** Spoiler Warnings Galore
As a child, nothing terrified me more than the dazzling ‘space’ known as The Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone was never explicitly categorized as “horror,” though, so why was I so scared? Yes, it was the dark, black-and-white graininess that permeated the images on the screen and the jarring music that accompanied each scene. Yes, it was Rod Sterling’s silky transatlantic-accented voice ominously guiding me into the great unknown. But, more than anything, I was frightened by this often chilling thought: ‘What if?’
While The Twilight Zone contains neither bloody gore nor obvious ghosts, it is truly horrifying. The alternate realities in The Twilight Zone are disorienting, the way they skew from normalcy muted, and this assault on reality quickly becomes nightmarish. The series explores bizarre possibilities that challenge our grasp on what’s real and our knowledge about the world; yet we also come to fear that these improbabilities are not as improbable as they first seem.
This “dimension of imagination” embodies a speculative nature that weaves through knowledge and mystery, inspiring a collective curiosity in its audience. Through the manipulation of sensory and perceptual experiences, The Twilight Zone distorts reality into a frightening series of alternate possibilities and universes.
There are a number of episodes that reap me of my ability to sleep without a nightlight. Here’s some brief summaries of two of them. Next stop, The Twilight Zone…
The After Hours
I’d like to tell you how scared I was when I re-watched this episode for ‘research.’ I had seen it as a kid, and had—thankfully—forgotten the ending. So the final reveal still came as a shocker!
The main character, who is portrayed as a victim of an inexplicable situation, is actually a mannequin in the store where the story is set. As the ending of the episode drew nigh, I moved further and further away from my screen (and this is coming from a self-proclaimed horror junkie!). But, in my defense, this episode is undeniably creepy. It explores the idea that what we see may not actually be what is there and that there can be much more than meets the eye. After watching “The After Hours”, I adamantly refuse to ever look a mannequin in the eye again.
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
And but of course, The Twilight Zone’s piece de resistance: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. This is the more fun of the two episodes. Spooky, but fun. The monster/gremlin/horrendously constructed fuzzy costume is, for one thing, hilarious; the wide-eyed William Shatner, his character teetering on the brink of his sanity, made me snort-laugh at times. That said, the concept behind “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is nonetheless quite chilling. It toys with the concept of witnessing something horrible—in this case, a monster on an airplane wing—which no one else believes exists. The concept, cinematography, and soundtrack were fantastically amalgamated to make the audience feel ‘ungrounded.’
The New Exhibit
Two words – wax figures. That is all I have to say.
I Sing the Body Electric
Okay, I know that this one is supposed to be happy and give you warm fuzzy feelings inside. But, like…no. After this episode, I questioned the identity of my mother and basically everyone else around me. A completely valid fear.
What if everyone is a robot?
The Twilight Zone is a thrilling examination of the infinite vastness of imagination. Between the unknown, the fantastic, the unbelievable, and the speculative, The Twilight Zone is a testament to the capacity of human creativity. The show’s manipulation of sensory and mental experiences provides a look into the space between the known and the unknown, and the terror that ensues is a byproduct of this fifth dimension. As an avid fan of the series, this show will forever remain as “timeless as infinity” in my heart, and a true challenge to the boundaries of my imagination. Open your mind, and you’ve just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.
-contributed by Janice To