Directors: John Harrison
Starring: Deborah Harry, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, David Johansen, James Remar
From the depths of four twisted minds
Tales from the Darkside. The Movie is based on a TV series by George Romero. The show had the same name as this film and it premiered on American Television back in 1984 and lasted for four seasons. At the same time the 80’s had one particularly popular horror anthology film, also with Romero involved, called Creepshow.
The second and final official (I refuse to count the third film made by some indie company a few years back as a real sequel) sequel to Creepshow came out in 1987 and there was supposedly plans on making another one, although it never happened. Instead we got this film, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, a film that many fans consider to be a real third Creepshow film. And that does hold some weight as this do have the names George Romero and Stephen King attached to it, just like Creepshow.
The wraparound story revolves around a woman who is preparing a nice dinner party with a few friends. Her main dish though is not the usual, she has in fact kidnapped a young boy and is getting ready to put him in the oven. The boy has been given a book called Tales from the Darkside to keep him occupied though and he uses this against the woman by reading horror stories to entertain her and stall her from slicing him up.
Wraparound stories are usually more miss than hit. This one is decent enough and doesn’t take too much time away from the segments. It has Deborah Harry in it, which is always nice, and the ending is fun in the typical EC Comics way.
The first story that he tells her is called Lot 249. This story is based on a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle and is about the graduate student Bellingham who gets screwed over by his two classmates Susan and Lee. Bellingham plots out a revenge plan that will bring an ancient mummy back to life.
This is a segment that mostly stand out due to its impressive cast. It has Julianne Moore doing a quite poor job as Susan, it has Christian Slater acting basically as himself in the role of Andy and of course the ever so great Steve Buscemi as Bellingham. The cast, except Moore, makes this episode interesting but the story is very simple and forgettable. The mummy is cool and it does have some brutal scenes in it, but ultimately it is an average anthology episode.
The second story is called The Cat from Hell and this story was originally supposed to be in the Creepshow 2 movie, but was cut due to budget issues. The story is based on a Stephen King short story and it was written for the big screen by none other than George Romero. The story is about an old rich man named Drogan, who hires a hitman to kill a black cat that he believes is out to get him.
This one has a clever revenge story where a cat is back to take revenge upon a man responsible for creating a company that has killed over 5,000 cats by testing out new drugs. It is the segment where director John Harrison takes the most chances visually, but it ends up being a bit dull with some over the top performances and an end scene that seems to be more gory than necessary. It’s decent, but not very memorable.
The final segment is called Lover’s Vow. James Remar plays a struggling artist named Preston who one night catches a glimpse of a terrifying gargoyle monster. The monster makes a deal with Preston that saves his life if he doesn’t tell anyone about what he has seen. His life also starts to turn to the better when he meets a lovely girl named Carola, but even in happiness he cannot forget what he saw that dark night.
This episode is the best of the bunch. It is a doomed and tragic love story with a great twist. The acting is good, Remar is very good and he has great chemistry with his love interest played by Rae Dawn Chong. It is the one episode where director Harrison really nails it, both when it comes to pacing and the visual look.
Director John Harrison started out by directing rock videos before becoming a part of George Romero’s crew. He was an assistant director and also did some music on both Creepshow and Day of the Dead. He does an honorable job on the three stories done here, but shortcoming comes more from the scripts that aren’t all that compelling.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a good horror anthology film. None of the stories are bad, but except the last one none of them are that great either. It is worth checking out if you like anthology films, which I do, and there’s plenty more that are worse than this one out there.