in Review, Shocktober

“Halloween Candy” – Tales from the Darkside (1985)

Season 2 Episode 5
Air Date:
October 27, 1985

I’ve been watching a lot of Tales from the Crypt lately. So it was weird to take a break and revist its less celebrated predecessor. You see Crypt was a high budget HBO series with all star directors and A-list talent like Demi Moore, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks. While Darkside had guests like… Jerry Stiller, I guess? Darkside was never a big show. Nor a great show. But you can’t deny that it beat Crypt to the punch by six years and has surely earned its spot in horror TV history.

Tales from the Darkside was originally planned as a Creepshow TV series but due to issues with Warner Bros had to rebrand itself. The show was produced by Laurel Entertainment; the production company of Creepshow producer Richard P. Rubinstein and Creepshow director and horror legend George A. Romero, and aired on CBS from 1983-1988. Like Creepshow and later Tales from the Crypt, Darkside was inspired by EC Comics.

The difference between Crypt and Darkside’s approach was where Crypt directly adapted old stories (giving the show an early ’50s vibe), Darkside was contemporary. Darkside adapted stories from modern writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker. The show also dipped more into comedy and science fiction. It was a cheap show, but ambitious. You were never sure what you were going to get out of this show.

For today, I selected the October 1985 episode “Halloween Candy”. Written by Beetlekjuice screenwriter Michael McDowell and directed by the Godfather of Gore himself Tom Savini. The episode stars character Roy Poole (1776, Network) and is about a Halloween-hating old man who is taunted by a ‘lil goblin guy.

Before I go into the episode I have to post the opening that played before every episode of Tales from the Darkside. It’s the perfect amount of ’80s cheese. It always gets me so pumped!

Mr. Killup (Poole) hates Halloween. He hates kids, he hates answering the door, and he hates candy. He’s also completely relient on his son Michael (Tim Choate) to buy him groceries and keep an eye on him. Michael tries to convince his dad to stay with him on Halloween to avoid all the kids that he hates but Killup’s like “If I leave this place kids will try to break in and burn this place down.” Yeah, he’s got a good point. I’m on this guy’s side.

Just so Killup isn’t totally pwned by trick and/or treaters, Michael buys him some Halloween candy to hand out. Killup’s like “Fuck that.” Michael leaves and true to his word Killup refuses to give out any candy. Except at one point where he’s so annoyed he mixes the little food he has left (mayo and honey) with some glue, pours it over some candy and dumps into a kid’s sack saying “Here, it’s goblin candy.” Big mistake.

Killup falls asleep and is later awoken just before midnight by a mysterious trick or treater with a grizzled low voice reapeating “Trick or Treat” over and over again. Killup does everything in his power to ignore the trick or treater only to find its not a child, but some kind of magical goblin. The goblin uses his magic to make roaches appear all over the house and does shit like make Killup break his watch and taunt him like a bitch.

Eventually, Killup falls asleep for the night but when he wakes up… it’s still night and it’s still Halloween. He says he feels like he hasn’t eaten in days and starts to feel weak. The next day comes and Michael arrives at the house to find police. His father, Mr. Killup has died from starvation. The police say he better get a lawyer because it appears that Killup died from neglect and starvation and that he hadn’t eaten anything in weeks. The episode ends on a surprosngly creepy still of Killup’s emaciated dead face.

Considering I’ve been getting deep into that Halloween spirit, this was a nice treat (no pun intended). The episode opens with a great hook and has a real shocker of an ending. The midsection is a little flat with not much happening apart from bugs popping out of things like bags of candy or eggs. I feel there’s more potential for this goblin character too. I don’t need to know his whole backstory but I wouldn’t mind getting a taste of why he’s there or what his endgame is exactly.

The makeup in this episode is impressive, which isn’t surprisng when you have Tom Savini steering the ship. The goblin looks like a mix between a gorilla and a leprechaun and actually gave me a scare when Killup opens up his blinds to find the creature staring right at him.

This episode really sums up the appeal of this show. Hammy performances with cool monsters and nostalgic ’80s vibes. It’s horror TV comfort food. It may not have the razzle dazzle of Crypt but it has gumption. It feels like a group of talented people trying to make something special with limited resources. On that level this episode is a definite success. If only it had Jerry Stiller. That would make it a Halloween classic for the rest of us.