Picks and Pans Review: Tales from the Darkside: the Movie

updated 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Deborah Harry, James Remar

Given that George Romero and Stephen King are among the contributors to this gross-a-teria horror trilogy, nothing that happens seems extraordinary: Brains get pulled out via people's noses using hooks. Boys get fattened up for roasting. Some fiends crawl into people's bodies through their mouths; others burst out through the host's skin in typical gut-spewing fashion.

If this is your cup of offal, more power to you and yours. The film isn't, by the standards of this kind of thing, offensive, and there are sharp moments.

David Johansen (known as a pop singer as Buster Poindexter) is appealingly phlegmatic as a hit man hired to kill a cat by the wealthy William (Prizzi's Honor) Hickey. Remar (The Dream Team) seems aptly angst-ridden as a New York City artist whose career is revived when he meets a grotesque creature in an alley, and Rae Dawn Chong seems convincingly winsome as the woman who becomes Remar's muse and wife.

The other story involves Christian (The Wizard) Slater and Steve (Mystery Train) Buscemi in a routine murderous mummy scheme. In a running plot that ties it all together—a suburban A Thousand and One Nights—a boy of about 10 keeps telling the tales to the nicely matter-of-fact Harry so she won't cook him. The actors seem to have a good time. As an agent, for instance, comic Robert Klein tells Remar he won't represent him anymore, and Remar calls him a "monster." "For an agent." Klein replies with a dry sense of relish, "being a monster is just credentials."

There are too few such lines, though, and too little ingenuity. (The end of the Remar-Chong episode is especially predictable.) Director John Harrison hasn't done a feature before, but he worked on the Tales of the Darkside TV series and the King-Romero collaboration Creep-show and should know how to make the mayhem more fun. It's one thing to know where the bodies are buried, another to know how to get a laugh out of digging them up. (R)

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