The Twilight Zone (1985 – 1989) – Horror TV Shows We Miss

Horror TV Shows We Miss looks back at the 80s version of The Twilight Zone, which featured Bruce Willis and episodes directed by Wes Craven

Well, this is a semi-dangerous decision. Yes, I’m starting with The Twilight Zone 80s. Niki, haven’t we been telling you to do OG Twilight Zone… why are you doing this? A couple of reasons, the first being that this has been on repeat for me the past 6 months or longer, with Tales from the Crypt never being too far behind it. The other being that I felt like it. You’re lucky I didn’t start with Night Gallery, or maybe that’s what you wanted. So let’s talk 80s Twilight Zone, or New Twilight Zone, or Twilight Zone reboot/revival, whatever you choose to call it.

The reason to give it another go was simple. Rod Serling, my personal hero, sold the rights to Twilight Zone after the show ended its run in 1964. The studio bought the rights even though they weren’t exactly ready to start it up again. They figure when they do decide to get the ball rolling that they will end up making more cash by buying it outright instead of trying to do their own reinvent thing. What was interesting was that even though Francis Ford Coppola and even Rod Serling and original partner, Buck Houghton fanned the flames to get the show going again, CBS were still on the fence about it. It wasn’t until films like ET and Poltergeist came out in 1982 that CBS started to take their responsibility seriously. When Twilight Zone: The Movie came out and did okay, that’s when the studio was finally like, “Okay. I guess this is what people want to see…maybe.” So, in 1984 *laughs* they finally got on it… reluctantly. That’s the story of 80s Twilight Zone.

What I love about this one is that it’s still engaging just like the original. You also have a ton of amazing talent backing it in front of and behind the camera. Let’s just name drop: Bruce Willis, Harlan Ellison, Frances McDormand, Morgan Freeman, Wes Craven, Martin Landau, William Friedkin, Jon Gries, J. Michael Straczyniski, Helen Mirren, and there’s so many more.

The Twilight Zone (1985 – 1989) – Horror TV Shows We Miss


The Beacon: Okay, so if you like Walking Distance from the original run, then you will enjoy this one. There’s a captivating magic in straying from your planned route and embracing the spontaneity of following wherever your intuition leads you. However, the outcome doesn’t always have the charm you intended. This journey certainly does not. The poor well intentioned, Dr. Barrows, played by Charles Martin Smith, didn’t realize that some weird light controlled by some spirit overlord named Seth would be his undoing. Writing and thinking about it now, it’s almost like this weird blend between The Village and The Lighthouse. The bonus is you get Martin Landau, who makes an appearance in two of my columns as of recently, and the slightly underrated Giovanni Ribisi who is about 11-years old here. I, on the other hand, at this time am unable to ingest solid foods or even comprehend what a television is.

Shelter Skelter: Doomsday Prepping. Something I only heard about when I was young because of infomercials and the media, is now something my next door neighbor may very well be doing right now. Speaking of stacked episodes, we have Joe Mantegna, Jon Gries, Joan Allen, as well as 90s crush favorite, Danica McKellar. Though I joked about my neighbor possibly stockpiling corn and baby wipes, this story doesn’t seem too far from the truth. I have no doubt that there is a guy just like Mantegna’s character, Harry. Actually, I’m certain there are more people out there who share the same beliefs than I initially thought. What I really like about this episode is Sally’s, portrayed by Allen, “good for her” ending. I really appreciate how the writer juxtaposed Sally and the children’s freedom outside the peace dome with Harry’s continued entrapment inside. It adds depth to the story and makes you think about the consequences of Harry’s actions in a haunting way. I also just love Jon Gries playing any role ever.

Shatterday: I’ve met Bruce Willis. That’s how I’m starting this out. I have a recording of him calling me out for blushing and it’s the greatest thing I will ever own. If you’re gonna reboot Twilight Zone in 1985, you better kick it off with Bruce Willis because he’s practically the epitome of the 80s. The second choice here would have been Tom Cruise. Imagine disconnecting so much that you’ve created a rift in the space time continuum and you’ve created another version of yourself that has to mend all of your fuck ups until eventually your version of you doesn’t exist anymore. Yeah, that’s a lot. Thank you Harlan Ellison, I can’t wait to have an existential crisis in another dimension. The role of Peter Jay Novins is essentially perfect for someone like Willis, who has proven that he can actually play a complex character when compared to his peers of that era. Not a jab, but you remember the 80s, right? Essentially, an episode like this one doesn’t get much better when you have Willis, a story from Ellison, and the direction of Wes Craven.

Her Pilgrim Soul: Yes, I’m going with another Wes Craven directed episode, but this one is worth the entry on this list and then some. Craven directing it is the cherry on top. While it may not be creepy, it is a rather haunting episode due to its lasting themes and strong emotions. I want to make jokes here, but I feel like that would diminish the significance of this episode so I’m going to be good. The mix of sci-fi with the depth of feeling makes for a powerful combination in the episode. The effects are quite impressive for the time. They’re not flashy, but they don’t detract from the story either. Kristoffer Tabori and Anne Twomey, in the leads of Kevin and Nola, reel us into the story. They make it feel like you are right there experiencing everything alongside them. While sequentially it is after the last episode I’m about to offer up, I’d suggest you keep it that way.

Examination Day: This is the worst thing I’ve ever fucking watched. When I share this with others, they give me strange looks because I’ve intentionally exposed myself to this episode multiple times. I do have to partake in a light brain-washing afterwards. In this case, I found myself going through the same emotional journey as I do when watching Time Enough at Last. They lead you on, tease a bit of hope, and then suddenly bring you crashing down. This one hurts in a different way though especially if you have kids. It’s one of those scenarios where you reassure yourself, “No, that could never happen,” yet a part of you remains doubtful. If you’ve never seen it, or read the original short story from Henry Slesar, I would advise it. I wondered if I should tell you all about how this one goes, but I am going to let you seek it out. My apologies ahead of time.

The Twilight Zone (1985 – 1989) – Horror TV Shows We Miss

Where to Watch:

This one is readily available even to those who are boycotting any subscription based platforms. Heck, I don’t blame you. We might as well return to cable at this point. At least I might get an even jazzier form of The Weather Channel back. If physical media is your jam, you can easily acquire it on DVD, though I’ve heard the transfer quality isn’t optimal and the special features are limited.

What Happened? Where is it now?

The destiny of this version and the original paralleled each other; dwindling viewership and rising production expenses brought our exploration into the unknown to an end. But that’s alright because, as you’re aware, we were treated to another continuation in 2002 and then once more in 2019, led by fellow superfan Jordan Peele. Technically, we could now do a column on each of these versions. *Awwwww* But guess what, we’re going to do the original run this year, which excites me because I’ve been waiting forever.

That’s the thing, right? The Twilight Zone is the kind of series that you eagerly anticipate returning in new forms, whether as a reboot, continuation, or fresh series. Though I’ll be honest, the 2002 series wasn’t the same in terms of rewatch quality as the others.

I’ve mentioned the original Twilight Zone several times in this discussion, which is probably not surprising. I believe the 80s continuation did a decent job and didn’t give the impression that it was tarnishing the legacy of the original series.

A couple previous episodes of Horror TV Shows We Miss can be seen below. If you’d like to see more, and check out the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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