Director – John Harrison
Cast – Matthew Lawrence, Deborah Harry, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, Robert Sedgwick, Julianne Moore, David Johansen, William Hickey, James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, Robert Klein, Michael Deak, George Guidall
Release Year – 1990
Reviewed by John of the Dead
“Tales from the Darkside” is a TV series that preceded my time, debuting before my birth and sadly seeing its end when I was around three years of age, and while I was unable to see its episodes when the originally debuted I must say that it is still to this day one of the best horror TV shoes of all time. When I learned that the TV show was adapted to a full-length anthology film I was elated, and after viewing this adaptation I must say that it is a positive shout-out to the famed series that gives us great horror and a memorable experience.
In this effort a young boy named Timmy(Matthew Lawrence; “Brotherly Love”, “Boy Meets World”) is about to become the next meal of a witch(Deborah Harry), and desperately tells three stories from an old book to keep the witch at bay.
He starts with “Lot 249” (written by original TV series writer Michael McDowell), which follows a young anthropology student named Bellingham(Steve Buscemi) who uses an old parchment to re-animate a mummy to do his vengeful bidding, forcing a colleague named Andy(Christian Slater) to seek vengeance of his own against Bellingham for the killing of his sister Susan. This was a great way to start off the piece, with a simple storyline that brings much awesomeness in a short package. I loved the idea of Bellingham re-animating an old(duh) and creepy mummy to kill those who have trespassed against him, with each of those kills coming in awesome fashion. Of course, we are given a double dose of vengeance when the sister(Julianne Moore; Hannibal) of Andy is killed, and Andy takes full on revenge against Bellingham, leading to a shocking climax that bleeds the evil that reigns though this piece.
Timmy continues his plea for life with “Cat From Hell”, which was not only the best piece in the film but also came written by none other than George A. Romero(Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead), and based on a Stephen King short story, a fitting idea given Romero and Kingcontributed in writing for the original television series. Going into this episode I was expecting to be let down given I am downright tired of killer animal stories that employ small animals like cats and small monkeys, but when I saw Romero’s name on the credits I figured there was a chance i’d enjoy it, and that was exactly the case. In this entry we follow Halston(David Johansen), a hitman hired by an old eccentric named Drogan(William Hickey; The Nightmare Before Christmas) to kill the most evil being he has ever known…a cat residing in his large mansion. Drogan claims the cat has taken the lives of all who have been in the house, and his fear that he is next has forced him to take action against the cat via Halston. Halson sees this as an odd but easy arrangement, but he soon finds himself at bay when the cat unleashes its fury on him. This piece came well written and consisting of a much more complex plot than originally meets the eye, which was no surprise coming from Romero. The usage of our few characters was great, especially Halston, and surprisingly enough the cat provided some great levels of horror that I did not see coming but gladly appreciated.
Timmy’s final plea to the witch comes via “Lover’s Vow” (also written by Michael McDowell), which I found a very enjoyable way to close at the episodes given it gave me a sub-genre that I love to death: the creature sub-genre. One night while leaving his favorite a bar Preston(James Remar; “Dexter”, Blade: Trinity, The Unborn, Pineapple Express, Hellraiser: Inferno, What Lies Beneath) witnesses the grotesque death of his friend via a winged creature in a dark alleyway. The creature offers him a deal in which he will spare Preston’s life if he promises never to speak of what he just saw, and Preson agrees. That very same night he meets the love of his life and finds success soon after, but this perfect life turns to horror when Preston learns that you can never hide from your past, especially if you don’t follow the rules. I loved this entry from the get-go thanks to the creature action, but I REALLY loved that it showed us the horrors that can result from loving someone dearly. The idea of Preston’s life changing dramatically after his encounter with the creature was great, and while it felt a bit awry and as if something was “up” it was played down very well until the final sequences of the episode, which contained supreme horror and showed how being true and holding nothing back from your one true love can result in a very fateful demise. If you love irony, you’ll get what you want from “Lover’s Vow”.
The wraparound story involving Timmy and the witch was enjoyable, and while it only served as a way to implement the storylines it came wits own sense of positive horror, and gave us a cheezy and fitting climax to this awesome series that will remain a great testament to the famed original series.
Director John Harrison(Book of Blood), a prominent director of the original series, did a great job directing and executing each piece. Each of them came with awesome gloomy atmosphere, and the gore reigned high as well, increasing the level of bloody goodness with each episode. His usage of the mummy in “Lot 249” was great, the cat in “Cat from Hell” was used to superb levels that provided good and exciting horror, and the creature in “Lover’s Vow” was tremendously awesome and came to us via the always important live-action FX. It is rare that each episode in an anthology will come with almost the same execution in each (atmosphere, gore , etc.) but Harrison ensured that this piece would be a fun and cheezy watch for those who give it a chance, making this simple horror film truly unique in its own right, and a damn good horror experience.
Overall, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a great horror anthology that gives us three awesome tales and comes with awesome direction from John Harrison. His execution is “fun” and very reminiscent of the original series, which will not only please horror fans unfamiliar with the series but definitely please the fans of the immortal episodes they grew up loving so much. The horror is great and the gore reigns high, making Tales from the Darkside: The Movie an effort that I definitely recommend to all horror fans.