When I was a kid, we used to rent a house down at the Jersey Shore. This was a yearly event and we would meet up with my cousins. My cousin Joe is closest in age to me and over the years, we have enjoyed many movies and shows together. The regular highlight of my summer days was at 12 midnight when he and I would watch Star Trek together followed by a 1 am showing of The Twilight Zone. (Except for those horrible nights that a baseball game would run over to the point of stupidity and bump my shows…!) Anyway, I had my cousin over to watch two back-to-back episodes of the new series since he had not seen this latest incarnation of our classic show.
Not All Men shows a horrifying transformation where all of the men in a town suddenly become raging madmen after a meteor shower. It starts when a woman is on a date with a guy who gets, let’s just say, a bit grabby. Taissa Farmiga plays Annie who is thrust into a world where men are hyper aggressive. Her sister, Better Call Saul‘s Rhea Seehorn, is doing all she can to stay alive while trying to find her missing son. The episode is incredibly tense. People are seen bludgeoning one another in the street. Some of it is incredibly gruesome, while some is kept off-screen but it’s pretty clear this is the same mind that gave us Get Out and Us. My cousin and I were on the edge of our seats. But the episode was not flawless. So far, none of these episode have come close to the level of amazing that the classic series was able to achieve over 50 years ago.
See, I go into these for a good story. It’s why Roger and I have this website; we love good stories. What I can do without, and it turns out, so can my cousin, is being lectured. Now, maybe that’s Jordan Peele’s thing, and I respect the man immensely; he’s intelligent, funny, and has some deep thoughts worth sharing. But I want a good story. I want The Twilight Zone. I don’t like unnecessary excesses in shows and some things feel forced. Consider the movie Alien. Think about how much nudity or even cursing there was in that. You know why you can’t remember? Because it almost nonexistent!! It was not necessary to “enhance” the movie with something that would take away from it! I ask, was it necessary to have the two teen boys kissing? Was it needed? Did it enhance the story? Did it tell anything that couldn’t be told in any other way? Not even slightly. Why didn’t we see the husband and wife making out? Because it wouldn’t add anything and there were other ways to get to the same point. But I wouldn’t even comment on that if that were the only thing “wrong” with it because on its own, it would be no different than if it were a boy and a girl. But I want to illustrate something. Those of you who recall Creepshow 2 might remember the only good episode of that sequel, The Raft, wherein a guy stops watching the creeping menace in the lake to lift the shirt of a sleeping girl, resulting in her death. “Oh, you hypocrite, you were ok with that, were you!” You’re missing the point. It added to the movie because it was the only thing that would take the guys mind off the creature in the water to distract him, otherwise the guy would have been watching that creature and the story would have stagnated. How long could the viewer sit there watching the guy, watching the creature? It wasn’t like he was going to suddenly remember his time in class writing an English paper and forget the creature in the lake! So the scene has a purpose. By contrast, the scene in this story could have been achieved a number of different ways without ever getting into a kissing match! There’s a valuable adage: what doesn’t add to the story, takes away from the story.
Then when Annie’s nephew exhibits the ability to have the same aggressive tendencies only to control them because “it’s always there, he just has to contain it”, the story takes on less “story” and more “lecture”, as if men are all bad but have to choose to contain that monstrous rage. (We’re all My Hyde, I tell you! Raaarrrr!) This meteor shower just allowed people to let loose. Ok, even then I’d let it go if we were coming close to an explanation for everything. The military comes in and saves the three and they are brought to a tent where they are examined and then they walk out; nothing stops them from leaving the military tent. Are they just walking back into the nightmare or has it been contained? As Annie is leaving, she shows her ID to a male guard who comments that she’d be prettier if she smiled and she gives him a glare and says “no” before walking out angrily. Wait? What just happened? Did the episode just end? Did I fall asleep??? I looked at my cousin and he said what I was thinking: it was good until the ending, then it veered off course.
As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Peele is not giving us stories; he’s giving us a lecture in what we do wrong culturally or as people and yeah, there’s a place for that, but I am starting to think, like getting out of a bad neighborhood, it’s time for me to move out of The Twilight Zone… ML