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Film / Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

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A horror Anthology Film based on Tales from the Darkside television series, released 1990.

In the film's Framing Device, Betty, a modern day witch, has captured a little boy named Timmy in order to cook him and serve him at a dinner party for her fellow witches. Timmy stalls her by reading three tales from the favourite book of her childhood: Tales from the Darkside.

  1. Lot 249: Nerdy college student Edward Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is a collector and seller of antiques and artifacts. Bellingham was also recently cheated out of a chance to win a spot in a fellowship by a duo of students. The winner, Lee Monckton, ended up winning when his girlfriend Susan wrote his essay for him and left an anonymous tip framing Bellingham for stealing a precious artifact from the campus museum. He also discovers one of his latest purchases, the eponymous Lot 249, is actually an ancient Egyptian mummy. Edward also discovers a scroll hidden inside an incision in the mummy's body that contains has a spell to reanimate the dead. Using this knowledge to his disposal, Edward brings the mummy to life and commands it to enact vengeance on those who have wronged him. Eventually, Andy (Christian Slater), Susan's brother and Lee's best friend, discovers what's happened to the others and attempts to put a stop to it. Based on a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle.
  2. Cat from Hell: Drogan (William Hickey), a wealthy pharmaceutical magnate, hires a hitman, Halston (David Johansen), to kill a rather bizarre target: a black cat. Drogan tells Halston that he believes this particular cat is murderously evil. He explains that for the past few nights, at midnight, the cat had previously murdered the other occupants of his house: his sister Amanda (who the cat caused to trip and fall down the stairs), her friend Carolyn (who the cat ended up smothering in bed), and his butler Dick (the cat having slashed his face and causing him to crash his car). Drogan now believes that the cat is to kill him next, theorizing it has been sent to exact revenge after his company previously tested an experimental medication on 5,000 cats, all of them having died. Despite finding his story ridiculous, Halston agrees to murder the cat when Drogan offers him $100,000. Soon after, Halston goes hunting for the cat, which manages to evade and/or attack him at every turn. Eventually, he discovers that the cat is no ordinary feline, leading to the downfall of both him and Drogan. Based on a short story by Stephen King; with script by George A. Romero.
  3. Lover's Vow: In New York, a struggling artist named Preston (James Remar) meets his agent Wyatt at a bar. Wyatt tells him that his art isn't selling and cuts him loose. After watching Preston drown his sorrows, Jer, a friend of his, offers to walk him home. While relieving himself, Preston witnesses Jer being decapitated by a monstrous gargoyle. When the gargoyle corners Preston, it agrees to spare him as long as he vows never to tell anyone what he saw the creature do or what it looks like. Shortly after the encounter, Preston encounters a beautiful woman named Carola (Rae Dawn Chong). Still fearing for his life, he brings Carola to his apartment, and the two begin to form a relationship. 10 years later, Preston and Carola have started a family, and Preston's artwork has become wildly successful thanks to his inspiration from the gargoyle and Carola's connections in the art world. But despite all of his success, Preston's vow still weighs heavily upon him, and he doesn't know how much longer he'll be able to keep it. Based on the legend of Yuki-onna from Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan.

The film in general:

  • Bloodier and Gorier: The movie didn't have to worry about broadcast rules.
  • The Film of the Series: Not only that...
    • Title Drop: We have the book Timmy reads from actually being called "Tales from the Darkside", making this the only time the title had any relevance in the series proper.
  • Grand Finale: Ignoring the attempts at a reboot, including the IDW miniseries, this is currently the official end of the Darkside franchise.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Creepshow and Creepshow 2. Considering on how the television series was initially pitched as a spinoff to Creepshow, it isn't much of a stretch.
    • In fact, Tom Savini has gone on record to state that this is the real Creepshow 3, unlike the In Name Only one that came out 16 years later.


Lot 249

  • Antagonist Title: The mummy is referred to as Lot 249, taken from its auction number.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Andy saws off the mummy's leg and snaps off its arm before killing it for good.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Bellingham ultimately gets the last laugh, an Adaptational Alternate Ending of the original story where he was defeated.
  • Bound and Gagged: Andy ties Bellingham to a chair and gags him with duct tape while he tortures him to find out the secret of Lot 249.
  • Cassandra Truth: Discussed: in the middle of dealing with the mummy, Andy assures Bellingham that he won't call the cops over this, as there is no way they would believe him.
  • Groin Attack: Andy threatens to roast Bellingham's nuts when he has him tied to a chair.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The mummy kills Lee by removing his brain through his nostrils with a coathanger.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: In exchange for letting him live, Andy demands that Bellingham give him the scroll he used to bring the mummy to life, which he gives, leading to Andy burning it. But as he's leaving the school in a taxi, Bellingham begins laughing to himself, annoying the cabbie:
    Cabbie: Hey, man, what's so fucking funny?!
    Bellingham: (while reading from a scroll) I was just thinking of this guy I know... Couldn't distinguish a Third Dynasty sacred scroll from a piece of post-Alexandrian pictogram porn...
  • Lodged-Blade Recycling: Susan stabs the mummy with a pair of scissors. The mummy then pulls the scissors out and uses them to rip open Susan's back.
  • Mummy: An Egyptian one.
  • Neck Lift: The mummy has one hand holding Lee against a wall several inches off the floor, while the other hand has the aforementioned coathanger.
  • Reality Ensues: The mummy being thousands of years old means that its body is widely open for vulnerability. Andy takes full advantage of this during the final portion of the segment, dismembering the mummy with a battery-powered carving knife.
  • No-Sell: Upon seeing the mummy approach him, instead of freaking out, Andy instantly drops down to the floor to saw its leg off with the turkey cutter. He doesn't even view the mummy as a threat, letting out a chuckle upon seeing it climb onto Bellingham before going for the mummy's head.
  • Off with His Head!: Andy kills the mummy by decapitating it, and placing its head on the fireplace.
  • Shear Menace: Susan stabs the mummy with a pair of scissors. The mummy then pulls a Lodged-Blade Recycling and uses the scissors to rip open Susan's back.
  • Shout-Out: Bellingham says that he lost the Penrose Fellowship after being accused of stealing a "Zuni fetish." This is a shout-out to Trilogy of Terror, another horror Anthology Film.

Cat from Hell

  • Animal Testing: Drogan believes that the cat has come to make him pay for the thousands of dead cats that were tested with his drug.
  • As You Know: Halston reminds Drogan about his business to provide exposition to audience.
  • Attack the Mouth: Halston is killed by the cat leaping into his mouth, and then the cat goes far enough down Halston's throat to cause him to choke to death.
  • Black Comedy: A cartoonish insertion noise can be heard as the cat enters Halston's mouth.
  • Body Horror: Just wait until you see what that darn cat does at the end.
  • Cats Are Mean: Or just this one cat, seeking revenge.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Johansen just hams up the part. He keeps chewing the scenery even when the cat is crawling in Halston's mouth.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The cat not only goes after some people who made millions on a drug that was fatally tested on thousands of cats, but also a servant who merely happened to work for them. In fairness, Drogan sent said servant to take the cat out and kill it.
  • Eat the Camera: When the cat leaps into Halston's mouth, it's done with a shot of the camera going right at Halston's face.
  • Eldritch Abomination: If it wasn't obvious from the vignette's title and backstory that the cat is no ordinary feline, it certainly is by the time the cat is shrugging off .44 slugs and crawling down a man's esophagus to kill him.
  • Groin Attack: At one point the cat attacks Halston and claws through the bottom of his pants, only centimeters away from where his crotch is.
  • More Dakka: Growing frustrated with the cat, Halston picks up the biggest gun from his suitcase to finish it off.
  • Orifice Evacuation: When Drogan returns home to see if Halston has succeeded, the cat removes itself from Halston's corpse though the mouth it came in, causing Drogan to have a heart attack.
  • Orifice Invasion: After the cat leaps into Halston's mouth and kills him, the cat forces itself all the way into Halston's body through his throat. It spends the night resting in Halston's torso.
  • Professional Killer: Halston is a hitman.
  • Staircase Tumble: The cat kills trips Amanda as she is going downstairs, causing her fall and break her neck.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Halston makes several failed attempts to catch the cat before considering simply using one of the guns in his case. He finally does get fed up enough to go straight for his Hand Cannon, only to have the bullet harmlessly pass through the cat.

Lover's Vow

  • Adult Fear: There's little other way to characterize a story where the main character is a barely-employed entrepreneur on the verge of starvation. Or where the protagonist's wife leaves him and takes their children with her, even if in this case it's for supernatural reasons rather than divorce.
    • Considering the manner in which she "divorces" him, he'd probably have preferred the legal way.
  • Cradling Your Kill: The gargoyle enfolds/cradles her husband in her bat-like wings and bites him on the neck, laying him gently on the ground as he bleeds to death. She then howls in remorse.
  • Deal with the Devil: Heavily implied. Carola the gargoyle had to force Preston to make a deal with her not to tell anyone about her form; just so she could become a living, breathing human and start a family with Preston without him knowing of her past life. It wears off once he breaks his deal and consequently curses their children genetically to become gargoyles alongside her.
  • Downer Ending: It turns out that Carola was actually the gargoyle, and Preston inadvertently broke his promise in telling her, so he is killed.
    • Made even worse by the fact that Carola's and Preston's children have been transformed into gargoyles too as a result of the broken promise. Their enriching normal human childhood has been robbed without warning by whatever deal Carola made to gain her humanity in the first place; and now they are forced to spend possibly eternity with their mother in stone sleep in a never-ending state of emotional agony.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Carola the gargoyle wanted to live as a a normal human being and start a family with Preston. All she had to do was force Preston into a deal where he would never reveal anything about her gargoyle form and she would stay as a human. The transformation she suffers from human to gargoyle is about as painful for her to endure as it is uncomfortable for the viewer to watch, and even she admits to Preston that her and their children losing their ability to remain humans is not her choice.
  • Loophole Abuse: Inverted: as it turns out, telling the gargoyle about the gargoyle still counts as telling anyone about the gargoyle. And in Carola's case, her children have been genetically cursed to suffer the same fate she does.
  • Loose Lips: It takes years, but Preston in the end can't let go of the guilt of seeing someone get killed by a monster unless he tells someone. Just his luck that it would be to the one person most likely to get upset about him breaking his promise...
  • Magically Binding Contract: The way the gargoyle acts implies that her deal with Preston (and thus the deal she made to gain her humanity) was this trope: she doesn't want to kill him, but because he broke his promise, she has to.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: Not just a stony beast, it can also turn into a human... ...if it makes a deal to do so with its beloved one never revealing anything about its past.
  • The Reveal: After Preston tells Carola about his encounter with the gargoyle, she reveals that she is the gargoyle in question.
  • Spoiler Title: No points for guessing how.
  • Taken for Granite: In the end, the gargoyle places itself on a roof and turns into stone.

The wraparound story

  • Asshole Victim: Betty, considering what she planned to do to Timmy.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: After killing Betty, Timmy turns to the audience, eats a cookie and proclaims how he loves happy endings.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Betty always talks to Timmy in a calm manner and doesn't even raise her voice at him once even though it's clear she's realizing he's stalling for time reading from the book and starting to get annoyed by it, and all while she's preparing to cook him alive.
  • Homage: To Hansel and Gretel, just with no Gretel.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Betty is fattening Timmy up to eat him.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: While the other stories all end in a Downer Ending, the wraparound segment winds up being a case of Earn Your Happy Ending as Timmy is able to escape being eaten.
  • Murder by Cremation: Timmy kills Betty when he pushes her into her own oven.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Astute viewers may notice that neither Betty nor Timmy use the word "witch" in their conversation. Of course, it is strongly implied by the broomstick leaning against the wall in the first scene and the fact that Betty is planning to throw Timmy in her oven.
  • Slippery Skid: Timmy throws marbles to cell floor to make Betty trip.

Alternative Title(s): Tales From The Darkside


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