Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: Parlour Floor Front

Stupid yuppie landlords try to evict a Voodoo witch doctor in this episode of Tales from the Darkside, and you better believe I'm rooting for the witch doctor.

Doug and Linda buy an apartment building they intend to renovate for themselves but find they legally can't evict Mars Gillis, the old guy who's lived there for ages and pays only $85 a month. Then, they find out he also practices Voodoo, and Linda decides she's going to do what it takes to get rid of him, leading to business involving a broken vase, a curse, a wedding ring, and someone coming back from the dead to claim what's his.

"Parlour Floor Front" is a straightforward just-desserts story, no really surprises or much inventiveness, but it's a decent example of the formula. Doug comes off as reasonable, even hiring Gillis to work around the building, and Gillis does his best not to be a burden, but Linda is a nasty, selfish shrew, unsubtly so. She goes as far as to tell Gillis in their first meeting that he's getting away with murder with the rent he pays and treats him like he's subhuman. At one point, Linda declares, "I don't have a guilty conscience," and that's what comes back to bite her: when human morality fails, the supernatural finds a way to balance the scales of justice.

Linda does terrible things in the episode, and the one time we sympathize with her - a miscarriage - we discover she faked that - never even pregnant - and it drives Gillis to kill himself. When Doug learns this, he leaves her, and I don't blame him. Then, she goes to Gillis' casket and takes back the wedding ring she gave him to lift a curse, ignoring the warning from the dead man's sister that gold is where he stored the evil.

Much of the strength of "Parlour Floor Front" comes from the performance of Adolph Caesar as the voodoo practitioner, Mars Gillis. He goes from kindly old man to mysterious witch doctor to vengeful walking corpse very well, and his throaty voice is especially creepy at the end when he rises, climbs the stairs, and and enters Linda's room, declaring, "I want my ring." It might have been scarier if he was more ghoulish-looking as a zombie, but the episode builds the tension of his return well enough, showing his empty casket, his feet as he climbs the stairs, his voice echoing through the building, and his shadowed form appearing at the open bedroom door just before he gets her.

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