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  Tales from the Darkside: The Movie Storybook Inter-gnash-ional
Year: 1990
Director: John Harrison
Stars: Deborah Harry, Christian Slater, David Johansen, William Hickey, James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong, Matthew Lawrence, Robert Sedgwick, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Robert Klein, David Forrester, Alice Drummond, Dolores Sutton, Mark Margolis, Kathleen Chalfant
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Betty (Deborah Harry) visits the shops in her town and returns the greetings she receives with a cheery demeanour, but as she heads home what her neighbours do not know is that she is actually a cannibal who has trapped in her kitchen turned dungeon a little boy, Timmy (Matthew Lawrence), behind bars. Now she is back, and sets out the utensils and foodstuffs she needs to prepare the meal for her and her equally flesh-eating friends, but when she checks on the boy she is surprised to see he is less than pleased about his current situation, throwing the book she gave him to read straight at her. Betty admonishes him, and anyway says it's about time to place him in the oven - obviously, Timmy needs to stall for time.

For some reason the spooky anthology television show made something of a comeback in the nineteen-eighties, what with such efforts as the revival of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt making waves and gathering a loyal fanbase who wished to see what muddle this week's stars would be getting into. One of those was the brainchild of horror director George A. Romero who had perhaps kicked this new flush of anthologies off with his Creepshow movie (they became popular in the movies as well around this stage), as Tales from the Darkside originally was supposed to be the official Creepshow TV series. This lasted from 1983 to 1988, though there was a second Creepshow movie produced in that time as well.

Which made this belated cash-in on the Darkside show the unofficial Creepshow 3, unrelated to the actual Creepshow 3, a straight to video afterthought nobody much liked some years later. Staying true to the small screen's formula, it adapted three stories often from recognisable authors in the field of chillers, the first from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lot 249 which was his Mummy tale. Michael McDowell, best known for his run of eighties horror paperbacks and his work with Tim Burton, adapted that into a tale of college rivarly where Steve Buscemi gets his own back using an Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus and its contents to send after those who have wronged him, though to all appearances the film wasn't too keen on the Mummy as a horror icon judging by what happens to it.

That first section was actually starring Christian Slater as the "big name" who combats the walking undead, though celeb spotters might be more interested to see Julianne Moore's screen debut, subject to a most igmonious fate into the bargain. Next up was a Stephen King yarn that had been meant for the second Creepshow film but hadn't been economical to use; here it was dusted off as a short story adapted by Romero about an elderly millionaire (William Hickey) who hires a professional hitman to kill a black cat that has been harrassing him and his now-deceased family, said family supposedly killed by the moggy. Former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen played the hitman who predictably found the target harder to destroy than he anticipated, leading to a ridiculous finale as the cat works out a good way to prevail.

That middle section was probably the best story, it may have been silly but it provided the cheesy spectacle that only rubbery special effects can really deliver. This left the last a bit of a letdown, especially if you had seen a classic portmanteau horror from an earlier vintage in the Japanese Kwaidan from which the third entry was lifted pretty much whole. Updated by McDowell to modern New York City, but still with the same premise and it had to be said not half as poetic or effective as struggling artist James Remar witnesses a demon killing a friend outside a bar one night, and said demon tells him it will spare his life if he speaks not a word of this to anyone. He agrees, and on the way home he meets the woman of his dreams (Rae Dawn Chong) who improves his life no end, yet there's still the shadow of the supernatural nagging at the back of his mind which leads up to an unfortunately unsurprising twist. Then it's back to the wraparound story to see if Timmy can get out of his Hansel and Gretel situation, which if you know that fairy tale won't be surprising either. Overall, more or less OK. Ish.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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