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.
Humans are social creatures, no matter what anyone tells you.
While being a loner isn’t the absolute worst fate in life, it isn’t an easy one, either. Just knowing you don’t belong to any group can be devastating. And perhaps no one understands this plight more than teenagers. After high school, your next rite of passage is entering an adult world where appearing normal and well-adjusted isn’t the most important thing anymore. Before then, however, life can be hell if you’re deemed the outsider.
To so many viewers’ surprise, the sophomore season of Jordan Peele‘s divisive reboot of The Twilight Zone turned out to be stronger than the first. Overall, there was better consistency in both the quality and variety. Not everything was a ham-fisted social message thinly wrapped in passable sci-fi shells. This time around, there was more horror involved.
Heather Anne Campbell‘s story “Among the Untrodden” is unique among its peers. This isn’t a hard-nosed thought experiment or a call to revolution and upheaval. Rather, we have a very straightforward tale of alienation gone terribly wrong. Irene (Sophia Macy) had barely transferred to Saint Mary’s Boarding School before she became the target of bullying. The perpetrators are a clan of mean girls led by queen bee Madison (Abbie Hern). In spite of their childish taunting, Irene carries on with a peculiar class project that reveals her classmate has psychic abilities. Madison is intrigued, but she keeps their budding fellowship on the down low.
In the meantime, Madison’s powers grow — she can compel others as well as read their inner thoughts. Her gifts soon create friction within her social circle and Irene incidentally plummets to her presumed death off the school’s roof. Yet, she comes out unscathed, and Madison believes her new friend could have supernatural powers, too.
Feeling more like a modern update of The Craft than anything related to the new Twilight Zone, “Among the Untrodden” manages to become one of the best episodes in the revival so far. It’s raw, occasionally vulgar, and utterly devastating. The calamitous conclusion swells with sadness as audiences are left with a shocking rug pull.
As you can see, growing pains exist even in the Twilight Zone.