The beginning is full of mystery, as Floyd wanders deep into the woods and, in a secluded music shop, encounters a silent, enigmatic old man who seems to have appeared out of nowhere. He is lured further still by the strains of a seductive song sung hauntingly in a woman's voice. Here there is beautifully eerie imagery, especially a dark hooded figure appearing in the background, unseen by our protagonist. It is a stark and chilling indication that he is already wrapped up in this tune and these woods far more than he can ever know.
The forest itself is shot impeccably, making the most of its mysteriousness. The real clinching device, though, is the music, the simple, subtle melody that laconically increases the sense of foreboding. I love the use of folk music as the luring device, for both Floyd and the viewer. It works extremely well here, even more effectively than the song in the earlier episode 'Jess-Belle.' The key really is in the music, I suppose, because what is truly haunting comes from within, from the forests of the mind, and that seems to tie in somehow to our roots music; the songs stretch back farther than we do, and they give the impression of knowing more than we can. The story that follows is apparently eternally recurring; as it happens now, so has it always happened, and presumably will happen again and again, with fate remaining constant, inscribed on the tombstone we see in the opening segment. Dual existence across time is one of the most fascinating concepts, and many of the hallmarks of 'The Twilight Zone' are the ones that deal with it.
Unfortunately, this sublime work only really holds out until a little past the halfway point of the episode. The point at which the story ceases to seduce coincides approximately with the point at which the title song stops comprising the soundtrack. The climax becomes little more than a standard chase with standard chase music just another show of a man racing in vain against destiny. It's as if the makers of the episode lose sight of the magic they created in the beginning. Interestingly enough, it parallels what happens to Floyd: he remains unaware of the song's true power and significance, only seeing it as a means of making a quick profit and that is, ultimately, the source of his downfall.
(Perhaps this is because Donner is the director. He's more suited to more outright thrillers episodes like 'Jeopardy Room,' for example than subtler material like this should be. I'd like to see what this would have been like had Jacques Tourneur helmed it. He made the low-key haunting film 'I Walked with a Zombie,' which also used a song to creepy effect. Tourneur also directed the TZ episode 'Night Call.')
Even if the episode falters, though, it is by no means ruined. True, much of the enchantment is ultimately dispelled, but those first 15 minutes or so are priceless.