GRANDSON OF MADE FOR TV MOVIE WEEK: The Stranger Within (1990)

1974. Grove’s Mill, Minnesota. Widow Mare Blackburn’s (Kate Jackson, Charlie’s Angels) loses her 3-year old son and never sees him again. And that’s just how this movie starts!

For sixteen years, Mare has blamed herself for the loss. But now, she’s finally found love again with Dan (Chris Sarandon, Fright Night), who has moved to Minneapolis after the suicide of his son.

Then, her son (Rick Shroeder, Silver Spoons) shows back up. At first, she doesn’t believe that it can be him. But he quickly gains her trust, as he knows plenty of things only her son could know.

Mare is pregnant again and not sure she wants to have the child. And Dan still isn’t sure that Mark is her son. After all, Mark claims to be from Emerald City, Idaho. That town does not exist.

Mark falls off the house and Dan saves his life. They talk and Mark shows him a birthmark that matches up to his baby photos. But Mark starts being a creep, telling Mark about the baby and knowing about his son’s suicide. He has no idea how to keep a secret, despite having so many of them himself.

Everything goes wrong when Mark shoves Dan into the water while ice fishing, then cuts all the power and phone cords to the house. He even shuts down in Mare’s car, trapping her in the house.

Yet when a cop comes, Mare has to finally listen to reason and learns that even if this man is not her son — a fact she’d be fine with — he’s also a dangerous maniac. He attacks the cop with a hammer and then tells her that it’s her fault that his life is so bad.

There’s a moment here where Mark says that there were other kids — there have certainly been other mothers that he’s killed — and it’s chilling, because he may have known Mare’s son. There are no easy answers. And luckily, the cop’s father shows up to save the day.

This TV movie — which originally aired on November 27, 1990 — was directed by Tom Holland, who also brought us Fright Night and Child’s Play. This is a tight movie, packed with drama and well worth seeking out. However, like most TV movies, you’re stuck looking on the grey market or YouTube.

PS – This is the first movie I’ve ever watched where Chris Sarandon’s character didn’t sell everyone out or prove to be untrustworthy. I still will never, ever fall for him in anything he does.

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