Archive for June 18, 2016


Horror fans everywhere were reasonably enthusiastic at the prospect, first announced a few years ago now, of a newly-“reimagined” version of the classic TV series Tales From The Darkside being developed for the CW network under the creative guidance of up-and-coming author Joe Hill,  and why not? Hill comes from about as distinguished a genre pedigree as one can imagine, after all (in case you didn’t know his full name is Joseph Hillman King), and has some best-selling and critically-acclaimed novels of his own under his belt (one of which, Horns, was adapted by Alexandre Aja into a darn fine feature film), as well as a little comic-book series you just may have heard of called Locke & Key. Surely this would be a pretty good little show whenever it finally hit our screens, right?

Except, of course, it never did. Somewhere along the twisting, winding, perilous length that is Hollywood’s pre-production pipeline, things god scuttled, and CW “suits” pulled the plug on the project for reasons known only to them before any of us ever got to see what was being cooked up. But in today’s multi-media marketplace, nothing is ever truly dead, and the wise folks at IDW Publishing decided to get in touch with Hill, see if they might be able to make something of his unused scripts, and maybe even get his Locke & Key co-creator, Garbriel Rodriguez, involved on the artistic side. The end result? It’s at your LCS now in the form of the new Tales From The Darkside four-issue mini-series.


The original syndicated TFTDS TV show was a late-night series comprised of 30-minute “one and done” episodes that told fairly basic horror stories with no real connecting theme or thread to unite to unite them, but Hill’s revamp apparently revolved around the semi-random appearance of something called “darkside events” — metaphysical incursions from the great void beyond designed to dish out either cosmic reward or retribution to folks who have recently done something really good or really bad. It’s a simple but effective conceit that’s employed to good effect in this debut issue, titled “Sleepwalker,” about a spoiled rich kid who takes a summer lifeguarding job and has a woman die on his watch because he was hung over and fell asleep behind his sunglasses, and I have no doubt that in the three installments remaining these “events” will function basically as portals into — well, The Darkside Zone, for lack of a better way of putting it. Our protagonist this time out could certainly be forgiven for thinking he had stumbled through Rod Serling’s dimensional doorway as every single person he encounters ends up giving him a taste of his own medicine after his mother’s high-priced lawyers manage to procure his very own “Get Out Of Jail, Free” card for him — which is probably all you really need to know in order to get a general gist of what’s on offer in the pages of this comic.


Hill’s TV scripts are being adapted for the printed page by Michael Benedetto, but I think it’s fair to assume that the essence of them is surviving intact, and while the breadth and scope of Locke & Key can’t in any way be expected to be duplicated in a four-issue anthology series, it’s refreshing to see the talents of these individuals at work in a more “self-contained” and “scaled-back” format. We knew that Hill and Rodriguez could tackle sprawling epics, sure, but one installment in with Tales From The Darkside and it’s already crystal clear that simple-but-effective macabre morality plays are well within their wheelhouse, as well, and while it would or could be tempting to assume that our creators might try to get away with “mailing it in” on a project like this, at least if you’re a hardened cynic like I am, the simple truth is that, as Rodriguez’s superbly fluid double-splash image reproduced below shows, no one’s doing anything of the sort here. There’s going to be a lot of attention being paid to this new take on Tales From The Darkside, and who knows? Maybe the studio execs will take notice and decide that this idea has some life in it yet.


One brief final note : the one member of the Locke & Key team conspicuous by his absence here is colorist extraordinaire Jay Fotos, and while there’s nothing wrong with Ryan Hill’s hues in the least, fans will no doubt be very  pleased to see that the entire gang is getting back together later this year for a very special project teased in a “house ad” at the back of this comic. Even if the rest of the book sucked — which it absolutely doesn’t — I would feel that my $3.99 was well-spent just for this fucking promo page.

Yeah — that’s how big it the news is. And even if Tales From The Darkside doesn’t prove to be your cup of tea, you’ll still be over the moon about what these creators have coming up next. Trust me.


Question of the day : can an 86-minute movie totally redeem itself in the last 10 minutes? I confess I don’t know the answer myself, but director Eytan Rockaway’s 2015  indie horror The Abandoned (which played the horror film festival circuit, and even “enjoyed” a very limited theatrical run last year, under its original title, The Confines, before undergoing a name-change for Blu-ray/DVD and streaming service release via IFC Midnight) certainly comes pretty close. It gathers up a few too many strikes against it in the early going to completely pull its metaphorical fat out of the fire, it’s true, but if you do decide to stick it out to the end, you’ll at least give yourself the opportunity to see the best part, and who knows? Maybe you won’t walk away from it feeling your time was completely wasted.

I gave Rockaway’s obviously-low-budget little opus a go on Netflix last night (hence the conspicuous lack of information in this review regarding the film’s physical-storage specs), and really only kept going beyond the first 30 minutes out of sheer, bloody-minded stubbornness, but it’s just as well I did because now I have an excuse not only to review it, but to give it something of a middling recommendation (albeit one loaded with caveats). The problem, though — as I’m sure is already apparent — is that you have to wade through a awful lot of boring, cliched crap to get to the good stuff.


Here, then, are the story particulars : a mentally disturbed young lady known only as “Streak” (played by Louisa Krause) is attempting to put her life back together after an unspecified breakdown of some sort and does what anyone in her position would do, I suppose — takes a job as a third-shift security guard at a creepy-ass, cavernous, dilapidated,  abandoned building. Her co-worker, Cooper (waitaminit, isn’t that —? Holy shit, yes, it’s Jason Patric!), is pretty much the biggest a-hole you’ll ever meet in your life, literally devoid of anything even resembling a single redeeming quality, but when Streak decides to allow a homeless man named Jim (Mark Margolis), who’s trying to find shelter from an apparently-vicious storm, access to one of the rooms under her charge, all hell breaks loose as she’s confronted with a nightmarish series of visions — or are they memories? — that threaten to once again send her completely over the brink.

If this sounds like a road you’ve been down before, that’s because it is. There’s literally nothing new on offer here and every sad, old horror trope is paraded in front of your eyes with no regard for your continued sanity, much less that of our hapless protagonist. It all seems terribly shrill, unimaginative, and even condescending. Do Rockaway and his screenwriter, Ido Fluk, think we’re all suckers, or what?


It would certainly seem that they do, but as Cooper slowly begins to do a 180 and threaten to become likable, you start to think that maybe something else might be going on here — and the film’s rapid-fire final act shows that to indeed be the case. I can’t say much more without incurring the wrath of the “spoiler police,” but I will go so far as to state that if you ever wondered what would happen if an otherwise-lackluster horror flick decided to pull a twisted version of the ending to The Wizard Of Oz out from somewhere deep up its own ass, well — congratulations, you need not search any further for your answer. I literally don’t know where this idea came from, but damned if it doesn’t work — and work very well, at that.


Unfortunately, it’s really the only thing about The Abandoned that does. Both Patric and Margolis do serviceable enough work in their supporting roles, I suppose, but Krause has a long way to go before she can carry a film, and Rockaway’s visual style is very much “standard-issue modern horror.” This is a film that has absolutely nothing to recommend in its favor from start to nearly finish — but its completely unexpected, whacked-out finale is just about enough to save it.