To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.
Hammer Film Productions is best known for its horror films, but they made several television series closer to their prime. This included Journey to the Unknown, a 1968 anthology produced by both Hammer and 20th Century Fox Television. Similar to the 1973 Thriller, American actors were cast as well as British. The series later aired in the U.S. as four TV-made movies with each one containing two episodes from the series. The show in any format has become an obscurity with no proper home video releases.
One of the most popular episodes is “Matakitas is Coming,” a chilling tale with other genre influences like time travel. A mystery novelist named June Wiley (Vera Miles) is researching the death of a librarian, Sylvia (Gay Hamilton) from 1927. She loses track of time and becomes locked inside the library she’s at. June soon realizes she’s been sent back in time to the very night Sylvia with killed. Along with a librarian (Lynn Pinkney) who’s also been transported to the past, June evades Sylvia’s murderer, Andros Matakitas (Leon Lissek).
“Matakitas is Coming” is definitely a kind of “rabbit hole” narrative. The character of June is so enthralled with Sylvia’s murder that it becomes a part of her. Her determination to solve both the bizarre crime as well as explain her transitory relocation, makes for forty-something minutes of suspenseful delight. Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s direction is tight; the episode is well-paced and the use of a single location never feels stagnant. June’s aimless wandering of the unearthly library builds ample tension.
However, the story admittedly does not always make sense. The plot holes will appear if you’re looking for them, but the fun here doesn’t stem from whether or not “Matakitas is Coming” is completely sound in logic. The ghostly mystique of Sylvia’s murder and June’s predicament overrides a need for complete rationality.
June’s body of knowledge and sleuthing skills all pay off in the end. Too much so. She solves an old mystery without realizing that she herself is also on a razor’s edge. As June learns in the denouement, history is not only bound to repeat itself, it’s also a done deal with no chance of change.
“Matakitas is Coming” is a charged and spookish treat for those who love one-location thrillers, shadowy corridors, and supernatural paradoxes.