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Series / Tales from the Darkside

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"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality.
But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld —
a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit... A DARKSIDE."

Tales from the Darkside is an anthology TV series from The '80s produced by George A. Romero. Similar to The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, The Outer Limits and Tales from the Crypt, each episode was an individual short story that ended with a plot twist. Unlike these other series, Tales from the Darkside centered mostly on horror stories. However, some episodes would more likely be considered science fiction or fantasy-based, and other episodes were more comical and light-hearted in tone. It's also known for its Cruel Twist Endings.

After a one-off pilot aired in 1983, the series was picked up for First-Run Syndication from 1984 to 1988. In 1990, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (whose distributor Paramount acquired the rights to the TV series in 1999) was released.

On February 21, 2016 the plans for a television reboot of the series were adapted to a four issue comic book miniseries authored by Joe Hill, illustreated by Gabriel Rodriguez and published by IDW; the first issue of which was released in June. The comic depicted an anthology of supernaturally ironic horror stories, much like the series, only this time loosely connected by the presence of a Reality Warper with unstable powers and a split personality. The second and third issues of the series detailed his backstory as world-building. While only slated for four issues, both Hill and IDW were open to expanding into a regular comic series if it was well received. It was not.

Tropes in this series:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: The plot of "A Case of the Stubborns" is built upon this: Grandpa died, but he wakes up the next day regardless, and outright refuses to believe he's dead.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The couple in "Anniversary Dinner" who kill and then eat their guest in a soup. They continue acting like sane people while doing so.
    • The mailman in "Do Not Open This Box" could count as this. He gets along with the nicer of the two couples, offers him his heart's desire for not being greedy, and when it's revealed he's a demon whose been sent to pick up a soul rather than deliver it, he mentions it as though he were your everyday mailman picking up a package. And let's not forget, when he takes Ruth's soul, he consoles the mortified Ruth it won't hurt a bit.
    • The Mummy in "The Graverobber." Throughout the entire game up until his victory, he is very polite, even joking around with his opponent.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In "I Can't Help Saying Goodbye", Max's death is harsh for a man whose only crime was being afraid of a Creepy Child. It's depressing to watch as he painfully and slowly loses his ability to breathe from his asthma attack, with the color fading from his face as he Dies Wide Open, his last words begging not to die as his wife watches.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: The twist to "Distant Signals": Smith was an alien, whose planet was 20 light years away and only now got the broadcast of "Max Paradise", hence why he came to Earth (his people were upset it had no ending).
  • All Men Are Perverts: Arnold in "Fear of Floating" slept with a girl, ditched her after getting her pregnant, and after agreeing to marry her, immediately makes moves on another girl.
  • The Alleged Computer: Subverted in "The Word Processor of the Gods". Writer Richard Hagstrom receives a homemade word processor from his nephew Jonathan. The machine struggles with mundane text processing, but when it's commanded to rewrite Richard's life, the results are astounding. Especially with the last change Richard types up before it finally breaks down in flames.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The ringleader of "The Circus" is not exactly an overtly evil villain. Although his showcase includes a lot of gruesome monsters and animal deaths, he truly believes his circus is entertaining to fans. Possibly justified, since he runs a "Circus of Fear."
  • Ambiguously Gay: Andrea in "Dream Girl" has the stereotypical appearance of a butch lesbian and hates the idea of men checking her out. Given the time the show was on this may have been intentional.
  • Ambiguous Situation: During the first scene of "Hush", it's all but stated that Mrs. Warren is having an affair: She's on the phone with someone, talking about going out to dinner, she tells Jennifer she's going to a reception at the high school (even though Jennifer claims that was on Thursday), and she mentions that "Mr. Scott" was giving her a lift. And given how Mrs. Warren's only other scene in the episode is when she gets killed, we never learn the truth.
  • Ambition Is Evil: The protagonist of "The Social Climber" wants to become rich and powerful, but has no desire to work for it at all.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The end of "A Choice of Dreams", a mobster is forced to relive the suffering he caused his victims, over and over, forever.
    • The end of "Levitation". Just imagine... having the levitation trick done on you... only for the magician to have a heart attack, and can't bring you down... and prevent you from floating into the sky...
    • Implied with "The Geezenstacks": the family is seemingly sucked into the dollhouse.
    • The reporter in "The Circus" is turned into a zombie.
    • Anyone stuck in "The Last Car", which is implied to be a train of the dead.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: A rather unorthodox example, but the jerkass reporter in "The Circus" has his head ripped off and reattached to a reanimated husk, forced to entertain in a freak show forever.
    • Inverted in "A Case of the Stubborns"—Grandpa Titus begins the episode as a sentient zombie who refuses to believe he's dead. The plot involves his frustrated family trying to convince him to stop being "alive."
  • Antagonistic Offspring: The evil witch in "Baker's Dozen" tracked down her father who abandoned her and her mother for being witches and enslaved him as an assistant in her bakery. She regularly transforms him into a mouse in an implicitly painful process to punish him but mostly for kicks.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: "Love Hungry" has this Played for Horror. A "revolutionary weight loss system" consists of a hearing aid and glasses that cause the woman who wears them to perceive (ordinary, inanimate) food as alive and desperate not to be eaten. And they don't come off...
  • Artificial Afterlife: In the episode "A Choice of Dreams", Jake Corelli is a mobster with terminal cancer. A strange scientist comes to him and offers him a way to cheat death by keeping his brain alive after his body dies and experiencing pleasant dreams forever for ten million dollars. Corelli accepts, but the scientist changes the dreams he gives Corelli, and instead he is forced to relive the pain of his victims for all eternity.
  • Artistic License – History: "Florence Bravo" is set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and involves a married couple moving into the same house where Florence Bravo murdered her husband... even though said murder occured in Englandnote .
  • Aside Glance:
  • Asshole Victim: Timmy's stepdad from "Monster in My Room." If there is a character the show doesn't want you to feel sympathy towards, when they get whats coming to 'em, then they usually fall under this category.
  • Back from the Dead: An interesting case in "Let the Games Begin": in order to settle who gets Harry's soul, the angel (in the form of Harry's best friend) and the devil (in the form of Harry's sister-in-law) resurrect his corpse in order to have him choose.
    • Grampa Titus gets this treatment in "A Case of the Stubborns"—after passing away of a heart attack, he gets up the next morning and tries to go about his daily routine.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In a horror series this trope is expected.
  • Bad Liar: Arnold in "Fear of Floating," makes up the poorest lies ever when he's on the spot.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At first, near the end of "Inside the Closet", you assume that Dr. Fenner is the next to be killed by the monster. As it happens, it's his daughter.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The episode "The Milkman Cometh" features a mysterious figure whose silhouette is shaped like a milkman granting wishes of anyone who leaves a note for him. The main character of the episode, a struggling father, begins to take advantage of the wishes despite his family and others who had their wishes backfire begging him to stop. At the end of the episode, he begs to the silhouetted figure to grant him a second child. While his face isn't shown to the viewer it's revealed that the Milkman isn't human and that the second child was conceived because the Milkman raped the wife.
  • Bears Are Bad News: There are two major antagonists in "Ursa Minor": the teddy bear, and the bearskin rug.
  • Benevolent Boss: Out of everyone, Satan is this in "Red Leader". He genuinely offers the protagonist a chance to become The Dragon of his evil forces.
  • The Bet: "The Odds" revolves around a mysterious stranger betting that his bookie will die by the end of the day. The bookie accepts the bet, thinking he'll win. He makes it through the day, but dies minutes after winning.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Baker's Dozen". Henry winds up being crushed to death when his wife crumples up the last cookienote  Ruby Cuzzins gave him, assuming it's from a mistress, and Ruby once again turns her assistant, Aloysius, into a rat... But, due to Aloysius stealing a cookie from the titular baker's dozen made for Henry, he at least has something to eatnote .
    • "Hush" ends with Jennifer managing to get the Noise Eater to kill itself, saving both her and Buddy's lives in the process. However, before this could happen, the Noise Eater managed to kill Buddy's dog, bird, and mom.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • In "I Can't Help But Say Goodbye," Karen can predict when someone dies, most of the victims being people who are close to her.
    • In "Fear of Floating," Arnold begins floating uncontrollably whenever he lies.
  • Book Ends: "Fear of Floating" starts and ends with Arnold floating into a ceiling fan. The only difference is that he's pulled down before reaching the blades the first time.
    • The first and last episodes (not counting the pilot) have Vic Tayback making appearances.
  • Boring, but Practical: In "A Case of the Stubborns," every medical, religious, and philosophical attempt to convince Grandpa Tolliver that he's dead fails, so Jody goes to see a "conjure woman" for some magical assistance. After hearing about the problem, she offers a rather mundane solution—a satchel full of strong black pepper. Ma Tolliver is unimpressed, but the pepper does the trick when it makes Grandpa sneeze his own nose off, which finally convinces him that he's dead.
  • Bottle Episode:
    • "No Strings", which consists of five characters (one of whom is dead sort-of), one puppet, and one set (a storage room, where a puppet stage has been set up).
    • In "Answer Me", we focus on one character dealing with a haunted telephone in an apartment room and a boarded up apartment next-door with the phone.
    • "Fear of Floating" takes place entirely within an army recruiting office on a hot summer day and features two army recruiters, a man with the ability to float, the girl he knocked up and ditched, and her dad. There's even a death by ceiling fan, but all we see of it it the blood spray.
    • “The Devil’s Advocate” takes place entirely within a broadcast booth at a talk radio station, has two characters (not counting the voiceovers) and takes place over a night.
    • “The Odds” has seven characters and is set entirely at a local bar.
  • Brain Uploading: The protagonist's deceased brother in "Mookie and Pookie" uploaded his soul into a computer to live on. However, she has to prove it to her parents in order to keep him alive or else they're going to sell the computer.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Although it's hard to tell upon first viewing it, the hairdresser Anne MacColl definitely does this at the end of "Snip, Snip", when mentioning to her latest client one of her new headpieces (which is actually Abe North turned into one)
    Annie: (looking directly into the camera) I got this new one here I've been dying to try out...
  • Breather Episode: "Distant Signals", which deals with a mysterious investor (later revealed to be an alien) getting the director of an unpopular detective Cut Short 1960s series called "Max Paradise" to film the last episodes. Really, that's as far as this episode gets in terms of conflict, getting those episodes made.
    • "A Case of the Stubborns" also qualifies: it's largely a comic piece, and while a few people are shocked by Grandpa Titus's return from the dead, they aren't scared or upset — in fact, they're mostly annoyed at how bullheaded he's being about the whole situation. Grandpa himself also doesn't have a mean bone in his (decaying) body, and promises that he'll go to his eternal rest if anyone can prove that he's actually deceased. When his grandson manages to do just that, he keeps his end of the bargain and goes to his deathbed without a fuss.
  • Bullying the Dragon: "A New Lease on Life" has Fenton spite his landlady's warnings about contributing his share to the living building by feeding it broken plates, cleaner fluids, and lighter fluids. He is eaten in response.
  • Cartwright Curse: "The Casavin Curse" forces anyone to kill their lover.
  • Cassandra Truth: Roberts in "Everybody Needs a Little Love" tells the cops that a Murderous Mannequin killed his buddy. Naturally, no one believes him. To rub salt in the wound, the mannequin is there watching him in the end of the episode.
  • Chair Reveal:
    • Inverted at the end of "Mary, Mary": David is trying to talk to Mary, but she isn't responding. So, he turns her around, revealing she's now a mannequin.
    • Similarly, after regaining consciousness from being knocked out in "Everybody Needs a Little Love", Roberts notices that Curtis is sitting in a chair with his back to him. Upon reaching him, he spins the chair around, revealing that Curtis was stabbed to death.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The thirteenth cookie from the titular "Baker's Dozen". Specifically, the fact that Hogan never got it.
    • The doorbell in "Effect and Cause". Specifically, that it sparks.
    • The ceiling fan in "Fear of Floating".
    • Upon arriving to babysit Buddy in "Hush", Jennifer finds a screwdriver wedged between some couch cushions.
  • Chess with Death: "The Grave Robbers" challenge the mummy to a game of poker in exchange for their freedom.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "Seasons of Belief" from season 3: two parents decide to tell their children a delightful story about the Grither, a monster that will come from the North Pole and kill those who dare speak its name. Guess the punchline.
    • The Yattering and Jack from season 4: A demon is tormenting one Jack Polo, who is seemingly unaware of his existence.
  • Circus Episode: In "The Circus", an investigative journalist who enjoys debunking tales of the strange and bizarre investigates a circus that offers monsters on display.
  • Circus of Fear: "The Circus", aptly enough. The ringmaster thinks it fulfills a purpose, though, and isn't happy about the jerkass reporter threatening to shut them down.
  • Collector of the Strange: The Tear Collector is about a man who, well... collects tears from people.
  • Compulsive Liar: Arnold from "Fear of Floating" can never be honest. His constant lying is what eventually gets him killed.
  • Cooking the Live Meal: In the episode "Anniversary Dinner", a young woman on the run from her abusive boyfriend takes shelter with an older couple. They invite her to relax in their hot tub with a glass of wine while they prepare dinner. After a while, the older woman enters the room and starts throwing vegetables into the hot tub. The young woman passes out from the drugged wine as the older couple throw more vegetables and wine into the tub and push her head under in order to cook her as soup.
  • Cool Old Guy: Anthony in "The Social Climber" is the kindest man in the series. He provides life advice to the protagonist and makes magic shoes that give luck to his customers at his shoe store.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The protagonist of "Red Leader", to the point where at the end of the episode, he 100%' willingly hitches his saddle to Red.
    Hayes: All right, Red, what kind of a deal are we really talking about here? I want salary, commissions, stock options, a car...
  • Creepy Child: Every so often an episode would feature one of these. The most notable ones being in "The New Guy" and "The Last Car".
  • Creepy Doll: "The Geezenstacks."
  • Crisis of Faith: "The Unhappy Medium" makes it clear that Jenny lost her faith in Christianity after Reverend Farley was revealed to have been a Straw Hypocrite.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: It really says a lot about this show that the number of episodes that have an unambiguous happy ending is less than half of the total number of episodes of the show, including the pilot.
  • Darker and Edgier: If you compare it to The Twilight Zone, it is. In fact, this still holds true you compare it to The New Twilight Zone, which aired during this show's lifetime.
  • Dating Catwoman: After constantly fighting with each other over a man's soul, the angel and devil hook up at the end of "Let the Games Begin."
  • Dead All Along:
    • Algernon, the titular "Spirit Photographer". least, by the end of the episode.
    • Luther Mandrake in "Devil's Advocate". Except here, he was dead from the start.
    • This could be what’s going on in “The Last Car”; the episode leaves it ambiguous.
  • Death by Irony: Hogan meets his end in "Baker's Dozen" when his wife crumples up his last voodoo gingerbread man when he's in the shower, a fitting act given she was the victim of his first cookie when he dunked it in his coffee earlier on.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Mob boss Eddie makes one for his partner. He even makes it put on a show to entertain himself.
  • Dead Hat Shot: At the end of "The Odds", the death of a bookie is shown by his pencil rolling off the table and on to the floor.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: Present at the end of "Fear of Floating", as part of a Karmic Death.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • "Printer's Devil": In order to get his books promoted, Junior P. Harmon stumbles across one Alex Kellaway, who promises to deliver the success Junior desires... in exchange for animal sacrifices. And when Junior ultimately drops him as his agent, and his career tanks, he gets back in contact with Alex, who says that if he wants his dream novel to have the same level of success, he needs to broaden the pot, as it were...
    • "The Deal": A screenwriter, Tom, needs help selling a script, and as it happens, his neighbor is T=the Devil. And in order to not go to Hell, he needs to find someone that can take his place.
    • An inversion is in place in "I'll Give You A Million": One day, Duncan Williams offers Jack Blaine the titular million if he buys his soul. The stipulations? If the buyer dies before the taking the soul, the contract is null and void; if, however, the buyer dies of foul play, the million has to be paid back with interest. Jack dies, but comes back as a ghost to tell Duncan he has to take it, otherwise "he" will take it. Duncan can't bring himself to go along with this, and in trying to burn their contract, he dies of a heart attack. Then, The Devil shows up and, taking advantage of the "null and void" clause, takes both their souls.
  • Death by Irony: A common trope utilized throughout the series. Many characters die a gruesome death related to a unique character trait they possess.
  • Death by Materialism: The fate of the protagonist in "The Social Climber".
  • Demonic Possession: The witch in "The Moth" had a Batman Gambit and took her mother's body after she died.
  • Dirty Coward: Harold in "The Grave Robbers". He would gladly leave his girlfriend behind in the mummy's tomb to save his own ass. He gets left behind instead when the mummy proves to be smarter than he looks.
  • Dirty Old Man: Bubba in The Swap. He constantly has sex with his younger wife, but since she's a Gold Digger we don't feel sorry for her.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Inverted at the end of "Fear of Floating". Instead of falling to his death, Arnold floats into a Deadly Rotary Fan.
    • Similarly inverted at the end of "Leviation". As a result of the magician performing the act dying mid-act, the episode ends with Frank floating out of the tent and into the sky, unable to stop his ascent. While he isn't killed in the process, it's highly unlikely he has much longer to live if he keeps going up.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A hallmark of various supernatural beings on the series, but more so with a certain episode.
    • "Halloween Candy" is a story about a rather grumpy old man who refuses to give out candy on Halloween. He is frightened to death by a malevolent being that he refused to give candy to.
    • Or how about the episode "Season Of Belief?" A couple have an extended Jerkass moment where they terrify their young children with a scary story on Christmas Eve, even getting another family member to play along with the joke. At the end they smile, say they were only joking...and out of nowhere, the very monster they were talking about appears and crushes their skulls. Okay, sure, the parents weren't being very nice, and told their six-year-old daughter there was no Santa, but did that really make them deserve to die?
  • Does Not Like Men: Florence Bravo, from the episode of the same name.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Horace X, in "The False Prophet", comes across as a Domestic Abuser and a rapist when he tries coming onto Cassie.
    Horace X: Touch me Cassie. Touch me now.
  • Downer Ending: Usually mixed in with a Cruel Twist Ending, but some are more sad than scary.
    • "Going Native" ends with an alien disguised as an Earth woman begins to feel human emotions and eventually breaking down.
    • Mr. Killip's greatest sin in "Halloween Candy" is not wanting to give out said candy to trick-or-treaters. His punishment is being removed from reality and tormented by a goblin for several weeks until he starves to death. It's even worse for his son, Michael. A conversation with a cop at the end suggests that he's going to be accused of elder neglect for letting his dad starve to death. To twist the knife, for Michael and the rest of the world, only a day had passed.
  • Dragged Off to Hell:
    • In "Trick or Treat," a nasty old man who laughs at scared children is taken to Hell as punishment.
    • Also technically what happens to Hayes at the end of "Red Leader." He isn't too broken up about it.
    • In "I'll Give You a Million," Duncan Williams offers his friend Jack $1 million for his soul. The Devil shows up at the end to take Duncan and Jack's soul to Hell.
  • The Dragon: The episode "Red Leader" revolves around Satan recruiting a Corrupt Corporate Executive to become this. He joins him.
  • Dramatic Thunder: In "I'll Give You a Million", Jack agrees to Oliver's offer to buy his soul. As they clink glasses to seal the deal, there is a dramatic peal of thunder from outside.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mars in "Parlour Floor Front" is guilt-tripped into doing this when he thinks he killed a baby.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: In "Miss May Dusa", Jimmy Jones confesses his feelings for Medusa after getting shot.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Richard Hagstrom in "Word Processor of the Gods". Literally.
  • Eaten Alive: The fate of anyone who angers the sentient apartment building in "A New Lease On Life".
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Grither. All we see of the creature is two jaundiced, abnormally long arms, with gigantic hands.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • "Trick or Treat" starts with Gideon Hackles not only rebuffing a job offer to accountants out of sheer distrust, but also charges them for coffee he offers them.
    • "A Choice of Dreams" gives us Jake Corelli, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. When he tries to ask his doctor if he got the wrong diagnose or something, he gets to a point where he ominously suggests he has connections. The doctor then gives exposition that Mr. Corelli is no innocent patient and is indeed hated as a mob boss in the drug business.
  • Expy: "Barter" centers around a small family obviously themed after the family from I Love Lucy.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas/Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Bubba in The Swap loves both his mother and his wife. He wants to carry on his mother's witchcraft for her and revealed that he knew about his wife's adulterous relationship with a house worker, but wanted her to be happy. His mother's spells later save his life when he switches minds with his wife's lover and punishes her for betraying his trust in her.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Jerkass reporter in "The Circus" is completely disgusted that the performers entertain children with gruesome animal deaths, Body Horror, and vicious monsters that would scar anyone for life.
  • Evil All Along: Usually the character you'd least suspect is revealed to have been the Big Bad.
  • Evil Old Folks:
    • The couple in "Anniversary Dinner" act kind and caring, but they eat people.
    • Gideon Hackles from "Trick Or Treat" is an old man who holds the entire town he lives in under his heels through their various IOUs and forces them to bring their children to his house every Halloween so they can be scared half to death by his ghoulish decorations and animatronics in a vain attempt to wipe their parents' debts.
  • Evil Versus Evil: "The Grave Robbers" pits the titular thieves against the cursed, Affably Evil mummy.
  • Exact Words: Mr. Hackles in "Trick or Treat" is true on one account, he doesn't harm the trick-or-treaters physically. He just emotionally scars them with his haunted house tricks.
  • The Faceless: The milkman in "The Milkman Cometh" never shows his true form.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In "I Can't Help But Say Goodbye," Karen foresees her impending death, but does nothing to prevent it, accepting her fate.
    Karen: Goodbye Karen. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
  • Fate Worse than Death: When it's not under And I Must Scream the endings will sometimes fall under this. For instance, the protagonist in "Lifebomb" gets a device from his insurance company that will never let him die...ever.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
  • Feghoot:
    • "A New Lease on Life", which goes out of its way to make the following joke at the end: "And I found this last [tenant] especially hard to stomach." This is lampshaded by the group at the end, including the apartment building itself, laughing uproariously.
    • "The Odds" ends with Tom Vale literally dying of laughter.
  • Fed to the Beast: In "Inside the Closet", Gale is a young college student moving into a questionable professor's apartment. She gets killed by a monster living in the professor's closet, which turned out to be his daughter. He intended to have this girl move in with him so he could feed her to his monster. The next morning, he dismisses her death and keeps it secret when her mother, worried where her daughter disappeared to, calls to find her. Then, it's implied that she was not the first or last victim of his monster in the end.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Towards the end of "The Yattering and Jack", when the demon keeps locking the front door, preventing Jack and Amanda from leaving the house, Jack suggests they use the back door. Or, rather, he puts his hand to the side of his mouth and announces it into the house.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist:
    • Jenny in "The Unhappy Medium" refuses to believe in Farley and his Christian ethics. She changes her view by the end of the episode after he haunts her family. Her mother, on the other hand, refuses to change her greedy ways despite witnessing that Heaven and Hell both exist.
    • Jack Polo, in “The Yattering and Jack”, acts like one at the beginning of the episode, blaming the damage caused by the invisible Yattering demon on such things as the house settling and raccoons getting into the house while he was away. He's well aware of what’s really going on, and is acting that way in order to drive the Yattering nuts.
  • Forced Transformation: The fate Mary Hobbs experiences in "Auld Acquaintances": turned into a cat, because of the talisman she and Elizabeth Eaton were fighting over.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • One of the first things we see Luther Mandrake do in "The Devil's Advocate" is bring up that part of the reason why he was late is that someone died in his car, behind the steering wheel.
    • In "The Odds", Tom Vale's lackey, Horace, buys his boss a digital day planner; one of the planner's features is playing chiptune songs. During a horserace (where a mysterious man in white, later revealed to be Bill Lacey back from the dead, bets $500 on Ryan's Daughter, a horse in dead last with 40 to 1 odds), Horace decides to smugly play Chopin's "Funeral March".
    • The scene of Arnold showing off his condition in "Fear of Floating" basically telegraphs how he will die.
    • While trying to get his dad to give out Halloween candy during "Halloween Candy", Michael Killip makes the point of saying the following:
      Michael Killip: (annoyed with his dad) [Halloween]'s one night a year, it's over by 8 o'clock, it doesn't last forever...
    • Doubles as a Double-Meaning Title: In "Baker's Dozen", when Aloysius gives Hogan the gingerbread cookies, he's confused since Cuzzins' Dozens only sells twelve types of cookies, and he's never seen gingerbread men be sold. Aloysius mentions that it's a baker's dozen; Ruby Cuzzins doesn't include the gingerbread men on the menu. But then you get to the end of the episode, and learn that Aloysius also meant he had taken 13 cookies from Ruby...
  • Fourth Wall Psych:
    • For most of "Everybody Needs a Little Love", it appears that Roberts is narrating the events of the episode to the audience... until he gets to the part where he's knocked out while struggling with Curtis, where it's revealed that he's telling this story to the cops, who think he killed Curtis.
    • Although she is very clearly talking to herself, Joan Matlin's ranting about the neighbors in "Answer Me" comes off as this due to the overhead shot of her as she lays in bed, staring at the ceiling (which is where the viewer is currently positioned).
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: In "The Swap," Bubba and his wife's boyfriend switch places at the last second before his wife kills him. Giving Bubba a younger body to live on.
  • Genre Savvy: In "The Odds", it turns out Tommy recognized Billy right from the start, realizing what he was, and that he was genuinely seeing the future. And that he was still a loser and a coward, fooled at the end because Tommy tampered with the clock.
  • Give Me a Sign: The Farley family from "The Unhappy Medium" await a sign from their deceased relative from Heaven. Unfortunately, that's not where he's calling from.
  • Going Native: In fact, the episode was called Going Native, about an alien disguised as a human doing research on earth culture but finding herself experiencing more emotions uncommon to her people.
  • Gold Digger: A few episodes feature these. They usually get what's coming to them... and it's never gold.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The angel that punishes the Jerkass debt collector in "Payment Overdue".
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Every death in "Baker's Dozen" is intentionally not shown on-screen. Only two get close to being shown: Henry bring crushed to death in the shower, and Ruby's head being eaten.
  • Grand Theft Me: In "The Unhappy Medium," a preacher named Farley attempts to possess his granddaughter Jenny in order to avoid Hell.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Explored in "Family Reunion". The father wants to shelter his son and cure him of his lycanthropy so he's not a threat to society, but his approach is rather controlling, to the point where it borders on possessive. His son just wants to be free and embrace his werewolf heritage, but he neglects the fact that his werewolf side kills people. The mother, genuinely loves her son and wants custody of him. The problem is, she embellishes her husband as an abusive monster, lies to a social worker's face and sheds crocodile tears in order to achieve it.
  • Halloween Episode: Surprisingly, only three occurred in the show's lifespan:
    • "Trick or Treat", which is actually the pilot, concerning Gideon Hackles's haunted house and his eventual Karmic Death via a witch.
    • "Halloween Candy", from Season 2, which concerns Mr. Killip being besieged by a goblin, demanding candy.
    • And "The Cutty Black Sow"note , which concerns a child, Jaime, trying to protect the souls of his family from the titular creature on Halloween, only to get killed by the creature in the end.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: The Grither.
  • Heel Face Doorslam: Medusa in "Miss May Dusa".
  • Hell Is That Noise: The machine in "Hush" delivers a soul-sucking scream of a sound whenever it drains the noise of something.
  • Henpecked Husband: The protagonist of "Pain Killer."
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted. In "The Unhappy Medium," Jenny attempts to sacrifice herself in order to save her family, but her selfless sacrifice allows her and her boyfriend Johnathan to be spared from death.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: In "Strange Love," Edmond's wife falls in love with her doctor and helps him murder her abusive husband.
  • Hope Spot: Near the end of "The Cutty Black Sow", our child protagonist is supposedly saved from the titular demon when his father comes into his bedroom and comforts him. Then, we see the father's eyes glowing...
  • Hot as Hell: The demon in "Let the Games Begin" is a seductive woman, as a counterpart to the male angel.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Cassie in "The False Prophet" believes in everything Horace X says. This later proves to be her undoing.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Milkman in "The Milkman Cometh". Although we don't see his face, his arms are shown to be green and reptilian.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The moral of "Going Native".
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Eddie in "No Strings" is the most irredeemable villain in the series. The supernatural force is "the hero" of the episode.
  • Hypocrite: Jeanette the debt collector in "Payment Overdue" acts like she's a good person who struggled in life and worked hard to get by where she is. However, she earned her money by collecting it from lower class people and tricking others into paying her for insurance they didn't need. To an even worse extent, she claims that she's also a fair debt collector before telling off those who actually can't pay her.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The couple in "Anniversary Dinner" lure in an unsuspecting girl and eat her as the main course.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The Jerkass debt collector in "Payment Overdue" is comforted by a city welfare worker who visits her. When asked about why a ghost would ever haunt her, the worker, Michael Nelson, has her listen to a recorded interview she had with the deceased client. The audience hears her acting incredibly cruel and ignoring the poor woman begging her for a little more time to pay. Michael looks at her with great disgust, but she defends herself by claiming she didn't know the situation.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The Cruel Twist Ending of "The False Prophet."
  • I Just Want to Be Special: The protagonist in "The Social Climber" seeks a better life, but has no desire to work for it and doesn't appreciate what he has. This leads him down a bad path.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • The fate of Eddie in "No Strings".
    • The fate of Edmond the vampire in "Strange Love".
  • Ineffectual Death Threats: After a certain point in "Answer Me", Joan Matlin gets so fed up with the constant phone ringing in the apartment next door that she decides it's "time for violence", and promptly goes next door and demands that the occupant unplug their phone "or die". And then towards the end, she outright decides to try and beat whoever is causing the phone to ring to death with her bare hands. But given how she's a commercial actress who gets strangled to death by the phone at the end, it's clear none of these threats hold weight.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Keena from "Ring Around the Red Head" is an attractive alien who doesn't understand human modesty and gets really close to the main protagonist.
  • Interspecies Romance: "Ring Around the Red Head" and "Going Native" have a human male and a female alien falling in love. Unfortunately, the latter relationship quickly fell apart.
  • Ironic Echo:
  • It's All About Me:
    • In "The Unhappy Medium", Caroline complains all about how her life is horrible, despite being judgmental towards her own daughter.
    • The entire family in "Grandma's Last Wish" are more preoccupied with their own wants and concerns than each other ... including Grandma, who's too busy being pleased that her wish is coming true to mind that her own relatives are being injured and even brain-damaged.
  • Jackass Genie: Subverted. The genie in "Djinn, No Chaser" was only acting like a Jerkass because he wanted to be free from his prison.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The father/ex-husband in "Family Reunion" who keeps his son under lock and key during the full moon, since the son is a werewolf and is implied to have killed at least one person. Furthermore, the son implies that he is fully aware of his actions and enjoys it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In "The Unhappy Medium," Jonathan is slightly harsh towards his daughter Jenny for her lack of faith in Christianity, but he does care for her. He even jumps into Hell to save her.
  • Jerkass: A key trait to a Villain Protagonist or a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing supporting character.
  • Jump Scare: Too many to count. The most notable ones would be in "Halloween Candy".
  • Just a Machine: Cassie's friend argues that Horace X is this, but she knows he's real.
  • Karma Houdini: The robber in "Miss May Dusa" gets away with murdering two people by accident and leaves the store the protagonist was in without punishment.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: In some episodes we follow a Villain Protagonist who has been doing awful stuff and getting away with it for years. They eventually get what's coming to them by the end of the episode, along with a valuable lesson.
  • Karmic Death: Usually present in the Karmic Twist Ending.
  • Karmic Jackpot: In "The Unhappy Medium", Jenny sacrifices herself to Hell in order to make sure the ghost of her corrupt uncle faces justice, while her boyfriend joins her so he won't lose her again. In contrast, Caroline throws the will in there with them so no one will be the wiser of who inherited what. The very next morning, Jenny and Johnathon find themselves (and the will) safe and sound. Now the two not only have a second chance to rekindle their relationship again, but to use their inheritance to help the less fortunate. In contrast, Caroline isn't so fortunate.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: If the character we follow is a Jerkass or extremely annoying then this is the kind of ending that awaits them. Surprisingly, the show has as many as these as they do Cruel Twist Ending.
  • Kick the Dog:
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: The Villain Protagonist that loses to the Big Bad will usually get this. Perhaps the greatest moment on the show would be the ending to "The Grave Robbers". The mummy outsmarts the grave robbers in a poker match by counting the cards the whole time and Obfuscating Stupidity. Then, the mummy tricks Harold, the evil grave robber, into taking his place as the cursed mummy of the tomb while the mummy escapes from his Hell. For bonus points, the mummy steals his girlfriend since she reminded him of The Lost Lenore from his past.
  • Kill the Cutie: "Anniversary Dinner" and "The Closet" play this perfectly straight and lay down the following ground rule for future episodes: If the protagonist is ever an innocent naïve girl, don't expect her to live.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: At the end of "I Can't Help but Say Goodbye," Karen's sister decides to kill Karen after realizing that she can't stop her ability of causing death around her. What really makes this tragic is that viewers know Karen isn't causing the deaths, just foreseeing them.
  • The Killer in Me: The ending of "Florence Bravo".
  • Killer Teddy Bear: The episode "Ursa Minor".
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: When faced with the fact that he sneezed his nose off his face at the end of "A Case of the Stubborns", Grandpa has no other choice but to accept that he is, in fact, dead.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A staple in most episodes, with such examples as Trick or Treat, but the most flagrant examples being Baker's Dozen and Seasons of Belief.
  • Let Them Die Happy: The couple in "Anniversary Dinner" prefer to eat animals that are given a death without them knowing they'll die. Including the people they lure into their home to eat.
  • Lighter and Softer: "A Case of the Stubborns", in a sense. All the plot concerns is a son (Jody) and mother (Ma) having to put up with the fact that Grandpa, who died earlier the previous night, refuses to acknowledge that he should be dead. Jody and Ma aren't even scared; they're just shocked, then annoyed, that he does not know he should be dead. The only real horror in the episode is Grandpa continuing to rot, culminating in him literally sneezing his nose off.
  • Living Toy: "Ursa Minor" has a little girl whose teddy bear comes to life and starts wreaking havoc; her parents, particularly the mother, are understandably concerned when she blames the damage on the bear. The mother eventually realizes that something about "Teddy" is off and ends up stabbing it to death, only to learn that the fully-grown bearskin rug in the attic has also come life. The episode ends with mother and daughter terrified and huddling in the daughter's bedroom while the "mama bear" breaks in to exact its revenge.
  • The Lost Lenore: The Mummy in "The Grave Robbers" had a crush on a girl in his past, but he never admitted his feelings for her before becoming the cursed guardian of the tomb. Harold mocks him for it, but his girlfriend takes pity on him. The mummy gets over it when he escapes from the tomb and moves on with Harold's girlfriend.
  • Louis Cypher: At the end of "The Geezenstacks", a real estate agent enters the now empty house. You can barely see it, but you get a quick glimpse at her name tag:
    Louise Filer
  • Loving a Shadow: Platonic example. In "The Shrine", Christine's mother has kept her daughter's old room exactly the same as when she was a child. It gets taken to a literal level when a spirit in the form of her child tries luring Chris' mother to loving her over her real daughter.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted in "Baker's Dozen"; while in the process of torturing her suffering employee Aloysius by turning him into a rat, Ruby Cuzzins launches into a monologue that reveals he's her father, and that she keeps abusing him as payback for abandoning her and her mother to go hunt moonshine.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: An adulterous couple plan to kill the woman's husband in a few of the episodes. The couple usually suffer a Karmic Twist Ending for their troubles.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: In "I'll Give You a Million", the Devil appears as a dapper young man in an exquisitely tailored morning suit.
  • Mama Bear:
    • From "Ursa Minor." The mother, learning that her daughter's teddy bear is terrorizing the house, stabs the bear to death. The trope repeats, however, when the bear's mother attacks.
    • In "Family Reunion", Janice's ex-husband and father of her son learns the hard way what happens when you come between a mother werewolf and her cub. And unfortunately, so does the social worker that had been trying to help her prior.
  • Meaningful Name: The episode "A Serpent's Tooth" is based on the idiom "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child" Which basically describes the protagonist's situation.
    • In "Trick or Treat", we have Mr. Hackles. Hackles are the back hairs on a canine that raise when it's feeling hostile. Fittingly, it describes Mr. Hackle's cruel mistrust towards, well, everyone.
    • "Black Widows" has Audrey Webster, who comes from a family of human/spider hybrids. The women in her family also murder and eat their husbands when they marry.
    • Based on the ancient myth, it's obvious that the St. George building from "A New Lease on Life" is eventually revealed to be a dragon in the shape of a building. Its landlady, Madame Angler, acts like an anglerfish, luring new tenants in so they can become food for the dragon.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The doctor in "Pain Killer" offers to cure his patients if they commit murders for him.
  • Morton's Fork: "Trick or Treat" borders on this. The townsfolk are forced by Mr. Hackles to bring their kids to go trick-or-treating at his house in order to win their IOUs. Given how severely scary his Haunted House is, no loving parent would ever make their kids attend something so cruel, but they have no choice: they are in debt to Mr. Hackles, and making their kids go is the only way to appease him for another year or so.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: "Love Hungry" ends with the reveal that Betsy had to do this to herself to prevent her from eating her food (since her diet aids made them appear and sound sentient to her), resulting in her starving to death.
  • Murderous Mannequin: Appeared in at least one episode.
  • My Beloved Smother: The main protagonist of "The Serpent's Tooth."
  • Neck Snap: How Tina murders her cousin Nicholas while under "The Casavin Curse."
  • Never Mess with Granny: The Jerkass family learn this lesson the hard way at the end of "Grandma's Last Wish."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: A Gold Digger who was rejected by the rich Villain Protagonist kills him for rejecting her advances. However, the protagonist becomes The Dragon to Satan in Hell.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The ringleader running "The Circus" believes that his show truly entertains children, despite the show involving a lot of nightmarish images.
  • Nightmare Sequence: In Everybody Needs a Little Love, the detective visualizes a nightmarish setting where his best friend is a mannequin while his wife is the real person.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The protagonist in "The Cutty Black Sow" performs a ritual to save his grandmother's soul. A demon comes and takes his soul as compensation. Did we forget to mention that the protagonist is a young boy who was only trying to save his entire family.
  • Noble Demon: Lord Draco, the vampire lord in My Ghostwriter-The Vampire.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The Milkman in The Milkman Cometh is not evil, but his wishes can cause disastrous results to those who aren't specific about what they wish for.
  • Not Hyperbole: In "A Serpent's Tooth", the titular tooth has the power to make this happen. It doesn't help that it's in the hands of Pearl King, who has a tendency to exaggerate things.
  • Not Quite Flight: In "Fear of Floating," Arnold floats whenever he tells lies.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Teddy in "Ursa Minor", álá Chucky.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In "Inside the Closet," We last see Gale being dragged away by the monster back inside the closet. It's clear that she's dead before the monster takes her, but it still takes her corpse back with it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Mummy from "The Grave Robbers" was only pretending to be an ignorant fool during the final act. He actually outsmarts the tomb raiders and escapes from his prison, making Harold take his place.
  • Our Angels Are Different: An angel has appeared in "Let the Games Begin" in the guise of Harry's best friend, and "Payment Overdue" in the guise of city welfare worker Michael Nelson. In the case of the latter, it's heavily implied Michael Nelson is the Archangel Michael.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vampires in "Strange Love" were sophisticated, nightwalkers who socialized a lot. The vampire in "The Circus" was a feral beast that feasted on living animals.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolf in "The Circus" looked more human than wolf.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombie in "The Circus" didn't feast on living beings and could still move without a head.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Karen in "I Can't Help But Say Goodbye" causes the death of everyone around her with her psychic death predictions.
  • Please Wake Up: In The Odds, the bookie's coworker attempts to wake him up, but learns that his friend passed away.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In The Milkman Cometh, anyone who isn't specific about what they wish for will have it backfire because the milkman only reads notes the people leave for him, but does what he thinks they are asking for by any means.
  • Preacher Man: From "The Unhappy Medium," Reverend Farley pretended to be one of these.
  • Pretty in Mink:
    • The episode "The Old Soft Shoe" starts with a lady in a fox coat showing up at a motel, and a guy tries to hit on her (after he assured his wife on the phone was just getting his car towed). The lady in the fur brushes him off, and she lives through the episode unlike that guy.
    • Another episode starts with a gal in a bus stop wearing a white and brown rabbit fur jacket.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Basher Malone," the last show of the series.
  • Puppet Permutation: Two variations (both technical subversions) occur in "No Strings": a mob boss wishes to string up his "business partner" (that he killed) and have him be used in a private one-man puppet show and the partner's spirit possesses a puppet (and then his own corpse) during the climax.
  • Rape as Drama: The protagonist's wife in The Milkman Cometh is raped by the titular milkman after he wishes to have another child.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In The Swap, Bubba punishes his wife this way in the ending after she tried to murder him.
  • Redemption Earns Life: In "The Unhappy Medium," Jenny is spared from eternity in Hell after offering herself in Hell in order to save her mother and boyfriend. Johnathan is also spared after jumping after her, and earns a second chance to pursue a relationship with her. Unfortunately, her mother is Dragged Off to Hell.
  • Redemption Rejection: In "Fear of Floating," Arnold refuses to give up his bad habits and continues to carry on womanizing and lying. This eventually leads up to his death.
  • Satan: Appears in a few episodes. Depending on the overall tone of the story, he'll either be portrayed tongue-in-cheek or sinister.
  • Save the Villain: In "Fear of Floating," the US Army is trying to save Arnold because of his power of floating. It doesn't pay off in the end, as Arnold ends up killing himself by accident.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The bogeyman at the end of "Monsters In My Room" screams like this when confronted by Seth Green's character.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Linda's husband in "Parlour Floor Front" ditches her when he realizes that she's a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Turns out that this was the right thing to do when she suffers a Karmic Twist Ending.
  • Secret Test of Character: The twist of "Payment Overdue". And as a result of refusing to admit her role in the death of Rita Valdez, Jeanette's life is changed into that of the woman herself.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: In "Fear of Floating," Arnold dies by his own floating abilities after he refuse to stop lying and reform for the better.
  • Self-Made Woman: Jeanette in "Payment Overdue" is a debt collector who claims to be this trope. However, as the episode unfolds, we learn that she is nothing but a Hypocrite who enjoys making others suffer and takes her place in life for granted, even assuming that everyone could easily live a rich life like her if they tried. She ends up in a world where she doesn't have these privileges anymore by an angel who was sent to test her.
  • Series Finale: "Basher Malone", easily one of the show's silliest episodes, sees a wrestler fighting a demon.
  • Shrinking Violet: The protagonist in "Mary, Mary."
  • Shout-Out: The ending of "I Just Can't Help But Say Goodbye" is a nod to the infamous ending of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Farley from "The Unhappy Medium."
  • Skewed Priorities: "Fear of Floating" ends with Sgt. Buzz Caldwell witnessing Arnold floating into the ceiling fan. Not only is he more focused on the fact that Arnold is flying again than the fact that he's flying into the fan, but he's more bummed out than shocked upon seeing him get chopped up.
  • Smug Snake: The majority of villainous protagonists are unlikable, smug jerks.
  • The Sociopath: Boss Eddie in "No Strings" is a huge fan of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. He goes to the trouble of having his favorite puppeteer kidnapped in the middle of the night just so that he can put on a special show in celebration for his recent offing of an old "business partner". Guess what he wants the puppeteer to use as the puppet?
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: The vampire Edmond from "Strange Love" has such a soothing voice for a deranged, Ax-Crazy, blood-sucking monster.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The original short story version of "Hush" has everyone die and the machine exit out into the world to make everything quiet. In the episode, however, Jennifer and Buddy live and the machine is tricked into killing itself.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: "Seasons of Belief" opens with the parents declaring to their children that they're going to spend their Christmas Eve the time-honored way (no television, no radio) for the sake of spending time together as a family. Not one minute into this hiatus, one of the children gets bored and starts pestering their parents. They suggest to the children they put on the television or radio in order to stop bothering them, but the kids remind them it's not traditional. People learn very quickly that without these modern conveniences, it's hard to entertain one's self.
  • Stealth Insult: In "Do not open this Box", when the mailman schedules a time and date for Charlie and Rose, he says "Why don't I put you good people [down]..." before he changes it to "you people". In the least, he doesn't hold Ruth in the highest regard.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: A variant in "Pain Killer" where it is a chain rather than a swap. A mysterious doctor arranges the removal of a troublesome individual from a person's life. The person is later contacted to kill someone in another person's life.
  • Straw Hypocrite: From "The Unhappy Medium" Caroline and Reverend Farley are not devout Christians despite preaching it.
  • Stupid Evil: Arnold in "Fear of Floating" is the dumbest villain in the series.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending:
    • "Let the Games Begin": Harry gets to live and the angel and devil become an item.
    • "Djinn, No Chaser": The genie has become a lot more nicer and complacent after being freed by means of a can opener.
    • "Word Processor of the Gods": Just before the titular device goes kaput, Richard manages to rewrite reality so that his nephew, Jonathan, is brought back to life... and is his son, along with Belinda (Jon's mother) being Richard's wife.
    • "The Spirit Photographer": Algernon was Dead All Along, but gets to move on after his Spirit Attractor is proven to have worked. As a bonus, he's happy over this development.
    • "Ring Around the Red-Head": Just when things look hopeless and our protagonist is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, his alien girlfriend returns at the last minute to take him away to her home planet where they live happily ever after. There really is no twist, she actually takes him to live a new life together.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: In "Seasons of Belief," the Grither comes out of nowhere and murders the parents who spoke of its origin right at the last minute of the episode.
  • Take That!:
    • "If the Shoe Fits". AKA: "The One The Equates Politicians to Clowns".
    • Inverted; one episode of "The Ben Stiller Show" had a sketch directly parodying / taking the piss out of the episode "The Devil's Advocate" (which starred, appropriately enough, Ben's father Jerry Stiller). To hit the point home, the sketch was an episode of "Low Budget Tales of Cliched Horror" called "A Call From Hell".
      Narrator: You're looking at late night shock jock Damien Faustman, a man who hates his listeners almost as much as he hates himself. Tonight, he'll learn that it doesn't take a lot of expensive special effects or an original storyline to come face-to-face with his worst nightmare... his soul.
    • "Payment Overdue" is one to the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality that was rampant in The '80s as no less than the Archangel Michael condemns a heartless debt-collector into experiencing life as a poor, Spanish-speaking immigrant.
  • Taken for Granite: The fate of the protagonist in "The Serpent's Tooth."
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night:
    • The plot of "Monsters in My Room" sees Tommy dealing with the fact that there's... guess. Eventually, he gets so fed up that he calls out said monsters, and when his stepdad enters his room to abuse him, the monsters proceed to kill him. By the end of the episode, the trope winds up being inverted of sorts: Tommy isn't afraid of the monsters. The monsters are afraid of Tommy.
    • Half of the twist for "Inside the Closet" hinges on this: Gail discovers to her horror that the noises she keeps hearing at night in the room she is renting from Dr. Fenner is a small monster that proceeds to murder her. The other half is the ending reveal that said monster is his daughter.
  • Title Drop: A significant amount of episodes fall victim to this trope, including (but not limited to) "Distant Signals", "The Geezenstacks", "Let the Games Begin", "I Can't Help Saying Goodbye", "Levitation", "The Cutty Black Sow" and "Basher Malone".
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Joan, at the end of "Ursa Minor". After cutting open the teddy bear's stomach with scissors, the sound of growling emanates throughout the house, as (what is implied to be) the bear skin rug comes to life and shambles down to Susie's bedroomnote . Although she immediately shuts and locks the door, instead of going out the window with her daughter to safety, she huddles in the corner in fear as the bear skin rug begins attacking the door.
    • The mother in the ending of "The Serpent's Tooth." After she tries to reform and give up the magical item that makes everything she says come true, she retakes it because she is too attached to its power despite being warned by her family and friends that it is too dangerous. When her daughter gives her a What the Hell, Hero? speech the mother says that she loves her children so much that, if anyone harbors greater love for their chilren, she will turn into a pillar of salt. She pretty much made herself suffer a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Cybil in Anniversary Dinner fails to notice that her hosts are cooking her alive in their "hot tub". They even throw in alcohol and vegetable pieces in with her tub and she still doesn't get the idea that they're going to eat her. In fairness, she was in a relaxed state due to the water temperature, and she had been getting drunk on Henry's homemade booze while they were cooking her, but still.
    • Archie Fenton in "A New Lease on Life" moves into an apartment complex that bleeds when he tries to hang a picture, rumbles and roars occasionally, and is staffed by Ambiguously Evil workers committing bizarre actions every day, yet he doesn't suspect anything strange from any of this. Then, when the Apartment is revealed to be alive the first thing he does is... piss it off by trying to kill it. Apparently, it never occurred to him that attacking a sentient building would result in his death.
    • "Love Hungry" involves Betsy using mysterious dietary aids that cause her to see and hear her food as sentient beings. Because she can't bring herself to eat anything out of fear of killing them, she resorts to sewing her mouth shut. All this winds up resulting in the end is Betsy dying from hunger, and the food rotting.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: In “The Yattering and Jack”, the Yattering demon sent to drive Jack to despair instead finds itself driven crazy by Jack’s complete refusal to get upset about anything it does or even acknowledge that anything unusual is happening. Which is what Jack was banking on.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Astoundingly, a promo for "The Milkman Cometh" winds up including the ending scene of Sandy walking into the kitchen, holding the baby the milkman "gave" Garry... by impregnating his wife.
  • Trumplica: Alex Hayes from "Red Leader", an outer boroughs construction mogul whose shady dealings have raised Hell's interest, is an early example.
  • Uncertain Doom: In "The Cutty Black Sow". A little boy tries to save his grandmother's soul from the titular Celtic demon, but the Cutty Black Sow comes and takes his soul. In the end, the demon has the little boy backed into a corner crying and the last shot shows the demon closing in on him.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In "Strange Love," Edmond fully intended to kill his wife's medical doctor once he healed her wounds.
  • Unperson: In "Slippage," Rich Hall discovers that he is slowly disappearing from reality. All records of his existence disappear, and by the end Rich's wife forgets that he ever existed and ends up married to Rich's former best friend.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: In The Shrine, Christine's mother couldn't accept her daughter for who she was and loved a shadow of her daughter instead of her real child.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In "The Circus", the ringleader may be going about it in a sadistic and twisted manner, but according to him, the purpose of his circus is to instill a sense of wonder in the children. Sure, it's a macabre sense of wonder, but the way he sees it, it's better than going about life looking at the world through a cynical lense like the reporter.
  • Wham Line:
    • Right at the end of "A Choice of Dreams", as Jake Corelli is undergoing the procedure to keep his brain alive forever, the doctor, Michaelson, decides to start talking aloud.
      Michaelson: You are not a nice man, Mr. Corelli. Not nice at all. But then, none of my clients are.
    • As if you needed more proof that Jack knew more about what was going on than what he was letting on, then take the following line from "The Yattering and Jack" into consideration, after Jack's daughter runs out of the house in fear, and the Yattering mistakenly grabs Jack.
      Jack: (grabs the Yattering by the collar; to the Yattering) Now... you see what you've done?! You've frightened my daughter... And don't you ever do that again.
    • As part of their scheme against Edward in "The Madness Room", Cathy and Michael take him into the titular room, and pretend to get in contact with the ghost of Benjamin Fairchildnote . Among the messages Ben "tells" Cathy and Michael is to lock the door to the room behind them, and to take the key and drop it down a crack on the floor. By the end of the episode, after Edward (now dying of a heart attack) spites them both by setting the room on fire, Cathy and Michael attempt to escape, only to learn they don't have a second key. It is here where Cathy decides to ask a question:
      Cathy: Then why else did you spell out that last message about dropping the key through the crack?!
      Cathy: (beginning to choke on the smoke) No...note 
  • Wham Shot:
    • The newspaper at the end of "The Spirit Photographer". Or, more to the point, the obituaries section:
      Algernon Colesbury; "Spirit Photographer Dies"
    • Anne's new headpiece at the end of "Snip, Snip". Or rather, that it looks uncannily similar to Abe North.
    • Mannequin!Mary at the end of "Mary, Mary". Doubles as The Reveal due to how we're shown it.
    • At the end of "Everybody Needs a Little Love", a woman covered in shadow enters the interrogation room and watches Roberts fruitlessly explain his story to the cops. She asks the officer next to her for a light for her cigarette, whereupon we discover the woman is actually a now human Estelle.
    • During the climax of "Family Reunion", the social worker is trying to lock Bobby in his room after seeing him turn into a werewolf, and Robert proceeds to enter the living room, armed with a gun, telling them he'll take care of it. All of a sudden, Janice proceeds to cold-cock him hard enough to send him to the floor... and we see that she too is now a werewolf.
    • Played for Laughs: "A Case of the Stubborns" ends with Jody sitting at the table, looking at the napkin Grandpa sneezed into. After being informed by his mom that Grandpa finally passed on (having gotten proof that he was dead), Jody opens the napkin, where we see Grandpa's nose. He sneezed it off.
    • When the Yattering grabs Jack at the end of, well, "The Yattering and Jack". Not so much the act itself, but rather Jack's reaction: instead of being shocked, he tenses up in frustration and glares at it.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • In "Do Not Open This Box", we have a couple who learn the box they've mistakenly opened was meant to deliver souls. And the mailman who comes at midnight is meaning to take one of their souls as payment for their mistake. Ruth puts her husband Charlie up to murder the mailman while his back is turned. Upon hearing they're a pick-up, there's a chance that pick-up could've been Charlie's soul. He has every opportunity to save his own skin. ...But he can't bring himself to do it. Ruth can.
    • "The Unhappy Medium" gives us three towards the climax. Jenny sacrifices herself to Hell in order to make sure Farley's ghost faces justice, Johnathan goes with her because he lost her once and won't risk losing her again. And Carol? She simply throws in Farley's will with them so nobody will know that Farley willed most of his assets to her daughter. She turns it up when, alone in Farley's study, she grouses about how she never needed her family and so greedily claims the estate and the church as her own.
  • Woman Scorned: A Gold Digger who was rejected by a Corrupt Corporate Executive kills him in "Red Leader".
  • Worth It: At the end of "The Yattering and Jack", after it's pointed out to Jack by the Yattering that, by having a demon as a servant, he most likely is not going to go to Heaven, Jack... doesn't really care.
    Jack: What is it I always say?
    The Yattering: ... "Que sera, sera"?
    Jack: Right! (to Amanda) That's what I always say.
  • Would Hurt a Child: "The Cutty Black Sow" ends with the titular demon claiming the soul of a little boy.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • Sarcasm or not, Joan Matlin in "Answer Me" initially assumes that the reason why her neighbor's phone keeps ringing in the next apartment is because the neighbors are vampires and they are "[talking] to their friends in Transylvania all night long on the telephone". Notice how at no point was it assumed that the phone was alive? Or was it also not assumed that there were no neighbors in that apartment?
    • Downplayed: Ruby Cuzzins in "Baker's Dozen" immediately knew Aloysius had stolen a dozen of her voodoo gingerbread men and slipped them to Hogan in an attempt to bring her down, but she wasn't worried. She already knew Hogan using those cookies would only mean success for her (since she could counteract any negative voodoo Hogan would bring her way) and that Hogan would wind up getting screwed over in the long run. What she didn't count on was that Aloysius actually took 13 cookies, and kept the last one for himself.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: At the end of "Halloween Candy", the police state that Mr. Killip starved to death, with only a bag of candy to eat for several weeks. Michael Killip doesn't believe this; he saw his dad the previous night...
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The moral in "The Tear Collector" involves a woman trying to stop herself from crying too much. With some help from the titular collector, she learns to overcome her depression and restore her faith in life.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "Strange Love," Edmond uses a doctor to treat his wife's wounds, only to secretly plot his death afterwards once he's finished.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: In "A Choice of Dreams", terminally ill mobster Jake Corelli attempts to cheat death by salvaging his mind in an unethical experiment.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Arguably the case in "Seasons of Belief," though it's pretty hard to tell if it's this trope at work, or if the creature always existed and the parents just didn't know. The Serpent's Tooth from the episode of the same name can make anything the wearer says come true.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: After a boy tries everything to stop "The Cutty Black Sow" from coming after the souls of his family, the demon takes his soul instead in the Cruel Twist Ending.

"The Darkside is always there — waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight."


Video Example(s):


Tales From the Darkside

The stories from Tales From the Darkside always ended in cruel downer endings, if not bittersweet endings at best, so it comes as a huge surprise that the wraparound story from the movie actually ends with the monster being killed and the hero getting away. They really did save the best for last.

How well does it match the trope?

4.86 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / SurprisinglyHappyEnding

Media sources: