Plot: What’s it about?
In an effort to save his own skin, a young boy begins to spin tales of horror, which keeps a witch from putting him into her oven. The first tale concerns a group of students who stumble into serious trouble, thanks a re-animated corpse. But this is no normal corpse, this is a mummy and it is quite upset, to say the least. As this dusty old mummy rumbles about, it leaves behind a trail of dead students, with no end in sight. Can the other students on the mummy’s list manage to elude it, or will it take vengeance on all those he seeks? As time runs out on that story, the boy whips up a second one, which involves a very fierce feline. It seems a mean old black cat has been bothering someone, so the man hires a hitman to take it down. But can even this hitman put this kitten down once & for all, or is another kind of power involved? The third & final tale presents a man who watches a gargoyle murder someone, but to save his own life, the man swears to never tell anyone what he saw. But as time passes and he gets involved in romance & relationships, can he remain true to his word and if not, what will become of him?
Although we don’t see many horror anthologies these days, there was a time when these kind of compilations were commonplace. I’ve always liked the more focused feel of single theme horror pictures, but some of the anthologies were damn good and by turn, some were so bad, you had to burn the player afterwards. Based on the television series of the same name, Tales from the Darkside is not as bad as some of the anthologies, but it is also not one of the best ones. So it falls into the common area of decent, which is a shame, as this movie had a lot of potential, coming from a very solid television series. The stories are more than decent, but I expected more from this movie and I think a lot of others did as well. I don’t think the stories are that bad per se, but when George Romero is your screenwriter, the standards shift more than a little, to be sure. A gifted cast helps things out, with such names as Julianne Moore, Christian Slater, and Steve Buscemi, but they can only do so much here. If you’re a horror nut or just love anthologies, Tales from the Darkside is recommended, but as a rental, instead of a purchase.
This movie has an impressive lineup of performers, although most hadn’t quite hit the big time at the time of this production. As this is an anthology piece, no one has the lead in the traditional sense, as this is more of an ensemble. In the first story, we find Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Airheads), Christian Slater (True Romance, Heathers), and Julianne Moore (Hannibal, The End of the Affair), which is a pretty stacked deck, I think. The performances are solid on the whole, or at least solid on the horror scale, which is judged a little differently. In the second installment, we find only David Johansen (Scrooged, Let it Ride) as notable talent, but the third story packs a couple names. In the final tale, you’ll see Rae Dawn Chong (Commando, Crying Freeman), James Remar (The Phantom, The Cotton Club), and Mark Margolis (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, End of Days), amongst others. Add in Debbie Harry (The Blank Generation, Videodrome) of Blondie fame and hey, this is a terrific cast indeed, especially for a horror picture.
Video: How does it look?
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I had heard a lot of negative remarks about this effort, but in truth, I think Paramount has done more than respectable work here. Yes, the image is a little too dark and some grain is present, but this was a low budget project, which has to be taken into consideration. I imagine more recent low budget horror films look better than this, but for this era, Tales from the Darkside looks pretty damn good, especially when compared to previous editions. No, this is not a pristine & flawless presentation, but for what it is, the transfer looks terrific, if you ask me.
Audio: How does it sound?
A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is utilized here, but this one is anchored in the front channels, so don’t expect too much here. The surrounds do kick in to enhance the musical score and offer some atmosphere, but on the whole, the front channels handle the load. This is fine however, as the mix sounds natural and well done, no real complaints. The dialogue is clean and always easy to understand, thanks to consistent & proper volume levels. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option, a French language track, and optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer, as well as an audio commentary with director John Harrison & screenwriter George A. Romero. This track has a lot of insight, as Harrison provides a ton of information and Romero chimes in as well. I’m always interested in Romero’s thoughts, but this is Harrison’s session, as he dominates the track. Even so, it turns out to be a more than decent session, one that is well worth a listen.