Tales from the Darkside Halloween Triple Feature

Tales from the Darkside ran for 90 episodes over four seasons. Unsurprisingly, given the time and budget limitations, most of them were not so great. But these three seasonally appropriate installments are found in most admirers' top ten lists. Watching them back-to-back will take about 70 minutes, less than the running time of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, and significantly better.

Trick or Treat

The pilot used to sell Darkside was written by George Romero and originally pitched as Creepshow: the Series (Romero was unable to secure the title from the studio). It ran a year in advance of the rest of the episodes, on Halloween Weekend of 1983, which was when I made sure to catch it (based upon a promising five-second network promo). As with most pilots, the writing and production quality is on a higher tier than anything that followed.

The plot is pure Halloween, and wouldn't have been out of place as a story in the excellent 2009 anthology film of the same name. A rich miser who has a whole town in debt offers salvation every year: if a trick-or-treater can find the IOU for his parents hidden in the miser's house, the family's debts would be erased. But the old man is quite the tinkerer, filling his home with a p.a. system and horrific automatons to rattle the kids' nerves. This fine piece of family-friendly entertainment deserved to become an annual Halloween TV tradition, but such was not the case. At least there's youtube.

The Cutty Black Sow

Continuing with the "kids in peril" theme, which I find delightful, is this season four traumatizer. A boy's great-grandmother warns him of a family curse just before she passes on Hallow's Eve. He takes all precautions to protect her soul, but with mixed results.

Halloween Candy

Direction by Tom Savini and some very Creepshow-esque sequences elevate this episode above most of the rest. The lesson seems to be "don't deny candy to trick-or-treaters". It is a lesson I follow grudgingly, especially since the trick-or-treaters who visit our house every year are Filipino teenagers, without costumes, being driven around in SUV's. Not very Halloweeny. But we have to roll with the neighborhood and its customs, and I'm willing to contribute a small part to the spirit of Samhain. It never truly feels like Autumn in Los Angeles anyway, you know? I digress.


The Ending of "Evilspeak"

Evilspeak (1981) largely consists of filler, but when the ending finally comes around, it delivers in spades. The movie made the Video Nasties list in the UK, maybe because of the extreme but cartoon-like violence, or maybe due more to the fact that's it's so righteously Satanic. In fact, Anton Lavey himself was an outspoken fan of the movie.

Slow as it may be, I personally enjoyed the whole feature. This is mostly due to my fascination with Clint Howard, a.k.a. Eaglebauer from Rock and Roll High School. Here he's a gender-reversed Carrie, the pariah of the military academy, the ultimate twerp, loathed by all students and faculty alike, simply for being a pathetic dweeb. Fortunately he's smart enough to program his computer to summon the dark lord Satan to straighten things out.

See the whole uncut thing on youtube here.