Written by John Edward Betancourt
At some point or another in our lives, death touches us all. Whether it be the loss of a beloved family pet, a close friend or a family member we must all face the inherent reality of death and the pain that comes with it. It's a scary venture knowing the end is near for any living creature and let's be honest, many of us fear it.
We are afraid of leaving people behind, of missing out on important moments or perhaps even leaving unfinished business behind on this earth and that fear drives us to do more and be better people. But regardless of that, the desire to never see the end come still resides in all of us and we wish for the opportunity to either avoid death...or resist it altogether and the possibility of what life might look like if we managed to pull that off is explored in the Tales from the Darkside episode "A Case of the Stubborns."
Jody Tolliver and his mother are in the middle of grieving. Jody's beloved grandfather, Titus has passed away and the house is already a lot quieter and somber without him. As they prepare to lay him into the ground and say goodbye however, their grieving process is interrupted when Titus rises from the dead and sits down at the breakfast table like nothing has happened. The reanimated Titus isn't dangerous, just hungry and it immediately raises concerns from his family because well...dead is dead. Titus will have nothing of it however, fully believing that death has not come to him and to top it off his condition cannot be explained by medicine or faith but his resistance to death is putting his family in danger, after all old Titus is rotting away and if something cannot be done soon to get him to rest eternally...the house will be condemned.
First thing we have to get out of the way about this episode...is the fact that Christian Slater is in it, which is freaking awesome. It's always cool to go back and watch old shows like this and see big names before they were big and his acting talent is on display here. Plus there's also a cameo from Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner who happens to play the priest in this episode. It may be a bit part but I'll be damned if Spiner doesn't chew up the scenery and add to the mystique of this wonderfully dark and comedic episode.
But we also have to give credit to the makeup folks as well, since Titus slowly transforms from grandpa to rotting corpse in record time and of course...credit to the show for that simple and creative ending to say the least. I was definitely impressed with how this episode played out and how subtly they handled the matter of having to face one's death. Titus is truly the embodiment of that fear and I think when it comes to the story that deep down he always knew he was dead, he really did just need that little push to finally allow him to fulfill his biological destiny. Truly a great episode and one that I recommend, provided you're not eating dinner when you watch it. Until next time.
Written by Scotty
Taking hunting trips with your family could be nothing new for many people. As my neighbor grabs his kids and heads out once every couple of months, it has become more a tradition than anything else. They all seem to come back in high spirits, even if they do not have a prize to present at the dinner table. Watching as the kids are growing up, one wants to keep it up, while the other is not very happy with the killing of an innocent animal. That's what leaving home and going to college does to some people.
Sean and Mike Neary are ready to get away from their lives and get up to the mountains for a little hunt. Mike even has a special guest along for the ride this time as he is able to convince his wife Wit to come with them. Although she is not really into eating meat, or killing anything innocent, she is a very competitive woman and will do anything she can to win. But there is something different about Wit on this trip as well, since she has a secret to tell her husband when they get some alone time.
Sean seems to be different himself, but Mike is not really paying any attention to it as the booze is flowing without an end in sight. When they finally reach their intended camp site, Sean seems to be preoccupied with Wit and when Mike takes another call from work, he stumbles upon something he does not want to see. Leaving it for the night, Wit and Mike go to bed in their tent, while Sean sleeps under the stars with his dog, but when the group wakes up, they are frightened to what has happened to their camp site. With all of their gear and supplies taken in the night, Mike tries to blame his brother for some sort of prank, but Sean denies it whole heartedly. With his dog missing as well, Sean leads his brother and Wit back to their marker tree to find their way back to the car and heads off on his own to find out who is behind the actions at the camp site.
Preservation follows brothers Sean and Mike, along with Mike’s wife Wit as they have left the city to go on a little hunting excursion. While Mike’s cell phone is attached to his ear for most of the time, Sean gets to know his sister-in-law a little bit better, but before he can make his feelings felt, he finds that they are being targeted by somebody in the woods. With all of their supplies being taken in the dead of night, Sean heads off to find who is behind the prank and find his dog. But what he stumbles upon is something more serious than he could ever imagine. Being sliced in the stomach and knocked out of his hunting blind, time is short for him, and soon his brother Mike will find out what has happened. Being hunted by someone in the woods, Mike tries to keep Wit safe from the attackers, but time is short and there are more than one of the mystery attackers coming after the group. When Wit reaches the top of a peak and tries to call her husband, she finds out that she is the only one left and will have to do everything that she can to survive the onslaught.
This might not be one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, but it does make you wonder if these people do exist in the world. The hunters are seem to have a plan to take out the family that has intruded into their woods, but is it only a game to them? Wit is the strongest and maybe even the luckiest person in the group and is able to confront her attackers, but seems to have a problem when wanting to pull the trigger. I really wish she was a little more aggressive earlier in the film to make her snapping that much more violent, but she did a fine job when needed. I liked how the story continued, as it never really seemed to let up, especially when the attacks started and I will admit that I was shocked by how the attackers used their down time, and how they prepared for their next advances against the Neary family. Stay Scared.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Let's face it, as much as we want to say we live our lives with no regrets...there are definitely choices we have made that we wish we could go back and change. There are relationships we wish we could repair and do right the second time around, pivotal moments we wish we handled differently and for some folks...they wish they could simply hit the reset button for the whole thing and start over again.
But despite the fact we have to live with some of the cards that we have been dealt in life, that doesn't stop us from imagining what could have been and when it comes to Tales from the Darkside, they too felt the need to explore that region of our imagination with the fascinating episode, "The Word Processor of the Gods".
Richard Hagstrom has made do with what life has thrown at him. The woman he truly loved ended up marrying his drunk of a brother. The woman he married in her stead has no love for him and together they raised a child that is as defiant and directionless as they come. To top if off, Richard has seen only nominal success as a writer and well...it is the life he leads. But when his nephew Jonathan dies in a horrible car accident, he leaves behind a hand made word processor for his uncle, one that Richard quickly discovers can change his life in any way he chooses. He can delete the ugly people in his life, and add better ones with the stroke of a key. But he will have to act quickly to improve his life, for every change brings this home made computer one step closer to overload.
Once more the show steers clear of bringing us pure horror and instead presents us of the horror of a life where every wrong turn was taken and every poor decision that could be made by a man...was. Richard is full of regret and I'll be damned if the son he fathered and the wife he married aren't some awful, awful people. It's actually quite a jarring episode thanks to Bruce Davison's performance as Richard where it's clear the man is trying his best to make do with what he has, but is desperate to live a better life.
But none of this works without the source material for this episode. The fact that it stems from a Stephen King short story adds a certain gravitas to the tale since King has always been a master of understanding the real monsters in our world and that's on full display here. In this case, the monster is fear and regret and while this episode does provide us with a happy ending, there's a certain chill than runs down your spine after its done as you know full well...that the monster is still out there, waiting for all of us. Until next time.
Written by Scotty
How far would you go to become famous? This is a question I am sure many people have asked themselves over the years, since there always seems to be the urge in everyone to be in front of the camera. I even wanted to be an actor for a short time in my life, but seeing what some of the elite have been able to do, I have left that dream in the wayside. But it is not always about the talent you have inside of you, but what you are willing to do to get that ever elusive first starring role. If it is placed in front of you at a cost, something that you would not normally do, would you be able to bring yourself to give up on your moral values if it means fame and fortune for you in the future?
Sarah has been trying for some time to get into the acting game, attending classes and going to auditions in her time away from her real job, being a waitress in a potato shack. Nothing has clicked for her, but she is still keeping at it. After her latest audition, Sarah is displeased with her performance since she could not seem to remember her lines and goes home to freak out, but she is not left alone for very long as her roommate Tracy wants to get her mind off of things and takes her out to a party. But before leaving, Sarah spies a listing on the web for an audition for an old popular studio that is casting their next production, Silver Scream. Submitting her application, Sarah heads out to the party and lets her cares disappear for a couple hours.
This feeling does not last long as she is picked on by everyone at the party and she forces herself to leave without saying an unkind word. During her walk home, she gets word from the studio that she has been accepted to audition. Preparing like no other, she is ready to shine for the casting agents, but when she is not able to gauge what they thought of her, she runs to the bathroom and throws a fit. When the casting director comes in and sees this, she asks Sarah back into the room and wants to see the fit being thrown in front of her very eyes. Reluctant, Sarah goes through with it and the agents seem to be impressed with her emotions, but still give her the generic line of calling her back.
Getting a second call back for the part, Sarah has to bare it all for the agents and show how much passion she hides inside. Not ever letting loose like this before, she has a good feeling about what is going to come next and quits her job and banks on getting the role. Being invited to the producer’s office, Sarah knows that she has the part, but he has something else in mind before making her a star. Not willing to give up on her morals, Sarah storms out of the lewd venture and joins her friends once again. Finding out that one of the girls has replaced her in a movie the group was going to shoot and seeing that she is sleeping with the director, Sarah’s mind changes and she knows what it will take to make her dreams come true…but at what cost?
Starry Eyes follows Sarah as she is trying to make a name for herself in the acting game. Having struck out so many times before, she has finally found a horror movie that she can sink her teeth into and wants the role. Finding out what it takes to be famous, especially with the studio leaves a bad taste in her mouth and her stomach turning. But she desires the fame and wants to get away from her so called friends as they all make fun of her and her choices in life. Talking the plunge, Sarah becomes very ill and needs help from someone, but the only people that are willing to give her advice are the ones from the studio. Needing to trust what they say, Sarah joins in on a pact that will change her life forever, but are the costs worth the rewards as she will have to leave her comfort zone once again to become the face of the movie.
This movie almost left me speechless when watching what poor Sarah has to go through and that is probably why I like this movie so much. Knowing that there are things that actors and actresses have to do to appease the studios, I would hope that they never have to go this far. Watching as Sarah transforms into her new self is just an amazing journey and I kind of wish there was more. Her friends never seem to lay off of her and even though they have a place in their hearts for her, they will never let her feel like a part of the group, much less like a person. Getting pushed over the edge is one thing, but making a pact to become something greater than one’s true self is something completely different. Stay Scared!
Written by John Edward Betancourt
There were times in our youth, and quite frankly, a few times in adulthood, where we lay silently in the dark with our hearts beating a mile a minute because we were terrified of something awful hiding within the dark. It's a primal fear that comes to us early in life and one that merely evolves as we age.
It's also one of the many wonderful things about the horror genre, the fact that it will always take us to those primal places that leave us filled with terror before returning us to the safety of our living rooms. But sometimes the genre will cross the line and do such a good job of reminding us of those fears that they stay with us long after the story has ended and one such episode of Tales from the Darkside managed to do that with the bone chilling episode, "Inside the Closet".
Gail Aynsley is a college student looking for something out of the norm. Gail is not a party animal, nor is she prone to staying out late on the weekends. She only desires a quiet place to study for her degree and has found the perfect place to do it. Doctor Fenner, one of the professors on campus, has a room for rent and expects his roommate to be in bed early and remain as quiet as possible. Naturally she takes the room, but as she settles in, a tiny closet in the room begins to garner her attention. After all, it's locked, the key is missing and well...she can hear sounds coming from behind the door. But it doesn't end with the noises, not when she one day finds the door open and the closet empty from the inside. Knowing that something is inside that closet she will stop at nothing to discover what is opening the door and making the noise...and it is a decision she will forever regret.
I distinctly remembered as I settled in to watch this particular episode that this one was one of the first episodes of Tales from the Darkside that I had ever seen so many years ago and that at the time it scared the living hell out of me. Turns out, many years later, it still has the same effect upon me. This is one of the finest episodes of the series and the scares are all thanks to the legendary Tom Savini. Who not only handled the special effects for this episode by building the terrible creature living in the closet, "Lizzie", but also directed the episode.
Tom's keen eye and understanding of tension and terror are on full display here as he surprisingly keeps the monster under wraps long enough to give you tastes of the little beast on screen, leaving our imagination to run wild until those final moments when Lizzie is completely revealed and well...turns out she is worse than we could ever imagine. But I will say, hands down...this was a defining moment for the series. This is the episode that forced everyone to take the series seriously because it managed to take a childhood fear and bring it to life and it did it by pulling out all the stops. This is by far one of my favorites to this day and an episode that truly set the bar for the series. Watch this one with the lights on. Until next time.
Written by Scotty
Going off to college can be a hard thing for many people, since for most of us it is the first time being free and clear of our parents. Having to be our own adults, so many people embrace this freedom and do things that they would have never have done if any family member was around. But there are those people out there that will not change and act as if their parents are still watching over them. These are the people that I have to admire, not changing their morals for anything or anyone and just staying true to who they are.
After spending all summer at home with her grandmother who is battling cancer, Alex has finally made it back to school. Moving into a new rental off campus, Alex, Jessica and Bree are roommates once again and looking to live it up. But Bree has something keeping her from being extremely friendly with Alex since she is sleeping with Alex’s boyfriend on the side. Although this is a secret in the house, Bree is not backing down on her activities, but wants to keep it away from Alex as long as she can.
Alex and Jessica head off to a pre starting school party where they drink too much and have a good time, especially on the way home. Stopping at a fortune teller’s shop, the drunk girls enter and are looking to be entertained, but something goes wrong when the gypsy sees another figure standing behind the ghost of Alex’s mother. Throwing a fit in the shop, Alex does not remember anything that happed that night, but is starting to think that she is going crazy around the house when hearing strange sounds and seeing things that are not there. Not being able to explain what is happening to her, Jessica tries to get her some help from the school’s counselor, but Alex does not want to talk about her troubles for fear of sounding crazy.
Devil Seed follows the story of Alex Froshiber as she is returning to school after a long summer of taking care of her grandma during her fight with cancer. Moving in with her friends, Alex feels at home on campus, but there is something stalking her in the new house. After a gypsy woman tells Alex her future, something invades Alex’s body and she is not able to escape it. As the days go by, Alex begins to doodle in her books, but it becomes more vigorous and she is not able to explain when she did them, much less what the symbols mean. Losing blocks of time, seeing people who are not there and hearing strange sounds around the house, she has to find a reason behind what is happening to her. Looking up demons in the library, Alex is able to identify some things that are happening to her that relate to being possessed, but when she starts receiving symbols in the form of scratches on her body, Jessica has to step in and get her some help. Wanting to help her friend is the only thing on Jessica’s mind, but should she be interfering in something she herself cannot explain?
Just your run of the mill possession movie with a young woman that has never done anything wrong becoming the victim. But being given a little gift from the demon as well, I like how Alex has to battle all of her fears, along with a cheating boyfriend that is jumping down her throat whenever he is in the mood and she pushes him away. Without really trying to delve into the religious aspect of the possession, this movie does a great job showing the journey that Alex has to take and the surprise she has when she finds out what is wrong with her. I kind of liked it, although I wish the demon infecting her was a little bit more violent right from the start, as some of the actions it performs could have been served earlier in the story, to really install the fear into the audience and the roommates. Stay Scared.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Something we most certainly take for granted is our life as a whole. Think about it. We have an endless supply of memories and experiences both good and bad that define everything about us. These things remind us of our childhood and help define the person we are today and they give us an idea of what the future holds.
But what matters more are the people that are part of those moments. After all we are nothing without our friends and family and we are always comfortable and secure in the fact that we exist and share our lives with these people. But what if all the things that make us who we are were to disappear? What would we become if we became invisible if you will? Well thankfully we have Tales from the Darkside to help explore that possibility with one creepy episode, "Slippage".
Richard Hall is a pretty average Joe with little to complain about in life. He has a good job as a graphic designer and potentially a better paying job in the same field on the horizon. He also has a lovely wife that adores him and works hard to make sure he is happy but something is amiss for Richard. People seem to be forgetting about him in pretty big ways and what seems like odd coincidences are suddenly becoming grave concern to Richard and it is only getting worse. His own mother seems to have forgotten about her son and it allows him to realize that sometimes people slip through the cracks of existence and he will have to figure out a way to reverse it...or fade away forever.
Well after the far less depressing "Mookie and Pookie" the show decided it was high time to return to its darker core by bringing us this bleak and disturbing episode as we indeed watch Richard Hall fade from reality before our eyes in impressive fashion. It's one thing to see the simple mistakes that happen in the episode, like his paycheck getting lost, an important file going the wayside. But it's quite another to see his mother completely and utterly forget about him. That's seriously one bone chilling moment and it takes the entire episode into one incredibly dark place for the remainder of the story.
But the real gem of this particular tale is the sheer fact that well...there's no monster to be found in this episode. No creepy hints of the afterlife or death or anything outside of the unknown. We don't know what Richard ever did to deserve being chosen by the universe to completely fade into oblivion, but that is indeed his fate. This is a devastating episode through and through for the show and while the horror here may not be in your face, you feel it as you watch this poor man grasp at a world that no longer wants him around. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I've always found the relationships people have with their family to be fascinating. Simply due to the fact that everyone seems to have such a different experience when it comes to family life. Some families are incredibly close, others cannot seem to stand one another. But regardless of what I have seen in my travels there clearly is a bond that cannot be broken when it comes to family.
Yet there is one bond in family life that I think few of us will ever understand, and that's the closeness that only twins can share. Brothers and sisters that truly know each other from the beginning of their lives seem to understand a connection that is beyond all of us, and surprisingly Tales from the Darkside felt the need to explore that connection in the episode "Mookie and Pookie".
Susan and Kevin are a pair of twins faced with a dilemma. Kevin, who is affectionately known as "Mookie" is terminally ill and spends his days in his room working on endless lines of code on his computer. He knows his time is running out and hopes his sister Susan, a.k.a. "Pookie", can carry on his important work when he is gone. When the dark day arrives Pookie agrees to finish this impressive coding job and quickly immerses herself within the work. Her mother and father are gravely concerned, since it seems this is busy work and is keeping her from dealing with Mookie's death, but Pookie is working on something far more important. The code she is putting together is a chance to communicate with Mookie in the afterlife, but her parents simply do not believe her and attribute her claims to grief. Now it will become a race against time to finish the code and bring Mookie home before mom and dad get rid of the computer and Mookie, forever.
The first big thing you notice when watching this particular episode is the fact that oh yeah, this one sure isn't scary. No monsters, no ploys or plots of revenge, the only tie to "darkness" in this one is death and the afterlife because this is a surprisingly endearing and melancholy episode. It's purely about the loss and the cast, led by the talented Justine Bateman, do a fine job of showing how badly their miss their son/brother and how the possibility of hope of contacting him again can help or hinder the grieving process.
If anything, I give the show credit for going this route. It ends on an uplifting note, wraps everything up neatly and well...shows off that not every single tale involving death requires a horrific monster or demon to show up. However it does take you by surprise when you watch it because...you're waiting for a zombie, let's just be honest. Fact is I'm not sure how I feel about this one yet, I respect it greatly for the fine storytelling yet at the same time it almost feels out of place in this series. Either way, nothing wrong with going bold in television and the episode definitely gets kudos for being just that. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I think it is safe to say that at some point or another we have all gambled in some capacity in our lives. Whether it was a simple bet between friends that ended up in a free lunch for someone, or someone lost a ton of money while at the same time someone else found fortune, gambling eventually touches all of us.
But there are some folks out there where gambling is a way of life. Where every waking moment of the day is about playing the odds and beating them, and when you venture into the world of Tales from the Darkside, the stakes will never be higher as is evidenced in the gripping first season episode, "The Odds".
Tommy Vale has spent his life around gambling. As a bookie for the last thirty years he has never turned down a bet, never been cheated and never been broken. This is a business he knows inside and out and his philosophies have kept him going after all these years. But one night, a bold bettor who places one incredible bet is about to challenge Tom as he has never been challenged before. The mysterious man, Lacey, who claims to be the son of Bill Lacey, a notorious loser in gambling is quite the opposite of his father. He simply cannot lose and as he keeps bleeding Vale dry he offers the old bookie one last chance to reclaim his money...by betting on the exact moment when Tommy will die.
This is the first episode of season one that departs from the freakier side of the show's title to instead give us a hint of horror and a tale of revenge. Yes, I love the fact (Ahem, Spoilers ahead) that Lacey Jr. turns out to be Bill Lacey all along who has returned from the grave to exact his vendetta against the bookie that broke him in this impressive little tale. It's a wonderful twist that turns out to serve the story well when we realize that Tommy knew it was Bill all along and that he simply goes along with the plan to beat the man one more time and its even more impressive to see how Vale keeps his cool over the fact that holy crap, he knows the moment he is going to die thanks to this visitor from the afterlife.
It's not as philosophical as the episodes that came before it, but I'll be damned if I didn't sit on the edge of my seat during this one. I was dying to know how Lacey always won and the cast is what helps sell this tale. Danny Aiello absolutely shines as Tommy Vale and the dry nature of horror icon Tom Noonan works as the perfect foil to Tommy. Watching these two interact on screen is pure magic and the story does help you forget that you're watching a horror show...until the whole ghost thing comes into play of course. But either way, this was a refreshing and creative episode to say the least, and one that demonstrated that good storytelling is the real foundation of this unique series.
Written by Scotty
Just because you are paranoid, does not mean that what you are thinking is not true. There are several people who think they are being followed, or tested on, and when everything is said and done, they were correct, but none of their friends or family believed them until it was too late. It is sad for those people, since they were right all along, but with all of their stories leading up to their last seconds, it seemed too outlandish for everyone to believe. Yes, there are the other people that believe something is coming to get them as well, but nothing ever happens to them, but how are you to know if you are a friend what to believe and what to pass off as someone just being out of their mind?
David is a film archivist and pleased with his job. With his great coworker Claire at his side, he is able to get everything done, quickly and correctly. But David has a life away from his job and a new son that is his foundation. With his wife Alice, the two are living the dream in their new house, but Alice has been working extra late at nights and is starting to drive David crazy. Not being able to prove that she is not having an affair and not even wanting to think about it, David sees her at a party with another man who seems to be a little bit too touchy with her and begs for her to come home early and be with him.
At work David has uncovered an old murder investigation that took place in his house many years ago. Wanting to share the information with his wife could make them change their minds about living there, but Alice will not give up her time to listen to him. Going out late with one of her clients, David follows his wife and confirms his suspicion of her cheating on him. Not saying a word and walking away, David heads home to gather his thoughts, but has to stop at the public toilets when getting sick. Hearing someone outside of the stall, David is frightened out of his mind and tries to crawl out, but when he reaches the entrance, he sees his wife being thrown into the canal. Thinking he imagined the heinous act, Alice does not come home the next day and David is forced to call the police to help find her.
The Canal follows David and his son Billy as they are trying to get by when wife and mother Alice vanishes. Although David had witnessed what happened to her, he keeps quiet towards the police and lets them do their jobs. When her body is recovered from the canal, David fears that someone much more sinister murdered his wife and becomes obsessed with a story of murder that took place in his house many years prior. Watching the footage from a murder investigation and making it his own, David is convinced that there is a stranger or ghost roaming his halls, but being as outlandish as it seems, David is not willing to let the cops in on what he knows just yet. With his son’s wellbeing being his number one priority, David has to prove his innocence by passing on his films and proving that there is someone other than himself responsible for the terrible act that took place in the canal.
This movie plays on sights and sounds more than it plays with conventional scares. When David starts to see things in the old films that were taken around his house, he decides to make his own to prove that there is someone still there. Although he sees what is happening, nobody else seems to see it, but that does not detour him from feeling that he and his son's life are not in danger. With plenty of jump cuts in the films, you never really get to see the full story unwrapping in them, but the movie itself does make sure that you get to see the memories of it. I enjoyed watching as David falls into madness over the way his life is going, and not being able to depend on his friends or family to see what he does and prove that he did nothing wrong. Stay Scared.