Tales From The Darkside: The Movie
Reading is FUNdamental!
While we all love horror movies, horror television shows are just as good, and sometimes better. I'm not talking about The Walking Dead or the horrendous American Horror Story. I mean the old-school horror, that didn't require lots of gore or ghost rape (seriously, fuck American Horror Story). The most famous, of course, is The Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone is so good that they still show it on television over 50 years later. Other horror shows followed, most notably The Outer Limits. In the 1980's, a second tier of horror television shows came out, including Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series and Tales From The Darkside. Seeing the success from horror anthology movies like Creepshow and The Twilight Zone movie, Tales From The Darkside followed up with a full-length movie of their own.
Tales From The Darkside: The Movie is a 1990 horror anthology containing three stories, plus on wraparound story that runs throughout. The movie begins with a housewife named Betty (Deborah Harry, lead singer for Blondie) preparing for a dinner party. The main course is a little boy (Matthew Lawrence, The Hot Chick, Mrs. Doubtfire) whom she kidnapped and has been feeding cookies to fatten him up. To delay his death, the boy reads three stories from the book Tales From The Darkside.
The first story “Lot 249” stars Steve Buscemi (Resevoir Dogs, The Big Leboswki) as Bellingham, a poor graduate student who specializes in antiquities. Bellingham has just lost out on a scholarship to the wealthy and crooked Lee (Robert Sedgwick, Die Hard With A Vengence, Damages). Bellingham has just acquired a large crate labeled “Lot 249” which he opens with the help of Lee and his friend Andy (Christian Slater, Heathers, Interview With A Vampire. Inside the crate is a mummy and later that night, Bellingham is able to reanimate it. In search of revenge, Bellingham uses the mummy to brutally murder Lee for sabotaging his chance at the scholarship. Lee's girlfriend and Andy's sister Susan (Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski) plants a stolen item in Bellingham's room which later gets him expelled. He sends the mummy after her who cuts open her back and stuffs it with flowers, just like in the mummification process. Andy learns that Bellingham has reanimated the mummy and kidnaps him. What does Andy have planned and what will happen to the mummy?
"Whoa! Look at the hieroglyphics on her!"
Lot 249 is an adaptation of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story which should come as no real surprise. The story has that old-time feel to it with very little in the way of updating. That's perfectly fine in terms of the story itself. By today's standards, it could be considered tame and even a little bland. It's helped along thanks to good performances by up-and-coming stars like Buscemi and Moore. There are some good scenes of violence and gore throughout the story which keeps things interesting. The ending is very similar to Creepshow's “Something To Tide You Over” in it's execution, but I'm fine with that because I enjoyed that story as well. Overall, Lot 249 is a decent, if tame story with some good acting and fun violence.
Cat From Hell
The second story is “Cat From Hell,” a Stephen King story adapted by George Romero. Drogan (William Hickey, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Major Payne) is a wealthy eldery man who hires a hit man named Halston (David Johansen aka Buster Poindexter, Scrooged, Freejack). Drogan offers Halston $100,000 to kill a black cat inside his house. He is convinced that the cat killed his sister, her friend, and his servant. Despite his best attempts, he cannot kill the cat himself. Drogan believes the cat is a punishment because the pharmaceutical company he owned tested on cats, killing thousands of them. Surprised at such an easy target, Halston is soon surprised at how difficult killing the cat proves to be. The cat beings to stalk Halston who becomes increasingly scared. Who will win, the hit man or the cat?
"I told you to knock before coming in my room!"
On paper, Cat From Hell seems like a fun horror story. A simple black cat is killing the people around an evil old man. The story presents the killings as possible accidents or from the wild imagination of a deranged man. Unfortunately, the movie shows the cat committing the acts in a very silly way. Drogan talks about cats stealing the breath from a person's body. We then see the cat, put it's paw to a person's lips. OK, it's a little silly, but I can work with it. Then, the cat attaches itself to the person's face as they scream and thrash about. It went for slightly believable to wacky in seconds. The story is a little too long for my liking, which is never good when dealing with short stories. It does have one scene though that is downright impressive in terms of it's shock and gore. I don't want to ruin it for anyone because it is that good, so you'll have to see it for yourself. Cat From Hell is a good story, but it does swerve out of horror and borders on silly at certain times.
The final story is “Lover's Vow” starring James Remar (Highlander, Dexer) as a struggling artist named Preston. One night, Preston witnesses a gruesome murder at the hands of a hideous gargoyle-like monster. The monster speaks to him, making him swear to never speak of the event. Soon after the promise, Preston meets Carola (Rae Dawn Chong, Time Runner, Cyrus) and they soon fall in love. Preston's art career begins to turn around and he builds a happy life with Carola. Ten years later, Preston and Carola have two wonderful children and live life comfortably. The event with the monster has begun to haunt Preston and the guilt of witnessing the murder eats away at him. Will he be able to keep his promise and what are the consequences if he does not?
No amount of concealer will cover that up
Yeeeeesh. What in the bloody hell is this story? It's more like a half-thought than a story. Too much focus is given on the romance between Preston and Carola rather than horror. The monster itself looks like a cross between a gremlin and guacamole. It has a lot of detail, but looks too similar to other monsters we have seen. The end is completely random and raises a lot of questions. I don't like to spoil, but I have to in order to talk about why this story is terrible so SPOILER ALERT. It turns out Carola is actually the monster, who reverts back to her true form after Preston breaks his promise. What? Why did the monster do all of this? Why did the monster kill someone and make Preston promise not to tell anyone? Why did it become a human and fall in love with Preston? Why was it able to have kids that also turned into monsters after the broken promise? WHY? WHY? WHY? The small bright spot is the great transformation scene at the end It's all so incredibly stupid and to top it off, it's too long. That's not a good combination.
Tales From The Darkside: The Movie is considered by some to be the 3rd Creepshow, but I have to disagree. Both Creepshows are far more entertaining than this movie. It lacks the creativity, humor and good horror that Creepshow contained. Creepshow also had the good sense to keep each story relatively short. The three stories in Tales From The Darkside are all too long and none are particularly good. The movie does have some good gore and violence so that's at least something. The acting is good and the direction is fine. The first two stories are decent. Not great, but decent. The third goes off the rails and crashes into a mountain made of napalm. Ultimately, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie is an OK watch with some good moments, but it is nowhere near the level of Creepshow or The Twilight Zone.