Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: The Shrine

"The Shrine" is a modest but effective entry. A young woman named Christine (Lorna Luft) returns home after being away six years and finds her mother Cecilia (Coleen Gray) has kept old room unchanged as a shrine to her absent daughter. But what about the voice of a little girl Christine keeps hearing at night?

"The Shrine" is about something personal: parental expectations and disappointments. Christine, who we learned suffered a nervous breakdown some time ago and is having other issues, has to a degree disappointed Cecilia. In response, Cecilia has nurtured an ideal, dream version of her daughter who never grew up and never disappointed her. The horror of the episode is somehow this fantasy version of Christine has become real, and she doesn't like the grown-up Christine.

Heavy-handed? Sure, but unlike a number of other episodes I can list, the characters are fairly complex (for a 20-minute episode shot on video anyway), with flaws and admirable traits. There are no conniving shrews or prime bastards deserving of a supernatural comeuppance, just wounded people trying to make the best of things and nurture a broken relationship.

The episode could have used a more horrific edge to it. The little girl sends objects flying at Christine like in The Exorcist or Poltergeist, but she's not particularly creepy or haunting. The ending also goes for sentiment instead of terror and thus lacks some much needed oomph.

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