TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE
‘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.’
In 1982 George A Romero released the now iconic movie ‘Creepshow’, featuring five dark, twisted tales of the macabre that sought to capture the life and vitality of the 50’s American Horror comic. These five tales adhered to the now familiar tradition of storytelling and imagery that began with such writers as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe, becoming collectively known as ‘The American Gothic’. Soon after followed a Tv incarnation called ‘Tales from the Darkside‘, which toned down the blood and gore, focusing more on atmosphere and paranoia. A more conventional version of this shorter shock storytelling already existed in the 50’s, parallel with the comic genre. ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘Night Gallery’, knocked out weekly high quality drama vignettes throughout the late 50’s and 60’s.. but it took the Comic Book to bring together the two very different mediums of Gothic short literature and popular Tv. These pulp anthology stories released for a short time by EC comics, presented short illustrated tales that could be treated as storyboards for Cinema, combining the literary Gothic tradition, with the lurid excesses of Grindhouse cinema.. indeed both comics and cinema borrowed from each other in equal fashion throughout the period, as they continue to do today. Romero had often expressed a childhood fascination for the Vault of Horror comics released by EC Comics, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would work on a homage in some shape or form.
Romero is most famous of course for his near single handed creation of the Zombie genre (a tip of the hat to ‘I am Legend’ author Richard Matheson), but it is in his taste for the bizarre and the dark cultural cynicism that we identify his influence on Creepshow, and it’s Tv successor ‘Tales from the Darkside’. With Darkside, Romero opted to lose the direct comic book framework that Creepshow used as it’s linking device between stories (which given the one story per episode structure, was an inevitable change), and unlike it’s chief rival ‘Tales from the Crypt’, it also did without a host. Instead the unifying ident for each episode was the deeply disconcerting title sequence which spoke a little mantra about a dark underworld, that exists as a flip side to our brightly lit, so-called reality, delivered in a sort of half-dead, disembodied Rod Serling voice.
The obvious comparison to make is with HBO’s Tales from the Crypt, a rival and critically more successful series that ran parallel to Darkside throughout the 1980’s. Both series were spawned from the selfsame EC Comic parent, but whereas Crypt relied upon it’s shock endings and twisted sense of humour, Darkside took it’s time to weave a different breed of sinister and thought provoking tale. Try playing a little guessing game among the early star appearances, and to count the plethora of cine-references and plot derivatives. There’s was a genuinely uneasy tone about this series, as each episode layed out before us a comparatively mundane scenario, which slowly distorted, shifted focus, then abruptly ‘cracked from side to side’.. finishing on the more than slightly disturbing voice over, with it’s admonishing ‘Until next time.. try to enjoy the daylight.’
The four seasons, clocking up 92 episodes, and an impressive movie in 1990 (featuring a charming wrap-around story with Debbie Harry), two years after the final closing season. At the time ‘Darkside’ was an oddity in both tone and late-night scheduling, intensified by it’s simplistic production, and subdued performances.. somehow the passage of time has managed to increase this strange character. The few cobwebs that hang about the edges are merely evidence of it’s Gothic overtones, so give the darkside an explore.. but perhaps keep a candle burning.
‘The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.
Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.’
~ Tales From The Darkside : Season 3
Released on DVD by Revelation Films on 04/06/12 ~
IF YOU LIKE THIS, THEN YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
Dead of Night (1945) / Deadtime stories (1986) / Tales from the Crypt (1972) / The Hand (1981) / Tales from the Crypt -Tv- (1989-1996) / Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1988) / Night Gallery (1969-1973) / The Twilight Zone (1959-1964..1985-1989..2002-2003) / The Outer Limits (1963-1965.. 1995-2002) / People shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)