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12 September 2013 @ 08:25 pm
X-Files Review: "The Jersey Devil"  
devil splash


The X-Files
S1, E4

"The Jersey Devil"

Writer: Chris Carter
DIR: Joe Napolitano


Blurb: When a homeless man is found in the woods just outside Atlantic City with his arm and shoulder chewed off, Mulder thinks it may be the work of the fabled Jersey Devil.

Review contains one screencap with a flash of bare butt. Spoilers within (though I'm not sure this episode has anything spoilery at all).


Scene 01: We open our episode at dusk, where we see a family car driving toward us down the road. We can tell this is a family vehicle, because there is some kids singing.


Scene 02: We hop on into the back and listen to that B-I-N-G-O song. But the festivities (thank god) are interrupted by a blow out.


Scene 03: At the roadside, Father goes through the drudgery of changing the tire. [And I realize modern men should bring back in the 1940's short cut-hair and the wearing of porkpies. I don't mean in a douchy-hipster way either, but seriously.]

Stylish-dad goes to retrieve his flashlight, but knocks it over where it goes rolling down a short incline.

He 'darn-its' as he goes off after it. We have pov-whisperybreath watching from the woods.


Scene 04: In the car, the kids are deep asleep [JEEZUS, how long did this tire change take??].

Daddy comes up to the car and knocks on Wife's window. He asks her to come out and hold the flashlight for him, so he can complete the tire change. But as he's speaking to her he gets yanked out of view with a startled yell.

Wife dashes out of the car and calls for Husband, as we hear a great deal of brush-crushing out in the woods.

What we do not hear are any yells. Wife retrieves the dropped flashlight and yells for Hubby, but the only response is a watching-pov in the woods. We see Hubby's shoes as he's dragged off screen.


Scene 05: The following morning at daybreak, the troopers and their dogs are out in force scouring the woods for any signs of their missing man. They find a body missing a leg. It's been eaten off.


Scene 06: There is a yell from further along the search path. When we find our way, we're with some young troopers standing at a cave where they're sure that they've discovered whatever critter killed Father.

We see by a patch on one officer's sleeve that we're in NJ. Which makes sense. [Alas, we will not be getting a winged, upright, man-eating deer. We will get a caveman, though, which is just as goo- ... no, no it isn't just as good at all. I WANT MY NATIVE AMERICAN FOLKLORE MONSTER!]

The troopers assure us and themselves that whatever they've cornered is coming at them, so that they can feel all manly as they unload approximately 564,125 rounds into the cave.

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We're left to fade to credits without ever knowing what they've shot... if anything....


Scene 07: When we return from credits, we find ourselves in a busy FBI HQ in Washington, D.C.

Dana makes her way across the office, and I do believe we see that Cigarette Smoking Man is there on a phone.


Scene 08: Meanwhile, Fox is sitting in his basement office, as he is wont to do - no doubt staring at something X-Files-ish and waiting for Dana so he can datadump and make wild assumptions.

Ah, here's Dana now. But actually, Fox is looking at a porn mag. But when Dana jokes with him about looking at "art", he says that the model is actually a claimant to being an abductee. She makes a joke about the woman's gravity-defying breasts, and then jokingly apologizes for interrupting his very serious investigation.

Dana is actually the one coming to Fox with an interesting case. She reports about a man found in the NJ woods missing some limbs in what looks like cannibalism. Fox asks if they think it's the Moth [which would be this here guy, but since he's a W.VA. sorta critter, I don't know why he'd think that], but all she'll tell him is that they don't have a suspect or motive. Obvs, Scully shouldn't have been sharing interesting police gossip if she didn't expect Mulder to jump to the conclusion that they should check it out, despite it not being a Federal case and there being no request from the locals for assistance. Her pointing this out is like speaking to the desk, itself.

He pulls out the 'Jersey Devil' case file for her to skim through.


Scene 09: As they do a walk & talk, Scully tells him to save her the trouble of reading the file. He datadumps about a 1947 case in which a man was killed [see our opening] in a similar way. The officers gunned down a naked man in a cave nearby and an autopsy found human flesh and bone in the man's stomach. He further shares that the case file mysteriously vanished from Patterson's NJ police storage a few years after the incident, but he has a copy from the coroner of his findings confirming. He naturally immediately decides it was a beast-man.

Scully points out she's heard this story since childhood and it's an urban legend. Fox always believed in the tale, naturally, because serial cannibalism in no way makes more sense than a half-beast running around the NJ forests.

Scully gives a put-upon sigh. [She'll be doing that a lot over the next few years.]


Scene 10: In NJ, at the present coroner's, she's pointing out the teeth marks on the latest man found partially eaten and tells them there is no doubt that it is a human mouth that made the wounds. They get a few details about the victim being found.

This is interrupted by the detective in charge who is a bit defensive to start about the FBI showing up. Mulder blows it off as Scully being interested, being a pathologist, in such a rare case of man-on-man eating.

He asks them to leave. Fox asks about suspects, but the Detective is being a real ass. Scully calls Mulder off, as they do not have any authorization to be there in their official capacities. Fox shrugs and tells Detective Thompson [who does not get a first name, so we'll be calling him "Wayne"] that there is no need to get bent out of shape, but he responds that he actually thinks he's been exceedingly polite [Um, No].


Scene 11: Outdoors, Fox is complaining about the bug up Wayne's ass, but Scully points out his right to tell them to butt out. Fox next denigrates the Detective's ability, guessing he doesn't have a clue and will be scratching his head when the next body shows up. Dana smirks that he missed an opportunity to humiliate him by spilling who the actual perpetrator is.

He takes her ribbing well, but decides he wants to stay and do some digging, as is his bad habit. Scully can't stay though, as she has a party to get to back to in DC for her godson. He gives her the car keys.


Scene 12: Random shots of gambling, since we're in Atlantic City. Fox is in the casino, but he's at a set of pay phones. He's looking in a phone book and we're given a close up of the NJ State Park Service.


Scene 13: Skip to Ranger Peter Brullet and Fox in the NJ woods, where Pete points out where the body was located.

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They chat and Pete tells him he's been patrolling for 32 years and has seen a lot of weird stuff, but that was his first chewed body. Fox asks about how a homeless man would be all the way out in the state park, but Peter tells him they wander out there occasionally. Not often though, as the population among the street people are generally afraid of the woods. Fox asks what of, and Pete half-jokes that it's the Devil. Fox plays skeptic and points out people say it's just a myth. Ranger Brullet repeats good-naturedly that he's seen a lot of weird things over the years.

They share a stare and Ranger opens up a bit more, claiming that four years ago he thought he saw a naked man in the woods, scenting at the air. He was sixty yards or so away, but Peter states that he could've sworn that the man smelled him and then he watched him run off into the woods, far faster than a typical man... or so he imagined.

He goes on to claim that he'd found other things, like human-like scat half buried in sand and a half-eaten rabbit with a human-looking tooth stuck in it. Mulder asks if Ranger Brullet thinks it could've been responsible for the human victim he found, but Brullet isn't ready to go that far. He's got a pension coming up in a few short years and doesn't want to rock the boat too much.

Fox asks about the distance back to town and when he hears it's between a mile and a mile and a half, he opts to walk back [decked out in his business suit].


Commentary: I really like this scene and it's really down to the guest actor, Michael MacRae. He does a great job of making the NJ woods a place of mystery and creepy events. I love his air of his character wanting to share information so badly, but being so hesitant and downplaying his obvious belief in the 'Devil'.

The orangish chapstick around his lips is a bit distracting though. I don't know if it's really there, or if it's just the tv-quality print on the DVD, but I think it is probably some sort of makeup for the scene.



Scene 14: We skip to an ape-face in frozen rictus. But it turns out it's only some kid at that birthday party that Dana was talking about. Her godson is wearing a similar mask and runs into a door. He whiney-cries in that way you learn to recognize if you've ever babysat that he wasn't really hurt. She plays dutiful godmother and comforts him until he's ready to get back to playing.


Scene 15: Elsewhere, the dog is eating a corner of the birthday cake while Dana's friend tries to corral the kids and get ready for the cake cutting. She goes off to stop the latest mischief of the rambunctious brats.


Scene 16: The kids have been sat down for cake and ice cream and Dana runs a plate into the kitchen where she expresses her admiration for Dana's friend for keeping it all together and being such a natural with the whole parenting thingie. Ellen turns conversation to Dana's current lack-of-love life and suggests Fox, since Dana has mentioned he's cute. Dana replies that he's obsessed with his work....


Scene 17: And speaking of which, Fox is walking down the trail toward "town".

[I find it a bit ridiculous that he thinks he can walk from the woods into Atlantic City and be anywhere near his hotel ... is there a NJ reader who can confirm if this is likely or not?]

As Mulder walks we get breathy-pov following him, but nothing happens.


Scene 18: Back at the wild party, one of the kid's dad's shows up for him. Ellen helpfully call-whispers to Dana that he's eligible. He and She share glances.


Scene 19: Back in NJ, Fox is walking through the crappy outskirts of Atlantic City, where he visits a mission about that recently de-limbed homeless guy. He meets a friend of the dead man, also living on the streets, who offers to show Mulder something. He follows him.

They go to an alley where Fox exchanges some money with him at his tent-domicile for a crude, hand-drawn picture of the 'devil' that has been wandering around the homeless part of town. Our contact tells Mulder that several of the homeless population has seen something like it wandering the alleys, including himself. Fox gives the guy his hotel room key so he can sleep in doors that night.


Scene 20: That night, Fox takes homeless guy's place in the alley, on the look out for beast-man. He watches an indistinct, hunched human figure shuffling through the garbage and slowly coming in his general direction.

The figure certainly snuffles and shuffles like a wild-man, and Fox watches it as it scents the air just as the Park Ranger described. The WildMan apparently scents him, because he takes off over a fence leaving Mulder to rush after it.

Fox watches it/him/her running along the top of a roof and whistles, gaining its attention. But then the police unexpectedly show up. Their headlights and approach cause the 'devil' to exit.

The police take Mulder for one of the homeless and try to take him in for a "warm place to sleep it off". He's pushy with the officers and tells them to back off [as is his way with any authority figure -- Fox has some very serious problems with anyone that is in an authority position, and he always reacts from his gut and it always makes things worse for himself]. He's taken into custody.


Scene 21: Our antagonistic Detective makes the scene, pissy at being called to the station in the middle of the night to deal with an FBI agent who isn't even supposed to be on his case. Mulder pisses back that the Detective is deliberately hiding evidence and suppressing 'fact' in order to keep the casinos full.

Both of them are acting like assholes.

They both continue to be asses as we close scene.


Scene 22: Monday morning, Scully comes into work to be greeted with a phone call from Fox. He's spent his weekend in a drunk tank at the Atlantic City jail, where Detective left him [which is funny, and Mulder deserves it for immediately accusing the Detective of suppressing evidence in a murder investigation that he has no business butting himself into].

Scully returns to NJ to bail Mulder out.


Scene 23: Scully gets Mulder out of jail and they go to breakfast, but not without a few comments from Scully making fun of his predicament.

At the diner, Fox tells Scully about what he saw and its 'cat-like' movements. Dana is more worried about the fallout back at the Bureau when they get wind of Fox's detention, but he blows it off. He wants Dana to help him dig further, but she informs him that she has a date that evening and has to get back to Washington, DC. He asks her to cancel, but she tells him that unlike him, she'd actually like to have a life.


Scene 24: Dana takes Fox next to an anthropologist to basically have it explained to Fox why a half-man beast cannot be running around the NJ woods, preying on human beings. Obvs, if there is a one chance in a billion, Mulder will immediately seize on it as not impossible, so the visit is largely wasted for what Dana had hoped it would accomplish.


Scene 25: She does gets Fox back to the FBI, but he hasn't given up his 'wild man' theory and he spends the evening reviewing his files on crypto-humanoids.

Meanwhile, Dana is on her date with whatever-his-name.


Commentary: Okay, what exactly was the point of this scene? We already know Fox is obsessive. We already know that Dana wants a life outside of the FBI weird cases. This is all blah-blah.


Scene 26: Mulder is sitting in his office, watching the clock approach 8pm, when he gets a call on his desk line. This is from Peter Brullet. He reports, because of Fox's interest, that he found a body in the woods that has been dead between six and eight months. The male was long haired, and he's missing a tooth very much like the one that the Ranger discovered in his earlier story about the half-eaten rabbit.

Fox is pumped.


Scene 27: Back at the date, Scully gets a beep from Mulder and excuses herself. It's sorta obvious that she's not feeling any chemistry with whats-his-name. She welcomes the interruption and calls Fox back.

Fox informs Dana that he had an interesting thought, and wonders if they're not talking about a beast-man in the NJ woods, but the mate of said man.


Commentary: And, I ask "Why is this so reveletory you need to interrupt your partner's evening? Is this not news that could wait for the regular work day?"

I'm ignored, as is often the case.


Scene 28: We join our crew, presumably the next day, in the coroner's office. In addition to her, Fox and Dana, we also have the anthropologist and Ranger. The coroner has to tell them that the body wasn't logged into the office, despite the Ranger's report and turning it over to them.

Fox is mad at this blatant attempt to cover up evidence in order to not draw the kind of people who won't be there to keep the casinos running. He tells the professor that he believes they may be looking for a mate to the male body that was found.


Scene 29: Fox, Dana, Professor and Ranger go after the beast-woman (presumably) that Fox had seen the past week. They choose an abandoned building nearby the alley where Mulder saw (presumably, again) Her.

There is some instruction from the professor about what sort of behavior, as a primate, that the woman would be displaying [and to give a semi-logical reason as to why this particular building isn't completely random for them to be checking out].

Ranger Pete has come with a dart rifle.


Scene 30: Out in the alleyway, NJ police come across the Park Ranger's truck. It has no business being there, so they call it in.


Scene 31: Inside the building, Professor looks through the trash for signs of habitation. He finds a bloody rag.


Commentary: And, I'm really thinking, based on the accumulated evidence thus far, that everyone is getting much too wrapped up in Fox's scheme. Everyone seems to just accept that this blood is either from one of Devil-Woman's kills, or that she's been injured. Because, homeless people never leave bloody rags anywhere. And a poverty-stricken area never has ne'er-do-wells that would leave bloody rags lying around in hide outs.

On the positive side, the timer tells me we're at the 30 minute mark, which feels about right, so at least the pacing for the episode is being handled well.



Scene 32: Outside, the police have sent the SWAT team to surround and sweep the abandoned building for the missing Ranger. This is obvs overkill, suggesting that Fox was correct [Well, really -- of course, he was] when he suggested the PD is in cahoots on a conspiracy to hide that they have Wild-People living in the parks and raiding the city.


Scene 33: In the building, our group slowly starts to split up, as all groups must do when searching/hunting for probably-dangerous people/creatures.
You all know the drill.

We watch Ranger Pete wander off, before focusing on Fox on a floor above, where Dana joins him. They discuss what their woman may be like. Meanwhile, we get brief shots of the tactical team moving in.

They discuss our being not so different to primitive-woman, despite our technological progress. Voices from below draw their attention, where they see Professor being interrogated by Detective Stern-Ass and a group of SWAT/PD about being in the building and whether he's ever heard of an FBI Agent Mulder.

Professor denies hearing of the guy, and claims he's there studying the homeless population's social groups from an anthropological standpoint. Detective doesn't buy that the thorn-in-his-case isn't there and sends his squadmates out to find Fox and bring him in... again... for disrupting his investigation.


Commentary: Although, considering it's a free country and the building wasn't even posted with 'stay out' signs, I'd say, "Hey, I'm right here and you can fuck off." but that's just because I can be a bit of an a-hole, too.


Fox tries to sneak away with Dana at his heels, but when he sees the beast-woman dashing outside of a window, he takes off after her.


Scene 34: Dana slowly follows, calling to find out where Fox is, but he doesn't answer being so focused on meeting the man-eating Devil-woman.

She sees him out a window rushing along a roof and hearing the SWAT team rushing up the corridor behind her, takes the same leap out the window Fox did, doing the same role to her feet so she can chase after him and whatever/whoever he is obvs chasing.


Scene 35: Fox chases the Devil-woman down another set of stairs and into another darkened, abandoned building.


Commentary: Okay, I know now why I don't really like this episode much -- there is very little for the eyes, and there isn't much drama between our characters to distract from the fact that we're not seeing anything except the locations where we're shooting. The people we're chasing are naked, so we get a few glimpes of darkly shadowed shapes and running feet - but even these are used fleetingly. There is little grist to the chewed-off limbs story for us to be captivated by. You can probably tell this by my lack of screencaps -- there just isn't anything visually arresting.

I do like some of the sound work for the episode, but there are other points where the soundtrack becomes too intrusive, and the music in the background is so cliche that you really don't want to notice it. It'd worked much better if it was so far in the background that it worked at a subconscious level.



Fox wanders in the dark. We get a flash-jumpscare, as Mulder is knocked to the floor by a dark shape with a feminine grunt. He looks around in the dark, finally looking a bit worried about being there with a cannibal girl without his gun drawn and no backup [Fox is a schmuk].

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The cave-person crawls up over Mulder and sniffs the air above his body, while he does his best not to hyperventilate.


Scene 36: We skip to should-be-commercial and back, to see cave-person still hunched over Mulder as he waits to see if she's about to eat a leg or arm off.

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Meanwhile, Dana has arrived at the stairs and descends slooooooowwwwwly. Cave-chick backs away slightly from Fox, and this causes him to start to sit up. She doesn't like that and knocks him back to the floor, but before she can decide if she needs to kill this threat, Dana's voice calling for him distracts her and she flees.

Scully finds him moment's later with claw marks across his side. She must've been in the mood for kidney.


Scene 37: Outside, Mulder is yelling at Scully from the ambulance that the woman could have killed him, but didn't.

There is a chaotic scene of the police going into full on tactical mode. Meanwhile, Scully can't listen to Fox's passionate blather because she's on the phone arguing with somebody back in DC to find a way to get the FBI jurisdiction over the case. Professor has joined Fox at the ambulance, fascinated by his experience.

Park Ranger interrupts all this to tell Mulder that the tactical team has the woman cornered. He rushes out of the ambulance to go with Pete.


Scene 38: The tactical team tries to capture wild-woman in the building's walls, but she puts a man down and jumps from a window, fleeing into the woods.

They go after her with tracking dogs.


Scene 39: Meanwhile, Ranger Peter is clearly on Mulder's side as he uses his truck to ferry he, Scully and Professor out into the park.

They're able to find her first, thanks to Pete's knowledge of the area. He lines up a shot with a tranq gun, but he's not sure she isn't too far away.

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He does hit her in the shoulder, but she doesn't get a full dose because she removes the dart and keeps fleeing toward a rocky, river shore. They follow.


Scene 40: Unfortunately, Detective's group has reached the same area. Our Gang hears a gunshot, then a second one.


Scene 41: They reach the group of PD, where one of them is injured at the shoulder. The woman lies dead, with one of the backgrounds stating it looks like she tried to bury herself for camoflage, allowing her nudity to be covered with leaves.

Mulder is... well... Mulder-ish toward the Stern-Faced Detective. It looks like Mulder may do something dumb, so Scully pulls him away.


Scene 42: Later, he is looking at photos of the crime scene. We're told it's a week later, so obvs Fox is still feeling the feels over this case and the woman's death.

Scully comes in with the autopsy report. She reports the lowdown that the woman did have human bones in her digestive tract, and that there is no evidence that the woman was a prehistoric. She appears to be a modern human, who somehow ended up living in the woods as a wild-woman. The previous autopsy of the male body shows the same thing -- not some long lost cave people tribe.

Their ages suggests to Fox that they may have had offspring, though, which Dana confirms - judging by the woman's uterus. Fox is newly upset that they gunned down a woman who was trying to look after her child/children after the male had been killed.

Scully is worried about Mulder's emotional state and tells him to just skip out early, put the case behind him and have a beer or two. He's telling her about an appointment he has with a museum ethno-biologist when the phone rings.

It turns out to be for Scully, so Fox hands off the phone and rushes out.


Scene 43: It's whatever-named guy looking for another date.


Commentary: And outside of the program, thunder rumbles here. I just got my power back a few hours ago; Don't do this again, g'ddammit.


Scene 44: Back with Fox, he's requisitioning a vehicle for his appointment. Dana chooses to join him. They mildly banter.


Scene 45: Meanwhile, back in NJ a father/son team is trail hiking through the woods. They have a badly-ADR-ed conversation where Father tells Son all about the Jersey Devil myth so that the kid will not get any sleep that night out in the woods.

We pan down to a hidey-hole in the trail to see the Son-of-Jersey-Devils lurking about.

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The Good: The two sudden scares were good: We have Opening-Victim snatched off screen mid-sentence and then Mulder's sudden tackle from the dark by Devil-woman.

The scene with Ranger Pete telling his tale of strange business in the NJ woods was the only one that was mildly chilling, and that was due to the fine work of the guest actor reciting his tale.

I like the humorous feints that Scully makes towards Mulder's misadventures.


The Bad: I think the biggest problem with this episode, and its enough to drag it down, is that there isn't a lot of interesting visuals for us, and the pacing of the episode itself is a bit leisurely. It's not really boring, but it also fails to hold the attention or give us things to think about/worry over as we're watching.

I know this complaint is a bit weird, because the scene is such a shorty, but the final shot of the Devil-boy felt really cheezy. The kid didn't look nearly enough like he was some tough, scrappy predator being raised in the wild who now had to fend for himself. It looked like he was trying not to laugh, and my immediate thought was "this kid is not prepared to live off the land -- he's a goner", which is entirely wrong.


Other Thoughts: It continues to bug me that Fox is allowed to go on being correct, even though he makes these wild suggestions on the basis of "evidence" that can be explained far more logically with other ideas.

I also thought it was pretty weird for the Detective to be so immediately hostile to Mulder and Scully.

I thought I remembered that Ranger Brullett gets in the trouble he wanted to avoid for blatantly helping out Mulder, but there is no evidence of that, so I'm glad I was remembering wrongly. I liked the guy.

Dana's little side plot wasn't worth the time it took from the episode.

It also struck me as weird that Fox gives the homeless guy his hotel room key, and then we never hear or see from him again. I thought he'd have another scene somewhere.

I also think it's weird that they go out of their way to pronounce that the Devil-people were just regular folks, living wild in the woods, but that we get zero explanation. Their story is just sort of left hanging there and it's not satisfying.


The Score: Well, this isn't an episode that I see myself bothering to revisit, but it's also not painful to sit through. It's just sort of there. I had thought I'd be judging it more harshly than I ended up doing. I'll say it's a servicable, middle-of-the-road episode that you won't remember for long after you've watched it.

3.0 out of 5 stars


Next Review: BTVS, Season 9 Issue 11

xfiles


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