This creepily effective thriller is the closest television has come to approximating the literate horror novels of Thomas Harris (Red Dragon) and Shane Stevens (By Reason of Insanity). Peter Strauss plays a psycho who kidnaps a teenage girl (the totally boss Samantha Mathis, fresh from her triumphs in the film Pump Up the Volume and the TV movie Extreme Close-Up). Strauss buries the girl in an underground tomb equipped with a fan and an electric light he wants her to live just long enough for him to get the ransom he demands from her father, played by Robert Urich (American Dreamer
The movie is based on a true story, and its realistic details add to the tension driving around aimlessly because he can't find the spot where he's supposed to drop off the ransom money, Mathis chattering banalities to herself to stay conscious.
83 Hours 'Til Dawn spends too much time letting Strauss jabber on to psychologist Paul Winfield about his tough childhood and how he has a ''beast'' inside him (the old ''devil made me do it'' excuse). And the ending is very soppy. But it's great that director Donald Wrye never bothers with the phony, prime-time- permitted violence that has hoked-up so many other TV thrillers. Wrye uses Strauss' innate stiffness as an actor to create a grim, truly scary villain. The result is an entertainingly unsettling movie. B+