The X-Files: Scary Monsters

Case: A woman has died from 16 stab wounds, apparently self-inflicted, but her son is convinced a monster killed her.

Destination: Fairhope, Pennsylvania

"I made this."

This is a classic Monster-of-the-Week X-File, complete with mysterious deaths, creepy sequences, a couple of twists and turns, and Scully getting woken up in the middle of the night with a dead cat. Gavin Fink as young Tommy puts in an especially impressive performance, going from terrified and vulnerable to terrifying and sinister at the drop of a hat and really making the story work.

There's an interesting tone to this episode - it's not quite an all-out 'comedy' episode (like 'Bad Blood' or 'Arcadia') but not quite a straight scary-drama one either. Most of the sequences in Fairhope are played fairly straight - the father appears quite sinister early on, the monsters are indeed scary and the danger presented, especially to Layla (who is expendable) and the young boy, provides some real tension. On the other hand, several of Scully's scenes, especially early in the episode, are played fairly broadly for laughs (and successfully so). The X-Files has combined comedy and drama many times before, often to great effect ('Monday' springs to mind) but something about the way they sit together in this episode feels a little more forced than previous examples. It's not a major issue though, and I always appreciate a good joke!

As the extent of Tommy's powers becomes more apparent and the episode gets more surreal, the claustrophic horror of the set-up starts to lose some of its power. When Doggett plunges into blackness and is covered by bugs, it's nasty, but it doesn't quite have the creep-factor of planting things in someone's organs and putting them into so much pain that they stab themselves to death trying to get it out. It's a neat way of demonstrating the central concept, and the whole point is that it's not really believable, but it looks a bit odd (and the special effects aren't quite up to it).

That scene, and the episode as a whole, does emphasise Doggett's strength, though. Doggett is a practical man, and when he realises that Tommy's imagination is what's controlling events, he realises that this means they are not real (since the cat and Tommy's mother ultimately killed themselves), and that he needs to defeat Tommy's mind to survive. If Doggett had had his mind messed with by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner, he would have been on to them and out of the door in five minutes. I love Doggett, so I'm delighted to see his good qualities being put to good use.

Other Thoughts

 - The pre-credits scene, in which a father holds the door shut while his son screams and cries that something is coming for him in the room, is chilling. Even if the father was right and the child was imagining things, even knowing the revelations from later in this episode, it's still a chilling image.

 - Scully's face when Harrison shoves a picture of a bloody corpse under her nose just as she's about to bite into her sandwich is a picture.

 - I love that, when the Sheriff pulls a gun on Doggett, Reyes just yells 'Gun!' Practical and to the point.

 - I also love Doggett placing a cloth over the dead man's face. Doggett's a classy guy.

 - Nice use of the 'I Want To Believe' poster.

Quotes

Harrison: What would Agents Mulder and Scully do in this situation?
Doggett: Agents Mulder and Scully aren't in this situation, Agents Doggett and Reyes are.

Doggett: You know, I hate to sound like Agent Harrison, but Mulder and Scully had a case like this once...

Doggett: Nothing in here makes any sense - unless that's the very thing we need to see.

Harrison: Your lack of imagination saved our lives!

Final analysis: A classic X-Files monster. Three out of four scary monsters.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

And only five episodes to go! So exciting!

Mallena said...

Such a great episode. I love Layla and the creepy kid. Monica and Doggett are a perfect team and I enjoy this one a lot. I thought it was more scary than funny, but it's an imaginative trip, anyway.