Tales From the Darkside 115: Answer Me

Normally I don't watch the opening credits on these things (hoping to be pleasantly surprised by Harry Anderson and Carol Kane, obviously), but this time - even though I didn't actually read the name, I couldn't help but notice that there was only a single one listed! This has always been a cheap show, with actors hanging out on small, poorly furnished sets, but a one-man show would be something new indeed! Let's see where it's going-

Well, first off, I guess it's a one-woman show! In this case the woman is an actress who's woken from her slumber by a ringing phone which, unfortunately, turns out to be coming from the neighbouring apartment! This leads to a long session of the woman talking to herself about the fact that she's a British actress who's in New York to look for work, and the friend's apartment that she's staying in has frustratingly thin wall.

Then, when she finally gets used to the ringing phone, the neighbours start banging on the wall! But why? And will the actress continue unbelievably monologuing about it?

The answer to one of the questions after the break-

But the other answer is obviously yes.

Here's how out of touch I am with 80s real estate - the actress keeps complaining about the thin walls in her '600 dollar apartment'. I have no idea if the reference means that she's paying such a huge amount of money that there should be thicker walls, or if it's a steal, and so she's angry at herself for not expecting a catch. Let's just say the actress' performance isn't exactly helping clear things up, either.

She stalks about the apartment, yelling out the window to her neighbour, and it seems to help. The actress is especially desperate because she's got an audition at nine AM, and she certainly won't be able to do her best work if some insensitive neighbours keep smashing against the walls all night. Which smashing, of course, immediately resumes the second she lies back down-

Is it clear in that picture that the painting is being jostled off the wall by the vibrations? I didn't want to bother with a video, is the thing.

The next day our heroine is at loose ends, and let's just say her ends probably weren't all that securely tied begin with. When we see her she's stuffing photos and resumes into envelopes so she can randomly mail them out, which lets us know that she can't even find an agent - something even Harry Anderson's hack writer character a few episodes back managed! She's so far gone that it takes her a few moments to notice that it's her own phone ringing, rather than the one next door.

The call is from the friend she's sub-letting the apartment from, and after a full minute of non-stop complaining, Lucy (the friend) drops a terrifying piece of information: just two days ago the apartment next door was unoccupied! The actress doesn't fixate on that information, though, instead choosing to go on complaining about how her lack of sleep is damaging her chances of finding a job.

Is this seriously a story about a woman who goes mad because it doesn't occur to her to walk to the closest drug store and buy a set of thirty-cent ear plugs?

Continuing the theme of the episode (one-sided phone conversations), the actress calls the superintendent to complain about the noise, and discovers that the apartment has been absent since its last occupant, an 'English Girl' killed herself. Hearing this information, the actress asks the only sensible question:

I know you're off-kilter, lady, but that's profoundly not cool. So what's going on in this episode? Is the ghost of the last tenant next door trying to get her to kill herself, or does a building ghost have a problem with British women, and it had gaslighted the tenant next door until she offed herself, and now it's moving on to a new target? Want to bet we never find out?

Assured that there's no one living in the next apartment, the actress decides there would be no harm in slipping inside and disconnecting the phone. She manages this through the television standby of using a credit card to pop the lock (I suppose there was no deadbolt). Heading inside she finds that the apartment is, in fact, abandoned, but marks on the wall-

Suggest that someone has been throwing something against the wall in an attempt to break through to her bedroom. After debating with herself about how much of a stupid horror-movie caricature she is, the actress elects to search the apartment for some sign of squatters. The door slams shut on its own, which she doesn't find disconcerting - she's too busy discovering the phone in the closet!

Things then take a turn for the weird when the actress picks up the phone and finds an operator waiting on the line. A female operator with a suspiciously British accent who shares the actress' fascination with just how the previous tenant committed suicide. Utterly creeped out, the actress tries to figure out who she can call for help, someone to reassure her that evil ghosts don't answer the phone when you pick it up. Rather absurdly, she keeps trying to make these calls from the obviously haunted telephone. It doesn't go well, so she finally flees the apartment and goes back to her own place, where she's once again menaced by the ringing and thumping from next door.

Again, this is the kind of problem that can be easily solved by earplugs.

Instead, she rushes back to the next apartment, hoping to confront the squatter - which seems like a bizarre choice, considering that a random squatter couldn't have been responsible for the fake operator who appeared whenever she picked up the phone. On the upside, though, that's a creepy bit of damage on the door:

The fact that she immediately notices it and comments on it kind of ruins the effect, though, since it both gives the audience no credit at all, and makes her look like an idiot for continuing into the apartment after seeing it.

Things then take a turn for the ridiculous when, after the actress disconnects the phone, it animates, slides across the floor, and strangles her with its cord.

Bleak one this week, huh? It really seems like the show could have gone for something a little more complex this episode, making us wonder if the woman was simply going insane because of the failures in her life (failed middle-aged actress moving to New York in a last desperate grab at success) - after all, the fact that she was clearly the voice of the operator could suggest that it was largely taking place inside her own mind.

But the silly phone attack kind of threw subtlety and complexity out of the window. Fools.

1 comment:

soggybottom said...

The fact that she was clearly the voice of the operator could suggest that it was largely taking place inside her own mind.

Well, well, well, look who finally got a clue!