Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a 1990 American horror anthology film directed by John Harrison based on the anthology television series Tales from the Darkside. The film, shot in anthology style, depicts a kidnapped paperboy who tells three stories of horror to the suburban witch who is preparing to eat him, à la Hansel and Gretel.
The film is sometimes said to have been intended as Creepshow 3, a sequel to George A. Romero and Stephen King's popular horror anthology, Creepshow. However, this is not supported by any real evidence. 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 on Creepshow 2 but was scrapped due to budgetary reasons.
The movie opens with Betty, an affluent suburban housewife and modern-day witch (Deborah Harry), planning a dinner party. The main dish is to be Timmy ([Matthew Lawrence), a young boy whom she had captured earlier and chained up in her pantry. To stall her from stuffing and roasting him, the boy tells her three horror stories from the book "Tales from the Darkside".
In the first segment, Michael McDowell adapts Arthur Conan Doyle's short story, "Lot No. 249". A graduate student, Bellingham (played by Steve Buscemi), has been cheated by two classmates, Susan (played by Julianne Moore), and Lee (played by Robert Sedgwick), who framed him for theft to ruin his chances of getting a competing scholarship. As revenge, Bellingham reanimates a mummy and uses it to murder them both. Susan's brother Andy (played by Christian Slater) kidnaps Bellingham, and burns the parchment and mummy. He considers killing Bellingham, but in the end can't bring himself to commit real murder. His soft heart serves him poorly in the twist ending, though, when Bellingham brings Susan and Lee back from the dead (he switched the reanimation parchment with a similar one) and dispatches them to Andy's dorm, greeting the terrified Andy by saying that Bellingham sent his regards.
Cat from HellEdit
In the second tale, George A. Romero adapts a Stephen King short story of the same name. Drogan is a wealthy, wheelchair-bound old man (played by William Hickey) who brings in a hitman (played by David Johansen) for a bizarre hire: kill a black cat, which Drogan believes is murderously evil. Drogan explains that there were three other occupants of his house before the cat arrived: his sister, Amanda (played by Dolores Sutton), her friend Carolyn (played by Alice Drummond), and the family's butler, Richard Gage (played by Mark Margolis). Drogan claims that one by one, the cat killed the other three, and that he is next. Drogan's pharmaceutical company killed 5,000 cats while testing a new drug, and he is convinced that this black cat is here to exact cosmic revenge.
The hitman, Halston, doesn't believe the story, but is more than willing to eliminate the cat, since Drogan is offering $100,000. But when Drogan returns to the house to see if the deed is done, he finds that the cat has in fact killed Halston, by climbing down his throat. The cat emerges from the hitman's corpse and jumps at Drogan, giving him a fatal heart attack.
The third and final segment is written by Michael McDowell and based on yuki-onna, a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore or more specifically Lafcadio Hearn's version in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. A despondent artist named Preston (played by James Remar) witnesses a gruesome murder committed by a gargoyle-like monster. The monster agrees to spare Preston's life as long as he swears never to speak of what he saw. The monster vanishes, leaving Preston traumatized and confused, but bound by his oath never to talk about the incident.
After that night, Preston's life takes many turns for the better. He meets a beautiful woman named Carola (played by Rae Dawn Chong), and they go on to marry and they have two kids. Preston has a revival of his art career and life seems promising, but he is tormented by memories of his run-in with the monster, and his vow of silence weighs on him. One night he breaks down and tells Carola about the monster, even showing her a statue he sculpted of it. She appears upset; at first Preston assumes she thinks he's lying, but then she lets out a heartbroken screech and reveals herself to be the very same creature he met that night!
With Preston's promise broken she can no longer remain human, and their children revert to monstrous forms as well. She kills Preston (though she says she still loves him), gathers the children up and flies away. The final scene shows that the gargoyle and children have turned to stone upon a building ledge, staring down at Preston's body with sorrowful expressions.
As Betty makes preparations to cook Timmy, he trips her by throwing some marbles on the floor. Betty slips and falls on her butcher's equipment, stabbing herself in the back. Timmy releases himself and pushes her into her own oven. The film ends with Timmy helping himself to a cookie and breaking the fourth wall by asking us: "Don't you love happy endings?"
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie was a modest box office success for Paramount. The film was released May 3, 1990 in the United States, opening in third place that weekend. It grossed a total of $16,324,573 domestically.
The film was given a rating of 33% on the ratings aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews, while receiving an overall grade of "C" at Box Office Mojo.