Saturday, October 27, 2018

The 5 Scariest Episodes of The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone is often described as a science fiction series, although in truth it would be more accurate to describe it as fantasy. In most episodes things happen with no rational explanation beyond some supernatural agency, and often there is no discernable cause for events that have happened. It should come as no surprise that many episodes of The Twilight Zone veered into the territory of horror, making them perfect viewing for Halloween. Submitted for your approval, here are the five episodes of The Twilight Zone that I find the scariest.

5. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (Season 1, Episode 22): More often than not humanity itself can be the scariest thing around. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" takes us to the street of that name in an unnamed town. After Maple Street loses electricity and machines from cars to lawn mowers cease working, its inhabitants gradually descend into madness, convinced that aliens are going to be invading their neighbourhood. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is frightening not because of any imminent alien invasion, but because of the monsters that Maple Street's residents become themselves. Sadly, it is an episode that is more timely now than when it first aired in 1960.

4. "The Dummy" (Season 3, Episode 33): Let's face it, for many people ventriloquist dummies are very creepy.  For every person that has delighted to the antics of Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy, there is probably at least one person who thought Charlie was terrifying. Of course, what would make a dummy even more terrifying is if one realised that the dummy has his own mind and his own thoughts, some of which happen to be malevolent. That is the situation ventriloquist Jerry Etherson (Cliff Robertson) finds himself in, as he begins to realise that his dummy Willie has a life all his own. And, sadly for Jerry, Willie has his own plans as well...

3. "It's a Good Life" (Season 3, Episode 8): I am sure that everyone has encountered the sort of children who always have to have their way and will throw a tantrum if they don't get it. Now picture one of these young sociopaths with the ability to make things happen simply with the power of his or her mind. That is the situation the small town of Peaksville finds itself in. Six year old Anthony Fremont (played by Billy Mumy, later of Lost in Space fame) has seemingly unlimited power. He has isolated Peaksville from the rest of the world (or perhaps destroyed the rest of the world...). The town has to raise their own food and supplies of everyday household items, such as soap, are running low. And the inhabitants live in terror of Anthony, who might wish them into the cornfield (we are never explained what the cornfield is...) if they don't comply with his every demand. Not only is the mere concept of Anthony frightening, but the episode also features some of the most frightening imagery in any episode of The Twilight Zone.

2. "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (Season 5, Episode 3):  Robert Wilson (played by William Shatner) has just been released from a mental asylum, having had a nervous breakdown. Unfortunately for Mr. Wilson, on his airplane flight home he sees a large gremlin on the aircraft's wing. To makes matters worse, every time he tries to alert someone else to the gremlin's presence, from his wife to the plane's crew members, it is nowhere to be seen. What makes "Nightmare on 20,000 Feet" so terrifying isn't the gremlin itself (which looks pretty goofy by today's standards), but the fact that Mr. Wilson knows something is wrong and no one will believe him.

1. "Living Doll" (Season 5, Episode 6): Chatty Cathy, a talking doll made by Mattel, was all the rage with little girls from the late Fifties to the mid-Sixties. While little girls may have loved Chatty Cathy, I rather have to suspect many of their brothers and even fathers found the doll, well, creepy. Now consider if one of these dolls could not only talk, but think as well. And then consider if the thoughts of one of these dolls just happened to be malevolent? That is the central premise of "Living Doll". Erich Streator (played by Telly Savalas) does not particularly like his stepdaughter's new talking doll, Talky Tina. (voiced by the legendary June Foray). And, unfortunately for Mr. Streator, Talky Tina isn't too fond of him either. Not only do I think this is the single most frightening episode of The Twilight Zone, but one of the scariest half hours of American television ever made.

1 comment:

Barry P. said...

Solid list! "It's a Good Life" is a oerennper favorite of mine. If someone could condemn us based on our thoughts alone, I think we'd all end up in the cornfield.