Following in the wake of George A. Romero’s Creepshow movie, Tales from the Darkside was an attempt to do something similar with him on TV. Predating its bedfellows Amazing Stories, The Twilight Zone and Outer Limit reboots, as well as Tales from the Crypt, Darkside more often than not had its tongue so firmly in its cheek it threatened to burst through (something which might even have made it into one of the episodes).
Entries like The Ventriloquist (in which a mimic is given a secret task by the government) Lifebomb (a salesman promotes the benefits of a personal defence mechanism), The Trouble with Mary Jane (an exorcism episode which has to be seen to be believed!) and Strange Love are all inherently silly, not helped by some really cheesy effects.
Yet there are some genuine chills to be found here, in episodes such as The Devil’s Advocate (a radio talk show host goes on a rant and reveals his true nature, unsurprisingly written by Romero himself – which he also introduces in a very short featurette), The Shrine (about a mother who shuns her grown daughter in favour of a ghost memory of her as a little girl) and The Casavin Curse (where a woman can’t fall in love because of her family’s tragic legacy). There’s also the fun of spotting stars who went on to do other things, such as Jerry Stiller playing the aforementioned radio host (Seinfeld and King of Queens, also father of Ben), Penelope Anne Miller as an alien from another dimension (here simply Penelope Miller, from The Relic) and Desperate Housewives’ Marcia Cross as a vampire.
Yes, you feel like you’ve seen a lot of it before and it’s of its time, but it’s fun nostalgia all the same.
Like any anthology series, there’s the good, the bad and the downright ridiculous, but overall there’s still something appealing. Come on over to the Darkside… 7/10