Monday, October 24, 2016

The Twilight Zone Vortex 2016 Halloween Countdown #8: "The After Hours"

The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series.                                                                                                                                     -JP


#8 - Voices in the Dark, from “The After Hours,” season one, episode 34
Written by Rod Serling, directed by Douglas Heyes, starring Anne Francis, Elizabeth Allen, John Conwell

Rod Serling’s “The After Hours” is a rarity among the episodes of the fifty-plus year old series; it still largely retains its power to frighten the viewer. This is chiefly due to the excellent use of setting, as being locked inside an empty department store after closing hours is something nearly every viewer can imagine with clarity. It is the feeling of being lost, alone, afraid, disoriented, with the added horror of life-like mannequins looming over every darkened aisle from high pedestals. And when those mannequins begin to speak, to move, one can easily imagine their own level of terror and helplessness. Though the episode is seen largely through the eyes of an unreliable character, Serling is not content to present a one-dimensional thriller or even the type of psychological horror story he favored in which a young woman slowly loses her mind under the strain of some psycho/supernatural element. Instead, Serling gives us perhaps his most bizarre fantasy of the series, in which department store mannequins assume living, breathing form for a limited period of time in order to experience life as do those whom they watch bustle through the store every day. The episode is director Douglas Heyes’s earliest masterpiece on the series and contains many of the hallmarks of the Rod Serling’s classic episodes: a young woman in danger, an isolated, atmospheric set, a strong central performance, and a technically challenging element, being in this case the mannequin images of the principle actors created by chief MGM makeup artist William Tuttle and Tuttle’s colleague Charles Schram. After a first season spent searching for a unifying theme among the show’s output, “The After Hours” heralds the arrival of the show’s principle identity: serious, character-based dark fantasy with a strong psychological slant.

Trivia:

-MGM makeup artist William Tuttle, with the assistance of Charles Schram, created sculpted life masks from the faces of Anne Francis and Elizabeth Allen in order to create their lifelike mannequin counterparts for the episode. These life masks are housed alongside a number of Tuttle’s other creations for the film and television industries in the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive at the University of Southern California.

Read our full coverage of “The After Hours” here.

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