Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tales From The Darkside: The Movie

Sometimes horror/supernatural/sci-fi story ideas can not be fleshed out into a full length motion picture on their own into a two hour time frame...this is where the anthology film comes into play. They are movies with three to five segments telling stories in little mini movies. George A. Romero, zombie horror master himself, began producing a little show called Tales From The Darkside after he and Stephen King had created the anthology horror film masterpiece known as Creepshow. They wanted to have a series that showcased stories like those featured in Creepshow but changed the title to Tales From The Darkside which ran from 1983 to 1987 which was also the year that Creepshow 2 was released.  

Creepshow's composer John Harrison who directed episodes from Tales From The Darkside directs the movie with one story adapted by George Romero from a Stephen King short story and Tales From The Darkside writer Michael McDowell wrote two of the stories with one (Lot 249) being an adaptation of a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Since this is my first time reviewing an anthology film on this blog we will go plot by plot of each segment separately.

Wraparound Story: Main Plot
Seems like little Timmy (a young Matthew Lawrence) is in big trouble. See he got roped into doing his older brother's paper route and now he is being held by a witch (played by the lovely Debbie Harry of Blondie). She's no ugly hag but Betty, a modern day suburban housewife who just happens to want Timmy as the main course for her dinner party. Timmy has been given one of Betty's favorite books a collection of stories called Tales From The Darkside to pass the time and he decides that if he can't escape he'll at least stall the witch as long as he can by telling her three stories until his chance for freedom presents itself.

Story #1: Lot 249
Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is a graduate student who is not having very good luck lately. He has been cheated out of a scholarship by the rich, handsome and smarmy Lee and framed for theft of an ancient artifact by Lee's beautiful but just as snotty girlfriend Susan (played by a younger Julianne Moore with early 90's hair). About to be expelled from the university, Bellingham is prepared to take revenge but he's not about to sully his own hands. He has in his possession Lot 249: an ancient mummy who with the right ritual can be summoned to life to carry out its master's demands. When Lee is found murdered, Susan's little brother Andy (Christian Slater) who was Lee's friend, remembers hearing strange chanting from his dorm neighbor Bellingham's room and seeing a dark figure shambling from the building. Is Andy imagining things or could the mummy really be under Bellingham's control? If so, can Andy stop it before Susan ends up dead or worse...Andy himself?

Story #2: The Cat From Hell
Pharmaceutical mogul Drogan (William Hickey) is an elderly man with one huge problem and he wants hitman Halston (played by David Johansen aka 80's pop novelty singer Buster Poindexter) to solve it. He's offering to pay $100,000 to Halston if he can kill what has to be the strangest target of his career: a black cat. Halston thinks Drogan may just be off his rocker but Drogan isn't laughing because he thinks the cat is out to kill him after inadvertently causing the deaths of Drogan's sister, butler and their family friend Carolyn. The cat may or may not be evil but Halston isn't about to pass up this much money for what may just be the easiest and most lucrative target of his whole hitman career. Halston has no idea what he is in for because  vengeance hath no fury like a black cat from hell with nine lives to spare while our hitman only has one to lose...

Story #3: Lover's Vow
Down on his luck artist Preston (James Remar) is not having the best of nights. His agent Wyatt has just dropped him like a hot potato and then he watches as a hideous gargoyle creature murders his bartender friend Jerry in a grisly and gruesome fashion. Before he can escape, the creature corners Preston and makes him promise to never reveal what he saw to anyone in exchange for sparing his life. The creature also tells Preston that he can never tell what he looks like nor that he spoke to him and seals the vow by crossing a deep scratch over Preston's heart as the man yells that he will keep this promise. Despite carrying this burden of guilt, things soon go from bad to better when Preston soon meets a beautiful woman named Carola (played by fetching actress Rae Dawn Chong) and ends up falling in love with her.

Soon, Carola becomes pregnant and she and Preston get married. Carola seems to be bringing luck with her love as soon after she tells a friend of hers about Preston's work and he soon has his art in a hip gallery downtown and a resurgence in his creativity. Ten years later, he and Carola now have two children but Preston can not shake that horrifying night and the promise he made to a demon. Which vow will he be able to keep...the one he made to spare his life or the one he made to the love of his life? Can Preston keep the secret from Carola after all these years and all the luck she has brought to him and if he does what sort of price will he pay?

It's a lot harder to tell you the plots of each story without giving any of them away. If you couldn't tell by my description of each plot the last and final story Lover's Vow is my favorite one mostly because it is a combination of two things I love: romance and horror. They save the best for last because not only do I love the story but James Remar and Rae Dawn Chong have great chemistry with one another and the ending is one of my favorite kinds. Cat From Hell is probably my second favorite because it happens to be based on a Stephen King short story and I am a fan of Stephen King if you didn't already know! I also have an appreciation for George A. Romero even if zombies are not my favorite movie creatures but after seeing him direct Creepshow and handle Stephen King's works so marvelously its my third favorite combination after romance with horror and peanut butter with chocolate! Besides the story and direction I also love William Hickey, rest his soul, as the elderly Drogan because you could always find ways to hate and sympathize with any character he played. Acting aside, William Hickey was also a stage actor and a teacher of the arts where Babara Streisand studied underneath him in New York's Greenwich Village so if that's not awesome I don't know what is!

You may think Lot 249 is my third favorite but I actually like the wraparound segment a little bit more because not only is young Matthew Lawrence as cute as a button to look at (just as cute as he is now...wowzers is he hot!)  but he can act just as well as his older brother Joseph (call him Joey if you want but he is Joe or Joseph to me now and whoa he's just as hot too!) Even though she is technically the villain, Debbie Harry is fun to watch and you can't deny that she can act as well as she can sing and you can tell she is having fun. Not too much fun where she is overacting or campy, Debbie Harry plays off Matthew Lawrence well and they are the reason the stories are set into motion in the first place.

Now do I have anything good to say about Lot 249 you ask? Well, the acting isn't bad and the twist isn't bad at the end but I don't really sympathize with any of the characters except maybe Christian Slater's Andy. I mean Steve Buscemi and Christian Slater seem to be playing characters the always seem to play and I haven't watched enough of Julianne Moore to know if she is being typecast or not in such an early role but she falls in the same lump with Buscemi and Slater as not particular stirring. As a whole, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie is a good film and as I have never seen the television series, I would say this is a good introduction to its TV counterpart. If you have watched the series and enjoy it and have never seen the movie version, I recommend it. If you have seen neither one, well it's pretty much up to you which one you would rather view first but the movie is certainly my first choice.

Next Blog: I'm going to be talking about a film that will make me the little girl that cried...Wolf

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