Revisiting The X-Files: season 1 episode 19

News Matt Haigh
27 Nov 2008 - 04:24

Werewolves join The X-Files party, as our look back at season one continues...

19. Shapes

This wasn't an easy one to watch, given my absolute concrete phobia of werewolves, but, thanks to a rather morbid nature on my part, I really enjoy being scared, and so this episode was great. It was slightly strange however, for an episode that focuses on people turning into wolves, that nobody used the term "werewolf" but rather, "shape shifter," which doesn't sound anywhere near as impressive or spine-tingling to my ears. Hmmm. As usual, it's around forty minutes of plus and minus points, that mostly comes out good in the end.

In some rural part of America, close to a native Indian settlement, a young Indian boy has been shot dead by a farmer who swears that the thing he took aim at was not a boy, but rather a vicious wild animal with glowing red eyes and fangs. An examination of the corpse reveals that the boy indeed has fangs growing out of his gums, although Scully is still sticking rigidly to her scientific explanations and scepticism - mostly, that sometimes people can suffer a disease called Lycanthropy, making them believe they are wolves, which doesn't really account for the boy having five-inch fangs, now does it?

What follows is a very basic and slightly drawn-out werewolf and detective story, although it seems to take Mulder and Scully an excruciatingly long time to figure out what is going on and who the werewolf actually is (the farmer's son, who incurred a scratch from the beast), when the audience probably got there in the first five minutes.

According to the IMDB, most fans don't seem to really rate this one - it earns a timid six out of ten. However, I have a soft spot both for "shape shifters" and really old-fashioned horror, and so this one earns something of a special place in my affections. Episode nineteen is largely void of any graphic wolfie activity, but kudos go to a very impressive transformation sequence (made better by the fact that Scully is standing right outside the room where it is taking place, oblivious to the horror on the other side of the door).

I was also glad to see (or, at least, glimpse) an actual man-wolf hybrid; I've always found werewolf stories where a man actually transforms into your average four-legged hound pretty dull, much better to have them towering twelve-feet tall with vaguely human characteristics still in place ala The Howling.

Overall, this instalment did a lot to absorb my attention and keep me hooked. I've warmed greatly to a series I was pretty sure was going to bore me rigid at first, and Shapes, more than any other episode so far, actually had me employing the old peeking-between-the-fingers tactic.

Check out Matt's review of the preceding episode here.


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