In the last post but one I referenced The Twilight Zone, surely one of the best American TV series ever made.
The series was/is popular enough to warrant a movie version, where four different directors tried their hands at remaking four of the iconic episodes. It was a disappointment, with some good bits, most notably a new prologue where a hitchhiker is picked up by a driver who tries to scare him by driving recklessly and turning out the headlights from time to time. The hitchhiker begs the driver to be more careful, he is getting scared. Talk turns to the original Twilight Zone TV series. Both driver and hitchhiker try to scare each other with memories of the spookier episodes. At the end of the trip the hitchhiker takes one parting shot. He asks the driver if he wants to see something really scary. The driver naturally says yes, and in an instant the hitchhiker turns into a hideous blue monster that lunges at the driver. I’m not sure if we saw blood or not. But I remember the reaction in the cinema at the time.
Something really scary
There was a momentary gasp then a delighted roar of laughter. Frankly, the movie doesn’t have much going for it, although the fourth story, directed by George Miller is a beauty. It’s based on an episode Nightmare at 20,000 feet where a nervous passenger on an international flight can see a sort of imp creature, tearing up the aluminum wings and feeding them into one of the engines. The passenger (played by William Shatner) tries to alert the cabin crew, who of course see nothing when they look at the ‘imp’ sabotaging the plane. I think the story worked so well because a lot of people on flights have wondered what it would be like if they saw something appear on the wing. (You can see a still from it at the top of this post) It’s truly a nightmare scenario, though it’s played for laughs. In the original Twilight Zone episode, the imp looks like a cross between a gorilla and one of the Zygons from Doctor Who.
One of the aforementioned Zygons, and my apologies if this constitutes a spoiler
It’s a risible imp and somewhat detracts from any element of horror. In the film remake, the imp is a beauty. He’s spindly and blue., complete with a leering face and clawed hands. The nervous passenger (played in the movie by John Lithgow) is thoroughly believable. Here again, when the imp appeared, there were gasps then laughter from the audience. My good friend Kimpton knew I had seen the movie. She wanted to know if it was too scary for her daughter Tiffany (14) and friend (same age). I had no hesitation in recommending it, not thinking for a moment that the monsters might give nightmares to a young teen. And Kimpton took ages to forgive me. The girls had nightmares for weeks. I really didn’t think there was anything in the movie to give nightmares. After all, hadn’t we all laughed?
Anyway, Kimpton never asks me for movie recommendations these days. Which is a shame because it means she will never see Iron Sky. And I’m genuinely sorry the girls were as upset as they turned out to be. I honestly thought the movie was funny, even if the dull stories (especially Kick the Can) seemed to go on forever.
We all find different things funny. And if the scares are ingenious and completely over the top, I tend to laugh. I’m not a ghoul and absolutely hate the current crop of torture porn movies. I would no more recommend one of them to a teen than I would recommend a movie about a deranged scientist who sews human bodies together in such a way that they resemble an underendowed centipede (and I thank my editor, Dmetri Kakmi, for drawing my attention to this movie).
But I’ll be more careful when I recommend movies to kids in future. Because some of them don’t see movies in the way I do. And I should keep reminding myself that these things used to terrify me.