Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The X Files Season One: "Squeeze" - Stretch and Tooms

So that's how santa claus does it...

I'm glad this episode came this early, because I was getting a little worried about preemptively committing myself to a show I was only ever going to think was OK, but Squeeze showed me a side of the show that is willing to be a horror movie, willing to be out and out scary as opposed to an effective but unknowably menacing atmosphere. In the previous two episodes the villains were unseen and unaccountable, but here the villain takes centre stage, and I have to say that even though Squeeze is probably a less intelligent episode then those previously, it's a damn sight more effective then either. Complexity can make for great sci-fi, but so can simplicity.

- In a way Squeeze is the most obvious incarnation of The X Files 'cop show with monsters' twist, in that this is a straight forward serial killer narrative, only the serial killer has a few supernatural tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps because of its increased obedience to the deafeningly familiar cop-show structure, more time was freed up to simply do cooler shit. Or maybe it just had an antagonist memorable enough to make anything work. Either way, I enjoyed the crap out of this episode, which dispensed with some of the conspiracy and upped the creepy considerably.

- The plot sees a series of people getting murdered in locked rooms, with no known method of entry or exit. An old agency contact of Scully's (Played by Terriers' Donal Logue) brings her in on the case, and everyone makes fun of her for working on the X Files.

- What I did like about the episode is that there was never any doubt about who the killer was, the first suspect being the only suspect. a Eugene Tooms, a man with the ability to elongate his body to squeeze into all manor of tight spots. So kind of a horror movie answer to the question how does Father Christmas get down the chimney. I concept it sounds a little silly, but thanks to a supremely creepy performance by Doug Hutchison, Tooms is a pretty iconoc bad guy.

- I did notice the banter between Mulder and Scully feeling a little less stiff this week, with Gillian Anderson in particular developing a wry sarcasm amidst Scully's usual idealized pragmatism. Duchovny gets better I think, but it still feels like line-reading rather then acting at the moment. And he continues to be the worst actor at listening ever known to man.

- The Tooms kill scenes were pretty cool, although the second one was much better then the first one, probably because he no longer remained unseen. Watching him go down the chimney was one of the creepier things I've seen in a TV show for a long time.

- Not sure how I felt about the character of Colton, Scully's agency pal though. Felt like an easy way to pass the torch of skeptic to show us that Scully's coming around to Mulder's way of thinking. Did enjoy the scenes of Mulder openly mocking Colton though, perhaps because he's such a rote character for a procedural show. One that every show roles it when they want to show you the straight man warming to the maverick's way of thinking. Like Donal Logue though.

- Tooms is over 100 years old, having committed a similar rash of killings in both 1903, 1933, and 1973. He does this by taking all of his victim's livers, absorbing them, and hibernating in a nest made of newspaper and his own bile for periods in between murders. Pretty cool right.

- Perhaps the final showdown was a little less then well executed. They defeated Tooms by handcuffing him to a bath, but couldn't he just elongate his fingers to escape the cuffs, or maybe he just wanted to get caught who knows. But an easy way out.

- It also was the most cliched slasher movie sequence ever, with Scully running a bath, whilst Tooms stalked around her apartment.

- Like I said, I don't think Squeeze is necessarily the most intelligent or progressive episode of the X-Files, but there's something to be said for just hitting you're audience in the gut, and I think this was an important side of the show to reveal, because the problem with a conspiracy show is that you have a long-term faceless enemy, whose stature is drawn from that namelessness, its good to have bad guy on the screen every once in a while.

- Doug Hutchison's performance does kind of bring to light an immediate concern I had with the show, which was the lack of a supporting cast, and given that while Anderson and Duchovny are growing into their roles, it would be still nice to have an actor's who is always good on the show, because at times the bad acting is the show's Achilles heel. It stops you really committing to some of the scenes, which is a shame.

- I liked that Tooms was mostly quite animalistic, he had no speeches or reasons why, rather just an organism doing what it has to do to survive.

- While I did think the Scully-Mulder dialogue was better, some of Colton's dialogue was awful. One interchange between him and Scully was pretty laughable containing a line like ' If this is what it takes to climb the ladder, then I can't wait to watch you fall on your ass.' It was kind of made awesome by Anderson's extremely reluctant delivery of it. Almost as if she knew it was a piece of shit line.

- The final scene of Tooms staring at the letter-box slot on his cell door lasted forever, and was pretty fucking terrifying. I guess they knew they were onto something, so they didn't kill him. I look forward to his inevitable re-appearance in a lesser episode.

- Oh I almost forgot, there was an entire subplot about a cop who chased Tooms in 33' that took place in about two scenes. He gave a bizarre, pointless monologue about how places where bad things happen smell of evil, and then segued right in to giving Mulder the evidence to solve the case. Bizarre character and scene.

- Its stuff like that that makes me think The X Files is stuck in some netherworld between a cheesy 80's cop show and a progressive, intellectual sci-fi series. It's just fused both realities together regardless of whether they fit or not. At the moment there's some tonal irregularities for sure.

- A lean, mean slasher-movie of an episode. Which ditched larger arcing for the sake of scaring the shit out of you, and for the most part it was largely effective. Its still got the rough around the edges feel, and a worryingly blase attitude toward specificity and the reality of its universe but its bigger picture approach does allow for some of the ideas to shine. Creepy as balls.

Rating: 7/10

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