Sunday 3 November 2013

THE X-FILES, 1.3 - 'Squeeze' - stretching belief

Sunday 3 November 2013


Scully assists a colleague with an unexplained murder in an office with no discernible point of entry, leading Mulder to theorise the culprit is a genetic mutant...

SQUEEZE was the first X-Files I ever saw, and also the show's first 'monster-of-the-week' episode unconnected to its ongoing alien conspiracy drama. In essence, this was the hour that signalled to viewers this new show had range—which was perfectly timed, considering the first two instalments dealt with alien abduction and UFOs. The writers behind "Squeeze", Glen Morgan and James Wong, would also become key figures of The X-Files family; going on to create popular recurring characters, while writing many classic tales. There are some who also believe Morgan and Wong are the true architects of The X-Files' success, because they followed Chris Carter's lead but breathed life into it.
MULDER: Do you think I'm spooky?
The beauty of "Squeeze" is its simplicity. The golden-eyed villain, Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchison), is a marvellous creation who still makes appearances in various 'best monster' polls 20-years later. Tooms certainly has the all-important creep factor, as a near-silent home invader with the ability to contort, elongate, and twist his body to fit through the narrowest of cracks, holes and slots. The set-up of the episode is a classic 'locked room' mystery that careerist FBI agent Tom Colton (Donal Logue) can't crack, promoting him to request assistance from Scully (Gillian Anderson) and, in so doing, her new partner Mulder (David Duchovny). I'm also enjoying how much these early episodes push the idea Mulder's a laughing stock to his peers, and Scully's doing her career a disservice by associating with him. I certainly don't remember as many sarcastic mentions of Mulder's nickname, Spooky, in subsequent seasons. That's perhaps because the audience are likewise in two-minds about Mulder's sanity, although so far his crazy theories are always proven correct.

A few things surprised me about "Squeeze" during this re-watch, but nothing more than how quickly Mulder assembled a working theory for how the killer's a liver-eating mutant and paranormal contortionist. Plus it was a surprise to see Tooms in police custody little more than fifteen minutes into the episode (caught rattling through a building's air vent), a few years before Se7en did something similar. Of course, the thrust of the episode was realising the bigger problem for Mulder in his line of work: making ordinary people believe the unbelievable. Tooms aces a polygraph (although slips up on Mulder's fantastical "control questions"), so nobody will buy Mulder's crackpot theory that Tooms awakens every thirty years to kill five people and harvest their livers to sustain his immortality. Who would? Mind you, as the story progressed, one had to wonder why the weight of evidence doesn't eventually convince Colton and his colleagues: after a clear fingerprint match and archival photo evidence that Tooms was still baby-faced back in 1963. I guess this is a struggle the show would continue to have, particularly regarding how Scully dismisses so much because her personality simply demands it.
SCULLY: You knew they wouldn't believe you, why did you push it.
MULDER: Maybe I thought you caught the right guy. And maybe I run into so many people who are hostile, just because they can't open their minds to the possibilities, that sometimes the need to mess with their heads outweighs the millstone of humiliation.
Doug Hutchison makes his X-Files debut as Tooms (he'll return in a sequel later this season), and should certainly be credited for part of this episode's success. He's radiates creepy vibes and there are three excellent moments that sell his character perfectly (the shot of him cracking bones to fit down a chimney stack, the moment he comes worming his way through Scully's cat flap to attack her, and that eerie moment in jail where he sits calmly licking newspaper to create a "nest" in the cell). It's just a shame his character's activities are poorly enhanced by director Harry Longstreet—particularly in a moment when Tooms kills his second victim and the attack slows to an excitement-sapping crawl. My guess is this was part of the behind-the-scenes problems with Longstreet having "creative differences" with the cast and crew, leading to his replacement by Michael Katleman. Co-writer James Wong also assisted with re-shoots and inserts, to fix some of the problems Longstreet left behind.


  • The inspiration for this episode came with Morgan and Wong notices a ventilation shaft and pondered the idea of someone crawling inside it. Contrary to popular belief, "Squeeze" wasn't influenced by 1972's The Night Strangler (the second Kolchak: The Night Stalker) movie, which featured a killer who murders every 21-years. However, I do wonder if the 2001 movie Jeepers Creepers was partly inspired by "Squeeze", as that film involves a nest-building creature who hibernates for decades between kill sprees and harvests body parts.
  • One of the "creative differences" encountered on-set with director Harry Longstreet was David Duchovny's refusal to have Mulder react to Tooms in a totally negative way—as he believed his character would realise Tooms isn't evil, just genetically driven to survive.
  • Doug Hutchison wrote a prequel episode for his character, entitled "Dark He Was and Golden-Eyed", but it was returned to him unopened and unread for legal reasons. Hutchison has disclosed that his idea for Tooms' back-story involved him being an experiment into eternal youth that went wrong, but that he was also an incarnation of "a ravenous, liver-eating Central American Indian God".
  • You perhaps recognise Donal Logue as Agent Colton. He went on to appear in lots of films and TV series, but most notably Jerry Maguire, Blade, The Thin Red Line, The Tao of Steve, The Patriot, Ghost Rider, Max Payne, the short-lived TV series Terriers, Sons of Anarchy, Vikings and Copper.
written by Glen Morgan & James Wong | directed by Michael Katleman | 24 September 1993 | Fox