Exploring fright in black-and-white. It's enough to make your spine tingle!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

10 Twilight Zones That Traumatized Me For Life

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make. I'm a Twi-hard. But before you hastily figure out how to unfollow my blog, I must clarify that the Twilight I refer to has nothing to do with sparkly vampires. Yes, I'm obsessed with The Twilight Zone and have been ever since I was a little girl and sat through my first TZ Marathon on New Year's Eve. Before I was old enough for New Year's Eve parties with champagne and awkward midnight kisses, ringing in the new year was all about the egg nog and Rod Serling. Oh, who am I kidding- it STILL is. For a truly rockin' New Year's Eve I know I need only turn to the SyFy Channel (sorry Dick Clark.)

The Twilight Zone holds the distinction of being the first scary material I was allowed to watch. A few years before my first fateful Twilight Zone marathon, I had begged my parents to be able to stay up late to watch Tales From The Crypt. I swore that I was a big kid and wouldn't be scared at all! And then I saw this face:

And as much as it shames me to admit this, I screamed "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!" My parents mocked me and continue to mock me to this day. They were pretty skeptical that I'd make it through The Twilight Zone, but I proved them wrong! However, it was a VERY different story when it was time to go to bed and turn the lights out. Years of nightmares ensued, and I can most definitely trace many of my deep-rooted fears back to a Twilight Zone episode. I had no reason to fear my dolls until I met Talky Tina. I actually used to think ventriloquist dolls were awesome and even asked for one for my tenth birthday. I still have it and it still freaks me out- although to be fair, my dad also just got me a particularly creepy dummy.

Thankfully my dad pays my therapy bills. Seriously, WTF?!

I've grown a bit since the first time I watched TZ, and I now realize that most of the episodes contained some sort of social or political commentary. I can appreciate the episodes that make statements about McCarthyism and I even grasp that many of the so-called scary episodes are essentially classic morality tales. However, some episodes crawled under my skin the very first time I saw them and show no signs of leaving. Here are my top ten Twilight Zone episodes that traumatized me for life. Again, I'm thankful that my dad pays my therapy bills. But no amount of therapy can erase the image of those pig nose people!

(Obligatory Spoiler Warning)

10. Nightmare At 20,000 Feet

Yeah, I know it's been parodied ad nauseum and I know it's William Shatner and I know that the actual creature is pretty ridiculous looking when you get a closer look at it but let me tell ya- those five little words "There's something on the wing" have led to a lifelong fear of flying.

That's what you get when you book your flight on priceline.com

9. Mirror Image

Some of you may know that Miss Sardonicus went to college in Binghamton, NY which is really only famous for two things. It is the Carousel Capitol of the World- and the birthplace of Rod Serling. Having spent five years living in Binghamton (don't judge me- I was a double major!) I can honestly say that it doesn't at all surprise me that the creator of something so twisted hails from there. One of my favorite New Year's Day activities is to lounge on my couch hungover and count the number of Binghamton references made throughout the marathon. There are several and sometimes this even turns into a drinking game! Hair of the dog, people- hair of the dog.

Mirror Image was actually filmed at the Binghamton Greyhound bus station which is one of the creepiest bus stations I've ever been to. I recently heard that it was torn down which really saddens me. The episode stars Vera Miles as a woman waiting for a bus who begins to notice that things around her aren't quite right. When she asks a question of an employee she is told that she already asked him that a few minutes ago. Her luggage isn't where she knows she left it. She goes to use the bathroom and is told she's been in there already, even though it's her first time there. I've always been very unsettled by the idea that reality isn't what we perceive it to be- which is probably why The Twilight Zone works its magic on me so well. She eventally comes face to face with her own doppelganger- and it's way creepier than the Drew Barrymore 90's movie. This one isn't to be missed!

 I waited at this very station many times back in college!

8. To Serve Man

This is another of the oft-pariod episodes of The Twilight Zone and I consider myself very lucky to have seen it before I knew the big twist. The basic plot: Aliens land on Earth, humans are only able to translate the title of the book the aliens bring with them ("To Serve Man"), aliens convince humans that life is groovy on their planet, humans board spaceship in droves, humans realize too late that the aliens plan to serve man on a plate. In retrospect the twist makes absolutely NO sense: If the book is written in the aliens' language then isn't it highly unlikely that their word for "serve" contains the homonym as in English?! But I didn't go that deep back when I first saw it- all I knew was that aliens wanted to cook people and it was terrifying. The episode closes with our protagonist breaking the 4th wall and addressing us directly with "Sooner or later we'll all be on the menu." Yikes.

   Go away, scary giant-brain alien!

7.  After Hours

Mannequins are ALWAYS terrifying. They're like dolls, but life-sized. And anyone who has had the misfortune of seeing Life-Size with Tyra Banks knows that life-size dolls are REALLY creepy (as is Tyra Banks.) This episode centers around the idea that mannequins come to life at department stores after hours.
You'll quit your retail job faster than you can say Kim Cattrall!

Rod Serling and the Mannequins is a pretty great
name for a band, no?

6. The Silence

The Tremloes taught us that silence is golden....but try telling that to a compulsive chatterbox! This episode involves an old man who bets a talkative young man half a million dollars that he can't go an entire year without speaking. You see, the old man is getting really tired of hearing the younger man jabber on and on. He says "Your voice has become intolerable to me. I sit here each night and the sound of it makes me wince." I think we've all had someone in our lives we'd like to say that to- I know I have. I'm not going to spoil the ending here because this episode isn't quite as well known as the others I listed and I'd really like you guys to see it for yourselves. Trust me when I say that the ending is HORRIFYING- particularly if you are a chatterbox like myself. Based on a short story by Anton Chekhov!

5. The Masks

Like many people, I'm terrified of masks. My fear goes back farther than this episode- when I was a small child I dressed as a skeleton for Halloween and the mask I wore scared me so much when I looked in the mirror that I cried for hours. Yeah....I was a pretty lame little kid. But masks are scary and I don't like being around them and I certainly don't like wearing them. This episode centers around a really wealthy old man who is dying- and his uber-obnoxious relatives who can't wait to inherit his money. The old man proposes a Mardi Gras party which consists of all of them sitting around wearing really hideous masks until the stroke of midnight. Sounds like a pretty dull party if you ask me. The obnoxious relatives want none of it until the old man tells them that if they don't comply they're out of the will. They quickly change their tune, put the masks on and wait for the old man to die. Little do they know that these are no ordinary masks....they reveal one's true character. The results ain't pretty. Voila!

               Awkward Family Photo

4. Stopover In A Quiet Town

I didn't see this episode until I was in my teens but it effectively traumatized me for life. It involves a couple who has too much to drink at a party and wakes up in a strange town that neither of them recognize and which seems to be devoid of people. Don't you hate when that happens? As they try to figure out where they are, how they got there and how to get home, they are haunted by the sound of a child's laughter. I find the sound of a child's laughter to be particularly creepy- which is why I should probably never have children. They also begin to realize that everything around them is fake: the grass, the trees...they even find a stuffed squirrel. Did they perish in a drunk driving accident? Is this Hell? When we finally find out the truth, it's more horrifying than we could have imagined. They've been abducted by giant aliens to serve as "dolls" in the young alien daughter's dollhouse neighborhood. Rod Serling gives us a final warning- "Don't drink and drive". They should seriously use this episode as a PSA!

Why are aliens always GIANT in The Twilight Zone?

3. The Dummy

I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good creepy ventriloquist doll story. This is one of the finest I've seen. A ventriloquist named Jerry is a very popular act in the nightclub circuit (yes, apparently ventriloquists used to be a staple of late night entertainment- I'm glad I missed these times.) One big thing is standing in the way of his success- and that thing is his dummy, Willie. Jerry claims that Willie is alive and is tormenting him but everyone thinks he's just a crazy alcoholic. He gets a new dummy and tries to get rid of Willie but Willie will have none of it. In one of the most terrifying scenes Willie reveals to Jerry that it was he who made him alive. A classic pinocchio story with a very dark twist.

         Stop looking at me!!

2. Living Doll

Chucky's got nothin' on Talky Tina. First of all, Talky Tina actually looks like a doll that someone might want to play with. Second she speaks in a doll voice- which makes her later threats that much more unexpected. Telly Savalas stars as mean stepfather Erich who wants to deprive young Christie of the only friend she has. Tina however, has other ideas. Her threats are gradual ("My name is Talky Tina and I don't think I like you.....My name is Talky Tina and I'm beginning to hate you....My name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you!) It's almost hard not to cheer when Tina trips Erich on the stairs and he falls to his death. Sure Tina is PLENTY creepy but she was a good judge of character, right? I mean Erich was a complete jerk! She'd never do anything to hurt the mom or Christie- right? Tina's last ominous line makes us think twice: "My name is Talky Tina...and you'd better be nice to me!" Terrifying.

I want to see a Chucky vs. Talky Tina movie like, yesterday.

And now, the moment you've been waiting for....my number one most traumatizing Twilight Zone episode. It may surprise you. It's not one of the "scary" ones but it left deep emotional scars.

1. Time Enough At Last

Every time this episode is parodied on a television show I yell something along the lines of "YOU PEOPLE ARE HEARTLESS! IT'S NOT FUNNY!!! NOOOOO!" This episode is the only Twilight Zone that ever made me cry- and by cry I mean sob uncontrollably. Little Miss Sardonicus was a huge bookworm (and still is, for that matter) so this episode really resonated with me. Henry Bernis (played hearbreakingly by Burgess Meredith) is a man who is treated terribly by absolutely everyone in his life and would like nothing more than to be left alone with his books. I've often had the same wish! However, as the oldest cliche in the book goes: "Be careful what you wish for". Henry ends up being the last man on Earth after an H-bomb kills everyone on the planet. He's about to kill himself from the lonliness when he notices the ruins of the public library. All the books are unharmed!! It's a miracle!! He has all those books to keep him company!!! ...and then his glasses break. And he's practically blind. It's so undeserved and such an incredibly mean ending. The sight of Burgess Meredith in tears wailing "That's not fair at all....there was time now. There was all the time I needed!" still gets me. I'm about to cry just thinking about it!

          Just take a look, it's in a book...

And there you have it. What do you guys think? Did I overlook your favorite episode? Which ones traumatized YOU?


  1. Good to see a fellow Twilight Zone fan out there. The episodes with the dolls were always creepy, and I certainly agree with the masks. I also found "The Invaders" to be a pretty creepy episode when I was younger. With those little aliens terrorizing that lady

  2. Hmmm weird. I think I am in the Twilight Zone, I did not leave that comment up there but yet it says Andre....what is GOING ON?!

    I have sadly never been exposed to Twilight Zone, but after skimming this (I didn't want to spoil anything), I really want to watch ASAP. Thanks for the tips. PS this is the REAL Andre.

    Seriously though this is freaking me out.

  3. "The Howling Man" and "Night Call" were really the only Twilight Zone episodes that completely horrified me as a child. "The Howling Man" was especially traumatizing. Those two episodes still freak me out to this day and it baffles me that no one ever mentions them. They're so damn creepy!

  4. Cue the Twilight Zone theme music. Rod Serling narrates "Andre Dumas had never seen The Twilight Zone. But on an ordinary Thursday afternoon in the horror blogosphere, The Twilight Zone found her!!" Seriously, Real Andre-watch TZ before creepy dolls start stalking you or something. Most if not all of the episodes I mentioned are on YouTube!

  5. Oooooooh excellent. I love when things are on Youtube--in your face Netflix.

  6. Ok see this is weird, because I just wrote that comment using my google account which is the same one where the picture of me pops up. BUT that time my picture didn't show and now I look like the fake Andre. What gives

  7. Okay the two Andres thing is now beginning to freak ME out as well. Will the real Andre please stand up?
    Mikey- I love both those episodes and they nearly made the list. Perhaps I'll do a Part 2 post in the near future!

  8. But with your picture how can I identify you?! My whole sense of reality is crashing down! Thanks for clarifying though- I really thought that Imposter Andre replied to the comment I addressed to you and was really creeped out!

  9. That should read "without your picture how can I identify you"..... I'm so mixed up I can't even form proper sentences!

  10. This is awesome! Huge props for mentioning Mirror Image, which has long been a favorite episode of mine. Vera Miles does such a fantastic job of selling the fear that would arise from this situation, and really carries the whole thing. A miscasting could have entirely ruined this plot, but she nailed it.

    A lot of other classics here, too. A late welcome to the horror blog world, and keep up the great work!

  11. Great list! I too, am a huge TZ fan. Someone else mentioned Night Call, and I agree that one was pretty creepy. But Time Enough At Last, Living Doll, Eye of the Beholder, and You Drive are my faves.
    Oh, and the whole Andre/faux Andre thing....creepy. Just creepy.

  12. such great picks - To Serve Man ruined me as a kid, btw.

  13. I am a real Andre, I have documentation to prove it and everything. Although I find it amusing that my comment managed to freak out a fellow Andre.
    -Andre F

  14. It's hard to pick just one favorite. They were all so good. Especially the ones by Richard Matheson and those based off urban legends. I absolutely love the TZ and I'm in my 20's and have been watching them since I was probably in kindergarten. The only one that scared the crap out of me (and markedly, the first one I saw) was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". Pulling back the curtains now I just expect to see some hideous face looking in at me if it's dark outside!!! After seeing that episode I was hooked. My favorite one (though it's more sweet, not scary) is "Nothing in the Dark". I always harbored this tiny hope in the back of my mind that that's how I'd meet my end (and greeted by a young Robert Redford police officer, no doubt!).