[31 Days of TV Anthology Terror] The Outer Limits (1995): Under the Bed

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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.

The 1995 revival of the 1963 Outer Limits is well-known despite it not being as popular as, say, Tales from the Crypt, another anthology from the same era. The difference is that the aforementioned show largely focused on science fiction and extraterrestrial drama. It was unusual for the series to tackle anything else.

Yet, that is what exactly “Under the Bed” is — unusual.

The Season One episode’s cold open shows the perspective — realized through a color negative effect — of an unseen and unknown assailant blazing towards the house of one family. After a single mother tucks her son and daughter into bed that evening, the young boy swears to his sister that his toy Bear-Bear can talk. He reaches for his stuffed friend beneath the bed before he’s snatched by a partially invisible arm. The police arrive with no clue as to who — or what — took the child.

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In time, however, a Dr. Jon Holland (Timothy Busfield) convinces the lead detective Caitlyn Doyle (Barbara Williams) that the boy’s father didn’t abduct him. No, he’s convinced something entirely different is behind the kidnapping. Dr. Holland suspects the culprit is really a troll and that it’s responsible for his own brother’s disappearance when they were young. Now, the doctor and detective race to save the boy’s sister who been taken by the very same troll.

If it sounds like “Under the Bed” doesn’t belong in The Outer Limits, that’s because it really doesn’t. Thematically, it’s more appropriate for any traditional horror anthology rather than one geared towards science fiction and thought experiments. That is not to say it’s a bad episode, though. There are some good setpieces here — namely, the boy’s abduction and the final battle between the heroes and the child-eating troll — and Dr. Holland’s own personal and affecting story about the grief his family endured following his brother’s disappearance.

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The mythology the episode briefly brings up is fascinating for anyone who loves old-world folklore and cryptozoology. Hard-lined scientists will balk at the notion of trolls and other monsters living under our noses, but it’s a curious contrast to the show’s frequently visited topics.

There are no aliens or intergalactic travel to be found in “Under the Bed,” but the story proves there’s still a lot left on Earth just waiting to be discovered.

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