1 9 8 3 – 1 9 8 8 (USA)
92 x 30 minute episodes
George A. Romero popularised the zombie. He also produced this syndicated horror anthology series – a kind-of cheaper, schlockier, more endearing Twilight Zone – which featured ghost stories, science fiction adventures and creepy, unexplained events which balanced terror with comedy, enlisting the talents of masters like Stephen King, Frederick Pohl, Robert Bloch, and Frederic Brown along the way.
Take the episode Distant Signals for example, which cast Darren McGavin of Kolchak as an ageing television pro asked to complete his old TV show – Stranger In Town – which was cancelled years ago before a fulfilling conclusion.
Turns out, it’s an alien race who are demanding the original cast of the failed 1960s TV show get back together to create more episodes for the benefit of their alien species.
Other stand-out episodes included:
The Yattering and Jack – A pint-sized demon called a ‘Yattering’ terrorises an impossibly positive yet lonely old man during the holiday season. The whole thing is poorly acted and paints a stereotypical picture of little people, but it’s perfectly thematic creepiness makes the story work.
I Can’t Help Saying Goodbye – Effective because of its simplicity, a seemingly idyllic suburban life is turned upside down for a single-parent family when they find out the youngest sister has the power to kill people by saying “Goodbye” to them. The episode featured a plucky performance by Days of Our Lives actress Alison Sweeney.
The Moth – Co-stars Debbie Harry of Blondie as a black magic-wielding dying woman named Sybil who enlists her mother’s help in being resurrected into the body of a moth after she expires.
Bigalow’s Last Smoke – This Stephen King story features a man named Frank Bigalow who suddenly finds himself in an exact prison-like replica of his apartment constructed by a company for the sole purpose of making him stop smoking.
From this simple, scathing indictment of addiction, the episode devolves into Bigalow having to deal with increasingly desperate fellow addict prisoners and Big Brother-esque terror. The original story can be found in King’s 1985 anthology horror film Cat’s Eye.
A Case of the Stubborns – What if the body of a loved one doesn’t want to die? It’s worth a watch only for the progressively disgusting makeup applied to actor Eddie Bracken as the seemingly dead grandfather who doesn’t stay dead. Also features a very young Christian Slater as a sceptical grandson.
Sorry, Right Number – This macabre time travel loop of a story from Stephen King involves a King-esque novelist whose wife Katie receives a panicked but unintelligible phone call which may or may not cause the novelist’s death by heart attack.
Five years after the tragedy, she nostalgically pops in a VHS tape of an adaptation of her late husband’s work, called Spider’s Kiss, only to receive some ghostly news too little too late about that original phone call.