Welcome to the final installment of my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon! To celebrate today being Halloween, I’m taking a look all the way back at the pilot episode that started it all. While today’s tale features a cranky old man similar to the one in the last episode I covered, this one prefers to play blatant tricks on kids. This is “Trick or Treat.”
Gideon Hackles is known around town for being basically a modern day Scrooge. On Halloween, he likes to hide IOU’s he collects from those in debt to him around his house and rig up scares to make it appear haunted. He then invites kids to scare them as they search for the IOU’s, which if found will wipe away their family’s debt. But on this Halloween, Gideon might be in for a long overdue comeuppance. Will he learn the error of his ways, or will he finally get his just desserts?
As you can easily tell, this is yet another karmic retribution story. This one was written by George Romero himself, and I thought it was done well. It has a creepy atmosphere, especially once Gideon’s haunted house is involved, and the make-up work that pops up later in the episode was amazing. Speaking of the haunted house, I liked how Gideon scared each child with something different every time. It kept the episode from dragging despite taking up the bulk of it. It also seemed like this had a pretty high budget, which worked entirely in its favor.
Only a few of the supporting characters get any major focus, but I will say that I wasn’t all that into the child actors in this. Sure, they did well emoting when they needed to look scared, but none of them are onscreen very long to shine. But Gideon is the main focus anyway, and he literally is like a Halloween version of Scrooge. He goes so far as to get IOUs from everybody and keeps all his money inside a safe in his bathroom because he doesn’t trust banks or clerks. He also gets a kick out of scaring the kids and makes for an easy target to dislike. The actor did a good job portraying him.
If there’s one big gripe I have with the pilot, it’s the twist ending. There’s no real explanation for it and very little build-up as well. It kinda comes out of nowhere and leaves the episode on a somewhat unsatisfying note. Maybe something was implied by it that we’re supposed to interpret, but the payoff wasn’t as karmic as I’d hoped it would be.
Despite that, I can see why “Trick or Treat” helped launch this show. It makes the smart choice by revolving its plot around Halloween, allowing for some great imagery and a good setting to dish out some well-deserved karma. While the supporting actors were hit or miss, Gideon was as unsympathetic as any protagonist in this type of story ought to be. Even though the ending wasn’t my cup of tea, this episode still had more highs than lows.
And with that said, we’ve reached the end of my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these and experiencing this show with me. It’s easy to think of shows like the “Twilight Zone” or “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” as staples of the anthology genre, but it’s easy to forget the others that tried to continue what they started. While “Tales from the Darkside” turned out to be more of a mixed bag than I’d expected, I’m still glad I gave it a chance. For now, though, I may take a break from blogging until my trip is over. If I get the urge, I may write up a short blog or two. Until then, have a happy Halloween!