Happy Holidays from The Twilight Zone!
Rod Serling was born on Christmas Day, 1924, in Syracuse, New York. “I was a Christmas present that was delivered unwrapped,” Serling once stated. It is around the holidays that The Twilight Zone, Serling’s peculiar and beloved television show that ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, comes back into our lives like an apparition in search of closure. The haunting show marathons on New Year’s Eve at the dawn of a new year, a new era, as many become weary yet hopeful for what the next year will have in store.
Holiday episodes of The Twilight Zone showcase the anxiety we feel when change is imminent. Serling offers us a choice: watch and confront your fears, or flee. As is indicative of the popularity of The Twilight Zone marathon for the past several New Year’s Eves, we willingly enter the dimension of sight, sound, and mind willingly, where nothing is as it seems.
All of the following episodes (except the honorable mention) stress the importance of children’s sensibilities – to dream, to be hopeful, and to wonder. The children in these episodes hold the key to how to survive as an adult. They remind us never to lose the senses that kept us on the edge of our seats, easily delighted, eager to love, and be inspired.
Let us ring in the holiday season with the fruits of Serling’s expansive imagination with some of the best episodes of the iconic television show SPOILER FREE, all themed around the holidays!
“The Night of the Meek”
Premiered December 23, 1960
Season Two, Episode 11
Directed by Jack Smight
Written by Rod Serling
Introductory Narration: This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely American institution, that of department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ But in just a moment, Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found in … the Twilight Zone.”
This is the quintessential Twilight Zone Christmas episode. Now adored by audiences, this series entry was once the cause of a barrage of angry letters from a concerned viewer accusing the show of blasphemy for depicting a drunk Santa on television. Despite this claim, “The Night of the Meek” is as pure as The Twilight Zone can be. According to Mark Scott Zicree in his book The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), the kids hired as extras had a blast shooting this episode and were full of excitement and joy. It will not disappoint.
“The Changing of the Guard”
Premiered June 1, 1962
Season Three, Episode 37
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
Written by Rod Serling
Introductory Narration: “Professor Ellis Fowler, a gentle, bookish guide to the young, who is about to discover that life still has certain surprises and that the campus of the Rock Springs School for Boys lies on a direct path to another institution, commonly referred to as the Twilight Zone.”
If you have ever felt like you haven’t made a difference in someone’s life, especially in a profession involving working with children and adolescents, this episode is for you. Prof. Ellis Fowler is forced to retire from teaching before the holiday break. Distraught, he intends to end it all when the unlikely occurs, as it does in the Twilight Zone.
“Five Characters in Search of an Exit”
Premiered December 22, 1961
Season Three, Episode 14
Directed by Lamont Jackson
Written by Rod Serling
Introductory Narration: “Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an army major— a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment we’ll start collecting clues as to the ways, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it — because this is the Twilight Zone.”
The opening narration for this episode appears to reveal nothing but indeed says it all. You will figure out why these eclectic characters are in this bleak cylindrical precipice by the end of the episode. Prepare for a Descartes-inspired existential crisis.
“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
Premiered May 26, 1961
Season Two, Episode 28
Directed by Montgomery Pittman
Written by Rod Serling
Introductory Narration: “Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, then the checkout you’ve just witnessed, with two state troopers verifying the event – but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle, no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you’ll search with them because you’ve just landed – in The Twilight Zone.”
This is one of my favorite episodes of the series. Passengers from a bus forced to stop due to a snowstorm find themselves in a local diner. Police officers enter in search of a person/alien alleged to have exited a crashed flying saucer nearby. This is a classic “Who Done It?” situation, as all the diner patrons begin suspecting one another of being an alien from the planet Mars. The alien is revealed near the end of the episode, but they are not who you would suspect. A classic Serling twist!
You can stream all Twilight Zone episodes on Paramount+.
‘The Last of Us’ Adaptation is Almost Here, Will It Meet Gamer Expectations?
We’re counting the days until The Last of Us premieres on HBO, and the latest trailer doesn’t make the wait any easier. This trailer has everything: titillating hints to a revolution brewing in a post-apocalyptic world, brief introductions to the game franchise’s most beloved characters, the creature reveals, and a surprisingly menacing version of the saccharine 80’s bop “Take On Me” by A-Ha.
There are some big names attached to this project, including Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann himself. The score will be composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also did the original score for the game.
By the looks of the trailer, the show will be as visually stunning as the games. The trailer opens up with a pensive Ellie asking Joel, “if you don’t think there’s any hope for the world, why bother going on?” A gruff Joel responds, “You haven’t seen the world, so you don’t know.” Joel goes on to tell Ellie that she’s not family, but cargo. Fans of the game know that Joel eventually does a 180 on that sentiment, but here he is, all business.
The latest trailer gives us more background to Joel and Ellie’s epic journey and the people they meet along the way. The Mandolarian’s Pedro Pascal is our intense protagonist Joel, tasked with getting Ellie (Bella Ramsey, Game of Thrones) west. We get a few peeks at the crumbling cities, snowy forests, and gritty militia-style outposts they encounter, and Ellie shows off the scarred-over bitemark on her arm and the true reason for their trip. It’s revealed that Ellie may be the answer to finding a cure for the Cordyceps fungal infection that left the world in ruins, underscoring the high stakes and how treacherous Joel and Ellie’s journey out west will be.
Ellie’s charming personality and Joel’s rough and authoritative demeanor are on full display in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to Ramsey and Pascal making these beloved characters their own. You’ll see a few familiar faces and may recognize them as some of the other endearing characters Joel and Ellie meet while traveling across the post-apocalyptic U.S. The star-studded cast also includes Merle Dandridge, who reprises her role as Marlene, the leader of the resistance movement the Fireflies; Nick Offerman as the survivalist Bill, and Storm Reid as Riley. Riley’s appearance in the trailer means fans can expect to learn more about Ellie’s past from The Last of Us: Left Behind expansion. We also see glimpses of brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), and I, for one am not ready to relive that trauma.
And of course, this trailer saves the best for last: the creature reveal. The last few seconds reveal several cordyceps rising from a fiery pit, which is enough to fuel a few nightmares. Fans of the game will recognize the monster in the center frame as a bloater, the last and most formidable stage in the Cordyceps fungal infection. Honestly, no notes: the creature design looks perfect and faithful to the game’s style. I’m already creeped out by their various clicking noises, much like I was while playing the games.
I was undecided on if I would watch The Last of Us when it was first announced. We all know that movies and shows based on video games can be hit or miss, and I worried about how such a compelling story would translate to primetime TV. But it’s a great sign that Neil Druckmann is credited as a writer for this project, and it’s obvious that HBO/Warner Brothers are invested in producing a faithful retelling of this story. I’m excited to see how accurate the show is to the source material and what new nightmares it’ll bring to audiences.
The Last of Us premieres on HBO and HBO Max on January 15.
A VERY HACKENSACK CHRISTMAS: Chucky Season 2 Episode 8 “Chucky Actually” Recap & Review
He’ll be back. They always come back. And when this show comes back next year…man, I’m getting a serious case of déjà vu!
Jokes aside, I want to thank all my recap readers out there and hope you enjoy this last one until next October rolls around; if you like them, try out the other assorted horror morsels here on Horror Press. But in the meanwhile, let’s get this final festive R&R going!
Following Andy’s execution of the final Chucky, her life flashes before her eyes…yes, HER, because it’s Mixter who’s trapped in there. It’s revealed Charles knocked Dr. Mixter out while Glenda was taking care of Sister Ruth in the Chapel, and that’s when he got his Ade Due Damballa switch in. Chucky’s early Christmas present is a clean slate, with nobody’s knowledge of his continued survival.
Three days before Christmas, Lexy visits N.A. and drops the truth about her addiction to an audience, in which Jake is sitting as her sponsor. It’s revealed everyone ended up getting their 100 hours of community service in following the Incarnate Lord chaos that got the school closed permanently, and Jake is crashing at Chez Cross with Lexy and her family for the holidays (namely so the former Mayor Michelle Cross can exploit the good PR of taking in two orphans at Christmastime; I mean, come on, that’s publicity gold!). I also should have been more suspicious of getting the holiday gift of more Barbara Alyn-Lind in this episode because she is at her peak of playing a perfectly preened and focus test polished scumbag.
Elsewhere, Glenda keeps vigil over a comatose Glen in the hospital, reporting to Tiffany that their condition is only worsening. A desperate Glenda asks her to pull out her Jennifer Tilly persona one last time to smuggle in the Glen/da doll so they can save Glen with another soul transfer. A cop catches them red-handed and Tiff hulk smashes a vase over his head before Glenda gives into the intrusive thoughts and electrocutes the cop’s face into bursting into flames (a tribute to their first flaming kill in Seed of Chucky).
Question: Is it still a yule log if it’s made of pork?
What matters is that the transfer goes off without a hitch. Good news: Glen and Glenda are back into one doll, voiced once more by the beloved Billy Boyd! Bad news, both of Lachlan Watson’s physical incarnations in the series are now dead, so we probably won’t get them again unless it’s through flashback. Better news: the new Glen-Glenda composite, now going by G.G., looks so glam! G.G. tells Tiffany they plan to travel the world, mentioning a visit to England before mother and child part ways tearfully.
Jake gifts Devon some podcasting equipment (awkward gift choice), and Devon splashes the cold water on him when he reveals he hasn’t been into it for a while (awkward-er way to receive a gift). As everybody digs into Christmas dinner, the argument over the gift reignites, and they end up addressing their broken relationship. I love that Don Mancini took the season finale to effectively make the show a family drama where a killer doll is running around in the background.
Lexy apologizes to her mother for seeing her as the sole source of her problems, and the two have a surprisingly tender moment where they both admit they made mistakes. At night, the Hackensack Gang also reconcile for letting themselves get lost in the Chucky sauce and, do I even have to say Jake and Devon reconcile again? This is like the tenth time this season.
Chucky, transferred into you-already-know-its-not-the-last Chucky doll, drops down the chimney with a Santa cap and the world’s quietest chainsaw. Riffing on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” inside as he munches on some cookies and milk as murder fuel, Tiffany arrives outside to get that Belle doll so she can finally transfer back into a plastic soul shell. When she breaks in, Mayor Cross catches a large Jennifer Tilly-shaped mouse stirring, and is enchanted by Tiffany long enough for Chucky to float down from the stairs like a Christmas fairy, bisecting Mayor Cross in the goriest kill of the season, and taking her off the naughty list permanently. Saving the best for last Mancini, I see you!
Tiffany and Chucky get into a verbal spat where he threatens G.G. for “misbehaving,” and Tiffany poises herself to protect the children upstairs. This leaves Chucky open for Lexy to jump down from the top rope—sorry, top of the stairs, and pin the doll. Fueled with rage, Lexy revs up the power tool and chops up seemingly the last Chucky with his chainsaw, while Tiffany runs upstairs and attempts a transfer into Belle. This only gets her a slash to the shoulder and back from Jake and Devon.
For a minute it seems like this is the end of Tiffany as the trio corners her, but if you noticed that I hadn’t mentioned Lexy’s little sister Caroline much in this episode, it’s because she only steps out here. Caroline then forces herself into a hostage situation with Tiffany holding a knife to her throat. She reveals that she’s been Chucky and Tiffany’s real daughter this whole time and has been stringing everyone along, a thought planted into her head by Chucky. Despite the trio’s protests, the sociopath in training flees with Tiffany and the Belle doll, leaving behind a heartbroken Lexy. The kids get taken into their former science teacher Ms. Fairchild’s care, which is good since she immediately believes them about Chucky. Time to get back to hunting Hackensack Gang!
In a 3-week flash forward, Tiffany hides in New York City wearing a very Selene Gallio outfit and being stared at by creepy Caroline. She gets a threatening call from Nica, who expresses her condolences but mentions that the hunt to torture her for everything she did is still on. Which doesn’t threaten Tiff much…until Nica mentions she can see her through a window. Panicking and trying to finalize the ritual to transfer her soul into the Belle doll, Voodoo for Dummies fails her. After all, we all know you can’t transfer your soul into a doll that already has one.
Standing up and wiping off his makeup, Chucky confirms that HE WAS IN THE BELLE DOLL THIS ENTIRE TIME, IN DISGUISE! He approaches Tiffany, ready for vengeance, as she screams. While we’re left to process our emotions, Chucky closes off with a song for the 22 deadly days of Christmas that confirms every kill in the season.
We’ve been playing checkers.
Chucky has been playing chess.
And Don Mancini has been playing fifth-dimensional mind games with everyone since 1988.
VISUAL HIGHLIGHTS: I wasn’t kidding when I said the big boss saved the best for last with the death of Mayor Michelle Cross. This is potentially the gnarliest kill of the franchise, just for how it’s framed and the absurd levels of gore involved. The fact that it’s followed up with Lexy turning Chucky’s face into cubed cheese with the same chainsaw shows that no matter what threshold you have in mind for how nasty you think Chucky can be as a slasher, chances are it’s not high enough.
PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT: It’s not that I forgot to get everyone on the show presents this year, I just genuinely must give this to the whole ensemble of the Chucky cast. The tonal pivot of this episode and the way many of these characters’ storylines end up, both permanently and temporarily, just forced the whole cast to bring their A-game. From the sweet but not maudlin reunion of Jake and Devon to the parting of Tiffany and GG, down to even the simplest interactions between the entire gang, I don’t think there was an episode with better overall performances.
QUOTE OF THE EPISODE.
“I feel like…if the public were just reminded of all my charitable endeavors, that, perhaps, they would just make that silly murder charge go away!”
– Tiffany Valentine, on making the most of your charity this holiday season
OVERALL RATING: 9 (Chainsaw Induced Christmas Cleanups)/10. I’d say this is the overall score for the season. Was I less critical of this season in general than my season 1 reviews? Yes, most likely. When you serve up nothing but good television, I just have less to complain about. Learning from all of the mistakes of its previous season, the pacing was tightened up to perfection, and all the intrigue we got was given satisfying payoffs; “Chucky Actually” is the embodiment of all those improvements and the promises of another great season, wrapped up and set under the tree just in time for the holidays.