The ’80s Horror Anthology Series Being Lost To History Needs Saving

By Brian Myers | Published

One of the most iconic shows of the 1980s was a horror anthology series that served to equally terrify and amuse audiences over its four-season run. Before HBO’s Tales from the Crypt, the syndicated series Tales from the Darkside was the stuff that a child’s nightmares were made from. But even though it has retained its popularity in the decades since its initial air date, the show is nowhere to be found online, making it run the risk of being one of horror’s forgotten gems.

From The Mind Of George Romero

Tales from the Darkside was the brainchild of horror director George Romero, whose Living Dead films are regarded as some of the best in the horror genre. After the success of his 1982 horror film Creepshow, its producers wanted to transform it into a television series. Due to some copyright issues, Laurel Entertainment went a different route and worked with Romero to create a syndicated series that kept the stand-alone vignette approach from the film and omitted its comic book framing device.

Hit Horror Anthology

Each Tales from the Darkside episode was a stand-alone horror tale, much in the same style as The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. The world got its first look at the series with the pilot that aired in October 1983. The first episode follows an elderly miser that torments the children of a small town each Halloween with his own house of horrors, only to have a surprise visitor that teaches him a brutal lesson.

Nearly 100 Episodes

One year later, the first season aired in syndication and began a weekly tradition of bringing a half hour of horror into the lives of 80s kids until its July 1988 finale. Over its 94 episodes, viewers witnessed a monster in a closet stalk a college student, modern vampires involved in a love triangle, a black magic spell go wrong, and a Christmas episode that features a bloodthirsty monster called “The Grither.” Making for an even better set of shows, some of the greatest minds in horror writing were involved in penning the scripts or having their stories be the basis for numerous episodes.

Legendary Horror Writers

Two episodes were written by master of horror Stephen King and are among fan favorites in the large body of Tales from the Darkside episodes. His short stories Word Processor of the Gods and Sorry, Right Number were brilliant small-screen adaptations, with Sorry, Right Number‘s screenplay also being attributed to the author of Salem’s Lot and Carrie.

Other episodes featured adaptations from horror writers Robert Bloch, Clive Barker, and Michaell McDowell. Several writers outside of the horror genre, including John Cheever and Fredric Brown, also had their works adapted. Tales from the Darkside’s ability to introduce young audiences to great authors is yet another testament to just how important the series is to horror.

Nearly Impossible To Watch Today

Tales from the Darkside was released on VHS decades ago, with its latest DVD release in 2018 and its lone Blu-ray release in 2020. For a time, reruns were shown on the Syfy Network in the late 1990s, but the series is noticeably absent from live television. But its absence from streaming services is the biggest blow to the show, forcing fans to scavenge for old VHS tapes or pay for new physical media in order to view it.

Hopefully, the show will be resurrected and made available to stream in due time. If not, Tales from the Darkside risks being nothing more than a wonderful nightmare slowly fading from memory.