I Saw the TV Glow review: "An eerie, reality-bending allegorical horror"

I Saw the TV Glow
(Image: © A24)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

An eerie and empathetic allegorical horror whose reality-bending conceits both unnerve and mesmerise.

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Evading easy categorisation, writer/director Jane Schoenbrun’s horror-hued follow-up to We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021) can be read as a transgender allegory, one that compellingly explores the idea of being born into one existence, feeling you should be living a different one, but not knowing how to cross over to this other life where it seems you would be happier. 

I Saw the TV Glow begins in 1996, with sheltered teen Owen (Ian Foreman) intrigued by commercials for The Pink Opaque, a young-adult fantasy show that’s on too late for him to watch. But with the help of the older Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine from Bill & Ted Face the Music), Owen finally gets a taste of the show, which then becomes an obsession. Two years later, Owen (now Justice Smith) and Maddy have continued to bond over the series, but find themselves questioning their own reality and identities. As time goes by, fantasy seems to bleed into Owen’s suburban life. 

The Pink Opaque nods to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though in its look and curious atmosphere, it also plays like a pastiche of the weirder side of '90s Nickelodeon, evoking the likes of The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Are You Afraid of the Dark? As Owen’s memories of both the show and real life start to mutate, Schoenbrun proves a dab hand at conjuring uncanny images that sear the brain; even a shot of Fred Durst (as Owen’s father) simply sitting in stone-faced silence becomes nightmare fuel.

I Saw the TV Glow is released in UK cinemas on July 26 and is available digitally in the US now. 

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Freelance Writer

Josh Slater-Williams is a freelance writer on film, television and music. Outside of Total Film, he writes for the BFI, Sight and Sound, Little White Lies, Dazed, The Line of Best Fit and more in print and online.