Tales From the Darkside Episode 107 – Inside the Closet

The episode begins with a college student arriving at the worst place in the entire world to possibly rent a room. I can’t stress this point enough. Let’s take a look at some of ‘Professor Fenner’s’ decorations.

I know that, as the head of the veterinary college, Fenner has an excuse for some of the animal corpses, but Gail, the grad student who arrives to rent the room, really should have run when he started talking about his ultra-strict rules of never allowing any noise in the house since that’s where he does almost all of his work. The writer tries to explain that she’s been forced to rent a room there because there are literally no other apartment available for rent in the entire city. Even still, if this is your only option for college housing-

-drop out. Just drop out.

Still, Gail insists on heading up to the thrid floor to her new room. Which turns out to be an illegal living situation – Fenner isn’t even zoned for tenants! Things get even creepier when he sadly mentions that the room used to be his daughter’s, but neglects to elaborate on where she currently resides. Even more suspicious? He claims to have lost the key to the closet, and provides an armoire for the clothing that no longer has a home.

It’s at this point that I started to get a real ‘Dreams in the Witch House’ kind of vibe from the episode – although the budgets of these episodes won’t allow for a ‘Brown Jenkin’, so I’m guessing the twist ending will be something different. Will the dead daughter’s stuffed corpse be locked away in the closet? Or a series of taxadermied ‘daughters’ culled from the coeds that Fenner has rented to over the years? It’s too early to tell, but I’m guessing the latter.

On the first night, while unpacking her suitcase, Gail finds herself unable to stop fixating on the locked door. As if we didn’t know well enough that bad things were going to happen, the show then cuts down to another angle on that stuffed monkey head on the wall.

Then the show both proves my theory about the closet wrong, and impresses me with a shot-

Except for that last iris in/poorly-hidden cut/weird editing error thing, I’ve got to say that was a pretty impressive dramatic zoom – good work, director of the episode, Mr- (rewind rewind rewind) Tom Savini! Okay, so there’s probably going to be a Brown Jenkin in the closet. My mistake.

The next morning Gail complains about the scratching sounds from her closet, which she assumes to be a rat. How wrong she’ll be – then, in the daylight, the audience gets our first good look at the suspiciously-short closet.

Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’d be mordibly fascinated by that thing too. And then I would flee from it as fast as I could.

In a deliciously tense scene Gail discovers that the standard house key unlocks the closet, so she opens it and places a mouse trap inside, hoping to deal with the rat situation. She doesn’t look around the closet, though, which seems like an oversight. Later that night the trap goes off while Gail, a classics PHD candidate, is looking at slides of some Bosch paintings. She rushes to the closet, but finds that this time it absolutely refuses to open. But why?

Later, while Gail sleeps, the door swings open once again, and a Chucky-vision POV starts to scamper about the room, until we’re finally offered a glimpse of the creature ducking behind a chair-

So absolutely no chance of the taxidermied corpses then, huh? But Gail does have a monster under the bed now, so I guess that’s something. She doesn’t know this, however, so she sees no reason not to grab a flashlight and investigate her missing mousetrap – that’s right, the mousetrap has disappeared completely! Unsettled, she returns to her bed, where she almost has her leg grabbed by the thing under the bed!

I’m conflicted about this episode so far – everything where the monster isn’t featured has been really creepy, but the glimpses of the monster itself are too obvious by half. I’m setting myself up for some disappointment, aren’t I?

Maybe not, because immediately after that cheesy moment, we get a shot that makes me wonder why Hollywood wouldn’t let Tom Savini make more movies.

The next morning Gail tries to tell Fenner about the rat, and neglects to find it strange enough that the trap completely disappeared. She also learns that the closet connects to the attic, meaning that the monster in the closet has all sorts of possible living space! Then it’s time for another stinger, as the thing under the bed drags a cardboard box back underneath it.

Things get even stranger – well into the ‘flee now!’ category – when Gail gets home that night. The tiny closet is suddenly full of children’s clothes and a collection of dolls!

Reaching further back into the closet she winds up with her fingers caught in the mousetrap! As she runs to wash her hands, the door slams shut and re-locks itslef! Once more, Gail doesn’t take this as the greatest possible cue to flee the house as fast as her little feets will carry her.

No, instead she decides to head downstairs and confront Fenner about his missing daughter. The mom died of cacner, the daughter went to college, and has now run off with her boyfriend. Gail tries to convince Fenner about the thing living in the closet, citing as evidence the fact that the door keeps opening and closing. Which is a pursuasive argument, but not nearly as compelling as the assorment of clothing and dolls that have appeared as if from nowhere.

That night Gail is waiting in her bed with a flashlight – because she’s an idiot, remember – and when the closet starts to swing open she rushes over there, desperate to sate her curiosity. Which, proverbially speaking, almost always ends well.

Turning on the flashlight, she discovers this!

Which isn’t incredibly terrifying, but still gave me a shock, for reasons that I’m not going to go into right now, but suffice to say, at one point in my life I actually had a monster in my closet, so stories like this tend to hit close to home.

The thing pounces on Gail tearing into her flesh and knocking her to the ground, breaking her neck. Then it drags her into the closet, never to be seen again.

You know, a regular show might well end right there, but this episode continues to the next morning, while Fenner lies to Gail’s mother about the fact that her daughter is dead. Meanwhile, the creature sneaks down the steps behind him, until…

Isn’t it always true that one man’s monster is another man’s adorable child?

You know, that ending raised more questions than it answered. I mean, he can’t have been doing this for long – the cops will obviously catch on to the fact that women are disappearing from Fenner’s house. Hell, Gail’s mom must be ready to call the police as it is.

Still and all, it was an effectively produced Creepshow, and really does make me wonder why Savini’s directing career never took off, since he’s clearly able to build suspense and get decent performances out of people.

Still not the episode I’ve been waiting for, but this is probably the best one I’ve seen so far. It was fun enough that I don’t even mind being completely wrong about my predictions!


Anonymous said...

I remember watching this episode when I was young! I was home alone at the age of 11, and had watched most of the episodes of Tales From the Darkside up until this one. Unfortunately, I had a closet upstairs almost identical to this one, and this episode scared me half to death! I remember watching the episode recently on DVD, and laughing at how scared I was back then, but I felt that this was definitely one of the scarier episodes in the series!

Anonymous said...

I was a sophomore in college @ WVSC when I saw this episode and of all of the TFTDS episodes I watched, this is the one that scared me the most. I actually checked my closet and under my bed that night, looking for a little creature. After all these years, I remember this episode so clearly. Amazing the work they were able to do on their shoestring budget; some really twisted stuff.

Morgan Barnes said...

If I were the creature, and I were hiding under the bed, I would expect the girl to get up and let her feet hang down from the side, because then I would reach out from underneath and start tickling her feet! At first she would freak out and pull her feet up! Then she would slowly put her feet down again, and then I'd really grab her legs, scaring her!