“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.”
Horror anthologies have maintained a powerful presence within the genre and continue to plague nearly every medium of entertainment ranging from movies to television. The most memorable (and dear to my heart) are those from the 1980’s. As George Romero and Stephen King wrapped their ever popular Creepshow film, a follow-up seemed the only logical means of moving forward. As a result, George A. Romero created Tales From The Dark Side, electing the series be presented through television rather than the big screen.
A horror anthology series that tapped into several other genres as well, Tales From The Dark Side featured the works of well known authors such as Stephen King (IT, The Shining), Clive Barker (Hellraiser), and Michael McDowell (screenplay for Beetlejuice). It’s the weekend, and what better way to celebrate Tales From The Dark Side’s 34th birthday than a viewing with family and friends. On this day, September 30th 1984, Tales From The Dark Side officially hit the airwaves, welcomed by millions into their homes to entertain….and frighten.
Laurel Entertainment, co-founded by Romero and longtime collaborator Richard P. Rubinstein, produced Creepshow on a fairly large budget of $8 million. Although the earnings Creepshow made were nearly threefold that amount, Laurel Entertainment decided to produce Tales From The Darkside on a smaller scale budget, using an abandoned mattress factory in East Los Angeles as their film studio. According to a New York Times article published on June 9th, 1986 by Stephen Farber, “One of the main reasons for the show’s success is its economical, no-frills approach. Whereas the networks’ anthology series have frequently spent $1 million per episode, each half-hour segment of ”Tales” is filmed on a relatively puny $124,000 budget.” By focusing the show’s attention in presenting profound storytelling rather than inflated budgets, Farber quotes Laurel Entertainment founder Richard Rubinstein stating, “We try to have clever special effects, but our main emphasis is on finding good stories.’’
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Maintaining similar concepts from Creepshow, Tales From The Darkside attempted to retain the winning qualities of its predecessor while abandoning others in order to keep its own identity. For example, Creepshow was presented in a comic book format, which became a staple in the film’s iconic presentation. This signature was abandoned for a more straightforward impression. The format of Tales From The Darkside wasn’t much different than the more familiar Tales From The Crypt: Half-hour episodes featuring a central character face-to-face against a supernatural force that perhaps led to their impending doom. Yet what made this new series a force to be reckoned with was the string of prominent horror and science fiction authors behind the show’s writing. “Finding good stories” seemed to be the stronghold of Tales From The Darkside that led to its continual success, and a continual influence on horror anthologies thereafter.
One of the most memorable qualities about Tales From The Darkside was the opening theme’s musical score, composed by ASCAP Award winner Donald Rubinstein, younger brother of Richard Rubinstein. Rubinstein’s composition credits include frequent collaborations with George A. Romero which include Martin (1978) and Knightriders (1981).
Tales From The Darkside ran for four seasons from September 1984 through July of 1988. While achieving commercial success throughout its tenure on television, Tales From The Darkside remained a notable force within the horror genre and eventually went on to spawn a full feature film as well as a limited comic book series many years later. Joe Hill would helm the writing credits on the comic book medium as a result of a promising pilot episode of a Tales From The Darkside reboot, which was eventually aborted by the CW Network.
Tales From The Darkside aired a total of roughly 89 episodes (and a Pilot episode) before eventually concluding it’s four season run. This is perhaps attributed to the fierce competition that arose that same year with the likes of Freddy’s Nightmares and Friday The 13th: The Series. As a response to the growing appreciation for horror anthologies on television, such as Tales From The Crypt, the producers of Tales From The Darkside decided to move their series onto the big screen. Tales From The Darkside: The Movie would be released two years after the shows conclusion. The film’s screenwriting credits included Michael McDowell and George A. Romero. Rubinstein, through Laurel Entertainment, would go on to produce many films in collaboration with Stephen King including Pet Sematary, The Stand, The Langoliers, and Thinner.
Even in modern television, horror anthologies continue to climb the rating charts and find success beyond their usual television format (some become full feature films). Ranging from the classic Tales From The Crypt, the ever popular Are you Afraid Of The Dark?, to the more recent Masters of Horror and American Horror Story, the list only continues to grow.
What was your favorite episode of Tales From The Darkside? Let know over on our Twitter and the Horror Movie Fiend Club Group on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the NOFS Podcast for some stellar horror insight into classic as well as today’s modern horror gems. Start a conversation with us. Stay ghoulish, friends!
“The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter — waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.”