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DJs in Peril: Radio Horror on Film

Being a DJ Can be Scary

Being a DJ Can be Scary

I’m one of those geeks who does TiVo searches using “radio” as my key word in order to ensure that I’m not missing an interesting radio-themed pop cultural moment. For some reason this week’s television listings offered up a bounty of radio nuggets, from the classic 1990 teen angst film Pump Up the Volume, to the 1987 retro-themed Woody Allen film Radio Days.

There were also a handful of children’s animated series with radio themes, including:

Postman Pat: in which “children put on a radio show at school”

Edgar & Ellen: watch as “Ellen becomes a mystery pirate DJ”

Beavis & Butt-head: tune in to see “The boys become disc jockeys for the day”

But what really caught my eye were the horror movies and thrillers set in radio stations. Premiering today on The Movie Channel, this year’s straight-to-DVD release Dead Air promised a “radio station fighting for survival” amid a terrorist attack.

Additionally, a 2001 episode of the series Night Visions called “Dead Air” aired this week, in which a late night radio shock jock deals with horror following some creepy calls. 1994’s Radioland Murders was also broadcast this week, with its tale of murder amid the launch of a new radio network in 1939.

Although horror can take place in any setting, there’s something particularly scary about the presence of a late-night DJ alone at a radio station. As I read the synopses for a few of these films and episodes I couldn’t help thinking about Play Misty For Me, in which a crazed caller is every DJ’s worst nightmare. With that, here are a few horror movie selections that will keep graveyard DJs awake at night:

1. Play Misty for Me (1971): Clint Eastwood directs and stars as late night DJ who is being stalked.

2. Dead Air (1994 made for TV movie): Gregory Hines stars as the DJ and a caller might be a killer.

3. Dead Air (2009): Late-night talk radio DJ holds down the fort at a station during a terrorist attack.

4. Radioland Murders (1994): Death abounds during the launch of a radio network in 1939.

Can you think of other representations of DJs in horror films?

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4 Responses to DJs in Peril: Radio Horror on Film

  1. Sharon Mahoney July 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Don’t forget Ray Flowers, the heroic DJ in Stephen King’s “The Stand” who tries to warn his listeners about the crackdown and quarantine by the military in the wake of the Superflu.

    Kathy Bates played the chainsmoking DJ (as “Rae Stevens”), in the first episode of the television miniseries based on the book (“The Plague”), at King’s request. She takes frantic calls that relate the burning of bodies in neighboring towns and the shooting of unarmed civilians, until her station is raided by the Army and she’s shot while on the air when she refuses to stop broadcasting.

    The character in the novel was originally male, but King changed it to a woman when Bates became available for casting.

    • Jennifer Waits July 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks, Sharon. I didn’t realize all of the heroic radio station personnel in Steven King’s work. That’s so cool! I assume you are watching “Under the Dome”?

  2. Godiva Hunt September 18, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 centers around a radio dj and her station, pontypool, lords of Salem, trick or treat has gene Simmons rocking a disk jockey roll.

  3. Spekter October 5, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    First thing that comes to mind is The Twilight Zone ep The Devil’s Advocate with Jerry Stiller ranting into madness. Just saw A Christmas Horror Story with William Shatner getting smashed and yelling at Susan. Adrienne Barbeau in John Carpenter’s The fog.

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