Tales from the Darkside Sn 2

George A Romero’s Tales from the Darkside returns to DVD for a 24-episode second season overflowing with murder, mystery and monsters. As with Season 1, each tale typically features a character or characters coming unstuck when tempted by riches, power or fame beyond their wildest dreams. This is a series that firmly believes in the mantra that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’, and the penalty for being duped is always extreme.

Some lessons have been learnt from Season 1, not least the episode sequence is much more varied. The producers successfully mix up scary, sci-fi and more goofy stories so that the tone of one episode is normally quite different from those surrounding it. The acting style and standard also varies dramatically, partly because of the demands of each script, but also it seems that some of the actors evidently prefer to go for a slightly exaggerated technique.

Tales from the Darkside - Season 2 on DVDTo give you an idea of the breadth of stories on offer, the series kicks off with “The Impressionist”, a very innovative drama about a mimic drafted in for a top secret mission to communicate with an alien, “Lifebomb” wherein an overworked business man signs up for a bizarre bit of surgical enhancement that protects him in an instant cocoon whenever his life is threatened, and “Distant Signals”, a “Galaxy Quest”-like tale of a stranger who pays for a long-forgotten TV series to be re-commissioned for a satisfactory conclusion that, let us say, will be enjoyed by a much wider audience than originally anticipated.

As with the first season, the horror episodes rarely frighten although they do occasionally send a chill down the spine, especially in Romero’s own “The Devil’s Advocate”. A callous radio shock-jock, played with superb disdain by Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld), discovers that the payback for years of being mean to other people is a fate worse than death.

The series is at its best when it plays thing light and loose, allowing characters and the actors playing them to enjoy themselves and not treat things too seriously. An episode entitled “The Trouble with Mary Jane” is a prime example. It is a fairly comedic take on the “Exorcist” genre, only this time a misguided couple is performing the exorcism for a quick buck, and their pratfalls ensure they get everything they deserve in the process!

Other guest actors of note include Carolyn Seymour (Survivors), Seth Green (Buffy), John Heard (Prison Break) and Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives).

Although the standard of the season as a whole is solid rather than outstanding, once again the excellent value of the box set and quantity of episodes ensures that many of them will entertain their audience and keep them guessing which way the stories will twist next.

The sole special feature in this box set is a commentary on Romero’s episode “The Devil’s Advocate”.

Tales from the Darkside - Season 2” (1985) is out now from of Revelation Films. The 4-disc box set has a running time of 511 mins approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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