Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Harrison
Produced byMitchell Galin
Richard P. Rubinstein
Screenplay byMichael McDowell
(Lot 249 and Lover's Vow)
George A. Romero
(Cat from Hell)
Based on"Lot No. 249" by
Arthur Conan Doyle
"The Cat from Hell" by
Stephen King
Music byJohn Harrison
(Lover's Vow)
Chaz Jankel
(Cat from Hell)
Jim Manzie
(Lot 249)
Pat Regan
(Lot 249)
Donald Rubinstein
(Wraparound Story)
CinematographyRobert Draper
Edited byHarry B. Miller III
Laurel Productions
Darkside Movie
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • May 4, 1990 (1990-05-04)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$16.3 million

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a 1990 American comedy horror anthology film directed by John Harrison, and based on the anthology television series Tales from the Darkside. The film depicts a kidnapped paperboy who tells three stories of horror to the suburban witch who is preparing to eat him.

The film is sometimes said to have been intended as Creepshow 3, a sequel to George A. Romero and Stephen King's popular horror anthologies Creepshow and Creepshow 2. However, this is not supported by any real evidence.[1] Tom Savini has been quoted as saying that this film is the real Creepshow 3, which could be how the rumor started, though he may just have been referring to the similar nature of the movies and the involvement of King and Romero. The story titled "Cat from Hell" was originally going to appear in Creepshow 2, but was scrapped due to budgetary reasons.[2]



The film opens with Betty (Deborah Harry), an affluent, modern-day witch who is planning a dinner party for her fellow witches. The main dish is to be Timmy (Matthew Lawrence), a young boy whom she has captured and has locked up in her pantry. She has been constantly feeding him cookies to fatten him up in time for him to be put into her oven. In an effort to stall her from stuffing and roasting him, Timmy offers to tell her a story from a book she gave him, titled Tales from the Darkside.

Lot 249[edit]

The first segment is an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 short story, "Lot No. 249"; with script by Michael McDowell.

In a prestigious university, graduate student Edward Bellingham (Steve Buscemi), who collects and sells antiques and historical artifacts, has recently been cheated out of a campus fellowship he had hoped to win. The winner, a wealthy student named Lee (Robert Sedgwick), was able to win the fellowship after the discovery of an anonymous tip accusing Bellingham of the theft of a pre-Columbian Zuni fetish from the campus museum. By the time Bellingham was cleared of the charge, Lee's essay had already won.

Lee and his friend Andy (Christian Slater) visit Bellingham after a round of tennis, who congratulates Lee's victory. He invites them inside to observe his latest purchase, a large crate labeled "Lot 249". Opening the crate, the trio discover that its contents include a sarcophagus with an ancient Egyptian mummy inside. Unnerved, Lee leaves Bellingham's room and meets with his girlfriend, Susan (Julianne Moore), who not only happens to be Andy's sister, but who also wrote Lee's winning essay for him and left the anonymous tip that accused Bellingham. Bellingham unwraps the mummy and roots through the incision that the embalmers created to remove his innards. He discovers that the incision contains shriveled herbs, petrified onions, and a parchment scroll containing a message written in hieroglyphics.

Later that night, Bellingham manages to translate the message on the scroll, revealing that it is a spell to reanimate the dead. Bellingham recites the incantation, causing the mummy to come to life. Hearing a commotion, Susan and Andy believe that there is a thief in the building, with Susan using the opportunity to plant the same Zuni fetish she accused Bellingham of stealing in his dorm room. The mummy makes its way to Lee's dorm, where Lee hears the sound of shattering glass and arms himself with a tennis racket. The mummy ultimately discovers Lee and kills him by removing his brain through his nose with a coat hanger. Returning to the dorm house, Susan discovers Lee's brain in a bowl of fruit, along with his corpse. She also manages to spot the mummy as it makes its way back to Bellingham's room.

After Lee's funeral, Susan mentions to Andy that she told the police that she saw Lee's killer. At the same time, Bellingham is interrogated by the museum curator and the Dean of Students over the stolen fetish, the latter of whom expels him. Meanwhile, the mummy confronts Susan, and slashes her back open with scissors, filling the wound with chrysanthemums. Hearing his sister scream, Andy discovers her corpse, crudely wrapped in bandages. He manages to knock Bellingham unconscious, then ties him to a chair and douses him with lighter fluid, intending to burn him alive in revenge for Susan and Lee's deaths. In a panic, Bellingham begins reciting the incantation, bringing the mummy back to life. Andy, however, has come prepared, and dismembers the mummy with a battery powered carving knife, putting its head in the fireplace. He then burns the scroll with the incantation written on it, then considers killing Bellingham, but is talked out of it when Bellingham argues that killing him won't bring Susan and Lee back. The next day, Bellingham leaves the university and says farewell to Andy, telling him that he'll never have to deal with him again. However, inside his taxi, Bellingham recites the incantation, revealing that Andy had burned the wrong scroll. Back at the university, Andy is confronted in his dorm by Susan and Lee, both of them brought back from the dead from the incantation, who tell the terrified Andy that Bellingham sends his regards.

Back in Betty's kitchen, she tells Timmy, despite knowing that he is trying to stall his death, that he told the story quite well. Timmy mentions that people will come looking for him if he isn't home by 6pm, only to be scared into silence when Betty opens the oven. Timmy manages to stall her some more by convincing her to let him read another story.

Cat from Hell[edit]

The second segment is an adaptation of Stephen King's 1977 short story "The Cat from Hell"; with script by George A. Romero.

Halston (David Johansen), a hitman, is driven by taxi to a large mansion. He is invited inside by the mansion's owner, Drogan (William Hickey), a wealthy, wheelchair-bound old man who happens to be the president of a large pharmaceutical company. In the living room, Drogan tells Halston that he wants him to make a hit. When told that his victim is right behind him, Halston discovers that the only thing there is a black cat. Offering Halston an envelope containing $50,000, Drogan explains to him that the cat is who he wants killed, promising him an additional $50,000 if he succeeds. While Halston is left in disbelief about the job, Drogan states how he believes this particular cat is murderously evil.

He explains that there were three other occupants of his house before the cat arrived: his sister, Amanda (Dolores Sutton), her only friend Carolyn Broadmore (Alice Drummond), and the family's butler, Richard Gage (Mark Margolis). Richard was the first to see the cat and had tried to chase it away, only for the cat to come back every time. Amanda and Carolyn then took notice of the cat and took it in, much to the aggravation of Drogan, who complained that he wanted it gone. Drogan claims that he was right to be superstitious about the cat. Over the past few nights, at midnight, the cat killed the other three one by one. It first caused Amanda to trip over it and fall down the stairs to her death. The cat then clamped onto Carolyn's face as she slept, smothering her to death. Lastly, the cat killed Richard (who Drogan had asked take it to the veterinarian to have it euthanized), by slashing his face as he drove, causing him to crash his car. Drogan tells Halston how he now believes that the cat is to kill him next. When asked why, Drogan mentions that his company's biggest selling product, Tri-Dormal-Phenobarbin compound "G", was tested primarily on cats due to the unique quality of their nervous system. 5,000 cats had died over a four-year period of testing, leaving Drogan convinced that the cat has arrived to exact cosmic revenge.

While Halston does not believe the story, he is more than willing to eliminate the cat in exchange for $100,000. When he tries to snap its neck, the cat slashes his palm. Despite the setback, Halston still agrees to kill the cat, with Drogan asking him to bring him its tail as proof as he leaves in the same taxi that brought Halston for a meeting in the city. Left alone, Halston goes hunting for the cat in an attempt to kill it via lethal injection, but the cat manages to evade him each time. Halston attempts to bide his time until the cat comes around again, only for the cat to latch onto and furiously scratch his crotch. Finally, Halston attempts to lure the cat to him with a bowl of food to so he can kill it with a laser-scope rifle, but the rifle's bullet actually manages to go through the cat. Halston chases after it, firing wildly, but the cat manages to kill him by leaping into his mouth, forcing itself down his throat and into his stomach. When Drogan returns the next day to see if the deed is done, he finds Halston's corpse on the floor. A nearby clock chimes 12:00, causing the cat to awaken and crawl out of Halston's corpse through the mouth. It spots Drogan and leaps onto his lap, viciously screeching at him and giving him a fatal heart attack. Having gotten revenge for its fellow cats, the cat peacefully cleans itself on Drogan's corpse.

Back in Betty's kitchen, Betty is once again impressed by the story, despite her growing impatience. She mentions that her favorite stories from the book were love stories, giving Timmy an idea. In an attempt to stall her once more, Timmy offers to tell one last story; a love story.

Lover's Vow[edit]

The third and final segment is an adaptation of the legend of the Yuki-onna from Lafcadio Hearn's 1904 book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things; with script by Michael McDowell.

Preston (James Remar) is a struggling artist living in New York City, where a stone gargoyle on a neighboring building watches over him through his apartment's skylight. He receives a call from his agent, Wyatt, asking to meet with him at a bar a few blocks away. Wyatt tells Preston that his art work is unpopular and not selling, and ultimately lets him go. Dejected, Preston drinks heavily and becomes inebriated. The bar's owner, his friend Jer, offers to walk him home.

Along the way, Preston stops to relieve himself in the back alley. While Preston is occupied, Jer hears suspicious noises and reaches for his gun. He sees and shoots something in the darkness, but ends up losing his hand and begging Preston for help before being decapitated. Preston attempts to run from the horrific scene, but is cornered by Jer's killer: a monstrous gargoyle. As Preston begs for his life, the gargoyle agrees to spare him if he swears to he to never tell anyone that he saw it or tell anyone anything about its appearance. Fearing for his life, Preston agrees to the promise. Satisfied, the gargoyle scratches Preston's chest as a way to ask him "Cross your heart?", then flies away. Traumatized and confused, Preston vomits into a nearby alley. Trying to make his way back home, Preston runs into another alley where he sees a beautiful woman (Rae Dawn Chong) nervously passing by. Still gripped by fear, he grabs her and he assures her that she will not be harmed. The woman, Carola, claims that she became lost while going to meet friends and was hoping to search for a taxi. Preston convinces her to call a taxi from his apartment. While there, Preston attempts to call the police about the gargoyle, but as he is bound by his oath, he is forced to let the police hang up. Carola discovers the gargoyle-inflicted wound on Preston's chest and cleans it, after which they make love.

The next day, Preston briefly leaves Carola to go out for a walk. He discovers Jer's corpse being investigated by police and paramedics, causing him to go back inside. Still haunted by Jer's death, but also inspired by his encounter with the gargoyle, Preston begins creating various pieces of artwork detailing the creature, being careful to hide them from Carola, who decides to move in with him permanently. Preston also learns that Carola has friends in the art world. including the owner of a large gallery, and that she has also mentioned Preston's work to them. Preston and Carola are invited to an opening for a display of Preston's work, some of which is sold for thousands of dollars, causing his once-suffering art career to become immensely successful. Eventually, Carola reveals to Preston that she is pregnant, and he agrees to marry her.

Ten years later, Preston and Carola now have two children, and Wyatt has been rehired as Preston's agent, as well as his children's babysitter. Despite all of his success and happiness, the haunting memories of his encounter with the gargoyle still weigh heavily on Preston. That night, Preston breaks down and finally tells Carola about the gargoyle, the fact that it was what killed Jer, and the promise he made with the creature, even showing her a miniature statue of it. Carola uncomfortably asks why Preston is telling her this, making Preston admit that it's because she is the most important thing in his life, and the only thing he hasn't given her is the truth. Clutching the statue, Carola begins weeping, then yells at Preston that he promised never to tell anyone, revealing that she herself is the gargoyle.

With Preston's vow broken, Carola can no longer remain human, and she painfully transforms back into her monstrous form. The children, awoken by Carola's pained screams, huddle together in terror. A terrified Preston pleads for Carola to change back, but she is unable to. The children begin screaming themselves, causing Preston to discover that they too have transformed into gargoyles. Carola wraps her wings around Preston as he proclaims his love for her. Carola says that she loved him too, but with the vow broken, she reluctantly kills him by biting his neck. Carola gathers the children and flies out of the apartment through the skylight, emitting a heartbroken wail. Wyatt, who was busy hailing a taxi, hears the commotion, but doesn't want to bother finding out what it was. Carola is seen perched on the building neighboring Preston's apartment, revealing that she is the same gargoyle from the beginning of the story. She and her children stare down at Preston's body with sorrowful expressions as they turn to stone.


Back in Betty's kitchen, Betty is impressed with how Timmy saved the best story for last, but Timmy says that there is still one more story left to tell, and it happens to be the best one because it has a happy ending. Betty argues that none of the stories in the book have happy endings. Timmy narrates his own story, how he had to fill in for his older brother on his paper route and how Betty tricked him and locked him in her pantry. Betty tells Timmy that he can stop telling the story since they both know how it ends, as she moves in to start cooking him. As Betty advances on Timmy, he narrates that he has marbles in his pocket. He throws the marbles on the floor, causing Betty to slip and fall on her butcher's block, impaling herself on her own tools. Timmy finds the keys to his chains, releases himself, and pushes Betty into her own oven, where she is burned alive. The film ends with Timmy helping himself to a cookie and breaking the fourth wall by saying to the audience "Don't you just love happy endings?"


Wraparound Story
Lot 249
Cat from Hell
Lover's Vow


Tales from the Darkside: The Movie was a modest box office success for Paramount. The film was released May 4, 1990 in the United States, opening in third place that weekend.[3] It grossed a total of $16,324,573 domestically.[4]

The film was given a rating of 43% on the ratings aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews, while receiving an overall grade of "C" at Box Office Mojo.

Unmade sequel[edit]

Laurel Productions initially announced a sequel to the film in October 1990. A screenplay was written by the first film's screenwriters Michael McDowell and George Romero, along with Gahan Wilson.[5] Segments planned included an adaptation of Robert Bloch's "Almost Human," alongside adaptations of Stephen King's short stories "Pinfall" (originally planned for Creepshow 2) and "Rainy Season."[6] This sequel, however, never came to fruition.


  1. ^ DVD Audio Commentary Director's Track
  2. ^ Creepshow 3/Tales from the Darkside: The Movie relationship Archived 2009-11-15 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office May 3-5, 1990". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
  4. ^ "Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
  5. ^ "Laurel Productions presents TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE THE MOVIE 2". Variety. varietyultimate.com. October 15, 1990. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  6. ^ Gingold, Michael (May 1993). "Shocker Sequel Checklist". Fangoria. page 71: Starlog Communications International.CS1 maint: location (link)

External links[edit]