Anthologies are a great way to package horror, as an incomprehensible change the life of one episode can be countered by an entirely different nightmare scenario in the next episode. In the 80s, (somewhat hampered by network restrictions) Tales From The Darkside took this format and routinely made memorable stories of television-based dread that still resonate to this day. In 1990, after four years of providing gruesome anecdotes to audiences, the supernatural realm got to tell three more tales of terror in Tales From The Darkside: The Movie.
A surprisingly youthful witch has kidnapped a young boy to eat, attempting to buy time, the boy tries to stall the witch by retelling three stories from her favourite childhood book. One story focuses on a university student’s scheme of revenge that is roughly 6000 years in the making. The second involving a determined hitman and a peculiar cat, who might have more than nine lives. Finally, a down on his luck artist meets a beautiful woman and has a wonderful future ahead, if only he forgets about the gruesome way his friend was just killed.
Like many anthology films, Tales has an intriguing wrap around story, thankfully it does not try to outshine the segments, but does offer a pallet cleanser. The kid is probably wiser than his age as Matthew Lawrence practically oozes with charisma, and Harry makes an interesting choice playing the frankly gullible Witch. The main stories themselves also include some up-and-comers and familiar faces of yesterday that pop up to populate these segments. With the likes of Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and Christian Slater showing up in the first story alone. Most of their acting is on par with the show, and that is not damming the film with faint praise.
As experience has taught me anthologies can be only judged on the strength of their story segments, and Tales does offer an assortment for anybody’s tastes. This variety manifests itself not only in the content but how they are presented. Some effects have a retro charm, and some scenes sent a shudder or two down the spines. The segments also have their look and feel, and some the design is particularly striking, evoking some of the more memorable scenes of the show.
Variety is the spice of life, and as the show, and here demonstrates, Tales from the Darkside proves that in spades. The move to the big screen feels more like a lateral upgrade than a total revolution, and that plays to this anthology’s strength. The plucky quality that made the show a standout hit, and it is great seeing some big-draw stars in their early days. The cast of soon-to-be familiar faces and fiendishly dark stories, Tales From The Darkside makes for some effectively bone-chilling midnight reading.
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