Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Created by George A. Romero, Richard P. Rubenstein, William Teitler, Jerry Golod
Starring Paul Sparer (opening narrator), Vic Tayback, Christian Slater, Carol Kane, Justine Bateman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Shawn, Eddie Bracken
Directed by Various
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
“Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But … there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit … a Darkside.”
As a twelve-year-old when I heard those words emanating from my television set, I knew one thing for sure — it was time to have a blissfully spooky time. Few shows have captured my imagination like “Tales from the Darkside”. As a huge anthology fan, this was like seeing a new mini-movie every week. The affection I have for this series runs impossibly deep.
Until now you could only see this show one of two ways — on a nearly worn-out and destroyed VHS tape or on a bootleg DVDr that you may have either picked up at a convention or found somewhere online for like a hundred bucks (bastards). Well, it’s time to throw away all that crap. “Tales from the Darkside” is now getting its official DVD release courtesy of Paramount Home Video, and living on the darkside has never been so bright.
What makes this series work so well is the fact that it reveled in what it was. Nobody was making high art here, and everyone seemed content with having a chance to tell their tales just the way they wanted to. Many stories are full of twists and turns and riddled with otherworldly creatures, and dare I say it, some are even hilariously sprinkled with delicious black comedy. Let’s go over some of the included classics, shall we?
Things kick off with the stellar “Trick or Treat” episode in which an old miser invites his hometown’s children to come into his dwelling on Halloween to see if they can find all the outstanding bills their parents owe him. Of course this is all a ruse for him to get his rocks off by scaring the kids. Everything is going the old prick’s way until some real bits of Halloween horror show up to set the record straight.
Then there’s probably the most famous episode of the show, “In the Closet” directed by Tom Savini. Here we are told the tale of a student boarder who learns that her anthropologist landlord is keeping a deadly creature living behind the door of a small closet in her room. Seeing this episode again with adult eyes, I noticed things I never have before, such as Savini’s usage of some of the library music from 1968’s Night of the Living Dead during one of the episode’s crazier moments. Too fucking cool!
And I’d be remiss without mentioning my absolute favorite of the season and the series as a whole, “A Case of the Stubborns”. Old people can be extremely stubborn. One day Grandpa (Bracken) awakens to find his family in a state of distress. What’s got them so riled up? Well, Grandpa died the night before, but he doesn’t know it, nor will he be convinced of it! Will his family, including a really young Christian Slater, be able to persuade gramps to participate in his eternal slumber, or will the old guy just keep walking and rotting? This episode alone is worth the price of the DVD.
The above are just a few examples of the gems waiting to be rediscovered here, and wow, are there some gems. What makes “Tales from the Darkside” really stick out amongst the crowd is its writing. Everyone from George A. Romero to Robert Bloch to Stephen King lend their talents as a means to turn out the terror. In a lot of ways the series feels like an extension of Romero’s stellar Creepshow, which many (including myself) consider to be one of the greatest horror anthologies ever put to film.
Speaking of Romero, the only extra to be found in this three-disc set is a commentary by the master on the series’ pilot episode “Trick or Treat”. You’ll notice while listening it sounds a bit off. That’s because George wasn’t watching it while it was being taped. Paramount had Romero interviewed for this bit of supplemental goodness, and the hour long chat was cut into a twenty-three-minute audio track. A bit odd, yes, but at least it’s something.
It is a true joy to officially have “Tales from the Darkside” in the old DVD collection. It’s been a long time coming. If you’re like me, you’re eagerly anticipating the release of Season 2, so until then remember, kids …
“The Darkside is always there waiting for us to enter; waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.”
4 out of 5
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