I start off October’s annual Horror Movie Fest by breaking my own rules – such as they are – by watching, not a horror movie, but a horror TV episode.
The X-Files debuted on TV when I was in college and turned 21 this year. Although some episodes are definitely dated, it’s no wonder that The X-Files lasted for 10 seasons and elevated David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to the stars they are today. Finally old enough to drink, most of the episodes are still imminently enjoyable to watch and rewatch, if nothing more than for the fun of watching the evolution of Mulder’s mobile phone through the series.
Scanning quickly through episode descriptions on Netflix, I quickly passed by some of my favorite episodes.
Season 1’s “Ice” with the iconic line, “We’re not who we are.”
The great Halloween horror movie style episode, “Die Hand Die Verletzt“, where Mulder and Scully actually encounter a force beyond their ability to fathom.
And “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” which features some suberb acting by guest star, Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, 1974), in an understated but emotional role as a psychic struggling with his own future.
I finally settled on the first episode to catch my eye as truly being horrible. Not of quality but of story. Season 4, episode 2, simply titled “Home” (1996).
Going back to a “monster-of-the-week” story – in other words, staying away from the conspiracy plot lines which grew ever more invasive and convoluted as the series evolved – “Home” is the investigation of the death of a severely deformed infant which turns into a fight for survival against horrors created from the worst of ourselves.
Writers, Glen Morgan and James Wong, creators of the Final Destination franchise of films, are said to have taken inspiration from a story from Charlie Chaplin‘s autobiography. Morgan and Wong were returning to the show with a bang after departing at the end of season 2. They had previously collaborated on some of the best early episodes including the iconic “Squeeze” which introduced the extremely creepy, Victor Tooms, expertly played by Doug Hutchison (The Green Mile, 1999).
The scene when the three brothers calmly leave their farm, driving away with Johnny Mathis crooning, “It’s wonderful! Wonderful!”, while everyone else sleeps soundly is perhaps the best of the episode. Who knows what comes for us as we sleep soundly in our beds?
Besides the very dark plot of the episode, “Home” was the first X-Files episode to bear a viewer discretion warning before the episode started, even though the TV Parental Guidelines rating system was not proposed to Congress until nearly 3-months after it aired. Now something that is commonplace on many primetime shows now, it marked a change for TV in 1996, and may have been more an invitation to watch than a deterrent.
Although shot in 4:3 ratio, it retains a classic cinematic quality. If you’ve never seen The X-Files, or haven’t watched it for some time, it’s about time for you to binge it all over again. All 202 episodes.