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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

3.19 --- Something in the Walls

Directed by : Allan Kroeker
Written by : J. Michael Straczynski
Starring : Damir Andrei, Deborah Raffin
First aired : 28th of January, 1989.

Dr. Craig Mallory (Damir Andrei, Dead Ringers) has just gotten a new job at a psychiatric clinic. After reviewing all the files from his predecessor, a case of a woman who admitted herself into the facility catches his eye. His assistant Rebecca informs him that she lives in near-constant fear, and that for some reason, sleeps only in a room with plain white walls.

Mallory's curiosity is aroused by this, so he goes and visits this particular patient, her name being Sharon Miles (Deborah Raffin, God Told Me To, Sentinel). Sharon is at first reluctant to talk about her problems, but eventually opens up and explains her case. It seems that she harbours an unhealthy fear of all sorts of patterns in the walls or fabric, claiming there are faces hiding behind it. Mallory tries to rationalize this by saying how it's the way human brain functions, but Sharon is adamant that there really are faces behind the walls, and that they are plotting her demise.

Naturally, Mallory is really interested now, however it seems to him that Sharon is hiding something. During a stormy night, Sharon dreams of her first experience with the "faces" - after a power lapse, her room is besieged by human faces slowly emerging from the walls of her bedroom. She is absolutely petrified, but manages to make a run to her son's room, where the mysterious forces greet her by inscribing a "don't tell anyone" warning sign on the wall. On this note, Sharon wakes up screaming, and winds up calling Mallory, telling him that she will explain everything the next day.

What happens is something completely different. After hearing alarming reports from Rebecca that Sharon screamed all night, Mallory is caught off-guard by seeing her walking casually in the hospital corridor, sporting some checkered-patterened clothes amongst other things. She appears to be the polar opposite of the frightened woman he used to know, and claims that she's healed, and will leave the clinic soon.

Mallory is not exactly buying this, so he goes for one last visit and asks for further explanations. Sharon rebuffs him, claiming everything really is OK, but suddenly a muffled voice is heard. Mallory is certain he heard something, where Sharon feigns ignorance. As he leaves, puzzled, Sharon glances at a pattern made by raindrops on the ceiling, where a face suddenly forms, crying for help. She just grins at it, and leaves for good...

***

Something in the Walls is yet another case of "could have been excellent, wound up about alright" in the new Twilight Zone. The mere concept is fascinating (indeed, how many time did you think you saw something in that wallpaper hanging to your left ?), but very soon it becomes obvious that there is no way out of here save for a somewhat predictable, deus ex machina ending. Sure enough, it's that what we are served - a pity, considering this is one of J. Michael Straczynski's stronger scripts as far as originality is concerned.

The performances of Raffin and Andrei elevate this piece to some extent, Andrei being the perfect, clinical foil to Raffin's histrionics early on, but it's really Allan Kroeker's direction and editing which make this one stand out a bit. The flashback sequence with the walls is stuff nightmares are made off, and is good for a few light jolts. This was Kroeker's only job in the '80s revival, though he did return for the UPN series with a few episodes, including a remake-cum-sequel of It's a Good Life called It's Still a Good Life.

Comments on "3.19 --- Something in the Walls"

 

Blogger Tim said ... (10:44 PM) : 

This is one of those episodes that really made a lasting impression on me when I first saw it, although going back to it I wasn't as impressed as I'd been hoping to be. The bit where the wall people rip off bits of the wallpaper from the inside to spell out "tell no one" is awesome, though.

The story itself reminds me a lot of the classic feminist short story The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It's a bit weaker than that story just for lacking an antagonist, or a reason behind the main character's actions.

 

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