Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Twilight Zone: The Fear

It is an early red state-blue state culture-clash that takes an uncanny turn. State Trooper Robert Franklin is a military veteran state trooper. Charlotte Scott is a neurotic New York fashion editor recovering from a nervous breakdown. If they put aside their differences, they might survive an encounter with the unknown in “The Fear,” the penultimate episode of the original The Twilight Zone series, which airs as part of Syfy’s annual New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon.

Trooper Franklin thinks he is on a fool’s errand and Scott is the fool. The passive-aggressive big-city snob reported seeing lights in sky, so he duly drives out to her cabin to investigate. She is not very welcoming, until some mysterious force starts wreaking havoc on electrical things. Then he finds a gigantic set of fingerprints on his cruiser.

They are about as archetypal as it gets (thanks to Jack and all), but you don’t see a lot of giants in genre film or television. Of course, it sounds crazy, but Serling’s script uses the idea of them in clever ways. Yet, what really makes the episode stand out is the way Franklin and Scott come to an understanding and put aside their kneejerk presumptions about each other.

Hazel Court has the distinction of being the only thesp we know of to appear in Hammer Horror films, Roger Corman Poe movies, and an episode of
The Twilight Zone. As Scott, she looks and sounds a lot like Faye Dunaway from the same time period. Her chemistry with regular Quinn Martin guest-star Peter Mark Richman is terrific. Nothing truly romantic develops between them, but the conclusion definitely leaves us with hope. This also might be one of the best guest-shots from Richman, who brings a lot of humanity to the chip on Franklin’s shoulder.

Admittedly, the visual effects in “The Fear” are almost laughable by contemporary standards. Fans could also argue Serling’s narrative is really just a flip-side riff on the season 2 episode, “The Invaders,” starring Agnes Moorehead. However, the way director Ted Post uses the claustrophobic mountain cabin setting to serve his two-handed drama really makes it memorable. In fact, the first two acts of this episode are surprisingly compelling, in ways that still feel culturally relevant. It is a bit under-rated, but it is one of our favorite episodes of the original series. Very highly recommended, “The Fear” airs early Saturday morning (1/2), as part of Syfy’s
Twilight Zone New Year’s celebration.