"Bad boys, bad boys, whatchoo gonna do? Whatchoo gonna do when they come for you?"
REVIEW: This "special episode" of The X-Files uses a lot of the old Fox reality show COPS' tropes and visual style, folding it into the show itself except for still running the X-Files opening credits sequence (which I've come to loathe as a dated piece of TLC dreck the more I have to watch it, chapter skip or not). And that's fun. There's shaky cam, people talking over one another in a naturalistic style, blurred faces and nudity, bleeped swear words, talking head interviews, viewer discretion warnings, obstructive witnesses, cramped locations, camera crews in the way of the action, and special COPS/X-Files cards going to commercial. What's perhaps most amusing is the clash between the X-Files' reality and that of COPS which is ostensibly the real world's. When the M.E., for example, remarks on the speedy autopsy of a victim, a television trope we take for granted, but quite unlike the backlog experienced at real morgues; we start to see the cracks in the fourth wall. It's not just Mulder who's weird. I would have liked more of that, at the risk of breaking it down entirely.
The choice of monster for this episode is actually pretty clever. A fear entity that makes you hallucinate a threat - your greatest fear - which then has a very real physical effect on you is something the cameras can't record. There's no "proof" to be broadcast to the world, and it allows the creature or force to be all sorts of dangers with no demands made of the budget. A werewolf, Freddy Kruger, the Wasp Man... it doesn't matter. It's really a contagion moving from victim to victim and almost through the power of suggestion, killing with impunity. The production value comes from the visceral action, long claustrophobic shots, and other tricks now made rather common by found footage movies.
Where I start to find the episode annoying is with the LGBT stereotypes living in that crime-infested neighborhood, who I'm sure are inspired by the kind of "characters" seen on COPS (if I watched more than one episode back in the day, I'd be surprised), but come off as actors chewing the scenery. The episode gets very shouty and silly at that point, and even Duchovny has a hard time keeping it together. While yes, there are people, gay and not, who play it up for the cameras in these kinds of shows, these caricatures just don't feel real. Regardless, the episode is a fun experiment, but not much more than that. It almost acts as an indictment of COPS - are camera crews contaminating crime scenes and treading on people's rights? - but no more so than a regular episode of COPS, I'd wager.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A pretty good pastiche, but ultimately, just an amusing trifle.