Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tales from the Darkside: Black Widows

Michael McDowell wrote some of the best and scariest episodes of Tales from the Darkside. "Black Widows" is not one of them.

It's not bad, and it didn't get on my nerves like some of the others, but I just don't care for it. It plays like a darker, female-version of Teen Wolf: a young woman discovers she's the latest in a long family line of creatures and whose mother had hoped it might not happen to her, but now that it has, there's some explaining to do. From the title, you know they're a family of spider women.

Maybe the episode is too predictable and on the nose, and disappointingly, we never see the Webster women (Webster, get it?) transform into the monsters they're supposed to be. The most we get is a hokey-looking arachnid claw, so I'm wondering just what exactly is their physiology. Do they sprout eight legs and grow fangs? Do they always have extra limbs hiding beneath their human form? How do they change back?

The actual narrative and characterization isn't bad. The daughter discovers her true nature on her wedding night and has to learn to accept it, but this feels like another rushed episode trying to bring everything under a 20-minute running length. Plus, the mother's dialogue is so thick with the spider hints that I'm confused why none of the other characters find her weird or comment on it.

There are some nice touches. The makeup on the daughter's first victim is pretty cool, and the characterization of the mother - a large woman who lives in a trailer home and who doesn't venture out, insisting she "lets the world come to me" - fits the spider theme as a plausible human cover.

"Black Widows" tries to be funny without being shrill, but I'm still not laughing.

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