"So what is this, the anti-Waltons?"
With 202 episodes (not to mention two movies), the original run of The X-Files has an episode to suit every taste. Some are funny, some weird, some usually the conspiracy episodes are just plain confusing. But one thing the show was always good at was being scary. We've put together a list of the 10 creepiest adventures for Mulder and Scully...
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A tale of obsession that nearly sends Mulder finally over the edge. One of his seemingly endless line of troubled former colleagues asks him for help tracking down a killer with a fascination for gargoyles. Are there supernatural forces at work? It's nicely ambiguous on that point, but the episode still manages to conjure an creepily gothic atmosphere.
A cross between Predator and Deliverance, this tale of invisible woodland assailants is a little gem. It feels like a throwback to seasons one and two in that it's a simple, spooky tale, told well. Investigating a crime in the Apalachicola National Forest, one by one the secondary characters are wittled down until it's just Mulder and Scully alone in the woods, stalked by supernatural forces. That's a format that's never going to grow old.
Surgery is scary enough as it is, without the prospect of witchcraft turning your surgeon into a murderous loon. Sanguinarium is no classic, with a muddled script and a frustratingly inconclusive ending, but it's certainly up there with the show's most gruesome instalments. Gillian Anderson went so far as to call it "one of the most repulsive scripts I ever shot", and we're not going to disagree with her. A man is liposuctioned to death!
John Carpenter gets the nod in this early classic which borrows heavily from both The Thing and John W Campbell, Jr's novella, Who Goes There?. Mulder and Scully fly up to Alaska and discover a parasitic worm that drives its host insane. We're so used to our agents working together at this point that the moment where they pull guns on each other is genuinely surprising. The episode put in place a base under siege format that would become an The X-Files staple.
This early Vince Gilligan classic is scary in a different sort of way. Robert Patrick Modell aka Pusher can talk anyone into anything. He uses this skill to wreak havoc and talk people to death. Only Mulder can stop him. Or can he? The final act is a superbly tense cat and mouse game where you genuinely fear for our hero's safety. Modell returns in the solid, but way less nerve-wracking "Kitsunegari" in season five.
A weird serial killer episode (Chris Carter liked these so much he went on to create sort-of-spinoff Millennium, which was essentially Se7en: The TV Series). The villain has the ability to project the images in his mind onto the polaroids that he takes of his victims cue some really disturbing photographs. The episode falls down a bit when Scully is kidnapped we all know she's going to be just fine but those pictures, brrrrr...
The Host (2.02)
Season two got off to an intriguingly off kilter start with the X-Files department closed down and Mulder and Scully working separately. That didn't stop them from encountering the gloopy, gruey Flukeman a mutant hybrid played by X-Files writer Darin Morgan. It's pulp, gross out fun and probably the most successful of the show's monster of the week episodes.
The show's first freaky killer is also one of its best. Eugene Victor Tooms is, essentially, Stretch Armstrong with a taste for human livers. If the previous shows had been a touch spooky, this was the first to be properly terrifying. No matter how small the gap, Tooms could squeeze through and get you. It helped that actor Doug Hutchinson is so good at exuding creepiness... A sequel, "Tooms" picked up the pieces of this episode towards the end of season one.
Donnie Pfaster is one of the most genuinely skin-crawling villains to ever have been portrayed on TV. A death fetishist who works in a morgue and collects parts of dead bodies, he's an unsettlingly real monster compared to the likes of Tooms and the Flukeman. Is Pfaster the devil? The episode suggests that he may be demonic in nature, but keeps is nice and ambiguous. More likely, he's just a dangerous sicko and he's all the more terrifying for it.
It's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for network TV! This early season four episode courted controversy with its savage nature (it starts with a baby being buried alive and gets grosser from there). The story of the sub-literate Peacock family and their murderous reign in small town Pennsylvania, it's a story that plays out (as Mulder once said about Tooms), like the Anti-Waltons. The Peacocks love each other, but kill everyone else. Thrillingly nasty TV.