Tales from the
Darkside: The Movie (1990)
by John Harrison
Tales from the Darkside: The
Movie has a run time of a little over one and a half hours
and is an anthology of three short stories. Four if you count the
wraparound story that binds them all together.
In the wraparound story a young boy named Timmy is being held prisoner
by a witch called Betty (Debbie Harry), who looks just like any other
suburban housewife and is busy preparing for a dinner party.
Timmy is destined to be dish of the day and his time is running out. In
an effort to delay Betty, Timmy reads her some stories from her
favourite book: Tales
from the Darkside.
The first story "Lot 249", was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and
is about a graduate student called Bellingham who buys an item at
auction (Lot 249 ). The delivery men are dropping off his purchase (it
is in rather a large box), when Bellingham's classmates, Andy and Lee,
arrive on the scene, just in time to see him open it up. It contains a
sarcophagus. Inside the sarcophagus there is a mummy and it is one ugly
Andy lives in the same building as Bellingham and is on reasonably good
terms with him. Lee, on the other hand, who is going out with
Andy's sister Susan, is not on such good terms with Bellingham and
there is more than a little animosity between the two. Bellingham feels
he has been wronged by Lee, and has no qualms about turning to his new
mummy for help.
"Cat From Hell" is based on a story by Stephen King. Mr Drogan, a
wealthy but wheel-chair bound business man, hires a hit man named
Halston. The hit? A black cat. Killing household pets is not
in the killer's usual line of work though, and as Drogan explains the
job to him, the angry hit-man thinks that Drogan is having a laugh at
his expense. But when Drogan throws him an envelope full of money he
sees that the expense is all Drogan's after all.
Halston is obviously curious to know how the cat has offended enough to
warrant such a bounty on its furry little head, and he listens
attentively as Drogan explains how the feline in
question killed all the other members of the household. Now
only Drogan remains and he plans on getting the cat before it gets him.
After their chat Drogan leaves the house while Halston takes care of
business. Halston has guns and knives at his disposal, and even a
syringe full of poison. It should be an easy hit, but this cat really
does seem to have nine lives while the hit-man has just one.
The final tale from the darkside is "Lover's Vow", written by Michael
McDowell. It is the story of a down-at-heel and down on his luck artist
called Preston. Things are going from bad to worse for the
poor guy. First his agent dumps him, then later the same night
he witnesses one of his friends being murdered by a gargoyle. There
seems little point to the murder, but Preston's friend quickly goes to
pieces and finally loses his head entirely, while the amazed artist can
only stand and watch in shock. Before Preston has a chance to escape
the gargoyle is upon him and promises to spare his life if he keeps
what he has seen a secret. Preston agrees, of course; he has a good
head on his shoulders and wants to keep it that way. The gargoyle
scratches a warning onto Preston's chest—a little something to remember
to forget him by—and then flies off into the night.
Strangely enough the encounter with the gargoyle seems to mark a
turning point in Preston's life. He flees the crime-scene and runs into
a beautiful girl called Carola. The dusky maiden accompanies him home,
one thing leads to another, and they fall in love. Carola even puts in
a good word for him with the owner of a major art gallery and Preston
is suddenly a man on the up. As the years pass though, and now with two
children, will Preston still manage to keep his promise to the
gargoyle, and if not what will be the consequences be for his family?
I enjoyed the Tales
from the Darkside movie. There is a little blood and gore
here and there in all of the stories, but the movie was made in 1990 so
it is nothing in comparrsion tothe glorious techni-coloured
splatter-fests available in more modern movies. I felt no need to
wretch anyway, even when someone's brain was being hooked out by a bent
coat hanger (useful things coat hangers). The special effects in the
movie are very good, but again, nothing in comparison with today's CGI
master pieces of technical trickery. I think viewers who have grown up
on a diet of modern movies and effects may view Tales with a
slightly critical eye, but older viewrs, who can remember movies with
rubber monsters and the almost-invisible strings that worked them, will
find it easier to appreciate the movie and concentrate on the stories.
Oh... did you want to know what happened to Timmy?
Did that nasty witch Betty eat him? Sorry guys, I'm not saying: mummy
is the word, the cat has got my tongue and a mean old gargoyle has
sworn me to silence.
from the Darkside the Movie is available to buy and rent
on DVD, and is also available to stream as an instant video, but no
Blu-ray option was available at the time of this review.
4 out of 5.
Runtime 93 mins
Debbie Harry ...
Betty (wraparound story)
David Forrester ... Priest (wraparound
Matthew Lawrence ... Timmy (wraparound story)
Christian Slater ... Andy (Lot 249)
Robert Sedgwick ... Lee (Lot 249)
Steve Buscemi ...
Bellingham (Lot 249)
Donald Van Horn ... Moving Man (Lot 249)
... Mummy (Lot 249)
Julianne Moore ... Susan (Lot
George Guidall ... Museum
Director (Lot 249)
Kathleen Chalfant... Dean (Lot 249)
Ralph Marrero ... Cab
driver (Lot 249)
David Johansen ... Halston (Cat
... Cab driver (Cat From Hell)
William Hickey ... Drogan (Cat
Alice Drummond ... Carolyn (Cat
Dolores Sutton ... Amanda (Cat
Mark Margolis ...
Gage (Cat From Hell)
... Preston (Lover's Vow)
... Jer (Lover's Vow)
Philip Lenkowsky ... Maddox (Lover's Vow)
... Wyatt (Lover's Vow)
Rae Dawn Chong ... Carola
Joe Dabenigno ... Cop
#1 (Lover's Vow)
Larry Silvestri ... Cop #2 (Lover's Vow)
Donna Davidge ...
Gallery Patron (Lover's Vow)
... Margaret (Lover's Vow)
Daniel Harrison ... John (Lover's Vow)
& Rental Options~