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The X-Files – Pilot (Review)

The X-Files is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’ll be spending Month X looking back at the first season.

There was a time, around the third season, when The X-Files became the show. It had grown from the quirky newcomer of Fox’s prime time line-up, through its status as a cult hit, into a bona fides pop culture touchstone. Looking back now, twenty years after the show first began, it is something entirely different. It’s weird to look back over a long-running television, divorced from the immediacy of broadcast, a sort of “if I knew then what I know now…” sort of thing.

However, looking back at The X-Files, it’s more than just knowing how it ends. It’s more than just knowing about the show’s slow and drawn-out two-year death. It’s more than knowing that the conspiracy plotline kinda (but not quite entirely) makes sense, if you look at it the right way and don’t over-think it. Approaching The X-Files now, twenty years later, is more like opening an old tomb, unlocking a time capsule. The musky smell of the past seems to seep out of the television screen, transporting the viewer to a time that really isn’t that far away, but feels like centuries ago.

The X-Files is, undeniably, a pop culture artefact from the nineties, a show that seems to slot almost perfectly between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. It’s an exploration of a version of America that simply doesn’t exist any longer, the long and silent pregnant pause where the United States was the world’s sole unchallenged superpower. The X-Files really embodied that period of time, much like 24 managed to channel the anger and the rage of the post-9/11 era into piece of the zeitgeist.

And, to be fair, you can sense that sort of nineties existential anxiety even as early as The Pilot.

Beam me up...

Beam me up…

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Non-Review Review: The Call

The Call is one-half knock-off of the underseen and underrated Cellular, a delightfully pulpy high-concept thriller which perhaps felt a little bit too similar to Phone Booth. The Call is also one-half knock-off of Silence of the Lambs, with the second half of the film in particular feeling like one of those psycho killer thrillers that were oh-so-popular in the mid- to late-nineties, but which became less popular in the post-CSI era. The Call has a delightfully ropey central premise, a high-concept for the mobile age, straining all manner of credibility and suspension of disbelief.

However, the problem lies in the execution. The Call wallows in heightened melodrama, struggling to sustain its central premise by trying to make us “feel” for the central characters in the most coy and manipulative of manners. Director Brad Anderson’s intrusive style doesn’t help matters too, seemingly unsure whether he’s making an action movie, a psychological horror or a high-concept thriller, and so instead tries to mash the three genres together with limited success.

Holding the line...

Holding the line…

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