Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tales From The Darkside: The Movie

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE may be the most obscure television series to spawn a feature film. One of many horror anthologies clogging late-night schedules in the late 1980s (see also: MONSTERS, FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES, et al.), TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE was notable because of the participation of George A. Romero, director of the classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, who served as executive producer and occasional writer on TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE.

Almost two years after the final DARKSIDE episode aired in syndication, Paramount released TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE featuring a screenplay by Romero and novelist Michael McDowell, who had written BEETLEJUICE in addition to some DARKSIDEs. Like Romero’s earlier (and better) film CREEPSHOW, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE was an anthology reminiscent of the twist-in-the-tail horror comic books published by M.C. Gaines’ EC in the 1950s.

The impetus for DARKSIDE’s three tales of terror is a little boy (Matthew Lawrence) caged by a cannibalistic housewife (Blondie bombshell Deborah Harry). To distract her from starting dinner, the boy tells her three stories from a book titled...TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE.

“Lot 249,” penned by McDowell from an Arthur Conan Doyle story, is noteworthy for its starring roles by Steve Buscemi (RESERVOIR DOGS) and soap opera actress Julianne Moore (SHORT CUTS), making her film debut. Buscemi plays a disgraced graduate student who uses a 3000-year-old mummy to get revenge against the rich snobs, played by Moore and Robert Sedgwick, who cheated him out of a scholarship. Christian Slater (KUFFS) plays Moore’s brother.

Not quite as interesting as the middling “Lot 249,” which has a cool KNB-created mummy going for it, is “Cat from Hell,” a Romero screenplay based on a Stephen King story that was intended for CREEPSHOW 2. Wealthy old sickie William Hickey (PRIZZI’S HONOR) offers hitman David Johansen (SCROOGED) $50,000 to kill...a cat, which Hickey believes is evil.

In time-honored tradition, director John Harrison (another TV veteran) saves the best story for last. “Lover’s Vow,” a McDowell original, is the only segment that is genuinely good, though the twist probably won’t come as a surprise. It stars James Remar (48 HRS.) as an artist who sees a gargoyle commit a murder. The gargoyle spares his life so long as he promises never to tell anyone what he saw. He eventually marries Rae Dawn Chong (THE BORROWER), and they raise children together. But how long can he keep the secret?

Aside from some nifty makeup effects credited to KNB (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) and consultant Dick Smith (THE EXORCIST), there’s little to recommend about TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE. It’s certainly better than CREEPSHOW 2 at least. It opened third at the box office behind megahits PRETTY WOMAN and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES in their second month of release. McDowell also wrote scripts for MONSTERS and TALES FROM THE CRYPT.


Grant said...

I'm afraid I've never seen it, but I should.
Deborah Harry was also in a very good episode of the show itself, called "The Moth." It's a rural story set during the Civil War, so it has a kind of Ambrose Bierce feeling to it.

Spuddie said...

The last story (with Rae Dawn Chong and the gargoyle) is not an original one. It is an adaption of the story "Yuki-Onna" (Snow Woman) from Lafcadio Hearns. It was first used as a segment of the Japanese film Kwaidan.