Twilight Zone – The Shadow Man (11/29/85)

I’m sure this was a stunning shot, but the DVDs and You-Tube just blur it into a mess

The jaunty synth music that opens the episode is so happy in an awful 80’s syndicated sitcom kind of way that I literally did not register how wrong it was for a Twilight Zone episode.  For 20 minutes I was able to forget my expectations and cynicism to just roll with the episode.  I’m not saying bouncy tunes would have saved the often painful 11/15/85 episode, but at least it would have prepared me for the sappy segments that followed.

15-year old Danny is trying to figure a way to get his crush girl Liana to go out with him.  His best plan involves tricking her by mailing her a single ticket to a play, then showing up to take the adjoining seat.  So deceit & chicanery.

That night as Danny is walking home, bully Eric uses Liana as bait to humiliate Danny.  She strolls out from the bushes, back-lit by streetlights, hair lightly blowing in the breeze.  She stops and smiles at him.  As he can’t believe his good fortune, a couple of Eric’s equally dickish friends jump out with pig masks and plastic chainsaws.  They chase Danny until he falls.  Eric emerges to tell Danny he is the “biggest chicken in Willow Creek.”  Eric puts his arm around Liana and they walk off.

tzshadowman05That night as he is in bed, his mother opens his bedroom door.  Since he is 15, thank God she has the good sense to knock first.  She shuts off all the lights in his room, telling him he is too old for such things.  She leaves him in total darkness. Immediately after she leaves, the window shade suddenly rolls up letting a little light into the room.

His bed begins violently shaking, banging against the wall. His mother again has the good sense not to barge in.  Danny watches as a dark figure rises from beneath his bed wearing a cape and floppy hat.  He is terrified as the moaning figure approaches him.  However, it tells him, “I am the Shadow Man and I will never harm the person under whose bed I live.”  It then opens his window and floats out.

The next day, his only friend quite reasonably does not believe this story.  As they are walking into the school, however, they hear that a student was killed in the park last night.  A witness said the killer was tall and skinny and dressed in black, but his face was not visible.

tzshadowman07That night Danny is armed with a Polaroid, but falls asleep.  The entity arises and again says, “I am the Shadow Man and I will never harm the person under whose bed I live.” He vanishes out the window before Danny can get a picture.  The entity kills another student that night. Everyone at the school is now afraid to go out after dark.

The next day, Danny overhears Eric telling Liana [1] that he can’t study with her that night because he doesn’t want to go out after dark.  Time to play that deceit & chicanery card.  Danny confirms with the entity that he is safe; it responds, “I am the Shadow Man and I will never harm the person under whose bed I live.”  As catch-phrases go, this one could use some tightening up. Knowing he is safe, shows up at Liana’s house to tutor her.  She is initially not interested, but does invite him in.

The next day, he is a hero at school.  His apparent bravery has made him a stud.  Eric is having none of this, so challenges Danny to a fight.  Danny says, sure, howzabout they meet in the park that night at 9:00.  Boom!  I’m starting to like this kid.  Not wanting to look like a coward, Eric reluctantly agrees.

tzshadowman08As Danny is getting ready that night, the entity emerges and says “I am the Shadow Man and I will never harm the person under whose bed I live.”  Alright, we get it!  Christ, what windbag!  Hmmm . . . I wonder if this bit of repeated exposition will be important.

Danny has kind of become a jerk in the one day he has been popular. He even abandons his only previous friend.  It is nice to see the segment return to a 1960s style of cosmic / karmic justice. It is especially satisfying to see it meted out to a kid, which I don’t think the original ever did.

So kudos on a very satisfying segment.  The only negative was that it had me thinking of the tragic Slender Man stabbing the whole time.  I can’t blame TZ for that, though.


  • [1] Minor issue:  The lithe Liana is wearing a pink sweater in this scene that makes her appear to weigh 300 pounds.
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