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‘Tales from the Darkside Scripts by Joe Hill:’ Advance Hardcover Review

Tales from the Darkside is the more obscure Tales from the Crypt for those that don’t remember the mid to late 1980s. The horror anthology was created by George Romero in 1983 and ran until 1990, spawning Crypt and other impersonators and a feature film. A few years ago, a potential revival was pitched, and Joe Hill was brought in to work on the first five episodes. Hill’s work and family attachment to the project (His father contributed several stories to the show and to the film.) made him the obvious choice. While the project never got off the ground, IDW decided to partner with Hill again and bring those scripts to the still-passionate Locke & Key fans. Despite the best “graphic novel” treatment, it’s difficult for the story to not feel like you’re reading a half-baked film treatment.

In theory, a half hour TV show should be the perfect length to bring an issue of a comic to life. While the transition from page to screen is typically seamless, the reverse is far less desirable. This script for the episode “A Window Opens,” offers us a very clear look at what Hill had planned for the show. He has a very recognizable tone in his horror, specializing in creating a twisted and perverse version of the idyllic America, and it is quickly apparent that’s what we’ll be getting. Even the catalyst for the story is rooted in modern dilemmas: texting and driving. It’s something that would probably have ended up insultingly preachy on screen and seems silly on the page as written.

It’s a lazy set up that could have been effective in a visual medium where what’s happening around the character is filling in the gaps, but since this was never fleshed out into a comic panel or establishing shot, we’re stuck with the very blunt description. Hill’s whimsy and nonchalance is hilariously evident throughout, and you can tell he was having more fun on this draft than he probably would have after rewrites, but that doesn’t quite elevate it to a “narrative.” That attitude both hinders the book, such as the opening scene, and helps bring parts alive later on. Sadly, there is far more of the former.

Where the script works best is when it is paired with art. Charles Paul Wilson manages to channel the feel of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Norman Rockwell to brilliant effect. The moments he put to the page are what make the connection between what we are reading and what we could have seen on TV. What hampers the book is that Wilson’s work only shows up every three to four pages. These scripts were created for a visual medium, and we’re getting a hastily published text version of it with an occasional picture.

That is what’s truly puzzling about this series of graphic novels, not just “A Window Opens.” Had these scripts been given the comic treatment, they would most likely rank up there with Locke & Key. Had they ended up on television, they would have been a beloved cult classic, if not a full-on hit. As it is, “A Window Opens” has moments of utter genius, but the lack of polish keeps holding it back. If you need more Joe Hill in your life (I don’t blame you.) or you’re a tremendous Tales from the Darkside fan, this is worth reading. Hill’s humor, twisted eye, and modern commentary is here. It is really a great script with a lot of potential, but this collection only makes me sad we will never see it on the page or on the screen where it was meant to be.

Adam Greene, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor



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