September 30: Tales from the Darkside: The False Prophet. Rating: 3/5. Comment: The woman in this episode is a complete nutjob. On a scale of one to self-help guru practicing witchcraft to heal auras, this woman is Marianne Williamson. She starts to listen to a fortune-telling machine who continually tells her to touch him, because apparently for some reason he can feel it. In walks an equally crazy, smooth-talking cult leader, who also happens to be an early contributor to the Me Too movement. The man and the machine start fighting over her. She makes her choice and, of course, comes to regret it.
September 29: Tales from the Darkside: Grandma’s Last Wish. Rating: 3/5. Comment: Ah, so this is what life would look like in a typical middle-class family in the 80’s trying to rid themselves of an unwanted elderly relative. So much loudness. Constant yelling. The tv and radio being played at unrealistically high volumes. Grandma, whose hearing comes and goes, elicits both pity and irritation. The plot twists, and the ending is so satisfying it bumps the score up a half a point!
September 28: Tales from the Darkside: Bigalow’s Last Smoke. Rating: 3/5. Comment: A guy wakes up ready to have a smoke, only to realize he can’t find them. The television won’t work. He wants to just go back to bed. Then he realizes he is locked in a cage designed to look like his apartment. This one reminds me of a Stephen King short story I read many years ago. Remember, peeps, in the real world you can’t change anyone but yourself.
September 27: Tales from the Darkside: It All Comes Out In The Wash. Rating: 2/5. Comment: An old, rich, cruel, racist, skeevy, insensitive businessman makes a Faustian deal he would come to regret. He values money over the environment, profit over his family, and business over morality. He does whatever he wants without a thought for the impact to others — in fact, sometimes desiring to hurt others. The laundry metaphor was sometimes difficult to follow, particularly at the end. I became convinced they were really just talking about laundry then. Piles of it were everywhere. To sum up, I did not like the main character and was not smart enough to follow the plot. On an unrelated note, this episode would have been better if John Lovitz had played the lead.
September 26: Tales from the Darkside: Levitation. Rating: 3/5. Comment: When I was a little girl (by which I mean still right now), I secretly hoped magic was actually real. I also desperately wanted to believe the Yeti somehow managed to elude all forms of detection since the beginning of time. But I know neither of those things are true, except the one about the Yeti. This episode combines two of my favorite things: literary themes depicting the consequences of (often magic-based) regrettable choices (the Be Careful What You Wish For trope) and utterly dashing the hopes and destroying the life of an aggressively impudent, reckless, selfish punk.
September 25: Tales from the Darkside: If the Shoes Fit. Rating: 2/5. Comment: If I made the Fright Fest movie rating rules (take a moment to appreciate the irony of the statement), I would give this a 1.5 stars. It’s not quite as bad as, say, Killer Klowns from Outer Space (one of the only Fright Fest movies we turned off partway through, I think), but it’s not as good as, say, It Part I (which, if you’ll remember, I rated a 2 last year and I stand by it — don’t come at me). I appreciate the social and political commentary, albeit in an admittedly inappropriate setting — no one tunes into TftD for a scathing criticism of both the American voting population and political clout of corrupt, scheming shysters (well, no one but the Fornellis, that is, on this: the eve of the initiation of the official impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States). I digress. I get it: the guy was a swindler, a charlatan, a cheat, a con artist who ran his game on the wrong hotel clerk/actor whose name I don’t know but was in a 21 Jump Street episode once/possibly Satan, I think? Is that who he was supposed to be? Then who was the woman? It was all very confusing. The first half of the episode was really well done: biting, enraging, truthful, hard-hitting. The politician clearly acts the fool to secure votes. He explains why candidates manipulate, distract, and entertain the masses: simply to ingratiate themselves so they can win. The second half of the show had the problem that so many trying to make a serious point have: we, the audience, are hit over the head with the point. They use the point to also stab us, then dig a hole and cover us with dirt while using the point as a make-shift shovel. Get it? Yeah. I thought so. Side note: the clown concept was apt and also gave me the willies.
September 24: Tales from the Darkside: The Madness Room. Rating: 4/5. Comment: Was this surprisingly good episode completely unexpected? A resounding yes. Did it have an actress with a terrible 1940’s Transatlantic accent, distractingly out of place in 1985? Also a resounding yes. Josh and I agreed (which almost never happens) that this, despite its glaring flaws, was a solid 4. The plot had, like, three twists, one we sort of saw coming and then were fooled into thinking did not come to pass, yet only seconds later to realize we had, in fact, nailed it. But the ending redeemed the entire “dated, clunky-scripted, giant-80s-haired” feel of the first half of the show. I recognized one of the actors in a I-don’t-quite-know-who-this-is way, if that at all reassures you. Also, to sum up without spoiling the episode, I sure do love a Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” riff.
September 23: Tales from the Darkside: The Tear Collector. Rating: 1/5. Comment: The only way I could get Joshua Fornelli to agree to start the Frightfest early was to promise we would watch only Tales from the Darkside episodes for this last week of September (they are about a half an hour and bring a sense of nostalgia with them for the ‘good old days’). That being said, the good old days are old, and time has moved on and what was once the height of dramatic thrills has now become unacceptable, sexist, and stalker-y. What I’m saying is the past should stay there. This episode begins with a woman describing her clear-cut, textbook symptoms of what modern medicine would diagnose as clinical depression. (“I have never been happy. I just cry for no reason and can’t stop.”) Her useless, self-absorbed roommate tells her to just cheer up, put on some makeup (“They say if you look good, you feel good, so paint on a happy face.”), and try to find a man. When our main character refuses, the roommate throws up her hands and tells her she’ll never get a date that way, which, probably, is the least of poor Prudence’s worries. So Pru goes outside and is immediately empathetic to a homeless raving lunatic (or alcoholic — it’s not clear) digging in the trash can. He sees her pitying him and accosts her, and then, unsurprisingly, assaults her physically and verbally. He follows her down the street while she screams and cries for him to leave her alone, while no one else intervenes (ah, the good old days). Suddenly, a man who had far too much Botox injected into his unmovable forehead steps directly into her path. He gives her his card and tells her how beautiful her tears are (and who says chivalry is dead?), requesting she visit him, alone, no questions asked. He backs away from her gracefully, never once looking behind him as he glides to an impressively expensive-looking town car. The drunk hobo, sensing another man marking his territory and claiming her for his own, stalks off, leaving our mentally unstable heroine further traumatized and confused by the disappearance of her knight in shining armor. She decides she should — nay, must! — visit that unlined savior at his apartment, alone and defenseless. He tells her he is there to wrench her from her despair by collecting her tears in a glass vase (shaped like a swan, though the allusion escapes me). Eventually, for no understandable reason, she falls in love with Dr. Strangelove, and when he ultimately rejects her inexplicably, it shatters her and sends her reeling into a life of crime; she steals her jar of tears — which he had literally paid her money to get — and, in the process, breaks a bunch of other tiny whine-bottles. I had hoped her punishment for theft and vandalism would be harsh and swift. It was not. I won’t spoil the end for you. Okay, I will, because I genuinely don’t feel anyone should watch this horror again. She meets another dude and then hangs out with him. I’d like to inject a little humor into this review but I just…can’t.
A few of my reviews from last year were published on my Facebook feed but I forgot to publish them on my blog. I thought I should do so before beginning this year’s Frightfest! If you wish to check out earlier years, please check anywhere under the Frightfest category, such as here or here or here!