Twilight Zone – Monsters! (01/24/86)

tzmonsters1Toby Michaels and his Dad are horsing around with horror masks and toy ray guns.  Toby shouts, “Die Monster Die!”  His dad responds, “American International, 1967, starring Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, based on a story by HP Lovecraft.” Does anyone talk like this?  Does anyone give a shit what studio produced a movie? [1]  In the category of useless information, this is second only to TV hosts who insist on crediting the publisher of a book.  No one cares.

Toby’s best friend has moved away, but his father tells him someone is moving into the old house today.  Toby walks down the street.  Showing the brain-power that explains why you never see guys over 20 named Toby, he decides the best vantage point to check things out is from under the moving van. [2]

After a nice bit of cat and mouse, Toby is face to face with an old man.  He introduces himself as Emile Francis Bendictson.  Noticing Toby’s monster magazine, he confides that tzmonsters2he is a monster, specifically a Vampire-American.  Toby protests that that can’t be true or he would be burning up in the sunlight.  So clearly Toby was lying earlier when he bragged about reading Dracula twice.  There is then a bit where a big deal is made over a vampire picture in Toby’s magazine.  It is not clear whether we are supposed to think the drawing is of Bendictson.

The next day, apparently agoraphobic Toby crawls into the space under Bendictson’s porch which he has been using as a clubhouse.  He drapes a wad of garlic around his neck, and pulls out a small cross.  He is spying on the old man washing his car, which is never going to be a Carl’s Jr. commercial.  Bendictson senses this and astounds Toby by lifting the car with one hand.  Bendictson busts him again.  Toby accuses him of “having the strength of the undead.”  Hey, you’re the one wearing the garlic necktie, pal!  The old man assures him there is nothing to worry about.

In fact, he says everything Toby knows about vampires is rubbish.  The cross has no effect on him.  He even grabs the garlic with no ill effects.  To prove the point, he takes young Toby out for garlic pizza . . . this is getting a little uncomfortable.  Just a few weeks ago, we had Peter tzmonsters3Riegert wrestling with a young boy in One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty. Now we have this geezer taking Toby out to a lovely outdoor bistro without the knowledge of his parents. Shockingly, they are both eating al fresco, but he is not listed in the credits.

The next day Toby sneaks into Bendictson’s house.  He discovers a refrigerator full of blood bags, but doesn’t seem to think it is worth mentioning to anyone.  Instead we cut to Toby some indeterminate time later sick in bed. [3] It should be noted that there have been a few sneezes by Toby and others when they were near Bendictson.  Toby’s father also had a sore shoulder, and others in the neighborhood have flu-like symptoms.

Bendictson opens Toby’s window and says, “C’mon, walk with me into the night, you and I . . . step out into the night . . . step out and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.”  [REDACTED]  Bendictson and young PJ-clad Toby take a moonlight stroll to the local cemetery.  He points to a tombstone for the grave of “Emile Francis Bendictson 1828 – 1839.”  The epitaph says, “God save the child” which is exactly what I’ve been thinking for some time.

tzmonsters4He explains to Toby that a vampire must stay on the move.  If he stays in one place too long, the real monsters come out.  The sneezes are just a symptom of a recessive human survival trait.  When they are near vampires, they turn into monsters and kill the vampire in their midst.  Later that night, Bendictson leaves his door open and allows himself to be taken.

The next morning, the neighbors gawk as Bendictson’s corpse is put into a hearse. Toby takes his dad to the cemetery and it somehow has become night in just a few minutes. Rather than show his dad Bendictson’s tombstone –the first one — which might be a nice conversation-starter, Toby shows him some fireflies which I’m sure are significant to someone smarter than me.  Then Toby’s dad sneezes, which seems to alarm Toby.  Maybe this also makes sense to someone smarter than me.

OK, we know the sneeze is a human reaction to vampires.  This tells us that Toby’s father is a human.  But does it mean Toby has become a vampire?  There was absolutely no indication that might be the case.  I hate to even imagine the old guy nibbling on Toby’s neck.  To be fair, Bendictson says that isn’t the only way to “turn” someone, but I saw no other options.  This ending feels right, but doesn’t make much sense.

Bruce Solomon (Toby’s father) had a great sense of how to play this material.  It wasn’t pure comedy, but there was a lightness and a fun vibe between him and Toby.  Ralph Bellamy (Bendictson) had the easy charm of his 150 years in show business.  Sadly, Toby and his mother were pretty poorly portrayed.  Kathleen Lloyd went on to a nice career, so maybe she just wasn’t given enough to do here.  Oliver Robins had a short career, but he can always say he was in one of the all-time great movies — Poltergeist. [3]

Overall, a pretty good segment.


  • [1] Much less the 14 companies that flash their logos before every movie.  It’s OK, your mother knows you’re in show business.  No one else cares.
  • [2] To be fair, it was a moving van, but the van wasn’t moving.
  • [3] Toby’s father’s diagnosis:  “The flu.  It’s one of those Asian things.  Payback for Viet Nam.”  Yeah, I’ll look for that line in the inevitable next TZ reboot.
  • [4] He might be less forthcoming about being in Poltergeist 2.  On the other hand he and I both share the honor of not being in the dreadful remake.

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