Impressions: The Twilight Zone- The After Hours

The After Hours is the 34th (35th?) episode of the first season of The Twilight Zone. It starts with Marsha White in a department store looking for something. We get our usual Rod Sterling introduction, and then we are in The Twilight Zone.

The story follows Marsha as she is looking for a gold thimble for her mother. As she walks around the store, she finally decides to try a different level. Getting on the elevator, she is greeted by an abrasive elevator man who tells her that she needs to go to the 9th floor. The problem being we, the audience, have already seen there is no 9th floor. Still, he takes her up to an empty floor and immediately leaves her there.

She is walking around an empty floor that gives a feeling of isolation and loneliness when she is finally approached. An odd woman helps her to find the only thing on the floor, a single gold thimble. Not only is it odd that this woman only has the sole thing she needs, but she also knows Marsha’s name and asks personal questions.

Marsha realizes the thimble is scratched and goes to complain. She is told there is no 9th floor and is subtly accused of trying to run a scam. She believes she sees the woman who helped her only to discover she is a mannequin. Mannequins, by the way, always creepy. She is left resting in the office after being frightened to wake up alone and trapped in the store after hours (heh).

As Marsha attempts to find a way to leave, the mannequins begin to move, and she hears them calling out to her. Marsha completely freaks out before being confronted by the mannequin lady from before. I won’t spoil the twist, only to say it fell a little flat with how well the episode was building to that point. It’s not a bad twist, and probably more appropriate for the time than something I was imagining, but I felt it could have been a touch scarier, especially with the tension of the episode.

That being said, I still liked it overall. I had never seen The After Hours before and found it recommended on a list of some of the scarier episodes. I can see why it is, even if it hasn’t aged perfectly in terms of horror. Marsha is regularly confronted with loneliness, and you can tell something is going on with her, just that we have to wait for it to be revealed to us.

Being locked alone in a department store is also pretty unsettling. The episode moves fast at this point, which is a little disappointing, but it still manages to get a few good shots in. Marsha looks out the window to the stairwell at one point and calls for help. The window itself is textured and creates an odd and disorienting picture of her. The mannequins are pretty creepy, especially as they get a blend of real actors next to them. The juxtaposition of the extremely fake elements next to more realistic looking but still stiff and hollow is well done. Also, the scene with the mannequins moving in on Marsha is excellent.

The payoff is just a little… eh. As I said. Again, it’s not bad, but the episode is genuinely more unsettling than the payoff. While the ending is certainly a bit frightful to think about, I just really think there are directions that it could have gone that would have fit more with the fear that was built up to that point.

The episode also suffers from something that can be both good or bad depending on the episode, and that is hammy acting. It’s a symptom of the times, and as I have said before, such as in Shadow Play, I can like it sometimes. In this case, not so much. There is a character that regularly looks at the “audience,” and his dead-on stare at the camera is not the best choice.

So bottom line? I love The Twilight Zone. So while I would say this is not one of my favorite episodes, it’s still good. I liked how unsettling it was, even if I felt the payoff was not all it could have been. It is well shot and has some great moments that really add to the tension and slight fear of it. I will also say that other than the one hammy character, it was well-acted. It’s a good episode and a decent entry for anyone looking to fill out their spooky viewing this month. It is just not at the top of my list. Still, people should give it a go.

Also, thank you for yet another reason to be creeped out by mannequins.

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