1980s TV movie where girl kills family for her dead sister

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I’m trying to find the title of a made for TV (I think so) movie about a girl who loses her sister in a car accident and then starts to talk to her Ghost. The ghost of her dead sister apparently is not happy with the family and convinces her to kill them one by one. She kills her younger brother by having him go out the window to get a ball or frisbee or something. She kills her dad in the bathtub with a hairdryer, I think it was. And tries to kill her mom with a pizza cutter, where there’s a scene of her mother trying to call for help and the girl is rolling the pizza cutter up the banister on the stairs and then cut the phone line. I don’t remember what happens after that.

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lokisrevenge Selected answer as best May 16, 2022

This is the 1982 made-for-TV horror movie Don’t Go to Sleep that starred Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper as the parents and Ruth Gordon as the grandmother. I’m a huge fan of early 1970’s TV horror films — the stuff I watched as a kid. The genre had pretty much died off by the early 1980’s except for a few gems like this one. It gets a lot of discussion in TV horror fan forums because it traumatized many a kid who caught it at the right age — especially the pizza cutter and Frisbee scenes. I was too old by the time this one aired to have that kind of reaction, but had I been younger, I might rank this movie right up there with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark for pure creepiness.

It had a legitimate VHS release in the early years of home video, but other than easy-to-find bootleg DVD-R copies, I don’t think ever got a legitimate release on DVD, which is a crying shame. You can watch the entire movie on youtube, however.

lokisrevenge Selected answer as best May 16, 2022

Wow thanks. I didn’t think it would be from so early. When I saw it, along with my parents and sister, it must have been a re-airing. It was one of those Saturday night movies and it was the late 80s by then. I was very young but none of us were scared. It vibed more as a “suspense thriller” than a horror film. Otherwise my mom would have never let us watch it & she’s been wondering where to find it since at probably the late 90s.

I know it was a Saturday night btw because we had Sunday School the next morning & my parents made me take a bath before I could come join them, around the tiny 12-inch tv we had, so I missed the first part (and never was satisfied with the generic catch-me-up my parents quickly ran by me). Also because during Sunday School that next morning a friend of mine tried to pass the plot of the movie off as a “cool” dream he had. I was thrilled to get to 1-up him by jumping up & finishing off the “dream” for him for the entire class and announcing that he didn’t dream that all by himself because it was a movie that I too watched the night before. I felt cool getting to tell everyone that I got to see what everyone in class (& the teacher) probably thought sounded too twisted for kids our age… or Christians in general as we were a very strict religion.

Apparently by the time it re-aired when we got to watch it, “horror” films had become the realm of the macabre & graphically gruesome, and both of our parents found this to be more of a crime thriller with human characters & a not-too-realistical-plot(too real & you could feed the tense disapproval of “this show contains inappropriate behavior”radiating from her) with an intriguing supernatural bent(the ghost pressuring her to commit the crimes was a little girl who I seem to recall dressed in very “acceptable”& “modest” dresses).

My mom was the boss of what did or didn’t break the rules & WHEN they were or weren’t being broken… the movie never even blipped her radar or she would have made sure everyone felt so uncomfortable & the tv would have been shut off for the night. Which is why I’m wondering if there must have been an incredibly significant shift in what a “horror” movie was in the early 80s compared with what it was in the late 80s. Or 3 kids aged 4 – 7 from strict Pentecostal families would have never been allowed to watch as though it were one of the more “scary” reruns of Little House on the Prairie. 😂

I just now told my mom that I finally found the title AND where we can watch it again… together, sometime this week… because finding this movie has become a kind of nostalgic obsession that comes up in conversation at least a time or two every few months (give or take) and it wouldn’t feel satisfying for me to pre-screen this alone. It must be re-experienced together.

Thanks so much for so quickly solving this decades old mystery/obsession. I only wish I’d found this website sooner instead of wasting all those hours going through every streaming service, finding all the similar-as-I-can-locate themed movies & winding my way through the movies listed underneath as “similar” or “customers also watched” hoping one day I’d get lucky and find it. I’ve lost much sleep convincing myself that I’ve almost found it & if I stop clicking I’ll have just missed it by a couple of degrees of the “you might also like” separation rabbit hole.