I’m a sucker for horror and sci-fi anthology TV shows, having grown up watching The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits, and others. However, I never got a chance to catch Tales from the Darkside when it originally aired. Thankfully, Paramount and CBS finally released all four seasons of Tales from the Darkside on DVD and I’m in the process of catching up.

For all intents and purposes, Tales from the Darkside can be considered a TV version of George Romero’s Creepshow. When the producers of Creepshow, along with George Romero, were interested in creating an anthology horror TV show similar to the Creepshow movie, they were unable to use the name “Creepshow” due to Warner Bros. owning the rights to the title. While this show does not use the comic-styled intro and endings that Creepshow used for each story, the stories in Tales from the Darkside are similar, containing a mix of monsters, murders, and the supernatural, with light humor mixed in here and there.

The first season contains 23 episodes along with the pilot episode and have a running time of under 25 minutes.  The first season ran from 1984-1985, and focused primarily on supernatural storylines and technology, with numerous episodes related to ghosts, spirits, monsters, mysticism, and machines.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first season and would say that it is largely due to the writing and pacing of each episode. The problem with The Outer Limits was that at a 50+ minute running time per episode, a slow episode or one you didn’t care for would drag on. Here, each episode is around 22 minutes and for the type of stories told, I liked the quick pace. In many cases, the episodes found in the first season are not big stories, and some end well before the traditional ending you’d expect. I enjoyed this format, with the somewhat ambiguous endings and it kept my interest.

Most of the episodes were great, but three really stood out for me. The first was A Case of the Stubborns, where a stubborn grandfather has died and refuses to accept it. In this episode you’ll catch a young Christian Slater and Brent Spiner. I also really enjoyed Anniversary Dinner, in which a married couple plan their 25th anniversary dinner. The Odds, starring Danny Aiello, was also a great episode which played just like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

As for my least favorite episode, it was easily The Tear Collector. Maybe I need to watch this one a few more times (probably not…), but I felt the episode was too slow, didn’t adequately explain the events you were seeing, and generally did not keep my interest.

For those that are younger or like a high production quality to their shows, Tales from the Darkside may take a bit of getting used to. The intro, while fun for me and fans of the show, may be considered poor compared to other anthology shows and the show itself is pretty well dated. It also doesn’t help that the transfer on these DVD’s is poor as well, give it an almost vhs-quality look.  These items didn’t prevent me from enjoying the show, but it definitely could have received a better transfer treatment, and you need to know this if you are considering buying this on DVD.

While researching the series after watching the first season, I discovered that most of the music from the first season DVD has been replaced, as the rights to the original music were not secured. I don’t believe that the new music prevented me from enjoying any episode in particular, but if you have fond memories of watching this you may be bothered by this change.

Those looking for tons of extras will be disappointed as the offerings are slim, only containing a commentary from George Romero on the pilot episode. Hopefully, this is something that will be addressed in future seasons.

If you’ve been a fan of the show, this probably isn’t the DVD treatment you’ve been hoping for. At the same time, I doubt you’re going to get anything better any time soon. Since release, the price has gone down and the per-season price is relatively cheap. If you love the show and can get past the issues I’ve mentioned above, I’d suggest picking it up.

As for those that have never seen the show before, your interest in this will depend on whether or not you enjoy older TV shows and older horror movies. If you’re someone who doesn't enjoy or can't sit through the original The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, you probably won’t make it through this.

If you love anthology horror and sci-fi shows, however, and haven’t seen Tales from the Darkside, I’d say that the first season is a must-see. It is an extension of Creepshow and if you enjoyed that film and anthology horror movies/TV shows in general, you’ll enjoy Tales from the Dark Side season 1. There are great stories and acting in this season and there something in here for every type of horror fan if you give it a chance.


3.5/5 (Series)

2.5/5 (DVD itself)