Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a 1990 American comedy horror anthology film directed by John Harrison, and based on the anthology television series Tales from the Darkside. The film depicts a kidnapped paperboy who tells three stories of horror to the suburban witch who is preparing to eat him.
The film opens with Betty, an affluent suburban housewife and modern-day witch (Deborah Harry), planning a dinner party. The main dish is to be Timmy (Matthew Lawrence), a young boy whom she has captured and chained up in her pantry. To stall her from stuffing and roasting him, the boy tells her three horror stories from a book she gave him, titled Tales from the Darkside.
In the first segment, Michael McDowell adapts Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 short story "Lot No. 249". A graduate student, Edward Bellingham (played by Steve Buscemi), has been cheated by two classmates, Susan (Julianne Moore), and Lee (Robert Sedgwick), who framed him for theft to ruin his chances of winning a scholarship for which they were competing. As revenge, Bellingham reanimates a mummy and uses it to murder them both. Susan's brother Andy (Christian Slater) kidnaps Bellingham, forces him to summon the mummy, then destroys it and burns its remains and what he believes to be the reanimation parchment. He considers killing Bellingham, but in the end cannot bring himself to commit real murder. However, Bellingham brings Susan and Lee back from the dead (having switched the reanimation parchment with a similar one) and dispatches them to Andy's dorm, where they greet the terrified Andy by saying that Bellingham sends his regards.
Cat from Hell
In the second tale, George A. Romero adapts a 1977 Stephen King short story "The Cat from Hell". Drogan (William Hickey) is a wealthy, wheelchair-bound old man who brings in a hitman named Halston (David Johansen) for a bizarre hire: kill a black cat, which Drogan believes is murderously evil. Drogan explains that there were three other occupants of his house before the cat arrived: his sister, Amanda (Dolores Sutton), her friend Carolyn (Alice Drummond), and the family's butler, Richard Gage (Mark Margolis). Drogan claims that one by one, the cat killed the other three, and that he is next. Drogan's pharmaceutical company killed 5,000 cats while testing a new drug, and he is convinced that this black cat is here to exact cosmic revenge.
Halston does not believe the story, but is more than willing to eliminate the cat since Drogan is offering $100,000. But when Drogan returns to the house to see if the deed is done, he finds that the cat has killed Halston by climbing down his throat. The cat emerges from the hitman's corpse and jumps at Drogan, giving him a fatal heart attack.
"Cat from Hell" was originally going to appear in Creepshow 2, but was scrapped due to budgetary reasons.
The third and final segment is written by Michael McDowell and based on the Yuki-onna, a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore or more specifically Lafcadio Hearn's 1904 version in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.
Preston (James Remar) is a struggling artist. He lives in a studio with a skylight, through which a large stone gargoyle statue on the neighboring building peers down on his work table. Preston's agent calls, asking to meet with him at a bar a few blocks away. The agent tells Preston that his art work is unpopular and not selling. Dejected, Preston drinks heavily and becomes inebriated. The bar owner, also a friend, offers to walk him home.
Along the way, Preston stops to relieve himself in the back alley. While there, his friend sees and then shoots at the gargoyle monster, but it brutally severs his hand and decapitates him. Preston witnesses the horrific scene. Terrified, he tries running away, but the creature corners him. It spares Preston's life when he swears never to reveal what he saw or describe its appearance to anyone. The monster then scratches Preston's chest saying, "Cross Your Heart," then vanishes. Preston is traumatized and confused, but bound by his oath, can say nothing about what happened.
The horrified Preston runs into another alley where he sees a beautiful woman (Rae Dawn Chong) passing by. After grabbing her, he assures the woman she will not be harmed. The woman, Carola, claimed she became lost while going to meet friends and was searching for a taxi. Preston convinces her to call a taxi from his apartment. While there, Carola cleans the gargoyle-inflicted wound on Preston's chest, then they make love.
Preston's life soon improves and his struggling art career becomes wildly successful, mostly thanks to Carola's connections. They eventually marry and have two children. However, Preston is tormented by memories of the gargoyle, and his vow of silence weighs heavily on him. On the tenth anniversary of his and Carola's first meeting, as well as his friend's death, Preston breaks down and tells her about the monster. Carola appears uncomfortable by Preston's revelation and then emits a heartbroken wail, saying he had promised never to tell anyone, revealing herself as the creature that killed his friend.
With Preston's vow broken, Carola can no longer remain human and begins transforming back into a gargoyle. Their children, now awake, are terrified as Carola writhes in pain as hideous-looking arms and legs burst from beneath her human flesh. A terrified Preston pleads for Carola to change back, but she cannot assume a human form again as her transformation back into a gargoyle keeps on continuing. Their children are screaming in their bedroom as they also transform into gargoyles. Carola, now fully transformed back into a gargoyle, wraps her wings around Preston and the couple proclaim their love for each other, but with the vow broken, Carola is still reluctantly forced to kill him by biting his neck, before remorsefully flying away with her gargoyle children. The final scene shows the three gargoyles now turned to stone and sitting upon the building ledge, staring down at the city with sorrowful expressions.
Betty remarks that Timmy saved the best story ("Lover's Vow") for last, but he says that the next one is best, and has a happy ending. She replies that it is too late as she has to start cooking him, and that none of the stories in the book have happy endings. As Betty advances on Timmy, he narrates his own actions: throwing some marbles on the floor, causing her to slip and fall on her butcher's block and impaling her on her own tools. Timmy releases himself and pushes her into her own oven. The film ends with Timmy helping himself to a cookie and breaking the fourth wall by saying "Don't you just love happy endings?"