Recap Review: Halloween in the Zone

KT wants to assure you that there’s room for one more, honey.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (various episodes)

Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls…

When I was about fifteen, my dad decided that it would be fun to watch the entire original run of The Twilight Zone. This was before Netflix, but not before the SciFi Channel, so he used to tape the episodes at whatever hour of the night SciFi used to run them as filler, and we’d watch them later as a family.

Arguably, there are few Twilight Zone episodes that wouldn’t be good Halloween entertainment.  Like any show, though, there are some clunkers.  And there are some that turn out to be surprisingly uplifting.  But in the spirit of the season, I want to offer a few favorites that I find particularly creepy… especially on the first viewing.

“The Jungle”

I vaguely remember seeing this one on TV when I was about ten and got it connected in my head with “The Monkey’s Paw,” a short story by W.W. Jacobs – which had recently scared the bejeezus out of me at the time.   Both stories are triggered by African artifacts that white people bring home with them, but don’t understand.  Artifacts that supposedly have powers that their new owners don’t — initially — believe in.

As is often the case with good Twilight Zone episodes, the part of this one that really gives me the shivers is the middle, in which the protagonist is walking home in the dark through Central Park.  Visually, it’s just Central Park, but the sound department puts you deep into a jungle, where it seems certain that if one thing doesn’t get you, something else will…

“The Eye of the Beholder”

This one is well-known — over the years, it’s been referenced or parodied on SNL, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and Third Rock from the Sun — and yet, the reveal is so exquisite, I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving anything away for even one of you.

The story is a simple one about a woman recovering from reconstructive surgery – so simple that you may wonder when the plot will kick in; can’t she get out of the hospital already?  But mostly I think you will not wonder those things.  This one is a tone poem, a carefully crafted piece of suspence that makes art out of black and white.  Find it.  Watch it.

“Twenty-two”

Here’s a second episode set in a hospital, just in case anyone needed confirmation that hospitals can be terrifying places.  In this one, the irony is that our protagonist is here to recover from a nervous breakdown.  Strangly, she doesn’t seem able to relax.

The plot centers around a recurring dream that ends with an unfriendly-looking nurse announcing that “There’s room for one more, honey.”  Whatever room she’s got, you know even before Rod Serling steps in to introduce the episode that it’s not a room you want to be in.

“The New Exhibit”

But let’s don’t give hospitals too much grief, ‘cause you know what’s way creepier than a hospital?  A wax museum.

When one such museum closes, an espeically dedicated employee takes five figures home with him to keep in his basement.  His wife is not pleased:  not only did he not choose to bring the four Beatles and Elvis, he did bring home Jack the Ripper and four other famous serial killers.  To put in their basement.

You may not be surprised by what happens to the wife, but we’ll just say that by the end of the episode, we’re back in a wax museum — and as the title suggests, there’s a new exhibit.

 

The original Twilight Zone ran for over 150 episodes over five seasons, so this is just a starting point.  It’s not even all of my favorites — if you want a few more titles, check out “To Serve Man,” “The Trade-Ins,” “The Midnight Sun,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Freet,” and (tied with “Eye of the Beholder”) my other favorite, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

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