fashion or not, she can’t seem to get rid of the frock in Tobe Hooper’s TV movie, I’m Dangerous Tonight.
To be fair, it wasn’t a dress when Amy bought it (and Amy didn’t buy it – she found it in a trunk and decided on her own that the fabric was included with the purchase), but Amy’s the one who sewed it into The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants of dresses, in that it fits every woman who wears it in this movie like a glove.
In real life, Hooper’s then-wife, Carin Berger, designed the dress and it’s exactly what it should be. A film can’t revolve around a piece of clothing and not have it be the most flattering garment in the world, and Berger doesn’t disappoint. It’s also not like the fabric was docile before getting turned into a dress. It did enough damage, being worn as a cloak.
Furthermore, it’s not the dress that’s inherently evil. Rather, the dress is supposed to bring out the worst in the person who wears it, so if you’re not capable of evil you should be good… unless you’re sexually repressed and then you’ll become a “whore,” which is the label women who are sexually active in this film get to endure.
Still, it turns out most people have at least a smidgen of evil in them, so Amy has to deal with that and write a paper for her psych teacher, Mr. Buchanan, played by Norman Bates (aka Anthony Perkins). Perkins is great as the creepy guy who keeps turning up out of nowhere. It’s especially fun to watch him go from trying to bring up cursed objects nonchalantly, to losing his patience and confronting Amy directly.
Between Buchanan and Amy’s love interest, Eddie (Corey Parker), it’s a wonder Amy doesn’t lose her wits by the end of the film. Both of them seem determined to scare her half to death every time they enter a scene, and Eddie’s just the worst. The film seems convinced that viewers are going to root for their relationship, but I’d like to know how Amy agreeing to read a book for their group project turned into Amy writing the whole paper by herself.
I’m Dangerous Tonight does crib ideas from other movies, including The Shining, Psycho, and Kiss of Death (I almost included Fargo on this list, but Fargo wasn’t out yet, so maybe the Coen Brothers were inspired by this film) but, while you wouldn’t know it from how most of the characters seem unaffected, the death toll in this film is incredibly high.
Fans of Amick from Riverdale should have fun getting to see her in investigation mode (like her daughter from the series, Betty) and the reason I’m Dangerous Tonight works is because Amick and the cast play the lines straight (which is a skill Amick uses all the time on Riverdale). Amy’s Aunt Martha (Mary Frann), asks her niece, “What were you doing out of the house?” (like that’s absurd for a college student) and it’s hilarious because she’s dead serious. The line readings are what give Bruce Lansbury and Philip John Taylor’s teleplay life.
Kino Lorber have given I’m Dangerous Tonight the royal treatment and their release is loaded with bonus features. The first commentary is by Kristopher Woofter and Will Dodson, who edited the book American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper. They have a really nice rapport and look at how the film uses color, navigates gender politics, and the (now) conspicuous cuts to commercial.
The second commentary is by filmmaker and historian, Michael Varrati. While there is some overlap with the first commentary and a few silent pauses (which is where it helps to have a second person), Varrati’s enthusiasm is genuine, as he talks about some of the films contrivances (like using real swords in stage combat), opines Eddie’s horribleness, considers how Hooper uses clothing, and names some other fashion-based horror movies.
There’s also a new, on-camera interview with Dee Wallace, who talks about gravitating towards characters with large arcs, and how horror is a genre that often provides them. It’s enough to make a person wish that the film had included a few scenes of her character, Wendy, before the red dress came into her life.
There’s also an interview with the film’s DP, Levie Isaacks, and a video essay written by Chris O’Neill and voiced by Claire Loy. Last but not least is the behind-the-scenes footage, where the cool part is getting to listen to Stan Giesea (who provided the footage) and filmmaker, Michael Felsher, talk over it about Hooper’s career.
I’m Dangerous Tonight is available on Blu-Ray now from Kino Lorber.