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Monday, May 15, 2006

2.07 --- The After Hours

Directed by : Bruce Malmuth
Written by : Rockne S. O'Bannon (original story & teleplay by Rod Serling)
Starring : Terry Farrell, Ann Wedgeworth, Ned Bellamy
First aired : 18th of October, 1986.

Marsha Cole (Terry Farrell, Star Trek : Deep Space 9), an attractive young lady in her 20s, is fanatically rushing to the nearest mall, as she wants to buy a particular doll for her landlord's son. She gets there just as the place is closing, but she manages to convince the security guard to let her in for just one quick errand.

She finds the toy store and gets the doll, and strikes a random conversation with the shopkeeper, a middle-aged lady looking casually like a witch from old Disney cartoons (Ann Wedgeworth, Bang the Drum Slowly, Dragonfly). While the shopkeeper is away fetching her doll, a mother and her son bump into Marsha, and the little boy addresses her by name, asking her openly if she can take him on her way out as he's "ready". Marsha doesn't have a clue what's this about, and both the boy's mother and the shopkeeper dismiss this as a minor incident.

The shopkeeper soon starts asking Marsha questions which she can't seem to answer. Amazingly, she can't remember anything which didn't happen past last month - she can't tell where's she from, or who are her parents, or how was life before that last month in general. As the shopkeeper starts turning more sinister, Marsha decides to run for it, and quickly enters the elevator. She's not alone there, as one of the security guards who let her in (Ned Bellamy, Being John Malkovich, Saw) follows her and also tries to apprehend her.

Marsha is now running for her life, but wherever she appears, a drowning noise of voices coming from the mall plastic mannequins seems to haunt her. Eventually, the shopkeeper and the security guard corner her and tell her the truth - everybody walking after-hours in the mall is actually a mannequin, and for the last month she had the chance to experience the "outer" world, as all mannequins can do occasionally. Marsha tries to run away, but her limbs betray her - her arms and legs morph into plastic, and she's back to her mannequin self again.

***

A reimagining of the Rod Serling original, The After Hours is an interesting, well-acted and well-directed episode which is one of the choice cuts of the second season so far. Serling's original had a bit more complex plot, involving phantom mall floors, and the main character of Marsha remembering her "plastic" roots in the end. Rockne S. O'Bannon, who adapted Serling's story for the 80s Zone, takes a different, more up-tempo route - O'Bannon's Marsha is in constant denial, which creates a more tense atmosphere and a chase reminiscent of 80s slasher films, complete with one downright nightmarish scene when the protagonist locks herself up in a mannequin repository.

Sadly, what could have been a real hair-raiser is ruined by whoever's decision to score this piece with an obnoxious loud carnival-like music, which seems more suited to those antiquated "houses of horrors" you might run into at your local fair. Pity, as this takes it down a full notch.

***

On a personal note, the lack of updates can be attributed to the Italian mother's day. I work in the floral industry, and we had a massive shipment of azaleas heading to Italy last week. On a more positive note, I made a mental commitment to review at least one episode every two days, so my audience can be sustained. My apologies again.

Comments on "2.07 --- The After Hours"

 

Blogger Tim said ... (2:00 AM) : 

(I just found your site, I've been going through the 80's series myself. Thanks for putting it up, I've been enjoying reading your take on the episodes!)

This episode scared the heck out of me when I originally watched it as a kid. There is something inherently creepy about American malls, and this episode does a really good job of encapsulating it. Mannequins are even creepier, or course.

One of my favorite things about this episode is its critique of bland consumer culture (it reminds me of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead in that respect). I especially like the ascending shot when Marsha is in the elevator looking down at one of the living mannequins; his face is sort of half-obscured, as though his identity was only partly formed. I found this point to be made with a fairly light touch, which is a rarity for Twilight Zones of any era.

I completely agree about the music in this episode. In fact, I've found that a good deal of the 1980's episodes are hampered by really terrible music. I don't have any problem with the many unfortunate examples of 80's fashions in hairstyles and clothing, but I almost want to find a DVD version with the music on a separate audio track, which I could then mute.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:06 PM) : 

I disliked this.

The original TW version was an ontological mystery, not really a horror story, and ended with a certain poignancy as Marsha remembers who she is and reconciles herself to what she can not change. This episode is particularly meaningful to those of us with disabilities that we can keep invisible for limited stretches of time but which never go away.

The new version is just a horror story.

 

Blogger jared terry said ... (6:34 AM) : 

Dislike this episode mainly for reasons of verisimilitude. The central idea that mannequins can notionally come to life I happen to like. It has great potential (The film 'splash' excluded) and is potentially very unsettling being as it is a direct representation of the Freudian notion of the Double. But while the central idea is good the treatment of it here is lacking for me. I don't wish to nitpick but its the little things that keep me from buying into the episode. If only one mannequin can come alive for example how come the mannequin with the hands is chasing her around? In fact how come his hands stay like this all the time? Who is the woman who serves her and how come she knows so much? she clearly seems to work in the toy shop but is party to knowing all these secrets. How about the Mannequin that our protagonist shatters the head off, is this mannequin murder? I don't have problems with the most out there stories but they must at least have a sense of logic within itself. The ambiguity just feels like a cop out here.

It might seem petty but these are just a fraction of the problems I have with the episode. I just feel some of the ideas could be further fleshed out instead of making two thirds of the episode a long chase scene. The episode is very anti-climatic. By no means the worst episode of season 2, it suffers for me because it sells its brilliantly intriguing premise well short.

 

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