Ultimate PastBlasters – Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

TFTD:TM is the most 80s movie that ever 80s movied, although it was made in 1990; I suppose by then the formula had been distilled to perfection.

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Tales From the Darkside: The Movie: The Poster
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie: The Poster

HORROR MOVIE ANTHOLOGIES!

I love them! I’m out of the loop on the modern ones so I’ve no idea what I’m missing, but I LOVE old horror movie anthologies. Since horror stories don’t always have the staying power for an entire movie, anthologies mix things up and also cater to my ADD. If the story’s not great, I can wait twenty minutes until the next one starts!

Tales from the Darkside was another horror anthology tv show big in the 80s. I actually saw a few episodes and I remember them SCARING THE SHIT out of me because the stories were so raw. There was a particularly gruesome one involving a parakeet and some kind of vacuum cleaner monster attracted to sound, and another one about some kids dealing with an ancient Babylonian/Old Testament demon dwelling in their basement. The show was created by George A. Romero (The Grandfather of Zombies) and notable contributors included Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Harlan Ellison. (!!!!!!!) Since most of those writers had a hand in shaping modern horror, that is a hell of a pedigree.

TFTD:TM is the most 80s movie that ever 80s movied, although it was made in 1990; I suppose by then the formula had been distilled to perfection.

It has EVERYONE. Debbie Harry from Blondie, David Johansen ( of New York Dolls fame and probably best known to The Kids These Days as the Ghost of Christmas Past from Scrooged), Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, William Hickey, Rae Dawn Chong (the chick from Commando) and a weensy Matthew Lawrence make appearances; most incredible of all, none other than Julianne Moore makes her film debut! She looks about 17! There’s also a delightful vein of dark humor running through the stories.

The movie is bookended by a story about a totally upscale yuppie woman (Debbie Harry) living in an eponymous 80s movie mansion house who happens to be a witch. She’s got a kid chained up in her walk-in pantry/dungeon and she’s getting all the fixins’ ready to cook him. Like Scherezade, he must tell her stories to keep her from killing him.

Worlds! They Are Colliding!
Pictured: Two Very Different Actors Wearing Very Two Different Vests

The stories are somewhat bananas. In Lot:249, Steve Buscemi is every Angry Nerd Ever as a bookish type obsessed with antiques and Egyptology. Christian Slater makes his character of Douchey Rich Kid #4 still likeable, and Julianne Moore as his sociopathic sister is awesome. There’s a love triangle, a mummy, you know where this is going but the ride is still great.

In Cat From Hell, David Johansan is a hit man hired to kill a… cat from hell. Seriously this is one badass cat. That’s almost the whole story right there, and it’s kind of mindblowing how simple and yet engaging it was.

NIAGARA FALLS, FRANK.
NIAGARA FALLS, FRANK.

I originally saw TFTD:TM about 20 years ago and the reason that it stuck with me is because of the last story: The Lover’s Vow.

Lord protect me from bad boys because I cannot protect myself, forever and ever AMEN.
Lord protect me from bad boys because I cannot protect myself, forever and ever AMEN.

Although it does have vintage James Remar, the reason it stuck with me is multifold:

  • James Remar plays a struggling artist, a career I was considering at the time
  • He and Rae Dawn Chong and have some beautiful multiracial children, which I had never seen addressed  in a horror movie
  • The monster is a woman

THIS JUST IN: After checking the writing credit for The Lover’s Vow I am astounded to find it written by someone I had never heard of and yet who was the architect of a great deal of my childhood real estate. Michael McDowell also wrote:

  • Beetlejuice
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Clue

GASP. I love finding out new things! I need to investigate this writer further! I wish I had a time machine so I could spend a year Groundhogging and reading/watching/experiencing all the shit on my ‘To Do’ pile. Further, McDowell was inspired to write the story by yuki-onna stories from Lefcadio Hearne’s Kwaidan books. I have those and enjoyed the shit out of them, and can’t recommend them enough to fans of Asian horror and just old fashioned ghost stories.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is available on Instant Watch.

Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

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