Creepshow Inspired Horror Anthology

Viewed by many as a sequel to Creepshow in spirit, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie vaults the successful television horror series from the 1980s into a feature-length anthology film. Based upon stories by Stephen King (Pet Sematary), Michael McDowell (Beetlejuice), George Romero (Dawn Of The Dead) and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), the creepy anthology weaves three different tales of terror around a fourth mini-tale starring Deborah Harry of Blondie.

Released in 1990, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie hoped to ride the wave of popular horror anthologies that became a staple in the 1980s, starting with Twilight Zone: The Movie and Creepshow. Put together by director John Harrison and horror legend George Romero, the anthology features killer effects and make-up work by the iconic KNB EFX Group doing some of their best work.  A fearsome mummy is resurrected and an evil cat gruesomely disembowels its victim in viscerally chilling scenes. Great stuff for gore hounds, backed with mostly haunting tales of the macabre. There’s nothing particularly original in the genre rehash but horror fans shouldn’t miss out.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie has an interesting cast with a litany of prominent names spread across its different segments. Christian Slater, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, James Remar, Deborah Harry and Rae Dawn Chong are all key players in the cast. Esteemed character actor William Hickey gives a delightfully twisted performance as a dying rich man in “Cat From Hell.”

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie hoped to ride the wave of popular horror anthologies that became a staple in the 1980s

The three segments are all very different slices of horror told with a pitch-black sense of humor and positively gruesome special effects. In “Lot 249,” a nerdy grad student perfectly played by Steve Buscemi gets revenge on preppy rivals with the help of a mummy. Based on a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this bloody segment also stars Christian Slater and Julianne Moore.

“Cat From Hell” is loosely based on a Stephen King story that is as funny as it is frightening. A dying man hires a hitman to assassinate a creepy black feline that has been terrorizing his family and friends. The stylishly shot segment has a campy vibe punctuated by the bloodiest effects possible.

Lastly, struggling artist Preston (James Remar) sees a stone gargoyle come to life and kill one of his friends in “Lover’s Vow.” The gigantic creature is willing to spare Preston’s life if he promises never to mention this incident again. The bizarre promise is threatened when Preston soon meets the love of his life, a mysterious woman played by Rae Dawn Chong.

Deborah Harry plays a modern witch on the verge of baking a young boy in her oven when the boy begins reading horror stories to her in hopes of stalling. This tale serves as the framing device for the other three segments.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a successfully entertaining horror anthology in the vein of Creepshow. Each part offers something different with a unique flavor, bolstered by monstrously creepy special effects and prosthetic make-up. Excellent casting with an eye for talent and three genuinely suspenseful segments make for a killer movie. Making the jump from the small screen with capable performances and more lavish theatrical storytelling, the movie has become an underrated cult classic over the years.

Video

Stylishly directed by John Harrison and filmed with panache by cinematographer Robert Draper, each segment of the anthology looks different. Scream Factory has licensed Tales from the Darkside: The Movie from Paramount.

It is unclear when and where this HD film transfer was struck. Nevertheless, Scream Factory serves up a fine presentation that should please fans. My sources indicate this is an older film scan taken from the negative, likely struck at 2K resolution.

While a brand-new 4K transfer would have been wonderful, the 1990 horror movie looks fairly good on Blu-ray with this older transfer from Paramount. If there are issues, they mostly lie in the antiquated color grading that could use a little sprucing by digital tools.

There are substantial benefits to the picture quality seen in the film’s proper 1.85:1 presentation. Solid definition and sharper details pull out new clarity only possible with a quality film transfer. The film elements are in clean condition with no visible damage. Grain management is reasonably satisfying. There may be a hint of extraneous processing but ringing is kept under wraps.

Contrast varies depending on the color temperature and brightness of each segment. The Debbie Harry framing narrative receives perky lighting and a well-saturated palette. “Cat From Hell” is bathed in crushed black levels and exotic color filters. “Lover’s Vow” has a consistently darker and Gothic tone.

Audio

Mixed in surround for DVD once upon a time, that same mix gets upgraded to a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack on BD. It is serviceable audio that plays up the spookier scenes with atmospheric cues and a haunting underscore. Light on bass, dialogue is cleanly rendered without getting lost in the wider soundstage. Sonic imaging is mildly limited without clear separation, relying on straightforward audio design befitting a b-movie made in the 1990s. The audio plays up the movie’s campier frights in mostly fun ways.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

The nice thing about Scream Factory’s collector’s edition is this is the first Blu-ray for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Fans get a whole new roster of bonus features and the original audio commentary by director John Harrison and co-screenwriter George Romero pulled from the DVD. That makes Paramount’s original DVD edition completely obsolete.

Scream Factory provides their usual reversible cover art in a standard Blu-ray case. A slipcover is available in early pressings. The BD is coded for Region A. A limited edition poster was available on pre-orders that is now sold out.

The big lure is Tales Behind the Darkside: The Making of Four Ghoulish Fables, a feature-length documentary broken up into six manageable chapters. Scream Factory goes the extra mile in this excellent break-down of the movie’s history and production. It’s a well-rounded look behind the scenes and takes a deep dive into everything from casting to VFX.

The all-new, in-depth documentary includes comments from director John Harrison, producer Mitchell Galin, director of photography Robert Draper, production designer Ruth Ammon, special make-up & creature effects artists Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, creature performer Michael Deak, actors James Remar and Rae Dawn Chong and editor Harry B. Miller. Each segment of the anthology is covered separately in its own featurette.

Audio Commentary #1 – Co-producer David R. Kappes gives a newly recorded commentary that touches upon various aspects of production. Michael Felsher moderates, diving into some of the other films Kappes has worked on in his career.

Audio Commentary #2 – Originally recorded for the DVD back in 2000, director John Harrison and co-writer George A. Romero discuss the anthology’s finer points.

Chapter One: Tales Behind the Darkside: From Small Screens to Big Screams (16:20 in HD)

Chapter Two: Rising Stars and the Walking Dead (17:41 in HD)

Chapter Three: That Damn Cat! (16:51 in HD)

Chapter Four: A Vow to Keep (25:42 in HD)

Chapter Five: The Order of Things (14:02 in HD)

Chapter Six: The Test of Time (13:11 in HD)

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie Theatrical Trailer (01:57 in HD)

Behind The Scenes Footage (11:05 in SD) – A compilation of make-up tests made by KNB for effects.

Image Gallery (03:59 in HD)

KNB Gallery (04:09 in HD)

Radio Spots (01:35)

TV Spots (01:06 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

The cult television series hits the big screen with a pleasing anthology of three frightening and gruesome tales, from names such as Stephen King, George Romero, and Michael McDowell.

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