It’s a difficult thing to pull off – the convincing werewolf story – as it’s going to stand or fall on how convincing the beast actually looks. On that basis, “Shapes” is a guarded success, seeing as we don’t actually see the creature at all. There’s a momentary shot of furry arm and some running carpet thing, but generally “The X Files” obviously thought better of blowing their budget on something that wasn’t going to win anybody over. So they shot it in darkness. (Ironic that the show’s reputation for darkness can often be traced to budgetary constraints rather than stylistics.) As I’ve said, werewolf stories are difficult ones to put across, and this one ups the ante by putting it within the context of native American folklore. It certainly adds a more mystical spin to the story, while the land rights feud adds an element of motivation and realism to the piece. Little is made of the standard of life on the Indian reservation, though the telling social details are there should you choose to look for them. Pity then that our 2 agents seem singularly uninvested in the proceedings. Perhaps because it’s near the end of a lengthy season and they’re tired. Perhaps the clearly appalling weather conditions had gotten them down, but neither Duchovny or Anderson seem all that interested in the story unfolding. This should be a Mulder piece, following the very first X File, and being recognised by the Indian elder as having a receptiveness to the strange events. But Duchovny pretty much just lets it slide, while Anderson just chugs along in her very large chunky boots. In terms of the mystery itself, there isn’t really much of one. It always pretty obvious that the son is now the beast, and that we’re going to have another Scully in danger situation. Where this episode scores, it’s on atmosphere. There are a couple of moody shots that are tremendously evocative: a longshot of the funeral pyre with the misty rain-soaked forests behind it is beautiful to behold, while the actual night-time burning of the pyre is very effective too. The episode ends not with a tease as well but with a loving shot of the forests still guarding their primeval secrets. That’s probably more scary than any of the rather corny Lon Chaney stuff we saw in the rest of the episode. 5/10
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