Tales from the Darkside: The Final Season

Tales from the Darkside: The Final Season
For the first couple of seasons of Tales from the Darkside, which ran from 1984 to 1988, the anthology formula was simple, with each episode featuring a central supernatural moral quandary with an ironic twist of fate in the final act. Whether people wagered the souls of their first born for material wealth, ignored warnings from omniscient visible minorities or discovered adverse physical side-effects to lying, audiences had an inkling of what to expect week-to-week, even if the quality fluctuated. In season three, this started to slip a bit, with self-aware camp and absurdist comedy making their way into the mix via a sarcastic look at sainthood and a surprisingly inappropriate ode to maternal exaggeration. This fourth and final season takes this latter road more often than not, which, at the time, was seen as a deterioration in quality. Retrospectively, the peculiarity and impropriety, mixed with big '80s hair and atrocious acting, are exceedingly entertaining. For example, halfway through the season, Clive Barker writes an episode about a midget demon trying to turn a good man bad through poltergeist phenomenon. Amidst the moving furniture and boiled pet fish, a turkey wearing a pearl necklace dances and hops on top of the Christmas tree, taking the place of the angel, which wouldn't normally be that funny, but the actors take the situation literally and discuss it with heightened anxiety. There are also episodes about an obese woman arguing with talking food (for some reason, the ham, pear and banana have urban dialects) and a killer vacuum cleaner that sucks up sound, murdering a housewife and parrot. There are still a couple of serious episodes that were well made, for the time, like Stephen King's entry, wherein a woman receives a mysterious phone call just before her husband has a heart attack, and the "Do Not Open This Box" episode directed by Jodie Foster, which plays off Button, Button. But for the most part, it sticks to mummies playing strip poker, aliens named Klaxu interrupting a feminist I Love Lucy parody to barter for ammonia and electronic professional wrestlers sent from other dimensions to act as negative role models for children. When in the right frame of mind, this stuff is surrealist comedy gold. Included with the DVD set are two rare collectible TV pilots for the similar spin-off series that was never made: "Akhbar's Daughter" and "Attic Suite." The former title is more of a Tales from the Erotic Darkside, with Christopher Atkins banging a leper, while the latter is routine, featuring Brenda Vaccaro and Ray Baker struggling with money while they wait for an elderly family member to die. (Paramount)