Horror-compilation films are usually a mixed bag, and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie is more mixed than most. Its title aside, this slow, clunky omnibus film feels more like a TV show than a movie. It’s not very scary, and there isn’t much contrast among the episodes. They’re about a killer mummy, a killer cat, a killer gremlin, and a killer housewife. So much for subtlety, atmosphere, suggestion.
Still, Tales From the Darkside isn’t a total loss. It has a couple of imaginative gross-outs and a slew of creative casting turns. William Hickey is in full ghoulish splendor as an old geezer whose kitty is trying to murder him. And pop star David Johansen, who plays the hit man Hickey hires to kill the cat, proves he’s a terrific straight actor. Other standouts include Deborah Harry as a blithe suburban housewife planning to turn one of the neighborhood kids into a pot roast and the talented James Remar as a long-suffering artist who makes a Faustian pact with a giant, leering gremlin. This last episode is the only one that has any real power as a story. The rest of them feel as if they’ve been left out in the dark a little too long.