“Twilight Zone: The Movie” is one of my childhood favorite movies, it’s a pretty all star tribute to one of my all time favorite television series. While it’s by no means a masterpiece, it’s also never been as bad as many people have proclaimed it. It has genuine heart, some wonderful production quality and a great sense of humor to it. Re-watching it years later, it’s still very heavily flawed, but damnit, it’s also a strong anthology horror film that’s inconsistent in tone, but also embraces the weird and wonderful of the original show. Despite the horrendous legacy involving the on set deaths, the movie is worth checking out, and sets the stage for the solid eighties reboot.
5. The Excellent Sense of Humor
One of the reasons why “The Twilight Zone” has remained so relevant after many decades is its self awareness. Yes it was dramatic and sometimes scary, but it also could be funny, and had a sly sense of humor about itself. The movie has that same sense of humor, with a great introduction, and a hilarious final scene where John Lithgow breaks the fourth wall. There’s even the final segment where Lithgow is bears a glimpse at the gremlin for the first time prompting his eyes to pop from his head in absolute terror. It’s so subtle, and yes it’s not for everyone, but it is so fun.
4. Cameos by Stars from the Original Series
The movie paid homage to the original series by also including a lot of the original stars from the anthology series as well. And they’re here slyly inserted in some memorable form. Burgess Meredith, who starred in four very memorable episodes of the original series, replaced the late Serling as the movie narrator. There was also William Schallert from “Mr. Bevis,” Kevin McCarthy from “Long Live Walter Jameson,” Bill Mumy from the original “It’s a Good Life,” Murray Matheson from “Five Characters In Search of an Exit,” Peter Brocco from two episodes of the original series, and Patricia Barry from “The Chaser.”
3. The Great Mini-Story in the Prologue
The prologue is very underrated as a lot of people never quite understand it. I never understood it until years later when someone explained that it is a mini-story. Some episodes of “The Twilight Zone” were about caution, and in the prologue we get a look at our own mini-story where two men are driving on the road, and Albert Brooks displays a sense of recklessness while driving in the dark. He’s quick to shut off the head lights and risk running in to something, despite the warnings of his passenger. Finally, he asks his friend to pull over so he can see something “really scary” and pays the price. Not only does he punish the driver for displaying irresponsibility on the road, but we’re introduced to how quickly things go from normal to horrific in “The Twilight Zone.”
2. Strong Remakes of Classic Stories
The eighties were a time where nostalgia was big and the adult generation was looking back on the turbulent Vietnam war, thus the movie reflects a lot of the same sentiment while lovingly re-imagining the classic episodes from the original series. While “Kick the Can” isn’t my favorite, it does touch on our deep desire to restart our lives and approach new adventures we were too scared to dive in to the first time. Every segment has a distinct flavor and menace, and maintains the same irony, and it’s quite outstanding.
1. The Creature Designs
The creatures from the original series are classic, but the re-inventions from Rob Bottin are amazing. Bottin who did the effects for another once underrated horror film known as “The Thing,” re-invents some classic “Twilight Zone” monsters and introduces some new ones. The twisted rabbit that emerges from the television to attack Kevin McCarthy is still one of my all time favorite monsters. Who can forget the twisted wolf blowing steam and the disfigured spinning monster?
There’s also the excellent remake of the airplane gremlin which isn’t just creepy, but absolutely horrifying when approached face to face. Not only do we never find out where it came from, but I doubt anyone is brave enough to go looking for it, either. Finally, the prologue involving Albert Brooks and Dan Akroyd who shows his traveling companion something “really scary” still packs a “holy shit” scare–especially if you’ve seen the movie for the first time. Watching the movie as a kid for the first time ever, that prologue just shook me to my core for the rest of the movie. You just never see it coming, and there isn’t a ting of the score to prepare you, either. It’s genius.