The Outer Limits ‘It Crawled Out of the Woodwork’

It Crawled Out of the Woodwork

TheOuterLimits-logoSeason 1, Episode 11
Written by Joseph Stefano
Directed by Gerd Oswald

Transmitted 9 December, 1963
His name is Warren Edgar Morley. For the past six months, he has guarded this gate from eight in the morning until six at night, at which time he is replaced by another just like himself. These are the last few moments of his life.

At NORCO, something is amiss. A beast has taken over the facility and is drawing life to it like a spider traps flies. The latest scientist pulled into the center is Stuart Peters who has traveled to the base from his home state with his orphaned brother Joey in tow. The staff of the facility are in the thrall of an alien entity, something that defies description and seems to have come from between the cracks of realities.

The Peters brothers are trying to set up their new lives, which becomes interrupted when Stuart disappears within NORCO’s security perimeter. When he emerges, he is changed and hostile to Joey. The two argue and Stu falls into the bath, causing what appears to be hastily installed pacemaker to explode and kill him instantly. Only Stuart was in perfect health and never needed a pacemaker. Police Sgt. Siroleo (played by TV luminary Ed Asner) arrives and soon realizes that something is amiss at NORCO. But when he investigates, Siroleo soon finds that it’s not just a murder that is being covered up. It is something outside of human reckoning.

A lesser known episode of the Outer Limits, It Crawled Out of the Woodwork is one that is very dear to me for a unique reason. Most science fiction of this era is remarkable for some gimmick or monster. I am fond of gimmicks and monsters, but what makes The Outer Limits so appealing to me is because of its humanity. In this story, a pair of brothers arrive in a strange new town and become embroiled in something dangerous and alien. Seldom has a warm relationship between two brothers been portrayed in such a way as it is here. You can call it corny, but I love the way that Joey acts the juvenile to his older brother Stu and how lost and lonely he is after Stu is taken from him.

There’s a very touching moment after the coroners take Stew’s body away in which Joey remarks on the haunting and maddening absurdity of a loved one, someone you always counted on being there, taken away before your eyes that is quite painful to watch. The stop-motion dust cloud of pure energy is bizarre and terrifying, but it is the way in which it takes life away from such human individuals that is so scary. The direction simply yet deftly establishes each victim for the viewer before diminishing them, from the simple security guard to the warm and kind police detective.

One of the finest television programs of its kind, The Outer Limits is the perfect way to spend a long dark wintry evening.

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set Volumes 1-3

5 thoughts on “The Outer Limits ‘It Crawled Out of the Woodwork’

  1. Darn feverishness and fatigue, how did I miss THIS! (It’s especially weird because I checked in on the past two days, must really be out of it!) The Out-ERR LIMITS! Neat review Jameson, I really like the encapsulation of the relationship between the two brothers, I hadn’t thought of it that way so I’ll have to watch it again. The thing that really caught my eye in It Came Out of the Woodwork was the “Bear” or energy cloud in this case! It’s weird but the visual effects here seem somehow more effective in a way than expensive modern CGI would be, it’s really the sound effects and the brilliant cinematography that sells it. I don’t know if you have read Stephen King’s 1981 Danse Macabre but he features TOL and mentions this episode in particular, specifically the “vacuum cleaner scene”. I’d highly recommend that book. Thanks for the thoughtful review Jameson I hope for more in the future because I’m greedy!


  2. Spot the deliberate mistake in that comment of mine : It *Came* Out of the Woodwork?! Obviously planned and not at all an example of muddy-headed idiocy, no sir!šŸ˜‰


  3. As much as I love me some modern effects and CGI at times… there’s no beating some old-school tricks. One of my favorites, was a behind-the-scenes talk about the first Nightmare on Elm St movie. There was a scene where Freddy was supposed to “ooze” through the wall above/behind the headboard of the bed. On paper it sounded cool, but then they couldn’t figure out how to do it and they had next to no budget for the effect.

    In modern times they would CGI it and it would look a little cheesy and cost a ton… So what did they do back in the 1980s?

    They replaced the wall behind the bedroom set with a stretched bedsheet. They “hung” pictures and such on the wall, and with careful lighting for the night scene it was virtually indistinguishable from the actual wall from other scenes.

    Freddy then gets to press/push forward from the other side and stretch the sheet… and it makes a really eerie/nightmare scary scene far beyond anything they could have done with modern tech/cgi… and it was one of the cheapest effects they did for the movie.

    Sometimes the old-school folks were forced to be better because of budget and technical limitations… and they created effects that hold up over time far better than newer CGI does.


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