Tales From the Darkside 113: Anniversary Dinner

This week's episode opens on an elderly couple out in the woods, sharing a nice dinner... not the anniversary dinner of the title, however - is this because... they ARE the anniversary dinner?! Okay Count, calm down, you're half a minute into the episode, too early to be calling twists. Just enjoy for now.

The husband cuts his finger on a knife, and while the wife, while sucking it clean, refers to the contradiction of an 'old sourpuss tasting so sweet' which I know is meant to be comforting, but she's tasting blood and calling it sweet. Ick. Also, who's playing the wife?

Her face isn't especially familiar, but I swear I know the voice... which I now realize isn't in the picture, so let's move on. The anniversary of the title is mentioned fairly quickly - it seems they've been married for twenty-five years, and the wife is feeling empty-nesty. Holidays feel empty without their children around, you see. And who should come sneaking up outside the house just as she comments on that?

Probably not their children.

The next day Wife sees two backpackers headed up the drive to her house, and reacts with an understandable level of wariness. They claim to be looking for the 'old Anderson place', and admit to having spent the night in the orchard. Wife offers to let the couple stick around and do some chores in exchange from room, board, and perhaps a little spending money. When the male backpacker laughs at the idea and starts to leave, husband comes rushing out of the house with a shotgun-

Which seems like a bit of an overreaction, if you ask me. The backpackers leave - which they'd been planning on doing anyhow, mind you, but the wife tells the female backpacker, 'Sybil', that she's welcome back if the male backpacker seems like trouble. Sybil doesn't find this offer as ominous as she ought to, but then again, she doesn't know that her exit is framed by the handle of an ax:

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've just met our 'Anniversary Dinner'.

In the very next scene the wife is chopping up meat and complaining that it's too tough. This naturally leads to an expressed hope that Sybil will return, and the creepy suggestion that she reminds wife of their children. Sybil does, in fact, return that bery night, and is welcomed into the house with open arms. Proving that she's basically the ideal victim of cannibals, she doesn't run screaming from the house when wife explains that their children still live with them 'In a way' and that they 'become a part of you'. So yikes, these old people ate their children.

That night at dinner wife tells husband that Sybil's run away from home, and hasn't talked to any of her family members in two years. Which, again, if there were a checklist for the perfect victim of a serial killer... Sybil swiffs another chance to run screaming from the house when they offer to show her... 'the play room', which is actually hidden behind a creepy false wall in the kitchen!

The wall is covered with hunting implements and trophies (in the pieces of dead animals sense of the term), but the real centerpiece of the place is, incongruously enough, a large wooden jacuzzi!

Husband starts up the jacuzzi as Sybil runs off to grab her bathing suit. Then, as if the situation weren't creepy enough, wife all but freaks out when the pool doesn't start up immediately. Then they proceed to watch Sybil, um, hungrily, as she enjoys her bath.

As if it wasn't clear enough what was coming next, they even whisper conspiratorially about how great their 'anniversary' is going to be with a kid in the house. Then, naturally, the subject of dinner comes up, and husband starts opining loudly about how their dinner may have been ruined because the butcher they get their meat from doesn't know how to kill animals! It's husband's theory, you see, that killing a frightened, abused animal poisons the meat, and ruins it. That you must care for the animals that you're going to kill and devour. He says this, remember, to the runaway girl who he and his wife have taken in, bathed, fed, and generally cared for. Yet she doesn't flee.

Although, to offer an explanation for this disturbing inaction, I will point out that Sybil isn't aware that, once again, she's been framed next to that ax and stump:

Poor sap.

One scene later and it's the couple's anniversary - Sybil wakes up alone in the house, so naturally she goes to explore the play room. Which is naturally killed with animals who were totally content before being shot in the neck from hundreds of feet away. Finally she gets a little creeped out when she gets a gander at the couple's knife collection:

But, again, not so creeped out that she does the sensible thing. Instead she just starts up the jacuzzi once more and prepares to hop in. Is she going to figure it out? There's just five minutes left! Poking around a little more she uncovers the stereo, and turns on some brassy classical music, then finds a mysterious button hidden among the knives. Before she can press it husband and wife arrive home, and freak out more than a little. What's behind the wall of knives? Sybil is too busy apologizing for poking around in their stuff to bother wondering.

Husband comes out of the play room and apologizes for snapping, then gives Sybil some wine and tells her to hop back in the tub at her leisure. Things then take a turn for the bizarre when wife walks in, carrying a ladle and a plate of vegetables. Sybil's too drunk to be concerned when wife starts tossing the vegetables into the water with her, and I can't believe I didn't realize that the jacuzzi was actually a giant stew pot! The drugs in the wine finally kick in and Sybil slips below the surface to begin cooking.

This leaves just a single thing left unexplained - what's behind the wall of knives? Wife says that they really ought to 'share' their meal with the children, which they do by heading over to the knife panel and opening it to reveal...

The skulls of their dead children! Or just the children they kidnapped and murdered, the origin of these kids isn't exactly made explicit. Still, though, them old cannibals don't mess around. Except for the fact that there's a guy out there who knows where they live and whose girlfriend ran off to go back to their house before mysteriously disappearing.

That could easily come back to bite them, come to think of it.


Dave M. said...

Creepy episode that gave me some chills, to be sure.

Unknown said...

Great memories from my childhood. This episode stuck with me. I didn’t watch the entire episode as a child, because I fell asleep. I woke to my mom telling me to go to bed. When we got upstairs, I asked her what happened. She told me and I was spooked out. I still remember that night like yesterday.

Unknown said...

Great review!

Unknown said...

Great episode saw it when I was little camping in Wales when I first saw it scared the shit out of me because it was so weird

Anonymous said...

This is the one that stood out for me as well. I would watch these with my grandmother when I was young.