Horror review: Tales From the Darkside

PDVD_082

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 11, 1990

By Steve Newton

In the wrap-around story that ties the three Tales From the Darkside together, former Blondie vocalist Deborah Harry plays a typical American housewife planning a dinner party. The film opens with her returning home from the supermarket with the fixin’s–the main course is a little boy she’s been holding captive in a dungeon and fattening with chocolate chip cookies.

In order to postpone his fate in the cook’s huge oven, the kid reads her three stories from the big storybook she’s given him. “I’ve saved the best for last!” pleads the boy when time’s about up, and he’s certainly right about that. Tales From the Darkside: The Movie starts out slow but ends on a very strong note.

The first segment, written by novelist Michael McDowell from a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, involves a 3,000-year-old mummy which is called back to life to wreak murderous vengeance on the sister and best friend of college student Andy Smith (Christian Slater). Short on action and long on tiresome dialogue, “Lot 249” is a bore–just the opposite of the next tale, “Cat From Hell”, a story by Stephen King that was adapted for the screen by famed horror director George Romero.

As in “Lot 249”, vengeance is the focus of “Cat From Hell”. This time it’s an elderly millionaire (William Hickey) who hires a hitman named Halston (David Johansen) to kill the cat that murdered the old guy’s three housemates. But this is no ordinary housecat, as Halston quickly finds out. When the kitty gets its claws into the hitman’s privates, he pulls out the heavy artillery and declares war on the fiesty feline.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say the cat helps Johansen get rid of an annoying tickle in his throat.

The finale tale, “Lover’s Vow”, is also by McDowell. It concerns a struggling Soho artist named Preston (played by James Remar, the psycho from 48 Hours) who’s just been dumped by his agent. When Preston is leaving a bar with a buddy, the pal gets his block knocked off by a winged demon, which then spares Preston only after he promises to never divulge what he’s just seen.

The twist ending of “Lover’s Vow”–which may or may not surprise you–features some incredible special effects work by the K.N.B. EFX Group (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Nightmare on Elm Street 5) that is nearly worth the price of admission. Horror fans–particularly those who enjoy the Tales From the Darkside TV show–should be content with this two-out-of-three.

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