Do you know why I love Friday the 13th? Because, much like the Spanish Inquisition, you never expect it. There you are, pedaling along through a ho-hum workweek, when you check your agenda for the following day. And then. You realize. It’s Friday the everloving 13th. I love Friday the 13th because it's like a little slice of Halloween. Because I’m fascinated by societal phobias. And because it's a great excuse to stay inside for a TWILIGHT ZONE MARATHON.
I was a morbid kid. I read grisly stuff like Horrible Histories for fun. My older sister was obsessed with Agatha Christie, and as a result I was inundated from an early age with tales of murder most foul. My mother and I spent bonding time watching films like The Bad Seed and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. I was also a sci-fi nerd. When I was little, my dad built a life-size spaceship in our basement and created a veritable museum of NASA, Star Wars, and Star Trek memorabilia. I grew up well-versed in Star Wars lingo and with a fervent crush on Bones McCoy.
For a kid so entranced by both warp speed and warped minds, The Twilight Zone was Perfect Television. My sister and I would watch episodes together while the parents were out, then put on brave faces as we went to bed. Like, haha, what, no, I’m not the least bit afraid that a murderous doll named Talky Tina will kill me in my sleep, I am an effing ten-year-old, and I am invincible. That show both enthralled and horrified me. I couldn’t stay away. It was a hallowed tradition in the Ormsbee home to watch SyFy’s Twilight Zone marathon every New Year’s Day, giggling at the special effects, then gaping at the moral implications.
The Twilight Zone holds a special, dark, spider-infested place in my heart. Today, I plan on watching some of my favorite episodes on Netflix. Should you like to treat yourself to a similarly creeptastic experience, I’ve cataloged my top ten favorite episodes below.
10 - The Masks (Season 5, Ep 25)
Alien invasions are scary, but you know what’s scarier? Greed. This one takes a Dorian Gray-like premise and runs wild.
9 - The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, Ep 16)
How can an antagonist be so terrifying without saying a single world? Allow The Twilight Zone to demonstrate.
8 - The After Hours (Season 1, Ep 34)
This one will make you grateful most mannequins nowadays are headless. Or…or is that such a good thing?
7 - Two (Season 3, Ep 1)
For all the post-apocalyptic movies, books, and shows out there, I’ve yet to see one take on the fallout of World War III with as much heart and poignancy as this 24-minute episode from 1961.
6 - Mirror Image (Season 1, Ep 21)
Here it is: the source of my deep fear that I might one day encounter my doppelgänger. This episode continues to creep the snot out of me.
5 - The Midnight Sun (Season 3, Ep 10)
A particularly good episode to watch now, in the dead of winter, during this Deep Freeze of ours. Remember: it could always be worse.
4 - Number Twelve Looks Just Like You (Season 5, Ep 17)
“I’ve already had a cup of Instant Smile. Sometimes I don’t want to smile!” You report back when you find an apter social commentary than this.
3 - The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (Season 1, Ep 22)
Is the biggest threat to society invasion by Outsiders? Or is it our need to dehumanize and blame our neighbors? Difficult to answer in a half hour time slot, but Twilight Zone is sure gonna try.
2 - The Obsolete Man (Season 2, Ep 29)
Books. Libraries. Independent thought. They’re important. I think so, anyway. And Rod Serling certainly thought so, too.
1 - Walking Distance (Season 1, Ep 5)
Marry a haunting Bernard Herrmann score to a walk down memory lane. Add a guest appearance by itty bitty Ron Howard. This episode is my film equivalent of a cup of hot tea.
There’s my list. Do with it what you will. And however you plan to spend your Friday the 13th, I hope it's a fine one.
What’s your favorite Twilight Zone ep? Or favorite scary show? I’d love to hear in the comments.
Next Friday the 13th, I’ll gush about the genius of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.