Sunday, April 5, 2015
Tales from the Darkside: The Satanic Piano
This episode has a standard selling-your-soul-for-stardom plot spruced up by a sci-fi gimmick and improved by the presence of Lisa Bonet as the sympathetic daughter of the struggling composer. Michael Warren plays Pete Bancroft, a composer who's won Grammys and sold millions of records but is now on hard times while Phil Roth is the perpetually perspiring inventor Wilson Farber who offers him the device that plays the music inside Bancroft's soul.
"The Satanic Piano" works better than expected because Bonet as Bancroft's daughter Justine gives the episode more stakes and a likable presence. If Bancroft were by himself, I wouldn't care what happened to him because he's a jerk, but his daughter represents what he stands to lose. She too composes music, and Farber decides to take her soul instead. When he goes to save her, Bancroft is able to redeem himself.
Music is the language of the soul, or so the old saying goes, and that's a nice sentiment. As a concept for a horror anthology, it just doesn't work. Apparently, the instrument Farber built harvests the person's soul by tapping into the musical wellspring he or she has inside them, but I don't know how that's supposed to work. The music this thing generates isn't very impressive and nowhere near as moving as it needs to be for this concept to work.
It also doesn't help that Roth is about as menacing as a guy selling beer at a football game concession stand. Sure, he's gross and grotty, but he doesn't come off as very intimidating, too dumpy looking. A more charismatic, threatening presence could have elevated this episode.