Twilight Zone – The Hunters (10/15/88)

A kid wearing a red beret and an ascot saunters across an open field.  Either he is intended to be a generic Boy Scout knock-off, or he’s just a real dandy.  He falls through a hole into a pretty nice multi-level set which conveniently has a raised area under the hole so he was’t sent to the final Jamboree.  This scout is preparedness incarnate — despite the fact that he is crossing an open field at high noon, he has a fleshlight flashlight on him.  When he sees something moving around, he goes to get the sheriff.

The sheriff shines his bigger light around and sees paintings on the walls of the cave.  He calls in Dr. Cline from the local college to check it out.  She says the paintings are 12,000 years old.  There are buffalo depicted, and hunters stalking them.  Another item is just a blob which Cline suggests might be spiritual doorway or a circle where they all got together for protection.  It looks more like the space shuttle to me, but I might be watching too much Ancient Aliens.

Sometime later, topside, Cline tells the sheriff she needs the site guarded because there have been some disturbances.  The sheriff suggests it might just be raccoons.  Cline persuasively disagrees by showing a huge sheep carcass literally two feet from where they were standing.  They had just had a little walk & talk, so this could have been blocked much more effectively.

The sheriff goes about his sheriff business.  The developer who owns the land goes full Murray Hamilton, only with a bolo tie rather than that wacky anchor jacket.  The sheriff tries to calm him down, but I must say Dr. Cline is no help.  It’s admirable that she wants to protect the old artifacts, but she callously mocks the developer’s financial situation.  I’ve never seen a college professor so full of contempt unless someone was trying to exercise free speech on their campus.  The sheriff is also tracking some missing animals.  They appear to have been dragged to the excavation and cooked.

The sheriff spends the night in his car at the cave.  Dr. Cline hears noises and sees shadows darting around in the cave.  When she screams, the sheriff goes down to check things out.  He finds her lying on the ground with a spear in her back.  He too begins seeing shadows.  As he chases them around, he turns to see Cline’s body is gone.

He looks at the paintings on the wall and sees one is moving — a stick figure dragging Cline’s body away.  He gets a brush and starts scrubbing the other paintings from the wall.  And just in time — an Indian is about to spear him in the back.  As the sheriff erases the figure, the Indian fades away.

Can something be less than the sum of its parts?  That’s what we have here.  Louise Fletcher and Michael Hogan are recognizable faces.  The set was intriguing with both outdoor and subterranean areas.  I’m sure it’s racist in ways I can’t even imagine, but the idea of the ancient Indians coming back had great potential.  The idea of the paintings changing, especially when we actually see the animation, was fun.  They even had an experienced director.

And yet, it was something of a slog.  The feeling started early as Hogan seemed a little hammy and Fletcher just seemed miscast.  The episode really took a wrong turn killing off Dr. Cline so brutally.  I like a nice undeserved murder as much as the next guy, but TZ has always been more about just deserts and comeuppance.  This is just gratuitous.  Worse, it is almost amusing due to the sudden exposition — she was killed off-camera — and that giant spear sticking up particularly perpendicularly.

The final scene also bugged me for the most nit-picky of reasons.  I doubt either an archaeologist or a sheriff packs cleaning products.  So the sheriff had to go buy some and come back.  Or even if he or the doctor did have them, he had to get the bucket, some water, a brush, etc.  Yet the Indian stood around until he was actually erasing the figure to hurl a spear at him?  I know, drama.

As illogical as it sounds, it also bugged me that the sheriff started erasing the cave paintings.  Sure, it saved his life, but only because he stuck around to scrub the wall.  This is like idiots who leave graffiti in parks, or topple ancient precariously stacked rocks.

And what brought the Indians back anyway?  At least there was no cliched burial ground.  The doctor was not desecrating the area, although, the sheriff did almost trip over a bone.  I say almost, there was nothing going on here to warrant a murder. There was also no effort made to tie the drawings to the Indians.  Why were their movements reflected on the wall?  Compare this to a better episode in this TZ series, Still Life.  That also involved ancient tribesmen returning.  There, however, their return was explained by the developing of photographs which had stolen their souls.  Neat.

This is more like a Hitchhiker episode where they throw a bit of weirdness on the screen with no context or motive and think they have accomplished something.

It could have been great.

Other Stuff:

  • Classic TZ Connection:  None that I see, but strangely, in addition to Still Life, the changing picture reminded me of The Cemetery from Night Gallery.
  • The kid who fell in the hole was Charlie from RBT’s The Playground.

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