Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) (DVD)

What would have been my idea of a great Twilight Zone movie? How about grabbing excellent writers and telling your own stories with twists and commentary. Instead, what we received were remakes of the best episodes of the series regurgitated in to mediocre installments with semi-horror bookends that seemed awfully shoe horned into the script. That’s not what I would have preferred as someone who absolutely loves the series with all his heart. And it’s simply not in keeping with Serling’s brilliant storytelling that’s painfully missed during the run time.

I appreciate the opening narration from Serling, but I wanted originality, I wanted imagination, and I just didn’t need to see a recycled quasi-horror/sci-fi anthology with an atmosphere that meandered from the series original intent and inexplicable appearances from comedic actors. Are Dan Akroyd and Albert Brooks really supposed to be scary to us? Do I have strong feelings about this movie? Oh yes. It’s a childhood favorite that deteriorated as I aged, and it’s on DVD for the first time. And it’s still just an okay movie that should have been fantastic. It’s lazy, it’s recycled and worse yet it’s often tedious. And as heartbreaking as it is to say, it suffers under the influence of Steven Spielberg. Rather than a hundred minutes of “Thanks Mr. Serling!”, I would have loved a hundred minutes of “Here are our scary stories!”

Rod Serling’s storytelling was about social consciousness and morality, they were enduring tales that sparked debate about humanity, and yet this is too caught up in its own maudlin sensibilities quite often that it can never reach the grit and edge. The first segment with Vic Morrow is often quite tedious and never feels sharp enough to warrant being compared to Serlings original tales of karma and revenge. Morrow often looks bored, and the ultimate resolution to the tale is sanctimonious even for “Twilight Zone.” Spielberg’s segment feels completely detached as the “Kick the Can” episode is sadly truncated and lacks any sense of entertainment value feeling exactly like wannabe Spielberg with an overly sentimental atmosphere that fails to truly entertain in the end. Saddest of all are the final segments that are true misfires in the tradition of the influence laid down by Serling.

“It’s A Good Life” ends as a tedious and often dull remake that fails to capture the same dark humor as the former episode with goofy visuals and that sheer sense of hopelessness lost with a pat happy ending, while “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” insists on being more surreal than twisted and focuses heavily on Lithgow’s past psychoses, and the passengers surrounding him. One true exception is the monster effects and the revamping of the gremlin on the plane. The monster looks absolutely horrifying when revealed inches away. The film’s bookend is both nonsensical and lacking in any real sharp sense of wit truly showing that this is not Serling’s creation.

As a childhood favorite, I wish I could still love it, but re-examining it and re-watching it years later, it’s still just a bland and lazy rehash of the best episodes of the series, rather than paying actual homage by enlisting excellent writers to create their own wonderful stories. The DVD sadly only boasts the original theatrical trailer and nothing more, obviously avoiding any controversy. Otherwise, in the end “Twilight Zone: The Movie” still isn’t the worst movie ever made. After all these years, it’s still just an okay movie, and that’s the problem. In the end it’s just an okay movie with “Twilight Zone” slapped on it. The “Twilight Zone” was stellar, and this was mediocre. That equation simply doesn’t fit.