I was 10-years-old when I first watched The Twilight Zone. It was in my grandparent’s home, where I would sit kneeled before the 20-inch television screen. As my father watched football, I would creep off to the back bedroom. There I sat on the bed, devouring every episode of the show before it was time to go home.
I’ve watched the marathon every year since. The show is over 60 years old, but it’s still so good and so relevant. It’s filled with primitive special effects and lots of overacting, but it still has a large base of fans like me, who’ve known and loved it for years. Even if you’ve never watched the series, you’ll probably enjoy it, especially if you’re a scary movie lover. It’s is filled with so many horror conventions: the devil in disguise, creepy dolls, evil machines. You name it. For any trope you can think of, there’s a Twilight Zone episode that did it first.
Here are six episodes you can check out based on your favorite scary movies.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: Maximum Overdrive, 1986
Emilio Estevez sweats in dusty jeans and a white tee as he fights back against murderous machines come to life. People die in all sorts of ways, including flattening by steamroller, strangulation by blow dryer, and death by soda machine.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “A Thing About Machines,” 1960
All machines owned by Mr. Finchley, our cranky protagonist, turn on him. His typewriter, car, and television conspire against him, and his electric razor will remind you of a certain kitchen tool gone rogue.
MGM / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: Child’s Play, 1988
Before Annabelle, there was Chucky, whose blue-eyed, freckled face seems scary even before the bodies start piling up and the unused batteries are discovered. Head spins, furrowed brows, and the psychotic flailing of tiny limbs make this movie scary despite the far-fetched storyline.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “Living Doll,” 1963
And before Chucky, there was Talky Tina, a wind-up doll given to a little girl named Christie by her mother named…wait for it…Annabelle (#creepy). Christie’s stepfather is disturbed by the doll, who abandons her preset phrases in favor of threats and insults, much like her red-haired successor.
Oscilloscope Laboratories / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: Coherence, 2013
Shot with no script and a lot of improv, this film surprises actors and viewers alike. A passing comet has created a portal to a string of alternate realities, each one complete with the same house and eight friends. Only one reality will remain at sunrise. As Emily and friends come and go from the house, we lose sight of who is an original and who’s an imposter.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “Mirror Image,” 1960
At a bus station, Millicent Barnes is disturbed by strange occurrences, like the ticket agent’s insistence that she already bothered him with a question she doesn’t remember asking. This convinces her that there’s someone nearby who looks just like her. Watching Milicent’s fear of her supposed doppelgänger escalate is just as fun as seeing Emily as she goes head-to-head with her double and fights to be the last one standing.
New Line Cinema / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984
“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” You haven’t had a bad dream until you’ve had one about Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven created something truly scary with the subtlety of Freddy’s menace, his steamy boiler room, and his knack for killing teenagers in their most vulnerable state: sleep. Very few death scenes compare to Tina’s blood-soaked, scream-filled, crawling-on-the-ceiling demise.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “Perchance to Dream,” 1959
Meet Edward Hall. A man who thinks his nightmares will kill him. He dreams in chapters and is convinced he’ll die if he keeps moving through the story. Edward is as scared to fall as asleep as Nancy, and maybe in as much danger as crop-topped Johnny Depp.
MGM / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: Poltergeist, 1982
There aren’t many horror movies that make your heart race, break, and swell all at the same time, but Poltergeist is one of them. Carol Anne’s sweet face, her family’s palpable love for her and each other, and the frightening thought of losing your child inside your own house is positively terrifying.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “Little Girl Lost,” 1962
Chris and Ruth Miller wake up to the sounds of their daughter Tina’s cries, only to realize they can’t find her anywhere in the house, even though they can hear her voice. Carol Anne’s and Tina’s stories both come with a dog who knows what’s up and a parent willing to do anything to save their child.
Netflix / CBS Television Distribution
Movie: Eli, 2019
Our titular character’s rare disease forces him to live life in a bubble, à la John Travolta circa 1976. While held captive at a secluded medical facility for treatment, he questions the motives of his doctor, only to slowly learn that she isn’t a doctor at all; she’s a nun. And surprise! He isn’t sick. He’s the spawn of satan. His parents quarantined him all this time to protect the world from his evil.
The Twilight Zone Episode: “The Howling Man,” 1960
David Ellington happens upon a hidden castle, where he meets a group of monks who are holding a man against his will. The prisoner bewitches Ellington with pleas for help and claims of innocence, but the monks just might know something he doesn’t.
Featured Image: MGM / CBS Television Distribution