Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What Scared Me


It's Hallowe'en, so it's a good time to talk about what scared me when I was young.

When I was a child, nothing -- NOTHING -- frightened me as much as this episode of the old "Outer Limits" TV show. It's called "The Zanti Misfits," and it revolved around alien insects who came to Earth.

They were aggressive.  And their bite was deadly!

"The Outer Limits" was a black-and-white TV show with a limited budget. The Zanti creatures were just models, like the old toy "Cootie." The main difference is that the Zanti puppets were designed to be scary, sporting angry, humanoid heads.

The Zanti puppets were also built with wobbly rubber feet.  The budget for "Outer Limits" was so low that they could only afford a few seconds of stop-motion animation for a single Zanti. So the remainder of the Zanti were just puppets pulled along by string, or attached (as if biting) to actors.  Any movement would make the rubber feet wobble, giving the illusion that the Zanti were walking.

Today, it looks absurdly lame.  And yet, it worked in the 1960s. Of all the "Outer Limits" episodes, "The Zanti Misfits" frightened me the most.

SPOILER: At the end of the episode, the humans triumph and kill all the murderous Zanti.  Then, over the radio, the Zanti home planet reveals that the dead Zanti were all condemned criminals.  The Zanti were too kind-hearted to execute their own criminals.  But they knew that humans were murderous enough to kill all the criminal Zanti.

Yes, it's absurd.  Transport criminals across interstellar space, just to execute criminals?  The Zanti could just put the spacecraft in orbit around their own planet and let the criminals starve.  Or they could let the air out of the spacecraft and suffocate them.

But it sounded cool, back in the 1960s.  And scared the hell out of me.