Friday, May 27, 2011

Twilight Zone Snapshots Vol. 2

For Volume 1 click here

It's hard to stay away from The Twilight Zone for too long, especially when there are 5 booming seasons of awesome episodes that you need to see before you die. Not that I'm going to die anytime soon but hey, one of these days a crazy religious person will be right about the end of the world. While most people's bucket lists contain meaningful things like "Cure cancer" or "Go skydiving in the buff", mine contains mostly "Watch a lot of good TV shows that you missed" and also, "Kiss my cat a lot". So that means of course that I have a lot of catching up to do in the TV world and The Twilight Zone is a big part of this.

The After Hours

After my review of Tourist Trap, there was no way that I could do a 2nd volume of Twilight Zone snapshots and not include this one. I have to say that while I liked all the episodes I watched last time, none of them really spoke to me the way that I was hoping. The After Hours however kept on speaking to me. I think it was saying, "Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!" not to be confused with

The episodes follows Marsha a young woman shopping in a department store with the desire to buy her mother a gold thimble. After a strange elevator opens and takes her to a ninth floor that is mysteriously barren, Marsha meets a saleswoman who happens to have one gold thimble in stock. Things get weird fast and after Marsha pays for the thimble, gets creeped out and runs back into the elevator, she notices that the thimble is scratched and in poor condition. What a gyp! She tries to complain to management only to find that there is no ninth floor. That is when Marsha sees the mysterious saleswoman and realizes that she is actually a mannequin. Dun dun dun!

God, I love it. There so much to love about this episode that I'm finding it hard to keep it all contained. I just cannot get over how much I love the idea of this strange alternate realm where mannequins are real people. It plays into my irrational fear about the "after hours" lives of mannequins but it also doesn't necessarily make them terrifying. It's kind of like when we realize that Scary German Guy from The Monster Squad actually has a huge heart. The After Hours restores a similar sort of kindness in mannequins I think, and I appreciate that.

That isn't to say of course that the mannequins don't still have their scary moments. There's one moment in particular, when Marsha is freaking out and noticing all the mannequins around her when one of the mannequins hands moves. It's such a great moment of concentrated fear. It's like I was hoping for that to happen but not entirely convinced that The Twilight Zone could do it. And then everything hit its peak when Marsha goes back to the ninth floor with the saleswoman and we see an entire room of mannequins. This scene is spectacular and the way that each mannequin slowly comes to life is AWESOME.

I have no other word for you. I love this episode a lot and the ending is the cherry on top of that love. When the store manager looks in the camera at the end

..........yup, that was when I decided who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Right then and there.

The Hitch-Hiker

Reader Carol suggested the episode The Hitch-Hiker for its curious way of always freaking her out. After reading the brief plot outline I was hooked. A young woman driving across country continuously sees the same strange hitchhiker along every leg of her journey. Ack! I once told a story about hitchhikers, during my review of The Hitcher that you should probably read.

Alright again, I really only like that story because I love imagining myself alone and sad eating birthday cake in my friend's kitchen with her cat. But anyways, there is for some reason nothing creepier than driving alone late at night and seeing a person hitchhiking on the road. This episode is the epitome of that feeling. My only disappoint lays in the fact that I guessed the ending the minute the episode started. I blame this on the fact that I've seen one too many horror movies that deal with this same type of plot. See Dead End, Jacob's Ladder and Triangle for more information.

Despite that however, seeing that hitchhiker crop up all the time is quite unnerving isn't it? Nothing is more chilling though than the phone call she makes to her home at the end of the episode. Even though I knew the "twist", it was still a very creepy moment. I enjoyed seeing the shift in Nan and witnessing her acceptance but I still felt all sad and whiny about things. Plus, I can't imagine anything worse than driving across the country alone without turning on the radio. What were you thinking Nan?!

Eye of the Beholder was recommended to me by one of my very favorite people, Christine Hadden. This episode wins my praise by doing several wonderful things. For starters, the plot seems very simple. A woman whose face is completely covered in bandages is trying to have her horribly disfigured face repaired. But are things as simple as they seem? Don't forget this IS the Twilight Zone after all. The episode is not only strangely intriguing in the subtlest of ways, but it also employs some great acting and some even greater camera work.

It is a true test of one's acting ability to completely portray a believable and well fleshed out character with just your voice. Here it is done however and it's done brilliantly. There's so much suspense built up to the moment where the bandages are removed and that scene is soooooo tedious and mind boggling. My favorite thing however, other than the reveal at the end, is the crafty way that the doctors' and nurses' faces are hidden.

I admit I again guessed the ending mere seconds into the episode's start (I can't help it if I'm like totally wicked smart) but it didn't prevent me from feeling completely engrossed. It's such a neat concept and so simple and it all works beautifully together. I can imagine myself watching this as a young one and flipping a giant shit when the bandages came off. Something tells me that my fears would be very different had that happened.

When I was in middle school, I used to think that the number 22 was following me. No matter what I was doing, the number 22 seemed to be plastered over every thing. It's not surprising then to see a Twilight Zone episode entitled Twenty-Two that seems to rely at least somewhat on this same kind of craziness. Twenty-Two was recommended to me by a number of people and one those people is Mikey Sarago, who pointed out that he hadn't seen it in years but he remembers it being especially creepy. I'm not exactly a person who passes up good old fashioned creepiness, so what was I waiting for?

In the episode, an overworked and stressed out stripper named Liz Powell, has a reoccurring nightmare while recovering in the hospital. In the nightmare, Liz always ends up in the basement of hospital, outside of room number 22--the morgue. Here, a sinister looking nurse opens the doors and says, "Room for one more honey", prompting Liz to scream and run back to her room where she soon awakens. It is later discovered that the hospital nurse who does work in the morgue does not resemble the one from Liz's dream. The doctor does find however that despite the fact that Liz has never been to the morgue, she is able to recount details flawlessly--like the room number which is indeed 22.

The ending of the episode is entirely awesome and try as I might I couldn't figure it out until a few minutes before it happened. I guess my smartness is slipping. Leading up to that moment however, Liz's nightmare IS fantastically creepy. I've been meaning to bring this up but another one of my favorite things about The Twilight Zone is how effortlessly it seems to make every episode feel like a nightmare. Here however, an actual nightmare is the focal point of the episode and true to form--the nightmare feels like a valid part of the atmosphere and the character's surroundings. Not much has changed in the hospital when Liz goes down to the basement but it's still a nightmare. I guess I just love how The Twilight Zone creates these great feelings of uneasiness and that uneasiness is at its peak here.

I also gives props to Twenty-Two for not being too predictable. I assumed this episode would be similar to The Hitch-Hiker but it's not, and also for a change, the ending isn't necessarily sad either. Not that I'd be terribly sad if something happened to Liz Powell though....she WAS pretty fricking annoying.

I love when these episodes end with good and simple morals. In this case--do NOT under any circumstances, drink and drive. Or wait a minute... is the moral do not let your wife drive because women are bad drivers and will almost certainly always get you stuck inside a fake town? Hmmm, yes I think that's it.

Here we have a couple who after leaving a party, wake up to find themselves in a strange house. There is fake food, fake cabinets and a fake telephone. To top it all off, the giggle of a small child can be heard from...somewhere. Further exploration of the town yields similarly frustrating results. Fake squirrels, fake trees and policemen and even fake grass---this town is whack!

It doesn't take a total genius to figure out where this one is headed but it's still the feeling of hopelessness and claustrophobia that wins my vote. There's also that horrible feeling of pity that we feel for the couple. Towards the end they get on a train and believe their problems to be over. They make jokes about what will happen when they go back to work and we as onlookers have a feeling that things will only get worse for them. We're right of course as we soon find that the train has gone in a circle and they are back where they started in fake land.

It's a fun little episode that reminds me of an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode and even of Fantastic Planet. And even though it's a little obvious what's going on, I suppose you still feel quite badly for the couple. Oh well, at least they're in nice outfits.

Got any favorite episodes that I haven't talked about yet? Tell me about them in the comments section!


savinoboy said...

Great couple of posts! TZ is the best!! My next door neighbor is Veronica Cartwright, star of the TZ episode "I Sing the Body Electric" (as well as Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds) A rather creepy one as well. I love to pester her with loads of questions about the show and Rod Serling. I'm so glad they are avail on Netflix! Awesome.

Crafty C said...

Glad you like The Hitch-Hiker episode! No matter how many times I see it that guy always creeps me out - especially when she's driving at night.

Christine Hadden said...

The Hitchhiker always reminded me of Carnival of Souls. Perhaps Carnival took influence from that TZ classic...?

And glad you liked Eye of the Beholder. It's one of my favorites, so well done and it says a lot about society and how some people are never satisfied unless they are "perfect" - or at least until someone tells them they are.
Oh vanity - always rearing your ugly head...