“If I let you go, you must swear you'll never say you saw me, never say you heard me speak, never tell anyone how I look, never repeat what I've said. A promise... forever.” - Gargoyle
There certainly have been a good few anthology films among the selection this year – and it’s no surprise that I like that format. It lends itself to a quick gut punch of a story before moving on to the next. If you don’t like one particular segment, then the next one up might suit you better. It’s a format I’m glad to see make a comeback with films like Tales of Halloween and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Tales from the Darkside wasn’t originally on my list this year, but every Friday evening, we have the traditional Friday Night Fright at the house, which consists of a horror movie and a shorter feature. Over the past eighteen months or so, we’ve worked our way through the four seasons of the early to mid-eighties series Tales from the Darkside. It was a horror series, meant to be a bit like The Twilight Zone in format, with a different story and no continuing characters every week.
There were some good stories, but by and large, it was a hit and miss affair. Several of them didn’t work as horror, several more left us wondering what kind of demographic they were aiming for and other times, it really hit its mark. But the show was cancelled in 1986, and this theatrical feature was produced in 1990 and considering the haphazard nature of the show, it’s surprisingly good.
As is the tradition with anthology films, there’s a wraparound story. Here we have a witch living in the suburbs, played by Deborah Harry, preparing to cook a child for a dinner party – and the kid keeps stalling by telling the witch stories from a book.
Lot 249 – Bellingham, an eccentric graduate student (Steve Buscemi), framed with theft that cost him a vital scholarship uses a scroll to animate an Egyptian Mummy to exact his revenge against the couple who set him up. The girl’s brother avenges his sister and his best friend’s murder by destroying the Mummy and the scroll with the life-giving incantation but stops short of killing Bellingham but forces him to leave the university forever.
However – the scroll he destroyed isn’t the one with the incantation, Bellingham still has it, and uses it to summon the corpses of the couple to avenge his exile.
The Cat from Hell – based on a story by Stephen King has a rich recluse hire a hitman to kill a cat reputedly responsible for killing three people, leaving him as the next likely victim. However, the cat isn’t as easy to kill as the hitman imagines.
Lover’s Vow – a drunk and broke artist named Preston sees his friend die at the hands of a winged gargoyle. But as long as he keeps his promise never to tell anyone what he saw, the gargoyle spares Preston.
Later that evening Preston meets Carola (Rae Dawn Chong), they fall in love and his life changes. He becomes successful, Carola becomes pregnant, they have kids. Ten years later, celebrating the anniversary of their chance meeting, Preston tells her of the gargoyle he saw. Big mistake, Carola begins to change into the gargoyle and kills him for breaking his promise.
As the film draws to a close, the kid avoids being cooked by throwing some marbles he had in his pocket at the witch and she falls into the over while he goes free.
All in all, a solid and fast-moving anthology. Satisfying too – I’ve always liked Mummy movies, the Stephen King story involving the cat was surprisingly nasty, but the highlight was the gargoyle.
If only the series had been this consistent.
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