The Darkside Is Always With Us:
Tales from the Darkside
A little-known horror anthology series from the 1980s is now back on American television. Given how popular H. P. Lovecraft is in dissident Right circles, more of our people should know about this hidden gem. Inspired by the horror comics of the 1950s, it also owes much to the influence of writers such as Poe and Lovecraft.
Tales from the Darkside aired in syndication on late-night cable from 1984 until 1988 — meaning that you had to really search for the show, if it was even available in your area, and you had to stay up late to watch it (often after midnight). It was fortunately available in my New England town, and I was hooked from the first episode. As a kid I was into horror and sci-fi, especially The Twilight Zone, which enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s. I would later discover The Outer Limits and Night Gallery in reruns, as well as the 1990s HBO series Tales from the Crypt. Tales from the Darkside fits in well with these shows, and may even surpass them.
The producers were apparently inspired by the moderate success of the 1982 movie Creepshow, and wanted to make a series based on it. One of them was George Romero of Night of the Living Dead fame. A pilot aired in October of 1983 and did well enough for it to get picked up for syndication. Tales from the Darkside would go on to run for an impressive 94 episodes over four seasons.
Those into 1980s nostalgia will particularly enjoy the show, and Gen-Xers may have flashbacks to their childhood. From the opening graphics and synth-heavy theme music to its special effects, fashions, hairstyles, and low-budget production values, it simply screams mid-1980s America in the same way The Twilight Zone represents America of the early 1960s. Tales is also a welcome respite from enforced diversity. It does not shove Leftist propaganda down your throat, and there are mercifully few blacks in the show — something that would not be allowed today.
As an anthology series, there is no continuity between the episodes. But the same eerie music and introduction sets the stage for each show:
Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But . . . there is, unseen by most, an underworld — a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit. A darkside.
The half-hour episodes incorporate horror, sci-fi, mystery, and suspense themes. And as in all anthology series, some episodes are better than others. A few that stand out to me are:
“Inside the Closet”: A college student rents a room from an eccentric local professor and soon hears mysterious noises from inside the house. Seemingly coming from a closed-off storage area, her investigations reveal a dark secret.
“Seasons of Belief”: Obviously influenced by the legend of Krampus, two parents attempt to scare their children on Christmas Eve. The two kids learn about the Grither: a monster who preys on the innocent at Christmas.
“The Geezenstacks”: A little girl is given a dollhouse, complete with a creepy doll family called the Geezenstacks. The Geezenstacks’ lives soon begin to imitate the lives of the real family.
“The Circus”: A skeptical newspaper critic seeks to discredit the proprietor of a travelling “Exhibition of Wonder.” After a series of bizarre encounters, he begins to slowly question his initial beliefs.
“The Cutty Black Sow”: This is apparently taken from an obscure Scottish legend. On Halloween a dying woman asks her great grandson to locate five stones, one for each member of his family, and place them in a circle of fire, telling him that only this can protect them from the evil Cutty Black Sow.
“My Own Place”: While this is merely a decent episode, I am including it as it comes closest to Lovecraft’s writings on race. A stereotypical ‘80s yuppie rents a Manhattan apartment at a price that seems too good to be true. He soon finds out why, as the place comes with an uninvited house guest from the slums of India.
Tales had a low budget, but some well-known actors nevertheless make appearances. This includes a veritable who’s who of ‘80s character actors – many of whom are now dead — such as Vic Tayback, Nancy Travis, Fritz Weaver, Justine Bateman, Danny Aiello, Harry Anderson, Keenan Wynn, Jerry Stiller, Debra Harry (Blondie), Bill Macy, Abe Vigoda, Penelope Ann Miller, and a young Christian Slater.
The series officially ended after the 1988 season, but inspired a related late-night series called Monsters, which was similar in theme although more firmly in the horror genre than Tales was. A straightforwardly-titled Tales from the Darkside: The Movie was released in 1990 and was a modest success. Consisting of three vignettes, despite being more polished and with a bigger budget than the series, it was definitely in line with the spirit of the series.
On a personal note, I was only able to view about half of the first season of Tales at the time, as my family moved in 1985 and it was not available in my new city. I thus only saw a few subsequent episodes on occasion when visiting relatives back in my hometown, and I never saw it in reruns. Thus, watching it now on Saturday afternoons (on Comet) makes me realize what I missed. Some of the episodes are available on YouTube, but the quality is often not very good and many are not complete. Plus, it is nostalgic for me to watch it on television, complete with commercial breaks, just as I had done when I was a kid.
A few years ago there was talk of a remake of Tales from the Darkside. A pilot was even filmed, but apparently it wasn’t picked up. I’m glad it was never remade. Horror anthology remakes are never as good as the originals; see the various remakes of The Twilight Zone, for example. In today’s woke climate, the series would have been packed with blacks, social justice warriors, and anti-white messaging. This is exactly what makes today’s horror-anthology series such as Two Sentence Horror Stories unwatchable.
But this is also why Tales is worth checking out. They are literally not making shows like this anymore. If you do watch it, just try to remember these ominous words from the closing credits:
The darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.
Peter Bradley writes from northern Virginia.
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