I thought the idiot box was my friend!

Day 9: The day tele­vi­sion ter­ri­fied me

It may seem quaint nowa­days, in a time when the immense­ly unnerv­ing gore and crip­pling psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror of Han­ni­bal airs on net­work tele­vi­sion (click here for visu­al proof), but there was a time not so long ago when tru­ly adult hor­ror wasn’t a com­mon­ly tele­vised event. Not on an ongo­ing series, any­way (although there was an exor­cism sub­plot on Soap that I remem­ber kind of freak­ing me out as a child). The most you could hope for was maybe a few Boo! moments on shows like Kolchak: The Night Stalk­er.

But in 1990, a ground­break­ing hor­ror show hit the air and, through a short two-year run, proved itself a major influ­ence on tele­vi­sion for decades to come. Twin Peaks (I miss it so much!), while osten­si­bly a mys­tery soap opera, con­tained many ele­ments of hor­ror, and inter­spersed the cher­ry pie and log lady moments with scenes of dis­turb­ing inten­si­ty that con­tin­ue to haunt view­ers.

But for me, the one moment of absolute hor­ror was the rev­e­la­tion that Leland Palmer, pos­sessed by the evil spir­it known only as BOB, was the killer of Lau­ra Palmer. In a scene of spi­ralling insan­i­ty, Leland/BOB assaults and mur­ders Laura’s cousin Mad­die.

When I first saw this scene (below), I was gob­s­macked. I lit­er­al­ly could not believe such a hor­rif­ic scene, although rel­a­tive­ly tame by today’s stan­dards, was ever allowed on tele­vi­sion. Much of the ter­ror comes from empa­thy for the char­ac­ters, of course, but also the edit­ing, the tem­po, the music, the raw inti­ma­cy, and that unique je ne sais quoi that creator/director David Lynch brings to all his projects.

Eep. Although I love that the late Frank Sil­va (BOB) was work­ing as a set dress­er on the pilot when Lynch saw him and cast him as Twin Peaks’ ulti­mate evil.

For the month of Octo­ber I’ll be post­ing a whole mess of stuff about hor­ror. Because Hal­loween. Most­ly just stuff I like, because I’m lazy that way.