NIGHT VISIONS: Revisiting The Henry Rollins-Hosted Horror Anthology Show

Horror anthologies are nothing new or buried deep within the genre. Movie series such as Creepshow, V/H/S, and Volumes Of Blood have told multiple stories within a single film, among many others. Televised horror anthologies have also been around for quite some time, with The Twilight Zone being the most notable throughout television history, spawning three television series, a radio series, and amusement ride at multiple Disney theme parks. Many programs have followed in its eerie storytelling footsteps: HBO’s Tales From The Crypt, Tales From The Darkside, The Outer Limits, Monsters; even a reboot of The Twilight Zone featuring Jordan Peele as host is set to air on CBS in 2019. One show that seems to perplex many is Night Visions, the short-lived Fox program produced by Warner Brothers with renowned musician and actor Henry Rollins assuming the Rod Serling role as host.

Saying the show was short-lived may be giving it too much credit, as the program yielded only 13 episodes. Ten of those 13 episodes aired between July 12 and September 6, 2001 before being placed on the backburner by Fox due to the events of September 11th. The show was acquired by the Sci-Fi Channel the following year, and the remaining three episodes of the series were subsequently aired in September 2002 and, despite reruns airing on Chiller and the Australia’s Nine Network, the show quickly fell into obscurity.

Serling stand-in Rollins was no stranger to the camera by the time Night Visions went into production. Having performed in front of rabid crowds for two decades by the 21st century, Rollins tapped into taped media with Black Flag yielding three music videos and two live concert videos, and the Rollins Band releasing many more from its inception. While guest hosting various programs for MTV, Rollins also took to acting during the tenure of the Rollins Band, appearing in The Chase, Lost Highway, Jack Frost, and Heat before assuming hosting duties on Night Visions. Furthermore, his role as host of the show was borne out of Fox’s desire to have Rollins as a recurring character on The X-Files. After the creative team of the show pitched Gary Oldman for a host – who had also agreed to the role – Fox shot the idea down and suggested Rollins as master of ceremonies.

Much like its successful predecessor Tales From The Crypt, Night Visions went above and beyond to include famous industry names in its cast and crew for its episodes. Episode directors spanned from genre legends Tobe Hooper and Joe Dante to actors Keith Gordon (of Christine and Back To School), Brian Dennehy (of First Blood and Cocoon), Bill Pullman (of Independence Day and Spaceballs), and JoBeth Williams (of Poltergeist and The Big Chill). In front of the camera, established actors appearing in various episodes included Malcolm McDowell, Miguel Ferrer, Pam Grier, Michael Rapaport, William Atherton, Jack Palance, Bridget Fonda, Randy Quaid, and Lou Diamond Phillips. Episodes delved into various topics often found in horror and science fiction: deja vu, voodoo, phone terror, serial killers, hitchhikers, re-animation, and ghosts all pop up at some point during the show. Mostly devoid of the raunchy gore of Tales From The Crypt, the series did its best within the constraints of network television airing to garner a sense of dread and terror within each story.

While the show’s opening title sequence and theme song fell more in line with the Goosebumps television series – coincidentally enough, Night Visions co-creator Billy Brown worked as a writer on the children’s program – viewers were treated to the intense, no-nonsense delivery of the black-clothing-clad host Rollins, who delivered deadly serious monologues in front of a green screen featuring a still shot of the story at hand, summarizing each story before the narrative would begin. Fans of Henry’s are treated to a much more personable and high-spirited appearance these days, but the time capsule in which Night Visions casts the spoken word all-star is undeniably fierce. A July 12, 2001 story via the Washington Post acknowledges the show’s nod to The Twilight Zone, but opines that the comparison of the two shows doesn’t go that far.

“The differences between the two series,” writes John Maynard, “begin with the hosts. Whereas The Twilight Zone was hosted by its creator – clean-cut, impeccably dressed Rod Serling – [Night] Visions is anchored by punk rocker Henry Rollins, a tattooed, hulking mass of a man who delivers the show’s introductions and epilogues.”

Maynard then goes on to strangely congratulate Rollins on his deliveries within the show, but bashes Fox as a network for its additional programming that aired around the same time as Night Visions, which included forgettable reality television shows like Temptation Island and Love Cruise, as well as the painfully boring Murder In Smalltown X, centered around contestants investigating a fictitious murder. I suppose every Fox show couldn’t have the cultural impact of The Simpsons.

While the show’s run was brief and forgotten in time, it currently boasts a 7.6 out of 10 on IMDb. Those intrigued by the show can also watch nearly every episode for free on YouTube.

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