Director: Richard Friedman
Writer: Michael McDowell
Cast: Jean Marsh and Paul Sparer
Composer: Steve Gruskin
Air Date: 2/17/1985
In this loose remake of The Twilight Zone’s “Night Call,” struggling actress Joan Matlin (Jean Marsh) finds herself troubled by the incessant ringing of a neighbor’s telephone. Unsettled by the late-night noises emanating from the apartment next door, Joan investigates the problem and later uncovers a most disturbing fact.
Though a spooky atmosphere redeems this episode from its dated premise, “Answer Me” is marred by a ridiculous twist ending involving a homicidal telephone. However, horror fans may nevertheless enjoy this offering for its dark tone and relatively somber execution.
While the suspense factor is hampered by a heavy reliance on expository dialogue, this minor issue can be forgiven in light of an excellent performance by the lead actress. In fact, Jean Marsh should be commended for carrying Michael McDowell’s haunting story exclusively by herself. Notably, Marsh delivered her lines such that her character convincingly transitions from an eccentric actress to a paranoid mess within the span of just twenty minutes. Despite her occasionally irritating tendencies, Joan comes across as an overall sympathetic individual thanks to Marsh’s successful portrayal of what must have been an exceedingly difficult role.
In addition to its goofy climax, McDowell’s narrative lacks the substance to fill out an episode of typical Tales from the Darkside length. As a result, certain scenes tend to drag on longer than necessary and lose their unnerving impact in the process.
Much like the aforementioned entry of The Twilight Zone, “Answer Me” offers a resonating glimpse into the mind of an individual plagued by loneliness and social isolation. Because the main character never visibly interacts with another human being at any point during the narrative, viewers will be left with a chilling question as to whether Joan’s predicament could be attributed to paranormal activity alone, or if her apparent insanity is instead the result of prolonged solitude and insecurities surrounding a failed career.
“Answer Me” is sprinkled with many cringe-inducing moments throughout its brief runtime. That being said, Tales from the Darkside fans are advised to view this episode for its harrowing subject matter coupled with a strong performance from a veteran actress.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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