Horror Scenes That I Love: Anthony Sends Dan To The Cornfield in The Twilight Zone


“You’re a very bad man!”

Today’s horror scene that I love comes not from film but from television.  In this episode of The Twilight Zone (entitled “It’s A Good Life”), the citizens of a rural community have to go out of their not to upset a rather unpredictable six year-old.

What happens when you upset little Anthony Fremont?

Take a look:

Written by Rod Serling and directed by James Sheldon, this episode originally aired on November 3, 1961.

Horror Film Review: Twilight Zone: The Movie (dir by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller)


1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie is meant to be a tribute to the classic original anthology series.  It features four “episodes” and two wrap-around segments, with Burgess Meredith providing opening and closing narration.  Each segment is directed by a different director, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a bit of a mess.  One of the episodes is brilliant.  Another one is good up until the final few minutes.  Another one is forgettable.  And then finally, one of them is next too impossible to objectively watch because of a real-life tragedy.

With a film that varies as wildly in tone and quality as Twilight Zone: The Movie, the only way to really review it is to take a segment at a time:

Something Scary (dir by John Landis)

Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd drive through the desert and discuss the old Twilight Zone TV series.  Brooks claims that the show was scary.  Aykoyd asks if Brooks wants to see something really scary.  This is short but fun.  It’s tone doesn’t really go along with the rest of the movie but …. oh well.  It made me jump.

Time Out (dir by John Landis)

Vic Morrow plays a racist named Bill Connor who, upon leaving his local bar, finds himself transported to Nazi-occupied France, the deep South, and eventually Vietnam.

How you react to this story will probably depend on how much you know about its backstory.  If you don’t know anything about the filming of this sequence, you’ll probably just think it’s a bit heavy-handed and, at times, unintentionally offensive.  Twilight Zone often explored themes of prejudice but Time Out just seems to be using racism as a gimmick.

If you do know the story of what happened while this segment was being filmed, it’s difficult to watch.  Actor Vic Morrow was killed during filming.  His death was the result of a preventable accident that occurred during a scene that was to involve Morrow saving two Vietnamese children from a helicopter attack.  The helicopter crashed, killing not only Morrow but the children as well.  It was later determined that not only were safety protocols ignored but that Landis had hired the children illegally and was paying them under the table so that he could get around the regulations governing how many hours child actors could work.  It’s a tragic story and one that will not leave you as a fan of John Landis’s, regardless of how much you like An American Werewolf in London and Animal House.

Nothing about the segment feels as if it was worth anyone dying for and, to be honest, I’m kind of amazed that it was even included in the finished film.

Kick The Can (dir by Steven Spielberg)

An old man named Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers) shows up at Sunnyvale Retirement Home and encourages the residents to play a game of kick the can.  Everyone except for Mr. Conroy (Bill Quinn) eventually agrees to take part and, just as in the episode of the Twilight Zone that this segment is based on, everyone becomes young.

However, while the television show ended with the newly young residents all running off and leaving behind the one person who refused to play the game, the movie ends with everyone, with the exception of one man who apparently became a teenager istead of a kid, deciding that they would rather be old and just think young.  That really doesn’t make any damn sense but okay.

This segment is unabashedly sentimental and clearly calculated to brings tears to the eyes to the viewers.  The problem is that it’s so calculated that you end up resenting both Mr. Bloom and all the old people.  One gets the feeling that this segment is more about how we wish old people than how they actually are.  It’s very earnest and very Spielbergian but it doesn’t feel much like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

It’s A Good Life (dir by Joe Dante)

A teacher (Kathleen Quinlan) meets a young boy (Jeremy Licht) who has tremendous and frightening powers.

This is a remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode, It’s A Good Life, with the difference being that young Anthony is not holding an entire town hostage but instead just his family.  This segment was directed by Joe Dante, who turns the segment into a cartoon, both figuratively and, at one point, literally.  That’s not necessarily a complaint.  It’s certainly improvement over Spielberg’s sentimental approach to the material.  Dante also finds roles for genre vets like Kevin McCarthy, William Schallert, and Dick Miller and he provides some memorably over-the-top visuals.

The main problem with this segment is the ending, in which Anthony suddenly reveals that he’s not really that bad and just wants to be treated normally, which doesn’t make much sense.  I mean, if you want to be treated normally, maybe don’t zap your sister in a cartoon.  The teacher agrees to teach Anthony how to be a normal boy and again, what the Hell?  The original It’s A Good Life worked because, like any child, Anthony had no conception of how adults felt about him.  In the movie version, he’s suddenly wracked with guilt and it’s far less effective.  It feels like a cop out.

Still, up until that ending, It’s A Good Life worked well as a satire of the perfect American family.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (dir by George Miller)

In this remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, John Lithgow steps into the role that was originally played by William Shatner.  He plays a man who, while attempting to conquer his fear of flying, sees a gremlin on the wing of his airplane.  Unfortunately, he can’t get anyone else on the plane to believe him.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is the best of the four main segments.  It’s also the one that sticks closest to its source material.  Director George Miller (yes, of Mad Max fame) doesn’t try to improve on the material because he seems to understand that it works perfectly the way it is.  John Lithgow is also perfectly cast in the lead role, perfectly capturing his increasing desperation.  The one change that Miller does make is that, as opposed in the TV show, the gremlin actually seems to be taunting John Lithgow at time and it works wonderfully.  Not only is Lithgow trying to save the plane, he’s also trying to defeat a bully.

Something Scarier (dir by John Landis)

Dan Aykroyd’s back as an ambulance driver, still asking his passenger if he wants to see something really scary.  It’s an okay ending but it does kind of lessen the impact of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

 

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

Halloween Book Review: The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree


Up until a few years ago, every episode of the original Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.

That always made me really happy in October because, really, what better way to end each day of the Halloween month than by watching a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, right?  To Serve Man, The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, It’s A Good Life, that episode with William Shatner freaking out on the plane and that other one with the guy entering his bedroom only to discover a lion waiting to eat him, these were all great episodes to watch in October!

Sadly, once Hulu started carrying Twilight Zone, all of the old episodes got yanked off of YouTube.  And now that the Twilight Zone is on Netflix, there’s no way the show will ever show up YouTube again.  We can still watch the episodes, of course.  Even if you don’t have Netflix for some reason, SyFy does regular marathons of the original show and, of course, there’s the Jordan Peele revival for those who watch old episodes of the Twilight Zone and say to themselves, “This is good but I just wish it was a little more heavy-handed.”

Well, I may not be able to embed any episodes this October but I can recommend that you order Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, which is an indispensable guide to the original show.  Every episode is covered, with credits, plot synopsis, and anecdotes about the production.  Since a lot of important directors, actors, and writers did at least a little bit of work on Twilight Zone, the anecdotes are all very interesting and very much worth reading.  Even more importantly, Zicree takes a look at the life of Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and also some of the key people involved behind the scenes.  The tragic story of Charles Beaumont will move you to tears.

So, if you’re a fan of the original show, you need this book!  Order it and enjoy!

The Odyssey of Flight 33, Comic Review, by Case Wright


tw3

Yes, they have comic versions of The Twilight Zone! I really enjoyed this and I know that some of you are like….hmmm is this horror? Yes… Yes, it is. No further questions!  Besides, we have a Twilight Episode to discuss.  The Twilight Zone always leaned more into horror IMO.  The Outer Limits was all about teaching you a moral lesson, but TTZ was all about the scare factor.

I enjoyed this format too.  Face it, a lot of the TTZ episodes don’t hold up amazingly well.  It’s the truth….Deal With It!  The book has all the components of a good TTZ episode: the setup of perceived normality that takes a terrible left turn.  There aren’t many things more normal or boring than air travel.  The flight is just a typical run to La Guardia and the passengers appear very normal as well: the chatty passenger, the braggy passenger, and the emotionally unstable passenger.

These archetypal passengers pull us into the story much like the Stephen King stories do. Stephen’s characters are your neighbors and these passengers are too.  But, something isn’t right is the friendly skies! They feel hit a pocket of air and their speed goes into the thousands of miles per hour and whammo – they start time traveling! They arrive in 1939 and don’t stop because they want to get back to their own time- So no killing Hitler for these time travelers.  Then, they arrive in the Cretaceous and decide not to land because Jurassic Park is so five minutes ago, but then they arrive in the future.

This one troubled me a bit.  They are low on fuel and the future has cable and they can’t screw up time.  Really, they could just try to make a go of it in their new time.  No one seemed like things were that amazing for them in the present.  I mean, why not just land? You’d at least make a living on the talk show circuit. The comic ends with ambiguity.  They are low on fuel and lost in time.

I would recommend checking these issues out.  They’re a lot of fun and have a good creep factor.

 

Here’s The Super Bowl Teaser for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone!


Did you know there’s a new Twilight Zone coming out?

Yes, again.

There’s actually been quite a few Twilight Zone revivals but this latest one involves Jordan Peele, who is a certified superfan of the show.  I mean, Get Out basically was a feature length Twilight Zone episode and Us was apparently inspired by the show.

Plus, the new Twilight Zone is going to be online which, in theory, means a bit less censorship.  That’s always a good thing.

Here’s the Super Bowl spot for Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone!

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

 

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Joker, Stan & Ollie, Ralph Breaks The Internet, The Oath, Solis, The Haunting of Hill House, The Twilight Zone


Despite the success of Wonder Woman, DC Entertainment has still struggled when it comes to crafting a compelling cinematic universe.  The upcoming Joker is not an official part of the DCEU but that could change if the film is a success.  An origin story, Joker features Joaquin Phoenix taking on the role of the clown prince of crime.  Though it will be over a year before we see the final results, director Todd Phillips has released a teaser, showing us Phoenix in his Joker makeup.

In Stan & Ollie, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy finally get the biopic treatment, with John C. Reilly in the role of Hardy and Steve Coogan as Laurel.

Along with playing Oliver Hardy, John C. Reilly will also be returning to the role of Ralph in Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.  The mayhem continues on November 2nd.

In The Oath, all Americans are required to sign a loyalty oath the day after Thanksgiving.  A new red band trailer for this dark comedy was released this week.

In Solis, Steven Ogg plays an astronaut who is trapped on a spacecraft that is on a collision course with the sun.  That’s not a good place to be.

Just in time for Halloween, Netflix will be reimagining The Haunting of Hill House as a ten-episode television series.  The show drops on October 12th.

Finally, The Twilight Zone is returning once again, this time under the direction of Jordan Peele.  The CBS All Access show will premiere in 2019.

Other trailers that were released this week:

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone “It’s Still A Good Life” (dir by Allen Kroeker)


Tonight’s televised horror is another episode of the 2002 revival of The Twilight Zone.

In fact, it’s a sequel to a classic episode that aired during the show’s original run!

Remember that episode about the creepy little kid in Ohio who could read thoughts and mentally make just about anything happen?  He wanted it to snow so it snowed and ruined the crops.  He got mad at someone who drank too much so he turned the guy into a big jack-in-the-box.  His aunt sang too much so he took away her mouth.  That episode was called “It’s A Good Life.”

Well, It’s Still A Good Life catches up with that boy 41 years later.  He’s still ruling that little town with an iron hand but now, he’s got a daughter.  And she might have powers of her own…

Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman both appeared in the original episode and they reprise their roles here.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 1.6 “Night Route” (dir by Jean de Segonzac)


Tonight’s televised horror is another episode from the 2002 revival of The Twilight Zone!

In Night Route, Ione Skye nearly gets hit by a car and, afterward, finds herself haunted by visions of a mysterious bus.  Featuring atmospheric direction from Jean de Segonzac and a good performance from Ione Skye, this episode of the Twilight Zone makes a nice companion piece to tomorrow’s horror on the lens!

Enjoy!