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TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Watchable but somewhat disappointing, this anthology horror flick is marred primarily by its reliance on gore. But modern, desensitized fans won’t care, of course, and this new Blu-ray upgrade from the Shout! Factory is worth a look if you are in that camp. My review was published in the Deseret News on May 9, 1990. It should be noted that Julianne Moore, Christian Slater and Steve Buscemi all show up, early in their acting careers.

 

“Tales from the Darkside: The Movie” is based on the syndicated anthology TV series “Tales from the Darkside,” which owes much to “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery.”

 

“Darkside,” however, takes its roots more literally from E.C. comics, to which the “Twilight Zone” is probably in debt. (We won’t even comment on the current HBO series “Tales from the Crypt.”)

 

Despite all this convoluted genealogy, however, “Darkside” most resembles in movie form the two “Creepshow” films of a few years back. Those pictures were based on Stephen King short stories, with assistance from George A. Romero, best known for his “Night of the Living Dead” trilogy. “Darkside” has a King story scripted by Romero, a framing story that resembles “Creepshow,” and even the opening music sounds similar.

 

But “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie” is a disappointment, with only one of its stories reaching a real horror zenith and one other providing some genuinely goofy humor. But all three — four counting the framing story — are far too predictable, a fatal flaw when every story relies on a twist ending for shock value.

 

       

 

James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, 'Tales from the Darkside: The Movie' (1990)

 

The framing story has a young paperboy being held captive by Deborah Harry, who intends to serve him at a dinner party. He stalls her by reading aloud three stories from a book, “Tales from the Darkside.” (If you can’t figure out the ending of this one, turn in your copies of “Hansel and Gretel.”)

 

The first story he reads is “Lot 249,” based on an Arthur Conan Doyle story, which is basically your standard mummy yarn. But screenwriter Michael McDowell, who also wrote the framing story, gives it a very funny twist for all of us who’ve watched mummy movies and thought, “This guy moves so slowly, why don’t they just unravel him?”

 

The second story is “Cat from Hell,” scripted by Romero from a King story about a hit man hired to kill a murderous feline. Definitely the weakest of the bunch and unintentionally amusing when the cat attacks humans.

 

The final tale is “Lover’s Vow,” an original written by McDowell and the finest of the lot, with stirring performances by James Remar, who usually plays villains (“48 HRS.”) but is very sympathetic here, and Rae Dawn Chong, perfectly cast as a mystery woman. As mentioned, it is unfortunate that even in this case the ending is easily deduced, though there is a little unexpected kicker that comes with it.

 

       

 

But McDowell, whose writing credits include the wacky and very popular “Beetlejuice,” the dismal “High Spirits” and episodes of TV’s “Darkside,” “Amazing Stories,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Tales from the Crypt,” has a delightfully off-kilter sense of humor and feeling for romantic horror.

 

My strongest complaint is reserved for first-time director John Harrison, who seems to have no understanding of subtlety. “Darkside” is far too gory, and the emphasis on humor too erratic.

 

Still, horror fans seem to be responding. The film made big money last week, according to box-office figures.

 

“Tales from the Darkside: The Movie” is rated R, primarily for violence, gore and profanity, though there is some brief sex and nudity in “Lover’s Vow.”