The X-Files was a show that contained dozens and dozens of memorable episodes. Some were fascinating stories furthering the primary alien storyline of the series, while others were surprisingly hilarious. The majority of the show was, of course, creepy episodes as the team tried to stop the monster of the week. It was a tough choice, but here’s a list of my top 5 scariest episodes.
Slight spoilers for each episode follow.
Home – Season 4
Home begins with one of the most disturbing introductions of the series. In a bleak rainstorm a woman gives birth to a deformed child which is then taken out into the muddy field and buried alive. After the body is later found Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate. The local police force consists of just two people, explaining that with such a small simple town there’s no need for anyone more. Before long it becomes clear the deformed in-bred Peacock family are responsible, who after overhearing they’re under suspicion proceed to bludgeon the police chief and his wife to death. Then it’s down to Mulder and Scully to arrest the family…
Home was so terrifying because the villains, although monstrous in appearance, were just normal people. Reclusive neighbours with barbaric thugish attitudes, they were creepily realistic. Their brutality and the casual nature at which they performed their acts made them even scarier.
Detour – Season 5
Unlike most episodes Detour didn’t involve Mulder and Scully being sent to investigate anything, they stumbled into this threat by complete accident. It turns out the local forest is home to two creatures who are near-invisible, creatures who have attacked and abducted a local hunter. Teaming up with some local officials they set off into the forest to find them. That’s when the creatures start hunting them instead.
Detour is Predator meets X-Files. Seeing the team hunted down one by one in the forest is chilling. You get a sense they’re all in real danger. Furthermore the creatures themselves are absolutely terrifying. The scene where one charges towards his pray, which we see by him charging right at us, gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s also a unique episode in that there isn’t just one monster, there’s a team of two of them. They work together in perfect sync to isolate and take down their prey. Just because you know where one is doesn’t mean you’re safe, there’s another out there somewhere. It might even be camouflaged right in front of you…
Irresistible – Season 2
A sinister funeral attendant is caught cutting off the hair of a recently deceased girl, and thus we’re introduced to one of the most disturbing characters in the entire series. When multiple bodies turn up, all mutilated in the same way, it points towards a “death fetishist,” the same creepy man we met in the intro. As Mulder and Scully continue their investigation we continue to follow Donnie Pfaster, the killer himself, as he emotionlessly focuses on getting his next victim. The episode gets even more tense as he sets his sights on Scully.
Irresistible is another rare episode that contains no paranormal elements. Donnie Pfaster looks like a perfectly normal man but inside he’s a deeply disturbed individual with a dark obsession with dead hair and nails. With no other life to speak of he lives entirely to further his bizarre fascination. It’s a perfectly plausible story which is what makes it so frightening. Everyone has encountered people in their lives who have felt intimidatingly odd, the episode perfectly taps into that fear of strangers. The paranoia of being watched and obsessed over by someone completely unhinged.
Die Hand Die Verletzt – Season 2
Out of the whole list Die Hand Die Verletzt is the only episode that’s almost as funny as it is spooky. Opening up with an after hours school faculty meeting, the group of seemingly normal teachers decide they haven’t done a prayer in a while so they really should perform one. So they begin their prayer, to Satan that is! A group of teenagers later perform a black magic ritual which leaves one of them dead. Things get bleaker as new substitute teacher Mrs Paddock is revealed to be performing rituals of her own.
The episode is a mixture of gruesome imagery and wickedly dark humour. The intro is almost a trick, the amusing introduction sets an almost silly self-aware tone which gradually evaporates as more of the cast are killed. There’s also an intelligent level of commentary about religion, such as the morality of parents pushing their children into following their beliefs. The lack of answers in the episode is further discomforting, we never learn the truth of what’s really going on but there are implications that Mulder and Scully are way out of their depth.
Squeeze – Season 1
The very fist episode which created the ‘monster of the week’ formula which X-Files would rely on for its entire run. Squeeze starts with the murder of a man in his own office, where his killer reaches him through the ventilation system. After discovering an elongated fingerprint it becomes even clearer that there’s something very unusual about this killer. Things get even more perplexing when it’s becomes apparent the murders are very similar to a set committed in both 1933 and 1963. After catching the murderer, an average looking man named Eugene Victor Tooms, they struggle to make the evidence fit and he’s let free. Wherein the killings continue…
A home invasion is already a scary idea but a man like Tooms cranks the fear up to eleven by the fact that he can squeeze his way inside by any means available. There is no way to protect yourself from Tooms, if he’s decided he wants to murder you then he will find a way into your home. On top of that he literally rips a person’s liver from their body. He’s an unrelenting force that cannot be overpowered or reasoned with.
Want more X-Files articles? Check out this post for a list of all of the X-Files content this week.