Welcome to the first installment of my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon! Before we start, please keep in mind that all the episodes I cover were chosen at random. However, I did make sure to grab a few from all four seasons for variety. With today’s episode, I decided to select one penned by an author you should all be familiar with: Stephen King. Let’s kick this month off with “Sorry, Right Number.”
As Katie Weiderman is chatting on the phone and also trying to settle an argument between her kids, Jeff and Connie, she gets another call on the line. She hears a distressed woman trying to talk to her and immediately thinks it’s her older daughter, Polly, who then hangs up the phone. Now worried, Katie enlists the help of her husband Bill, a horror writer (self-insert, King?), and they call Polly, Katie’s mother, and Katie’s sister, Dawn, in an effort to track down the source of the strange call. Will she be able to help the woman in need, or is this phone call much stranger than she could ever realize?
I’ll admit that I haven’t read a lot of Stephen King, especially his short stories. I generally like the guy’s style and there’s no denying the impact he’s had on horror fiction. However, this is one short story that I mostly found interesting only once the ending twist was revealed, and even then it seemed a little random. For obvious reasons, I won’t be spoiling it here, but I will discuss why this story didn’t quite grab my attention.
For starters, while King’s story focuses on the genuine worry someone might have if they think a family member is in trouble, it felt a little…empty to me. Sure, the actress playing Katie was properly distressed and I felt she was the best actor in this overall (the less said about the kids, the better), but I couldn’t help questioning why she jumped so quickly to the conclusion that it was one of HER family members that was in trouble. The short does address this shortly after, both by having Bill suggest that it was a wrong number and Katie saying she has a gut feeling, but it did seem like a immediate leap for something that occurs about three minutes into the episode.
I think another reason why it felt empty is that, aside from Katie and Bill visiting her sister and a crucial event later on, not much happens in this. On the one hand, I do appreciate the subtle nature of the story, but on the other, I also prefer the King stories that have more of a strong supernatural element to them. Regardless, even for a short story, there were still a couple minor things I felt could have been cut. For example, I thought the stuff with the kids added basically nothing to the story. If King had removed them and left just Polly in, the story would’ve flowed better. And, even though it’s a story that has to get a lot of information across in a short time, there is the occasional bit of exposition that felt kinda clunky. Then again, it’s possible that the story needed to be at least 20 minutes long to fill the episode, and this was King’s way of doing just that.
So, with all my nitpicks, does that mean I hate “Sorry, Right Number”? No. Personally, I think the story is average. If you like King’s stories where he focuses more on the human element than the supernatural, this is a simple family-centric tale to get behind. I guess I went into it expecting something more, considering my personal bias towards King’s work. For my first foray into this show, I don’t regret watching this episode. It just didn’t get a strong reaction out of me, good or bad.