Tales from the Darkside: The Third Season

Tales from the Darkside: The Third Season
Somewhat more interesting than the big hair, shoulder-pads, high-waist acid wash jeans, awkwardly timed guitar solos and clunky expositional handling of a plot focused '80s narrative is the political context of this popular horror anthology series, now that time can provide an objective view. Almost all of the 22 episodes in the third season of Tales from the Darkside depict families in crisis, with a mistreated boy in The Bitterest Pill, fatal dark secrets in Black Widows, a single mother struggling to raise two children in A Serpent's Tooth, mariticide in The Swap and so on. Each episode follows the traditional TFTD format, with an otherworldly element or seemingly harmless convenience presenting a moral dilemma to a person in crisis, only to reveal an inevitable irony, or twist, in the end. But more often than not, the series punishes those outside of the spectrum of the nuclear family, damning them for sullying the status quo, or committing them to an endless cycle of their own devices. Season three entries that don't focus on the family delve into issues of greed and instant wealth, another common '80s signifier, questioning the simplicity and origin of immediate gratification, as shown in Baker's Dozen and The Milkman Cometh. The latter instalment features a financially strapped Robert Forster accepting blanket donations from an unseen milkman only to later learn the cost of blind greed, while the former details a similar tale of white corporate success, with a self-serving ad man exploiting a New Orleans bakery built on hoodoo, and negative racial stereotypes. Given that these originally aired in 1986, it's not a surprise that they're visibly dated, featuring cheesy, melodramatic acting and lame storylines, but some episodes still hold up reasonably well, even beyond camp reflection value. Deliver Us From Goodness, for example, is actually quite funny, following a good Christian wife that winds up a saint while helping her husband build a political campaign. The twist here is that her newfound gift, which allows her to make fried chicken magically appear and turn her daughter, played by a young Jane Adams, into Cleopatra, is actually a pain in the ass, leading her to repeatedly sin in an effort to piss off God and be rid of her sainthood. Both The Geezenstacks and Seasons of Belief effectively engage on a creepy level, while Serpent's Tooth actually benefits from time, with the comedy of transmogrification exaggerated by cheap visual effects and stilted editing. No supplements are included with the DVD, which is common for series made before the era of DVD. (Paramount)