Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
By: David Michael Brown on August 28, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. Dolby Digital 1.0. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: John Harrison
Starring: Debbie Harry, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore
Screenplay: George. A. Romero, Michael McDowell
Music: John Harrison, Chaz Jankel, Jim Manzie, Pat Regan, Donal Rubenstein
Tagline: "Four terrifying tales in one Horrific Masterpiece"
Country: USA
Based on the works of Stephen King and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Brought to the screens by George. A. Romero and Richard. P. Rubenstein, the men behind the classic Dawn of the Dead. Make up effects over-seen by the legendary Dick Smith. How could Tales From The Darkside go wrong? Well to be honest it doesn't, it just never reaches the heights that this horrific corporation should have been capable of.

Harking back to the anthology style of the Amicus films of the Sixties and early Seventies, the film tries desperately to return to the chills of Dr. Terrors House of Horrors and Tales From the Crypt but fails to live up to the to genres early efforts. It is, however, leaps and bounds beyond Amicus maestro Milton Subotsky's last film, the terrible The Monster Club. The film is actually the cinematic version of a short lived TV show but fails to capitalise on the freedom that cinema allows.

The wrap-around story is a grim fairy tale starring Debbie Harry as a witch called Betty who is about to dine on a young boy Timmy. As the oven pre heats the young morsel is reading extracts from Betty's favourite book, The Tales of the Darkside, hoping to distract her from the cannibalistic feast.

The first story is entitled "Lot 249"; Christian Slater stars as Andy, an archaeology student who befriends misfit Bellingham played by a young Steve Buscemi. Bellingham discovers that a recent shipment at the local museum contains the remains of an ancient sarcophagus. He brings the mummified carcass within to life and it kills Andy's sister Susan, a very young Julianne Moore. Understandably upset Andy turns the tables on the gradually cracking Bellingham and turns the monster on its new master.

The next tale is the best, "Cat From Hell." Cabbie, played by Paul Greaves, a gangster hitman is summoned by Howard Hughes style recluse Halston, David Johanson, to kill someone. He soon discovers that his victim is to be a housecat. An easy target, or so he thinks, the cat has already killed three people. It smothers, trips and suffocates its victims and in a scene of feline ferocity the cat jumps at the contract killers face, forces itself down his throat and chokes him to death before erupting through his stomach! It's the grisly highlight of the story and a startling scare in a rather tame film.

The child's final tale is entitled "Lovers Vow." A savage demon is roaming the streets, decapitating its victims in a slew of blood and severed limbs. One of the massacres is witnessed by Preston, played by James Remar. Face to face with the evil fiend he is offered a deal, never mention what you have seen or be killed. He makes a vow to keep this horrific secret until his death. Fleeing he bumps into Rae Dawn Chong and this chance meeting turns into a ten-year relationship. He is constantly haunted by what he has seen but eventually decides to tell his wife what he has seen not realising the horrendous repercussions that will ensue.

All three stories feature nice twists and the "Cat From Hell" in particular showcases a nicely warped selection of make up effects but the film is ultimately forgettable. Possibly it's the flimsy wrap-around story featuring Harry in a truly awful performance. The film needed something more substantial to tie the stories together. Romero's Creepshow based on the horror comics of the Fifties did such a better job with similar material and even then failed to be consistently scary. Maybe that's the problem with the format, the stories are too short to build up characters and develop any real sense of suspense but if the stories not working for you at least you know you have another one coming any minute.
The picture quality (4:3) is adequate on this average release.
There is nothing spectacular on the Dolby Digital 1.0 sound mix.
Extra Features
The Verdict
Whilst Tales of the Darkside: The Movie has its moments it fails to be as terrifying as the cover suggests. The multi story format has really run its course and this film fails to make the jump from television to the big screen.
Movie Score
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