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Friday, February 11, 2022

Loved to Death: 5 Twisted Tales of Deadly Attractions from Horror TV Anthologies [Series of Frights]

Love can drive people to do the most foolish things. This is especially true when that love is unhealthy, ensuring the relationship was doomed from the start. Of course there is no stopping someone who is so determined to possess the object of their affection; they cross moral lines and break more than hearts.

As evident in this set of horror stories from television, romance is nowhere to be found as the characters seek love in all the wrong places, or they find themselves on the receiving end of someone else’s sick infatuation. Cruelty, deceit and jealousy line these five distinct tales of deadly attractions from horror anthology television shows.


Night Gallery (1969-1973)
The Caterpillar

Starting things off is a notable episode about unrequited love. The second season of Rod Serling‘s Twilight Zone follow-up, Night Gallery, came to a close with one of the series’ most warped stories. Even famed genre filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has nothing but kind words to say on the episode’s commentary track.

Jeannot Szwarc‘s adaptation of Oscar Cook‘s “Boomerang” is set in Borneo during the rainy season. Laurence Harvey plays Steven Macy, a British expatriate staying at the secluded home of John Warwick (Tom Helmore) and his much younger wife, Rhona (Joanna Pettet). Steven, who cannot fathom why a beautiful twenty-something like Rhona is married to a man in his sixties, quickly turns lovesick. He then seeks help from a local named Tom Robinson (Don Knight); the handyman can have someone implant a deadly earwig in John’s ear canal. Unfortunately for Steven, a grave error is made.

Earwigs have a false reputation for consuming brains if they somehow reached the inside of someone’s ear. Since they cannot supposedly reverse themselves, earwigs would have no choice but to go forward in the canal until they reach the brain. Back in the day when this episode first aired, audiences were more likely to believe such a fearsome creature exists. The earwig is indeed real, but they certainly do not chow down on brains. Does any of this matter? Unless someone is a stickler for the details, this revelation has little bearing on the story. That goes to show how powerful “The Caterpillar” really is.

Steven is done in by his own entitlement, and the consequences of his gross behavior catch up with him in the most horrifying manner. Much like the earwig, this episode’s twist stays on the brain.


Darkroom (1981-1982)
Who’s There?

The short-lived horror anthology series Darkroom was hosted by James Coburn. It came and went with little attention, but there are some memorable stories to be found among the seven episodes aired. A segment from the finale fits the theme of soured romance.

Who’s There?” is a short story wedged between two others; those being “Exit Line” and “The Rarest of Wines”. Here a concerned neighbor named Steve (Grant Goodeve) has the misfortune of hearing his neighbors, a married couple, argue every day in the apartment unit above his. Their quarreling is put on hold once the husband and wife (Michael Lembeck, Dianne Kay) leave town; Barry has an interview in Chicago, and Claire is visiting her mother. What should have been a break from the domestic din ends up being a night Steve will never forget after he hears a strange noise in the couple’s apartment.

The middle portion of Darkroom‘s last episode stands out because of the mark it leaves behind. As it turns out, the noise heard upstairs is Barry returning early from his trip. Now he sits in his kitchen, waiting for Claire to come home as well. He confesses to his neighbor what ails his heart and marriage, and Steve does his best to fix things. The story then takes a turn that viewers might have suspected all along. Even so, “Who’s There?” packs a big punch in spite of its small runtime.

This masterful episode is the combined work of director Paul Lynch and screenwriter Brian Clemens. Slasher fans recognize Lynch as the director of Prom Night, whereas ardent fans of British TV know Clemens from Thriller and The Avengers.


Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics (1987-1989)
Bluebeard

Fairy tales in their purest form are not known for having the most wholesome relationships when viewed through a modern lens. Knowing that, their themes and morals still hold up after all these years. Reaching those lessons, however, often involves a journey fraught with grisly imagery and bizarre plot turns.

The Brothers Grimm provided most of the source material for a late-1980s anime called Grimm Masterpiece Theater. When the series was dubbed into English, it was retitled Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics. The English dub was considered all but lost until recently when Discotek Media restored and released the entire series. Now fans can relive this unique adaptation of their favorite fairy tales.

Even though Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics is not primarily horror, anyone familiar with old fairy tales, fables and myths knows these stories have their scary moments. One such example is “Bluebeard” (“Ao hi ge” in Japanese), a retelling of a famous French folktale. This anime interpretation sees a young woman named Josephine accepting the hand of a prince she has not even met. Her three brothers are wary and move their woodworking business closer to the prince’s castle so they can keep an eye on their sister. The prince, who is identified by his “blue” beard, tests his new wife’s obedience by forbidding her to open a locked room while he is away. When Josephine defies his order, she makes a horrible discovery.

This early example of domestic horror boasts a warning about greediness while also telling women not to abide by patriarchal rules. Disobeying her husband at first welcomes danger and fear, yet later Josephine is free from Bluebeard’s control.


Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)
Loved to Death

The third season of HBO’s horror anthology classic Tales from the Crypt opened with “Loved to Death“, a popular episode about one-sided love. The basis can be found in issue 25 of EC’s Tales from the Crypt, and it is based on John Henry Collier‘s “The Chaser”. A vintage adaptation of Collier’s short can be found in the classic Twilight Zone show.

“Loved to Death” shadows an aspiring screenwriter named Edward (Andrew McCarthy), who has developed an unshakable crush on his neighbor, Miranda (Mariel Hemingway). When Edward cannot win her heart the old-fashioned way, he accepts a love potion from the reclusive landlord (David Hemmings). What seems like a dream at first swiftly turns into a nightmare after Miranda becomes Edward’s insatiable lover.

The episode is regarded for its shocking ending, where Hemingway’s Miranda pursues Edward in the afterlife. Her gruesome visage, the result of jumping out the window upon Edward’s death, is unique to Tom Mankiewicz and Joe Minion‘s version. This new aspect of the story underscores the fact that Edward never loved Miranda; he only loved her looks.

Stories like “Loved to Death” leave a bad taste in the mouth, but Tales from the Crypt never had much interest in playing nice.


The Twilight Zone (2002-2003)
Fair Warning

The 2002 The Twilight Zone has been disregarded by audiences and critics since it first aired, but looking back, the revival had value even if it never reached the great heights of the original series. What it lacked in groundbreaking insight it made up for in sheer entertainment.

Tina, Taryn Manning‘s character in “Fair Warning“, finds herself threatened by a stranger (Devon Gummersall) one night. The assailant, George, comes to Tina’s flower shop and says he is going to kill her unless she stops him. When the cops check the suspect out, alibis and a lack of physical evidence suggest the accuser is mistaken. Just as Tina starts to believe she is imagining everything, it becomes clear what is really going on here.

Although there is a shortage of doozies in this Twilight Zone, and a lot of other stories could be considered duds, “Fair Warning” floats closer to the middle than the bottom. The episode is engaging if not ridiculous.

What helps make this one more enjoyable than others is its reveal at the end. Is it absurd? Yes. Is it original? Maybe. Stalker laws are frustrating enough without the offender having a supernatural edge.


Series of Frights is a recurring column that mainly focuses on horror in television. Specifically, it takes a closer look at five episodes or stories  each one adhering to an overall theme  from different anthology series or the occasional movie made for TV. With anthologies becoming popular again, especially on television, now is the perfect time to see what this timeless mode of storytelling has to offer.

The post Loved to Death: 5 Twisted Tales of Deadly Attractions from Horror TV Anthologies [Series of Frights] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



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