Review: Tales From the Darkside – Season Four / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Various / Release Date: Out Now
It's a sad fact of life that some things don't age too well. For every Star Trek or Batman: The Animated Series, there's a Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 1) or Tales From the Darkside. While they both have their kitsch charms, neither holds up particularly well in this High Definition day and age.
Admittedly, there is some fun in seeing actors such as Debbie Harry (Blondie!) camp it up in silly stories about witches, mummies and devil dwarves. In the episode Moth, Harry plays a malicious dying witch who attempts to resurrect herself using only a book of spells and a moth. As her own mother battles to stop her evil daughter's return to life, a particularly daft battle of wills commences. It's made all the better thanks to Harry's bizarre turn as witch Sybil. It says a lot for the quality of the series that Moth is one of the best episodes of season four.
With the legendary George Romero producing, and big names such as Clive Barker and Stephen King lending their work for adaptation, Tales From the Darkside sounds like a guaranteed horror hit. But as anyone who has seen a season two episode of Masters of Horror will attest, even the mighty can fall. Barker's The Yattering and Jack is a solid idea (it worked fine as part of his Books of Blood, and the comic book adaptation is cool too) but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Phil Fondacaro looks utterly ridiculous as the Yattering and the episode is all but lost by the time a turkey starts dancing atop Jack's Christmas tree. Stephen King's Sorry, Right Number fares much better, being the best episode of the lot.
Far too much of the series relies upon really bad comedy. Despite a genuinely impressive looking Mummy, The Grave Robber is tremendously bad, depicting a game of strip poker between a pair of tomb raiders and a lonely mummy. The ending is predictable, the jokes atrocious. But this pales into insignificance next to Seymourlama, which is easily the worst thing in the collection. The ending did bring us some joy though, with teenage Semour's parents converging upon their son, about to hospitalise the poor brat.
Tales From the Darkside: Season Four is a very mixed bag. For every Sorry, Right Number there's at least four or five forced and unfunny episodes. It's much less scary than it should be, even lacking in decent twists or memorable shocks. There are highlights, and it's definitely amusing on an ironic level, but these tales could surely have been a little more on the dark side.