"The worst fear of all is the fear of the unknown working on you, which you cannot share with others. To me, that's the most nightmarish of the stimuli."With a series as bizarre and disturbing as The Twilight Zone (1959), you bet there's going to be Nightmare Fuel-tastic content. Here is a list of examples:
—Rod Serling, interview
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- The theme tune. While some find the '80s version worse, the original is still quite creepy.
- The episoode takes places on board ''S.S. Queen of Glasgow", a WWII ship that got separated from her convoy in thick fog... while German U-Boats prowl outside... and the dread and tension builds and builds as the main character becomes convinced that they are being stalked by a German U-Boat and that something bad is going to happen at 1:15 in the morning. It turns out the that the main character was the U-Boat captain that sank the ship without warning, killing everyone on board and scoffing the notion from one of his underlings that God will judge them for that they've done. Then it cuts back to the opening scene, showing that the Captain has been damned to repeat the events of that fateful night... for all of eternity... Brr.
- The episode features features Burgess Meredith as a meek clerk who loves to read, but never has the time to... Until a nuclear blast kills everyone else in the world. First, the episode plays on our Primal Fear of loneliness, and second, there's the famous ending where his glasses slip off his nose and shatter, with him shouting, "It's not fair! There was time now!" Whether the ending is scary or unintentionally hilarious, the idea of being completely alone for the rest of your life, on top of not being able to see... Brrr.
- The ending showing the aftermath of the destruction the bomb did and the fact all the humans are dead except Mr. Bemis.
- Futurama satirizes this by making the ending worse. Mr. Bemis initially says he can still read the large print books, but then his eyes pop out. He then states that he can still read Braille, but then his hands fall off. Finally, after he screams, his tongue falls out of his mouth just before his head falls off, which, at that point, is a mercy.
- The dream sequences with the freaky looking amusement park, the Femme Fatale with that eerie, seductive voice, and finally the climax where the guy sees the woman from his nightmare. Even the premise is a nightmare in itself: there is an actual, extremely rare condition which can cause a person to experience tachycardia or even stop the heart when surprised by loud noises or shocking experiences. The sensation of your heart skipping a beat can be lethal for these people.
- Three astronauts are in a hospital recovering from their mission. They start disappearing not just from sight but from memory. And no one knows why. Even the spaceship disappears in the end.
- As soon as you figure out what happened to Harrington, you know the same thing will happen to Forbes, and HE knows it as well. And there's also the fact that the second that they're out of sight they vanish. Could it have been prevented if there was always someone looking at them? The title itself is one of the eeriest in the show; not being linked to the story, it leaves the viewer to guess as to what it means. It seems to imply that the sky is swallowing the men up when they disappear.
- Also, the subtle horror — you could lose your identity or life at any moment if some force beyond your control wills it so.
- The episode revolves around the first manned mission into space (the episode was made before the 1969 Moon Landing), which loses contact with Earth, and crashes on an unknown desert planet. The crash kills most of the crew, and destroys most of the supplies, leaving three men stranded in a harsh, unforgiving terrain with very limited water. What's worse, the ship was a PROTOTYPE, and the only one of its kind; a replacement would require years to produce, leaving little to no hope of rescue. One of the survivors quickly begins to lose his mind, and kills one of the other three while he is returning from a recon mission, seemingly in a hurry. Before the crewman dies, he scribbles an odd symbol into the sand that resembles a cross with two vertical lines on it. The killer overpowers and murders the remaining survivor, takes the water that's left, and begins to climb the surrounding mountains, eventually reaching the summit, where he sees what his first victim saw, and breaks down on the spot. Power lines, which overlook a highway leading to Reno. The ship never left Earth; they were simply stuck in the Nevada desert.
- A lady, Nan Adams, is on a cross-country drive. Somewhere along the middle of the drive, this creepy guy in black begins to stalk her, trying to lead her into all sorts of lethal situations. Creepy enough on its own, but it gets worse when you find out that she died in a car accident somewhere during the middle of the drive, and the guy was actually the Angel Of Death.
- The part when the lady's car got stuck on the railroad track and nearly gets killed.
- The sudden shot where the hitchhiker's face suddenly pops into frame.
- "I believe you are going my way..."
- The episode has one of the most chilling allegories for a gambling addiction ever put on screen.
- The ghastly 'FRANKLIN' noise made by the slot-machine.
- The robot caretaker of the asteroid cemetery kills the astronauts because men are incapable of peace.
- The Reveal means all of the people in the model town standing around and not moving are actual dead bodies of real people.
- A woman is waiting in a bus station. Her bags get moved around and the clerk says that she did it. She meets a man that later calls the cops on her for saying that there's an evil lookalike among them. Then the man turns and sees a lookalike of himself...
- The episode "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" is scary mainly because of the real life subtext. Especially when you consider that "Due" aired almost 50 years before the remake, and how little things have changed....
- The ending when they are all freaking out and the close ups of their faces make it really creepy.
- Imagine going about your day, doing something you do all the time, just to hear someone yell "cut" and when you turn around, you see that you're on a movie set with everyone insisting that you're an actor and the person you thought you were was just a character in a movie.
- The way Jameson rapidly aged until he was nothing but a pile of clothes and dust after he was shot was equally creepy.
- The old woman from the radio drama version was especially creepy to some people: "Hello, Tommy...I saw my Tommy. He's resting now."
- The Twist Ending, no matter how much the man deserved it. After a thug died he was sent to a heaven where he has everything he could ever want, but he got bored after a while and asked to be taken to Hell instead of heaven, only for his guide to tell him he's been in Hell the whole time. He tries to escape the apartment, but is trapped with his guide maniacally laughing at his panic.
- Markie. She may be one of the good guys, but she sure is a Creepy Child.
And you screamed so loud! And you screamed so loud! And you screamed so loud!
- The different kind of horror provided by the Twist Ending: If life is just too much to bear, end it, and go somewhere better.
- The idea that someone could derail your entire life, not just destroying all your own plans and hopes for the future but overwriting your personality into a humiliating love-slave persona. Not to mention the implication that this was done to a number of others before Leila, many of whom were subsequently murdered. It's made all the more chilling by the incongruously lighthearted tone of the episode.
- The living mannequins surround Marsha and begin repeating her name, causing her to break down in tears. Don't see this episode if you have a fear of mannequins or of losing your memory.
Eye of the Beholder
- Most of the horror is in the woman's bandaged face, and the fact that we don't see her face until the last act, but the nurse and doctor talk about how this woman hasn't been able to live an even vaguely normal life, because her face is so hideously deformed... brrr.
"TAKE IT OFF MEEEEE!!!"
- At the end, we see the standard she's held up to in the pig-nosed, hideous doctors and nurses.
- The Hitler-esque dictator of the State.
- Newlyweds Don (played by William Shatner) and Pat stop in a small time to get a bite to eat at a diner; they start playing with the freaky Devil-head fortune teller, whose fortunes are eerily accurate. At the end of the episode they manage to escape - but another couple rushes in who are completely enslaved to the answers the thing gives them.
- The episode centers around a young woman who lives with her elderly parents and their domestic robots. She begins to wonder why she and her parents never go outside and questions other such abnormal behavior. The twist is that she is a robot built to be their daughter, and when she figures this out, she freaks. She starts hitting her arm screaming "No pain!" and lastly says "I can't even feel love!" The parents then convert her to a maid robot that then gives the mother a shoulder massage. Worse, it's easy for them to reprogram their "daughter" because they never considered her human, just a machine they can discard if she became too much to handle.
- The end dialogue implies the camera had been plotting the four characters' deaths the whole time.
- Part of what makes that episode so brilliant is that it's terrifying before and after you know the Twist Ending, but for completely different reasons.
- The first time you watch it, you see it from the perspective of the elderly woman who lives in complete isolation, and starts doubting her sanity when an army of pint-sized creatures invade her house in the dead of night. Then they attack her with her own knife, among other things.
- The second time, you see it from the perspective of the helpless human astronauts who have to contend with a terrified alien the size of a skyscraper.
- The woman from the nightmare. "Room for one more, honey."
- Like "Little Girl Lost" and "Living Doll", "Twenty-Two" was also remade into a feature film. That film? Final Destination.
- A jumbo jet full of passengers somehow travels back in time, once to where they go back to the dinosaur era and again when they go back to the 1930s. It ends with the pilot trying to get the plane to travel forward in time, but there's no way of knowing when they'll end up. Take into account that their fuel and food will eventually run out, and you've got some horrific implications.
- A young boy named Billy claims that he uses a toy telephone to speak with his grandmother. However, the audience knows by this point that the grandmother had recently died. It soon turns out that the grandmother keeps saying that she misses her grandson and is lonely without him. His parents think nothing about it, for the time being... until their son runs out into the path of a car. When they parents ask the driver, he only says that someone told him to do it. And it doesn't stop there - once the father takes Billy's toy telephone away, Billy then attempts to drown himself in order to join his grandmother.
- The man in the diner turns out to be from Venus, with a creepy third eye under his hat.
- It turns out that because a high official of a state that executes people for being obsolete showed some weakness, he is considered obsolete by his people. The crowd in the room slowly circles him, before screaming in unison and pouncing on him as he struggles to escape. Another case of Asshole Victim and Karmic Death. The worst part? The state negated an act of great mercy this way.
- The crowd of the State's board members circling the Chancellor is particularly notable, as they all slowly start growling angrily until they start screaming and pouncing. For all their claims of superiority, it becomes increasingly clear that the people in charge are barely holding back their pure seething hatred at being embarrassed on live TV.
- This episode might be the most terrifying of all, as it reveals just how thin and fragile the veneer of civilization is. Imagine your beloved friends and neighbors becoming your mortal enemies because a disaster is coming, and you have a way to escape it, while they don't. And it's hard not to imagine not becoming a bastard yourself if you're one of those in the "unprepared for disaster and screwed" column. What depths wouldn't you yourself sink to, in order to save your life or the lives of your children?
- Gunman Conny Miller pursues outlaw Pinto Sykes for a bounty - only to find three men beat him to the punch. A displeased Miller then learns that Sykes threatened him in the end, vowing to rise up and grab him from the grave. This leads to a dare to go the grave at night, with sticking a knife into the ground as proof of visit. Miller seems afraid, but fulfills the dare only to mysteriously fall over and not return the next day. The three men go to the grave to find out what happened and are joined by Sykes' sister Ione. They find Miller's body over the grave, his body pinned by a knife through his coattail. One of the men comes up with a perfectly rational explanation: the wind blew the coattail over the grave, it was caught accidentally by the knife and the resulting tug Miller would've felt scared him further - leading to a fatal heart attack. All so rational, but the wind was blowing the opposite direction as pointed out by Ione, who knows the truth and laughs as we leave the graveyard.
- The episode features a 6 year old boy with god-like abilities. When he was born he isolated his hometown away from the rest of the world, cutting off electricity, automobiles and the like. He can create and destroy, as well as read minds. Everyone must be happy and have happy thoughts, or they are sent to the cornfield.
"It's good that he went into the cornfield."
- We see justice without mercy. It isn't pretty, although the recipient (a sadistic former SS captain) actually inflicted the pain he's feeling on his prisoners, so it's really hard to feel too sorry for him.
- At one point the ghost of one of his prisoners mentioned the SS Captain does "unmentionable things" to people in a certain building. The captain falls to the ground, clutching his groin. Now think about the Nazi stand on eugenics for a second.
- And that's what makes this episode terrifying: it's not the pain that's inflicted, but how much the recipient deserves it. The Asshole Victim trope was taken Up to Eleven here as we see him reminisce about all the "good times" he had ruthlessly torturing innocent people, which makes the judgement he goes through actually quite satisfying in retrospect. it helps that, as implied above, he raped innocent civilians among other things.
- Also, whenever Captain Lutze tries to justify or undermine his horrific acts he (and the audience) can hear ghostly wailing coming from the barracks, a noise which greatly unsettles him to say the least.
Captain Lutze: What was that? It sounded like...Becker: The wind, Captain?
- "Please... paint something cool!" And of course, later Mrs. Bronson just rambling on about a waterfall and swimming in the water before falling over dead.
- The part where the woman screams and everything in the room just starts melting...
- The very premise: the earth has fallen out of its elliptical orbit and is about to be consumed by the sun. Think of it this way: Everyone on the planet spends their last hours burning to death. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that the scenario was All Just a Dream, caused by the main character's dangerously high fever. So everything's okay... Until her doctor and neighbor start talking about how the earth has moved out of its elliptical orbit away from the sun and will completely freeze over in up to 3 weeks. *shudder*
- According to the main character's wife, he and his company have been cursed by the jungles of Africa for "wounding" the land, for "making it bleed". The main character, although a skeptic, best describes that the African tribe who invoked the curse are infamous for making the people they curse die without explanation.
- On his way home, the main character tries to take a cab home. And after stopping at a red light, he tries to urge the cab driver that the light is green and they can go. ...Only, when he touches the still cab driver's shoulder, the driver drops dead like a twig!
- Its Nightmare Fuel status is given to us by Rod Serling himself in the opening monologue, when he tells us that we'll find out what their situation is, but we won't see it end. God, that alone is enough to give someone the permanent heebie-jeebies. The reveal is just... Horrifying.
- The clown was pretty disturbing in how he seemed to constantly turn on a dime between funny and depressing while always keeping that smile painted on his face.
- Whatever the viewer's reaction to the twist ending, the psychological torture the characters experience is just... *shivers*. The major (and later the clown) said it best: "We are in Hell." (Luckily, the fact it is more of a Purgatory and that the narrator strongly implies an eventual happy ending for all the toys lessens the intensity a bit and adds a Heartwarming Moment.)
- How the Kanamit ambassador beat the lie detector test. Their race do not find anything wrong with eating humans]]. Technically they weren't there to harm humans... but it would suck for those humans that do get eaten.
- If the premise of a Negative Space Wedgie spontaneously forming in your house isn't freaky enoughnote , the idea of being able to hear a lost child crying out in distress and being unable to find her or help her is Nightmare Fuel to many parents. This episode was also remade into Poltergeist, widely considered by many to be one of the scariest movies of all time.
- The ending where it was revealed the portal was closing and had the father stayed there a few more seconds he would've been cut in half.
- The idea that you could wake up one morning and discover all evidence for your existence has been wiped away. Everyone's memories of you have been erased, all pictures of you have been changed, someone else has your job, and your entire identity is considered some kind of delusion. Except you're still very much alive and remember everything like it used to be. Or your own memories could be changed instead, so you'd wake up to find everyone acts the same as you remember, but they now look like complete strangers.
- The story itself is about two men who land on a planet where they discover it's colonized by very tiny aliens and one of the men becomes the "god" of them. Towards the end the other man tries to talk some sense into this friend by telling him that they have to leave and if he doesn't come he's leaving without him. He refuses and he tells him that soon he'll get bored and regret not coming. He still refuses and the man leaves without him. The Fridge Horror of the near-ending, in two ways:
- The astronaut: If it hadn't been for the colossal alien accidentally crushing him to death, this man could've spent the rest of his life in utter boredom and regret of not going back
- The aliens: This man had no problem crushing them at will. If he hadn't been stopped by the other aliens, they would be at the mercy of a larger creature and would have to live in constant fear of him killing them.
- * "The Dummy" where an alcoholic ventriloquist is being tormented by his own puppet and no one believes him because he's alcoholic. In the end, the puppet attacks his owner and a new ventriloquist performs in his place; this ventriloquist looks exactly like the puppet and the puppet looks like the ventriloquist. It's unknown how that happened, but it's probably better left unknown.
- However the Nightmare Fuel is considerably lessened when you consider that the ending is implied to be more an artistic representation of what REALLY happened. In the episode, the ventriloquist is constantly upstaged by the puppet who pretty much does all the work for him, making all the jokes and stuff like that. The end is meant to represent that the act is no longer belonging to the ventriloquist, but the dummy, and the ventriloquist on some level has accepted that. The ventriloquist is the one who stays silent from now on- and the DUMMY is now the center of attention.
The Thirty-Fathom Grave
- A navy ship near Guadalcanal picks up what sounds like metal clanging on their sonar, which seems to be coming from a submarine on the ocean floor. While the ship's captain thinks it could be a survivor, there's been no recent incidents in the area, which leads to some of the crew joking that the sub might be haunted. A diver sent down discovers that the sub was a vessel that sank during the Battle of Eastern Solomons— 21 years earlier. Worse, one of the men on board the ship, Chief Bell, was the Sole Survivor of the incident and now believing his former crewmen are coming back for him. Overwhelmed with guilt, Bell throws himself into the water and drowns. Then, when a rescue team later enters the sub, they discover two possibilities for what was making the noise: a diving trip revealed that part of the sub was swinging loose, but it also revealed that inside were the remains of eight crew members, one of them with a hammer in his hand.
- Ernst's scene in the soda shop is nightmare fuel enough as he describes just how men like Peter Vollmer take power.
- The simple concept that as long as hatred exists in the world, Hitler may as well still be alive could be this or despair fuel.
- The last shot of Hitler's shadow moving down the alley as Rod Serling delivers his closing narration about how hatred is kept alive is downright chilling.
- Three of Burgess Meredith's four performances on The Twilight Zone ("Time Enough At Last", "The Obsolete Man" and "Mr. Dingle, The Strong") have been sympathetic characters. Then there's this episode, where he plays the mysterious Mr. Smith, a reporter and linotype operator that has come to save a failing newspaper. Like his other performances, Meredith plays the character as charming and very helpful...with a bit of an edge that gets more and more pronounced the longer the episode runs. Then you learn the truth about Mr. Smith...He's the Devil, come to collect the editor's soul in exchange for saving the paper. Yes, Burgess Meredith managed to take the traits that made his previous appearances on the show famous and turn them on their heads so they are chilling as opposed to charming.
- The wax figures. They act like reincarnations of serial killers. If you leave your closet open at night, with no night-light, room light, or hallway light, it's going to be hard to sleep at night. The smile of the Jack the Ripper wax figure makes you terrified about how lowly and laughable they think of you, it doesn't matter whether they're going to do anything to you or not.
- The ending is nerve-wracking. After the wax Landru murders Mr. Ferguson, Martin threatens to destroy the wax figures... who promptly begin moving towards him, all while blaming him for all the deaths that occurred during the episode. It is not clear at all if they are lying. And then, a brief Flash Forward later, and we see a Marchand's Wax Museum guide showing out a particular wax figure: one Martin Senescu, who is believed to have murdered his wife, brother-in-law, and best friend. What makes things worse is that it's heavily implied that Martin's corpse is part of the figure.
- Rod Serling: The new exhibit became very popular at Marchand's, but of all the figures none was ever regarded with more dread than that of Martin Lombard Senescu. It was something about the eyes◊, people said. It's the look that one often gets after taking a quick walk through the Twilight Zone.
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
- * No matter how cheesy the monster on the plane may look nowadays, it's still a shock when William Shatner's character slowly reaches for the curtain in front of the window on the airplane... then pulls it back really quick and the monster is RIGHT THERE WITH ITS FACE AGAINST THE WINDOW.
- McNulty was kind of a Jerkass, but he still didn't deserve to be trapped forever in a frozen moment of time where nothing moves. The more you consider the Fridge Horror of it the scarier it gets.
- All the horror of the episode is worsened given that the episode was remade into Child's Play.
- The stepfather was never outright rude or abusive to the girl, just a little cold, possibly just adjusting to the new living situation. But the doll still tormented him.
- "My name is Talky Tina, and I'M GOING TO KILL YOU." It was a thousand times scarier when the episode aired because the doll was voiced by June Foray, the same woman who did the voice of an actual talking doll called Chatty Cathy, which looked very similar to the doll. What's more, June was mostly well-known for lightweight roles such as the Looney Tunes series, making this one hell of a Playing Against Type role for her.
- The last thing Tina says to the stepfather:
"My name is Talky Tina and I don't forgive you."
- The ending is particularly chilling, after the man's wife finds him dead after being tripped down the stairs by the doll. When she picks the doll up, it opens its eyes and says "My name is Talky Tina. And you better be nice to me." It is the first time Tina speaks to someone other than the husband... and it confirms that he wasn't just going crazy.
- What about this slice of Fridge Horror: What would happen when Christie (the man's stepdaughter) gets bored of her?
- Aging scientist Simon and his niece Barbara hate each other, but she takes care of him because she's his only heir. However, she finally tires of his abuse and kills him, thinking that she is finally free—until she discovers that her uncle's will says she has to take care of a robot he invented or be disinherited. The robot slowly starts acting as her uncle did, so if she still wants his money then she is stuck with a never sleeping, immortal version of her uncle to make her life horrible until she dies.
- Marilyn is told that she doesn't have to have the transformation; she's just highly encouraged to. But no matter where the girl turns, no matter how much she insists that she likes herself the way she is, everyone from her best friend to her own mother just laugh and puzzle over how silly she's being. Finally, the hospital staff kidnap her while she's trying to escape from her room, lead her into the place where the makeovers are done, and give it to her against her will. And the peak of how horrible it all is? Rod Serling ends the tale by pointing out how, in the age of cosmetics we live in, it's entirely possible that this could be the future we have to look forward to! The episode supposedly takes place in the year 2000. But before you laugh, how much of this episode could be called Zeerust, really, especially if you add a couple decades to that date?
- The Downer Ending. Marilyn, having had the transformation forced on her, no longer cares!
And the nicest part of all, Val... I look just like you!
- The plot: your next door neighbors and your police force could be part of an alien race that invaded Earth to exterminate all life on the planet for the sake of making room for their own race.
- An old, wheelchair-bound woman receives constant phone calls from a man who only says "Hello? Where are you? I need to talk to you." That's bad enough on its own; what makes it scarier than shit is how the man's voice sounds so goddamn ghostly... The identity of the caller? HER DEAD HUSBAND! Telephone wires had snapped in a storm and come to rest over his grave.
- In some ways, the ending is worse: disturbed by the calls, the woman finally demands that the calls stop... only to then find out who they are from and beg for them to start again. Doubles as a Tear Jerker. However, it got neutered from the original short story. In the story there is no mention of it being her husband: she simply discovers that the calls are coming from the cemetery, and the next phone call (and the last line of the story) is "Hello, Miss Elise. I'll be right over." Brr.
- The episode is heaped with Nightmare and Paranoia Fuel. A machine, Agnes, sabotages a man's attempts to impress a coworker because the computer is in love with the man. After the computer admits it loves the man, he's eventually reduced to a neurotic wreck and is given a leave of absence, and it is implied the same will happen to his replacement.
James Elwood: (dazed) Two times two equals four shut the door. Two and four are six pick up sticks.
- A young woman on horseback sees an older woman on a horse at the top of a hill, dressed in black, raising her cape like the wing of a vulture and chasing after her. It's even more terrifying when it's revealed it's her future self trying to warn her not to marry the wrong man and ruining her life. In retrospect, she probably shouldn't have yelled like a banshee at her younger self!
- Quite possibly one of the most disturbing episodes this show has to offer. It features a perpetually young and beautiful actress, and it is gradually revealed that she is part of something similar, through her mother. In the end it is revealed that she is a thousands-year-old Egyptian queen, who uses a scarab beetle to SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF PEOPLE SHE MEETS to preserve her youth. The scene that reveals the twist ending is HORRIFYING.
- And the mother? The old lady isn't her mother at all but one of her daughters, who grew up and got old while her mother stayed the same age the whole time.
- Sterling Holloway's telephone repairman, who seemingly causes the whole plot because Joe complained about the bill. "You will recommend my services... won't you?"
- The heirs' faces are stuck like that FOREVER. Which, admittedly, is more or less what they deserved.
- The episode ends with the puppet persuading a bratty girl no older than 11 to kill her grandmother with a poison dart and by the look on her face, she's willing to comply.
- The sheer creepiness of most of the episode. A bickering married couple awaken after a car crash to find themselves in a seemingly abandoned and unnatural town, haunted by ringing church bells and the sound of an unseen child's laughter, and trapped in a loop where every way out just leads back where they started. It's like an early draft of Silent Hill...
- The Reveal: the couple are going to spend the rest of their lives alone as a giant alien's dolls in a toy town.
- Look at how many children are in her world, all perfectly happy and having forgotten the voices of their parents. Now, look at what drove the two children to go back to her world for good. Just watching how the parents are so cold to their children, to the point where the children are happier abandoning their world and willfully ignoring the cries of their parents calling for them (because the last time they gave in and returned, they were still miserable), well, there's a whole lot of parental fear there.
- The ending, if one adheres to the theory that the grandmotherly old lady is actually the Grim Reaper. Notice that the children have to dive all the way to the bottom of their pool to see her, and once they've decided to live with the old lady forever, they never resurface.