GORE IN THE STORE
REVIEWS BY FANS FOR FANS
5 STAR FAB - 1 STAR RUBBISH
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: SEASON 3 - ***
A decidedly morose affair; from its eerie opening narration that told of a place “unseen by most, an underworld [...] a darkside” to its stories that almost always ended in cruel demises for unpleasant people, the maudlin air was appropriately reflected through muted colour palettes and grainy visuals. On offer here is a mixed bag of missed opportunities - there aren’t any special features across the twenty-two episode, 4-disc set but the transition to DVD has been relatively kind. Episodes look much the way they did on the average television set in the eighties; there’s no upscaling or retouching here but that does add to the low-fi charm (and helps to obscure some pretty appalling effects). That said there is a lack of spark and season three offers as many shockers as it does stinkers.
Opening with the Romero-penned Circus, things get off to a campy, grisly start. When a sceptical reporter investigates a circus that promises a vampire, a werewolf and a mummy he bites off a little more than he can chew and finds himself little more than something to chew upon. It’s not the most sophisticated of stories; a freak-show of (surprisingly gory, for TV) vignettes that are drawn together by the fabulously hammy ringleader, William Hickey as Dr. Nis. Other early highlights include the hilariously camp Black Widows which takes a leaf out of the MOMMIE DEAREST playbook in its approach to femme fatale and The Geezenstacks which features some seriously creepy dolls and a zany paradoxical plot.
Elsewhere, Romero also wrote the New Orleans voodoo-cookie gem Baker’s Dozen which draws together a fantastically wild-eyed performance from Broadway star Mabel King and a grisly tale of revenge. The marriage of gore and a very literal case of delicious irony make it another standout episode, but there’s disappointing fare elsewhere to balance the scales. From the unfunny, laboured The Bitterest Pill to the goofy The Milkman Cometh, and the unforgivably dull finale The Enormous Radio there’s a few too many lulls. However anyone who caught the horrifying Christmas special Seasons Of Belief won’t soon have forgotten the creepy twist on the Grinch’s tale nor the almost Hitchcockian creeping tension.
Whilst it wasn’t the strongest season, or even the best horror anthology show of the period, it was a rite of passage for terrified tots of the eighties. It’s a bare-bones release that will lend itself to cheerful reminiscence, but is unlikely to net any new fans. Dr. Nis lays out the show’s modus operandi nicely though, when questioned in the opening episode why a horror circus should ever be shown to children: “to induce a sense of wonder - before it’s too late!”