Before Pirates of the Caribbean, this Made-for-TV Movie was the first film to be based on a ride from the Disney Theme Parks, in this case The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror.Steve Guttenberg plays the role of a disgraced reporter named Buzzy Crocker who is stuck doing tabloid stories after submitting a story that turned out to be false. He meets an old woman named Abigail who tells him the story of The Hollywood Tower Hotel, which was closed down after lightning struck the elevator and killed its five passengers. She claims that Emeline Partridge, the nanny of child actress Sally Shine, was responsible for the horrible event, which put a curse on the hotel, trapping their spirits there. She begs him to go into the hotel and collect some items she needs to break the curse. Along with his niece Anna, and the inheritor of the hotel, Chris "Q" Todd, Buzzy ventures into the hotel, and is surprised at what he finds.
This film contains examples of:
Actor Allusion: Of a sort. Sally Shine, an obvious parody of Shirley Temple, is played by Lindsay Ridgeway. This isn't the only time Lindsay played a Shirley Temple Expy - in fact, the same year this movie was made she was the singing voice for Darla Dimple (in which Shirley Temple meets Enfant Terrible) in Cats Don't Dance. And a few years earlier, she was Tina Denmark-a dark twist on Shirley Temple-in the musical Ruthless.
California Doubling: Weird, albeit justified, example. Most of the scenes involving the hotel were filmed at the actual attraction in Disney World, which was the only version of the ride in existence at the time. Thus, although the movie is set and mostly filmed in Los Angeles, it switches to Florida whenever anyone gets close to the tower. Fortunately, Florida and southern California have a similar climate and the area around the attraction was made up to look like Hollywood anyway. The Florida scenes were filmed first, in case you were wondering.
The Cassandra: No one believed Abigail about what happened which is good, because she was lying.
Children Are Innocent: Sally repeatedly shows this quality time and time again. By the end of the movie it becomes something of a plot point, and in the end breaks the curse.
Divorced Installment: The theme park ride is based on The Twilight Zone, complete with the Fake Shemp being used to feature the late Rod Serling hosting the pre-show introduction. The movie drops the Twilight Zone connection, probably to avoid paying royalties. (The version of the ride at Tokyo Disneyland also drops the connection to The Twilight Zone, though partly because the TV show isn't well-known in Japan, and partly because of the fact that the Japanese had different beliefs and customs in regards to the occult and the supernatural.)
Eureka Moment: "The woman is completely nuts. She probably thinks that she's a witch."
Evil Laugh: Emeline gives one in Abigail's inaccurate flashback.
Littered all over the hotel when Buzzy is getting the book. When the creepy owl laughs, before Buzzy nearly gets stabbed with a pen dropped from the ceiling, when he's looking around after that...
And of course there's Abigail's after Steve and Anna find out Emeline wasn't behind the curse.
Forgotten Birthday: Played straight, aside from the birthday girl having the biggest overreaction ever in the history of this trope. She finds out sixty years later that a surprise party had been planned. Oops.
Like a Son to Me: Genderflipped with Sally and Emeline. After being accused of being the one who wanted to kill Sally, Emeline is horrified at the mere notion, and says that she loves Sally. "I couldn't love her more if she were me own daughter!"
Motive Rant: Abigail gives one at the end, about how everyone loved her sister but didn't care about her, and how her perceived Forgotten Birthday was the last straw. Her rant gets derailed when the ghost of her sister, the person who loved her the most, shows up in person.
Next Sunday A.D.: The movie was released in 1997, but took place in 1999. Either that or the characters are rounding up when they refer to 1939 as "sixty years ago".
Red Herring: Emeline was thought to be the culprit behind the whole curse. But when called out on it, she reveals she would never do anything like that to Sally. The other ghosts likewise vouch for her.
Trunk Full Of Crazy: Abigail has a trunk filled with photos of Sally with her face slashed out, decapitated/mangled Sally dolls, and "I HATE SALLY" written all over the place in red.