Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Twilight Zone – Monsters! – review – TV episode

Directed by: Bill L Norton

First aired: 1986

Contains spoilers

The Twilight Zone is famous and I don’t really see the point in explaining the series here but this short was part of episode 15 of the first 1980’s season. It took the vampire myth and twisted it around, making it a combination of genetics and the supernatural.

Toby (Oliver Robbins) and his dad (Bruce Solomon) are more than just father and son; they are friends with an obsession about monster and horror movies. Dad has collected paraphernalia since he was Toby’s age and has shared it with his son. It is summer, in small town USA, but Toby’s friend Pauly has moved away making him feel lonely. Dad tells him that the movers are at the house bringing a new neighbour.

Toby goes to investigate, hiding under the movers truck, but is found by the new elderly neighbour Emile Francis Bendictson (Ralph Bellamy). Emile admonishes the boy, gently, for hiding under the truck and then looks at the magazine he holds – a monster magazine – and says it isn’t exactly summer reading. Toby explains all about monster movies and Emile claims he is a vampire. It can’t be, says Toby, you are out in the day – but the vampire rules here have changed. Sunlight and, as we discover later, crosses and garlic have no effect.

Toby is creeped out by Emile and so goes under the elderly man's house to retrieve garlic and a cross from the time Pauly lived there. Whilst under there he sees Emile washing his car, through a window. The old man looks around to see if anybody is watching and then lifts it one handed to get to the hard to reach areas. Toby flees, straight into Emile who, rather than attack, takes him for pizza. During the meal Emile confesses that he came from the town and has returned to die. What we have noticed is that people have started sneezing, especially when near Emile.

Toby goes to Emile's house again and knocks, but no one is there. He notices various artefacts through the window, gets the spare key and goes in. Inside he finds a fridge with blood packs in it. He is then, on returning home, put to bed, due to the summer flu he seems to have, but it is noted that it seems almost like an allergic reaction – except that everyone in the neighbourhood seems to have it. Emile appears at his window and gets him to go out into the night.

He takes Toby to the graveyard and shows him his own empty grave, after this he shows him lightning bugs – suggesting that, 'when things grow dim', Toby remembers this. We discover lots in this section. Emile says that vampirism is an infection, one that gives a thirst but also extends life – he has been infected for 147 years. Vampires must keep moving, humans have an allergic reaction to them – a way to defend ourselves. He explains that there are worst things in the night than vampires, monsters hidden in the shadows. He also reiterates that he is there to die.

The next night Toby asks when midnight is. Not 12:00 but the exact division of night and day. This is something Emile has mentioned to him, that true midnight is when the monsters come out. This is where we get the supernatural meeting the scientific. The allergic reaction causes, at midnight, the folks of the neighbourhood to change – becoming monsters that shamble towards Emile (who has purposefully left his door open). The next day they remember nothing.

There is a little hinted at twist at the end that I won’t spoil, however this is a gentle little episode – despite its subject matter – that does nice things with the vampire myth. As a vampire genre fan it is very interesting indeed, though as an episode it fails to hold any terror… I suspect purposefully. There is a twinge of sadness permeating the segment, even within the music, it is the tale of an old predator returning home to die. A man content to meet death, even though it will be violent and painful.

A nice vampiric interlude that gets 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for writing up this episode. I saw it as a child when it aired and LOOOOOVED it! Unfortunately I was unable to ever catch it again or remember the name of the episode. I googled this in an attempt to find some of the shows I enjoyed back then.

As a long-time horror fan myself, I enjoyed the nice twist on the Vampire mythos. I could have sworn that the townspeople turned into werewolves, but then that may be a bias for lycanthropes and foggy childhood memories rearing their heads. Regardless, KUDOS for the writeup. You may want to include this on the Wikipedia site under the Monsters episode as it's currently missing.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

gm - glad that it brought back memories. I can see why you thought werewolves but they did seem more non-specific monsters to me.

Hope you have an explore around the rest of the blog.

Lawrence EdwardLay said...

Nice to see a vampire who is not a mean malevolent blood drinker, but a kindly grandfather figure of a nice old man.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is an occasionally used direction but only occasionally. :)