Critics Have Seen I Saw The TV Glow, And They Are Raving About The ‘Reality-Bending’ Nickelodeon-Coded Horror

 Justice Smith in I Saw the TV Glow.
Justice Smith in I Saw the TV Glow.

A24 continues to churn out some of the most creative and unique projects of our time, particularly in the genre of horror. On the heels of some of A24’s best horror movies like Talk To Me and the X film series comes I Saw the TV Glow from writer/director Jane Schoenbrun. Movie lovers took note of some interesting casting choices, including Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst joining Phoebe Bridgers and Justice Smith, and there are a couple of former Nickelodeon stars credited that I won’t spoil here. Critics have seen the upcoming film, and this sounds like another winner.

The movie centers around two friends — Owen (Justice Smith) and Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) — and their love for the fictional TV show The Pink Opaque. However, as Sarah El-Mahmoud points out in CinemaBlend’s review of I Saw the TV Glow, it’s about so much more than that. The film isn’t your typical horror flick in the traditional sense of monsters or gore, she says, but it’s still incredibly effective in getting its unsettling message across. El-Mahmoud rates the movie 4 out of 5 stars, writing:

While I Saw The TV Glow is filled with horror, in its own unique way, it’s not necessarily a horror movie by other measures. It’s more so a somber drama that implements horror filmmaking techniques to communicate its message. Don’t expect jump scares or the blood-flowing final acts of many A24 titles in the genre. Jane Schoenbrun is much more interested in placing you in the shoes of a feeling – a feeling that might make one understand the sorrow that comes with being too afraid to be one’s true self.

Evan Valentine of agrees with the above assessment, also rating the movie 4 out of 5. Valentine says this scratches the itch of anyone nostalgic for ‘90s Nickelodeon-style storytelling and is sure to be considered a cult classic. Categorizing I Saw the TV Glow as simply horror is to do it a disservice, the critic says, writing:

The A24 film doesn't have much in the way of jump scares and/or slasher-style murders, but its surreal trappings and reality-bending story beats will stay locked into your head for days following the run time. What viewers get from the film instead of a straight-up horror might be far stronger, as Schoenbrun takes the chance to dive deep into the idea of self-acceptance and the true horror that comes from attempting to fit in with the crowd by pushing your true personality beneath the surface.

Julia Glassman of The Mary Sue gives it a perfect 5 out of 5 TVs, calling the film “a gorgeous fever dream.” This is a must-see for anyone who digs strange stories, indie filmmaking and genuine emotion in the undercurrents of their horror. Glassman says:

There’s so much to love about this movie. First, there’s the story-within-a-story of The Pink Opaque. Schoenbrun accomplishes something kind of incredible with their portrayal of the show, evoking not the straightforward kids’ TV many of us grew up with, but rather our distorted and surreal memories of it. The characters in The Pink Opaque roam a dreamlike world filled with silly and horrifying monsters, with lo-fi special effects that actually heighten the show’s tension instead of diffusing it. … Then there’s the emotional heart of the film: Owen’s struggle to carve out a place for himself in his own life, expressed beautifully through Smith’s sensitive and volatile performance.

Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth also gives I Saw the TV Glow 5 out of 5 stars, describing it as “simultaneously shocking and soul-draining.” While that doesn’t sound altogether pleasant, Kojder notes that this is one movie-going experience that isn’t likely to be duplicated ever again. The critic says basically the less you know going in, the better, saying:

It is difficult to describe the plot of I Saw the TV Glow, and truthfully, writers shouldn’t try too hard. Reality and fiction start to blur, as if the lives and memories of the carriages have been ‘shaken up like a snow globe’, and the rest is up to the viewer to piece together as the shattering, anxiety-ridden tale unfolds. This is an absorbing film that defies all sense of traditional storytelling and should be experienced coldly. Yet, it remains accessible, partially because the film’s point isn’t the obvious metaphor but what that metaphor and show do to these characters.

BJ Colangelo of SlashFilm says some of the movie's devices, including characters breaking the fourth wall or spouting long-winded monologues, might become distracting for those unfamiliar with the types of shows that inspired it. It may also be too metaphorical or too pretentious for some, Colangelo says, but for others it will be the most important film they see all year. The critic rates it 8 out of 10, writing:

Film and television are often used as stand-in language for the emotions we feel but cannot process, or in many cases — the things we know deep down but are too afraid to say out loud. Jane Schoenbrun's sophomore feature I Saw The TV Glow is an examination of this very feeling, soaked with the neon flush of radical '90s young adult television, where the monsters are too scary and the lore is too complex for children to understand or appreciate, but everyone still writes off the subgenre as ‘kid's stuff.’

This film has been getting some attention for a few months after making the festival circuit, and it seems the majority of critics who caught an early screening agree with the above opinions, as I Saw the TV Glow is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% critics score.

Will this go down as one of A24’s best movies? You don’t have to wait long to find out. Jane Schoenbrun’s project will see a limited release on May 3 before going wide on Friday, May 17. In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the other upcoming horror movies, and our 2024 movie release calendar for films of all genres.