Starring Debbie Harry, Matthew Lawrence, and Christian Slater
Written by Arthur Conan Doyle, Michael McDowell, Stephen King, and George A. Romero
Directed by John Harrison
When it comes to horror anthologies, specific entries come to mind. Early on, Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, and Cat’s Eye tend to spring into the minds of genre lovers. More recently, the V/H/S series has been a four-film franchise giving short storytelling its return. In the middle of the old and the new, there is, of course, 1990’s masterful Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Born out of wanting to do a feature version of George A. Romero’s television series of the same name, the John Harrison-helmed film is easily one of the most consistently enjoyable anthologies around, something that is the focus on the brand new Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (now available).
The film itself is a reason to pick up a copy of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, each segment being entertaining as hell, each segment adding to the experience of what feels like a true continuation of what Romero and Stephen King started with the first two Creepshow films. Everything from a wrap-around involving Blondie’s own Debbie Harry as a witch planning on cooking a boy in captivity, the film uses the child’s desire to stay alive as a jumping point for the kid to tell three very different stories to buy time. With “Lot 249”, we’re given a story inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, involving a mummy helping Steve Buscemi’s character exact revenge on a trio of conniving friends (featuring Christian Slater and Julianne Moore). Feeling like something out of the 1920s, the segment works in the way of setting the audience up with a solid story of comeuppance before shifting gears to “The Cat From Hell.” In that segment, a black cat has caused an entire family’s demise, leaving one member ready to hire a hitman to take the feline out. It’s a wild little story penned by Romero, from a short story by Stephen King. Mostly relying on suspense, the segment eventually makes its way into a gory ending, giving viewers a gruesome payoff before bringing the best segment in the group, “Lover’s Vow.”
Following The Warriors/48 Hours’ James Remar as a starving artist having trouble creating and selling his art, “Lover’s Vow” puts his character in the middle of a gargoyle attack, where the creature allows him to live, as long as he never repeats what he saw. Reeling from the attack, the artist meets a woman that night (played by Rae Dawn Chong) and, almost immediately, his entire life changes before a finale that shows how important keeping one’s word truly is. Wrapping the film up, the witch vs boy story reaches a fun close in the vein of Hansel & Gretel, bringing the film to an end.
Each segment sets up the following one quite perfectly, making Tales from the Darkside: The Movie one of the most consistently solid anthologies around, a film that really shows the power of short-form storytelling.
Though the film itself looks absolutely great, the special features really bring this release to another level. Bypassing the short solo interviews Scream Factory has been doing for a while, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie gives viewers a brand new, 6-part documentary film, Tales Behind the Darkside. An in-depth making of, featuring interviews with Harrison, the film’s producers, Remar, Chong, KNB FX and many more, the doc is reminiscent of the great Just Desserts doc on Creepshow (also produced by Red Shirt), giving a length telling of the entire production from its early beginnings, focusing on every single aspect of each segment.
It’s awesome to see such a lengthy doc on a Scream Factory release again, something that’s been missing for quite some time. Their output is always aces, but Tales from the Darkside: The Movie shows how entertaining an entire documentary can be, feeling all-encompassing.
In addition to the documentary, the disc also features an older commentary from Harrison and Romero, as well as TV spots and trailers and so on. While all of that is great, the real star of this disc (aside from the actual film) is the exceptional documentary, feeling like a great love letter to Romero and those who helped bring this one to life. A must own addition, this disc.
A must own release of one of horror’s best anthologies, packed to gills with enough information to satisfy the most diehard fan.