TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990) – The Dungeon Review!

I love anthologies! When I find one where all the stories are solid it is extra special! If Tales from the Darkside: The Movie had a darker connecting story that better suited the trio of films I might have given this collection a perfect score. The wraparound story featuring Debbie Harry isn’t awful; it is just far too light and cheerful. It really messed with the collection’s vibe. Debbie Harry plays betty, an upper class housewife preparing for a dinner party. She opens a large pantry door to reveal a neighborhood boy she intends to serve as the main course. She has given him cookies and a book of horror tales to keep him entertained. To stall his demise the boy convinces Betty to allow him to read her a story. Each segue features the boy convincing Betty to listen to another story. It also ends on far too buoyant a note in comparison to the three films it serves. All three of the segments are entertaining and all are fairly dark in tone. The wraparound is a weak link but the three segments are more than good enough to overcome it.

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LOT 249

Edward Bellingham is an intelligent and awkward university student who is a strong contender for the Penrose Fellowship. After being accused of stealing a Zuni Fetish from the museum where he works he is passed over in favor of peer Lee. Edward doesn’t believe for a second that Lee is capable of writing a winning essay and his instincts are correct. Andy’s girlfriend Susan wrote the essay on his behalf and furthermore framed Edward for the museum theft. Susan’s brother Andy lives on campus above Edward and is present when Edward receives his new acquisition; Lot 249. Inside the crate marked Lot 249 is an authentic mummy full of rotten flowers. Although it is pretty damn clear where Lot 249 is headed it is a fun trip getting there just the same. The mummy looked pretty damn cool and there are a couple nasty deaths; although neither of them were graphic. The performances are great! I always enjoy Steve Buscemi and he is definitely a highlight here as central character Edward Bellingham. I quite enjoyed Julianne Moore here also. She plays a huge bitch! She is spoiled, bossy and snooty too. Moore does a nice job playing the unlikable character. Christian Slater and Robert Sedgwick as Andy and Lee respectively are both decent also, but their characters don’t demand much. I loved the final twist! I thoroughly enjoyed Lot 249, although it was my least favourite of the trio.

Starring: Christian Slater, Robert Sedgwick, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Michael Deak

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CAT FROM HELL

The second story appropriately called Cat from Hell is all about revenge. Millionaire Drogan hires hitman Halston to kill a cat. $50,000 up front and another $50,000 when Halston brings him the tail. Drogan believes the cat was responsible for the death of his sister Amanda, her friend Caroline and hired hand Gage and Drogan believes he will be next. Halston takes the job laughing the old man off as crazy and senile; but Halston is about to find out this kitty has claws. Black cats are awesome! This particular kitty is really a hero! I don’t want to give away all of the goodness but let’s just say Drogan’s Pharmaceutical company engages in unsavory practices and this cat has a legitimate case for vengeance. Cat From Hell has solid suspense, a little light humour and the perfect setting. The big old fancy mansion was perfect and provided the segment with great atmosphere. The finale is surprisingly gory and peculiar, I loved it! There are a few shots where you can tell it is not a real cat, but it is easy enough to forgive. William Hickey is so neat with that crazy voice of his and he is very convincing as the powerful, unscrupulous and terrified rich old man. David Johansen is also top notch as hitman Halston. The real star of this segment is the bad-ass black cat who positively roars! Meow-licious!

Starring: David Johansen, William Hickey, Alice Drummond, Dolores Sutton, Mark Margolis

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LOVER’S VOW

They definitely saved the best for last! Lover’s Vow is the story of struggling artist Preston. Preston meets his agent Wyatt in the local bar he frequents. Wyatt tells Preston that the gallery showing his work is dropping him and he will no longer be his agent. A bad night is about to get worse when he witnesses the owner of the bar decapitated by a gargoyle. The gargoyle corners him but instead of killing Preston it swears him to secrecy. Preston is never to speak of their meeting. As Preston makes his way home he runs into a beautiful woman walking alone. The woman introduces herself as Carola and they fall in love. Carola gets him hooked up with another gallery and things begin looking up for Preston. Several years and two children later Carola and Preston are celebrating the ten year anniversary of the night they met. Will Preston carry the secret to his grave or will he divulge the secret to his true love on their special night? James Remar is very likable and empathetic as Wyatt and Rae Dawn Chong is charming as Carola; the two have great chemistry together. The gargoyle is pretty cool. It looks just like you would expect a gargoyle to look if they were real; except taller and thinner. Its face was slightly comical particularly the eyes. It was no less intimidating however when it easily lops a guys head off! Lover’s Vow has a well-written, intriguing story; the best of the trio. I actually think this segment would have made a great feature length film. Lover’s Vow has a brilliant finale, great performances and a perfect mood and tone.

Starring: James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, Robert Klein, Ashton Wise, Philip Lenkowsky

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WRAPAROUND FINALE

I would have liked to have seen Betty eviscerate the boy and serve him for dinner. That does not happen. The wraparound was cutesy and really seemed like it belonged to another series of tales; perhaps one intended for children. Debbie Harry is sort of fun, but the kid was mildly irritating. Meh. The wraparound just did not work for me.

Starring: Debbie Harry, Matthew Lawrence

I really enjoyed Tales from the Darkside: The Movie! Great performances, well-filmed, solid makeup and effects, and seriously entertaining stories; it is a shame about the wraparound but otherwise Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is top notch! Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: John Harrison

10 Responses to “TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Great review! Tales From The Darkside was a welcome half hour from 1983-1988,and I enjoyed this big screen version a lot,too. I agree, the wraparound is the weakest part of the movie,and could have been a lot stronger,with Debbie Harry(love her!)saving the segment from being a total bore. Looking back,the 1990’s started out fairly well,horror movie wise,and then things got murky pretty quick,ultimately going straight to hell. As you said,LOTS of sequels in the uneven mix!

    • I’ve never been much of a TV watcher…always preferred movies and reading growing up. Sadly, I missed this show completely. Seems like something worth checking out. I like Debbie too…but I didn’t like that annoying kid pushing her in the oven. All the other stories had grim ending where it doesn’t work out for anyone and than they let the kid get away. How awesome would it have been if the final shot was putting little Jimmy in the oven?! Yeah, 1990 still had a very 80s feeling to me…I am now working on 93 – 96…oh my my my!

      • I agree,1990 still had that 1980’s vibe going for it! Tales From The Darkside the series is worth checking out if you can fit it in your already full plate. Monsters In My Room and Florence Bravo,with Lori Cardille are two episodes that come to mind. Yeah,little Jimmy in the oven!!!! Much better ending! 93-96?! Bless your heart. I don’t recall enjoying many genre films from those years,but I will be looking forward to your reviews!

  2. Thinking about it, probably no writer wants to waste a good storyline on a wrap-around ’cause there are very few good ones in horror anthos. They got the order right on these stories too, getting better with each segment. Luv the gargoyle fx!

    • What is the deal with wraparounds anyway? I can only think of a handful I have actually enjoyed. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors comes to mind…I actually loved the wraparound! Totally agree…I also enjoyed these in the order they came. The Gargoyle was really neato…and really, I’ve seen very few films with a gargoyle.

  3. I am a huge fan of the show. Actually I just wrote about an episode early today. I remember going to see this movie in the theater. It’s overall decent. The wraparound story was alright, but I remember thinking that Debbie Harry was a good pick because she had been two episodes of the show. Plus the show certainly tried it’s share of episodes combing humor and horror so I expected some in the movie. Lover’s Vow is my favorite as well. I heard a very similar story on a storytelling CD some years ago set in Japan. I’m guessing this segment is based on an old folk tale.

    • I am ashamed to say I’ve never watched the show. I will have to seek it out! The segments had grim endings and I thought the wraparound should have too. The Gargoyle story reminded me of a segment in the anthology Kwaidan (also Japanese – highly recommended if you’ve never seen it!).

  4. I’ve only watched this once, and that must have been 10 years ago but from what I recall I agree about the wrap around story. I wonder if they’re more difficult to do than they appear. It seems to be where most anthologies fall short. Actually loved the Cat From Hell when I first watched it. Great write up! Makes me want to watch it again 🙂

    • Cat from Hell was my friend’s favourite too. What a crazy ending?!! I guess for me I just wanted that wraparound to end on a grimmer note…but they tend to bungle these connecting stories…no idea why!

  5. “I would have liked to have seen Betty eviscerate the boy and serve him for dinner.” Haha… that would’ve made for a very different film, and one I would’ve liked more. Although I liked this one as is, too, without anyone eating the kid.

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