Tales from the Darkside
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
There once was a film called “Creepshow 3”… AND IT DIDN’T SUCK!
In the late eighties, well before the fools at Taurus Entertainment tore the good name of “Creepshow” to shreds with their abomination “Creepshow III”, the writer/directors of “Creepshow” and “Creepshow 2” got together once more and took up their pens to write what was originally intended to be a sequel to “Creepshow 2”. However, at the time, George Romero had just finished his classic eighties horror anthology TV show, “Tales from the Darkside”. The show was wildly popular and ran 4 seasons totaling 90 episodes from 1983-1988. Thus, when the time came to name the movie two years later, Paramount would choose to piggyback the shows popularity and name it “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie”.
The show follows the structure of its predecessors in that it’s an anthology of three stories and one wraparound that links them together:
THE WRAPAROUND: The wraparound story is a Hansel and Gretel-esque story starring Deborah Harry (famous as the lead singer of the band Blondie) as a woman preparing for a dinner she’s having. The main course? A paperboy (Matthew Lawrence) she kidnapped and has been fattening up with cookies. The boy stalls to try and buy himself time by telling the woman three of her favorite stories from a book she gave him to keep him occupied. Harry nails this role through a perfect deadpan delivery while talking about “preparing” the child. Quite possibly the best wraparound of any of the movies.
LOT 249: The first story, written by Michael McDowell based on an Arthur Conan Doyle short story, is that of Bellingham, a college student(played beautifully by Steve Buscemi), and his attempts at revenge for being framed by rich students for theft thus killing his chances at a fellowship. It wouldn’t be a horror story that way though…but that’s fixed by the fact that the revenge involves an ancient mummy. Christian Slater is good as Andy, and Julianne Moore and Robert Sedgwick are as despicable as expected as the rich students. The episode shines most though in the creative death sequences as well as in the final confrontation between Buscemi and Slater and in the twist.
CAT FROM HELL:
“Kill it, bury it, and bring me its tail so I can throw it in the fire and watch it burn!”
Second is the tale, written by George Romero and based on a Stephen King short story, of an old drug magnate who hires a hitman to kill a cat he believes is taking vengeance upon him and his family for the cats he killed to test his most profitable drug. William Hickey and David Johansen as Drogan and the hitman, respectively, are both perfectly over the top in their roles and carry the episode well on their own. It’s also very atmospheric, perfectly capturing the requisite loneliness and paranoia. That said, the episode is the weakest of the three because of just how crazy the visuals can get. (Ever seen a cat suffocate a woman? And that’s not even the most bizarre visual…that’s an ending I wouldn’t dare spoil. You have to see it to believe it.) As a filler episode between two stronger tales, it works. Alone, though, it would seem a bit too over the top.
In the final story, a dark romance written by Michael McDowell, James Remar plays a starving artist named Preston who witnesses a hideous winged creature murdering someone in an alley. The beast forces him to promise to never reveal what he saw in exchange for it letting him live. After this, the artist’s life improves dramatically. Hefinds love in Carola (Rae Dawn Chong), finally has his art appreciated and makes money, and ends up having a family with Carola. All along though, he is haunted by what he saw and the secret he holds. How long will he be able to hold onto it, and what will happen if he reveals it? The show and episode send the movie out with a bang thanks to a beautiful performance by Chong (both acting…and in other areas) and brilliant creature effects on the beast. The ending may be somewhat predictable, but it is told so well and so brilliantly that you don’t mind it.
Overall, this is one of the most under appreciated and forgotten films of the anthology film trend. Don’t pass this one up just because it doesn’t SAY it’s a “Creepshow”. It’s got far more of its spirit in it than that soulless, hell-spawned abomination we’ve already mentioned.