Charge up your ’90s cell phones and stock up on sunflower seeds — “The X-Files” is back.
More than 10 years since the series signed-off, and more than 7 years since their last movie, Fox announced in March Special Agents Mulder and Scully will return for a six-episode limited series run debuting in January 2016. The series excelled at grounding its alien threats and “freak of the week” cases in a very gritty, very plausible world living very close to our own. And with recent real-life headlines centering on the government’s not-so-hidden agendas like spying on its citizens, “Spooky” Mulder’s unique brand of investigation is all the more relevant and necessary.
In honor of the series’ much-anticipate return to the small screen, check out these 10 episodes that still hold up (minus the ’90s fashion and cell phones) — and still pack in the scares.
“Humbug” (Season 2)
This episode, one of the series’ first comedic entries, is more than just “The One About the Circus Freaks.” It’s a suspenseful murder-mystery with solid frights and even better laughs, centered on a murder suspect best described as a really gross version of Kuato from “Total Recall.”
“Chinga” (Season 5)
Horror master Stephen King finds a new way to make a killer doll even scarier: By making it convince its victims to do self-harm. The episode never quite marries King’s tone with that of the series, but when it does “Chinga” is on par with recent films like “The Conjuring” in terms of how the best way to do horror is often the “less is more” approach.
“Our Town” (Season 2)
Don’t trust the chicken being produced in this episode’s small town. It makes Soylent Green seem like a Golden Age.
Cannibals and ritualistic sacrifices of a sort draw the attention of our intrepid agents, as “Our Town” puts an effective spin on making us feel unsafe about the threats hiding in our own back yards.
Cloned twin girls separated at birth, but linked by the same patricidal tendencies, are the threat Mulder and Scully must deal with. Their innocent exterior hides a more sinister agenda, one of the first conspiracies Mulder uncovers that doesn’t involve aliens. Trust us, Eve 9 and 10 are way scarier.
“Leonard Betts” (Season 4)
Scully survived the titular mutant only to discover that she is dying of cancer.
Betts feeds on tumors caused by the disease, they — and a literal bathtub of iodine — help him rejuvenate and re-grow severed limbs. This episode packs in the jump scares, sure, but it’s all in service of the scariest reveal of all: That Scully has cancer, and finding its cure would set the series down a very emotional, high-stakes path.
“Die Hand Die Verletzt” (Season 2)
The only thing scarier than the PTA, this underrated episode argues, is one that worships the devil.
Creepy middle-class educators and a hell-powered fixer in the form of a substitute teacher named Phyllis play a big role in “Die Hand,” when the former’s black magic practices force the latter to intervene — in a plot that involves the murder of two teens and a man-eating python. Mulder and Scully almost get crossed off themselves, and how they survive is full of twists and turns worthy of a feature film.
“Irresistible” (Season 2)
This episode won’t just scare you, it will haunt you for life.
Serial killer Donnie Pfaster is one of the show’s more creative and original creations. He is a death fetishist who zeroes in on Scully as his next MDK. The episode is a non-stop supply of slow-burn tension, full of unsettling moments as well as solid character development for Scully. Pfaster returns in a Season 5 episode, where we learn that he is in fact a real demon. This episode holds up considerably well opposite more modern fare like like “True Detective” or NBC’s “Hannibal.”
“Squeeze”/”Tooms” (Season 1 and 2)
Eugene Victor Tooms is just your average liver-eating immortal, who uses bile and newspapers to make a nest in between hibernation cycles.
He has the ability to squeeze and contort through many cramped spaces, which Mulder and Scully learned the hard way when Tooms terrorize the latter. Season 1’s “Squeeze” is one of the most tense entries of the show’s early run, and its much deserved Season 2 follow-up, “Tooms,” amps up the tension and horror factor when Mulder must go on the offensive following Victor’s release from jail.
“The Host” (Season 2)
One of the series’ first and most successful “Monster of the Week” installments introduced us to the Flukeman, half fluke worm, half Chernobyl byproduct.
This big glass of nightmare fuel and Tooms are arguably the series’ most iconic freakshow villains. Edge goes to this guy because when he’s not living in sewers, he either eats people or knocks them up with his bite that puts a nasty fluke baby in you.
“Home” (Season 4)
A newborn baby gets buried and an earnest sheriff (named Andy Griffith!) and his wife get beaten to screaming, bloody pulps — and that’s all before the episode’s midpoint.
This tragic, violent, inbred tale of the Peacock Family was so graphic and chilling that it earned the first TV-MA rating ever, and was only aired once on Fox. While we have seen more graphic and intense horror on the small screen since “Home” premiered, (thanks, “Hannibal”) the episode more than holds up for its uncompromising approach to the evils people will endure and inflict for their family.
Just reading this ensures you will be sleeping with the lights on tonight.
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