black and white image of a man runs down a hallway of doors tilted on an angle

The Outer Limits: S1E26 “The Guests”

The Outer Limits is streaming for free on Roku.

An old man collapses in the middle of the road while running from something. A younger man driving by sees him and swears he’ll get help. He runs for the house on the edge of the cliff and begs for assistance. The people inside say there’s nothing that can be done and no way to help.

“The Guests” is a surrealist horror film in the style of Luis Buñuel. A group of strangers wind up trapped in the same house. The building is full of doors that go nowhere, but any door or window they noticed upon entering is gone once they acknowledge the presence inside. The four people trapped in the house long ago gave up hope of ever escaping. They warn the Drifter that he, too, will give up just like they did. The force holding them there will make sure it happens.

This is the strangest episode of The Outer Limits so far. There isn’t really a plot to go off of. Everything is set up to discuss ideas and explore intergenerational conflicts, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. The various people in the house all come from different time periods. They’re lured into the house by the being that controls it and slowly stripped of whatever spark of humanity makes them special. They needle at each other until anything they are proud of becomes their greatest shame, then extend the courtesy to the next unfortunate guest to arrive. It’s a cruel cycle of disappointment.

The monster of the week is hard to describe. It is some otherworldly blob of a creature. An eye is barely visible under the weight of its folds. A mouth flaps open and closed. When it exerts its power, a pulsing drone loops endlessly, drawing you into its world. This creature will pull what it needs from each and every person it traps in the house, even if it destroys their desire to ever rejoin the outside world again.

“The Guests” is about feeling. This is the first time that the Control Voice does not provide an introduction or conclusion. Any lesson, any story, and greater meaning you may find is only influenced by the context of the series so far. The story deals with humanity, unchecked ambition, exploration, power systems, and contact with a species you never imagined could exist.

The other novelty here is genre. I can find a way to call any other episode of the series so far science fiction except for this one. The monster of the week is a monster. Everything else is storytelling concepts explored in absurdist theatre, horror, and dark fantasy. I’d call it an adult fairy tale before I called it science fiction. That alone is enough to make it one of the most unsettling episodes of the series. All the pieces are there to be a recognizable episode of The Outer Limits except genre, making it incredibly unpredictable.


content warning: flashing lights

Up next: S1E27 “Fun and Games”