Nothing says the holidays more than a wonderful TV special. In the mid to late 1980's fans of the horror genre were treated to their own sort of Christmas cheer.
After the smash success of Creepshow horror anthologies were starting to make a comeback. In 1983 what was planned to be Creepshow The Television Series was worked into Tales From The Darkside. George A. Romero was the man behind this weekly show that featured tales of monsters, ghouls, and creatures of the night. Many children from this decade remember the somewhat unsettling theme music as the camera panned to shots of the sunny countryside. For four very successful seasons Darkside featured some down right terrifying stories that many still remember from their childhood. Back in the third season, Darkside decided to take a holiday themed approach with their episode entitled “Seasons Of Belief.”
Airing back in the winter of 1986 audiences were treated to a new and very underrated monster "The Grither"
It's Christmas Eve and a family has just finished dinner. As a rule from their father (E.G Marshall via Creepshow and Christmas Vacation.) the children aren't allowed to watch any television and are forced to settle down to a nice old fashion family Christmas Eve with each other as their only company. Moaning and bitching the bratty little kids Jimbo (Sky Berdahl - brother to Pet Sematary Ellie Creed twins Beau and Blaze Berdahl.) and Stefa (Jenna von Oy.) complain that Christmas Eve and Santa Clause are stupid. Warning the children about what they say, their much younger and what I suppose is the father's trophy wife (Margaret Klenck) allows the children to open one gift each.
It isn't long before the children grow bored with their newly unwrapped gifts. (no wonder...one was a world atlas and the other a box of crayons.) Asking their parents to tell them a story, thinking fast like all awesome parents. they decide on a scary story. The mother warns them that it might be too dangerous but the father says, “This is a story that takes place in the North Pole.” Right away the two children begin to moan and complain saying that they don’t want to hear another stupid story about Santa Claus. The father remarks that this isn't a story that they've heard before, that this is about one of the most dangerous and fearsome creatures that have ever walked. Taking Stefa's crayons, he writes down and shows the children two words:
The children, instantly curious, speak the words out loud. Right away, the parents see they have them hook, line, and sinker. Warning them that they've done it now, they've spoken the creature's name out loud awakening him from his dark wet cave. The Grither's home is on the opposite side of the North Pole from Santa's workshop, pretty much the complete and total opposite of happiness and holiday cheer. The Grither was born on a wreck of a ship conceived in fear and the most frigid depths of the Arctic. The father then begins to describe the Grither. He has fists as big as basketballs and his arms as long as boa constrictors. He is tall as a popper and his skin is a translucent white and his veins look like a road map; the red from rage and the blue from fear. Not taking their father's story serious, the son begins to act like a complete jackass and roll around saying the creature's name. The mother warns them that the Grither has very good hearing and each time he hears his name spoken out loud his ears get a little bit bigger. Repeatedly, the son continues taking the creature's name in vain, laughing off the story as one big joke.
The parents tell him that the Grither is now heading to their house and each time his name is spoken out loud he gets a little bit closer. His ears are now as big as wings flying over cities and towns. Instantly, Stefa is frightened and begs her father to stop telling the story. The mother and father then tell the children that there is a song about the Grither in which they completely and very cleverly pull out of their asses. The song is set to the tune of “Come All Ye Faithful”. Sitting at the piano, they begin to sing...
“Oh I am the Grither. You cannot escape me for pleading is useless and so are your prayers. The Grither is feeding for only one day for taking his name in vain.”
The children begin to show their unease as the parents keep reminding them that the Grither is getting closer and closer as they speak. Nearly in tears, Stefa begs them to finish the story to keep the Grither from coming. It isn't long before the parents put a few more scares into their children, dragging out the suspense of the story when suddenly they hear the Grither's song being sung outside. A loud banging comes from the front door.
Just then, a tall, snow-covered man enters wearing a fur coat. Scared shitless, the children run and hide as the parents have a good laugh, revealing that the uninvited guest was really their uncle. The father explains it was all a big joke and that the frightening story was just pretend, the father tells them not to be silly and that if they don’t believe in Santa Claus, they shouldn't believe in something as stupid as the Grither. Just then, a fierce howling wind blows through the house unexpectedly knocking the door open, sending cascading snow into the den. Barely able to stand up, the family fights to close the door from this unexpected severe change of weather. Once the door is firmly shut, Stefa begins to cry saying that it was the Grither. The mother says, “No Stefa it was just the -”. Before she can finish, two large translucent, vein covered fists come crashing through the two front windows. The monstrous hands grab onto both of the parents skulls and break their necks, retracting into the darkness. The children are left stunned and frightened, staring at their parents' slumped over corpses. The uncle who had been thrown into the kitchen by the wind comes stumbling in just in time to see the horrific ordeal play out. Holding onto Jimbo, he asks..”what the hell was that?” Stefa replies, “It was the-”. Jimbo screams, “No don’t say it!”. Stefa presses her tiny body against the wall looking at the destruction of her home and quietly says, “It wasn't Santa Claus”. The last image is of the macabre scene with the dead parents and poor Stefa standing against the wall. This is an extremely unsettling last shot of the episode and much like the Grither creature himself, is the complete opposite of happiness and holiday cheer.
Seasons Of Belief is an extremely underrated episode of Darkside. It shows a not so typical family with not so typical values. I hadn't heard somebody say out-loud that there wasn't such thing as Santa since Gremlins! God bless the 1980's! This non traditional family with their smart know it all children finally got what was coming to them when their little harmless story went sour. I love parents who create stories or monsters to put a fright in their children or to use it as a tool for them to behave. In fact I applaud parents who use this trick. The Grither was a perfect result of great story telling. Even though all you see in the end is his long arms and fists, every time the parents' describe the creature or remark on how he's getting closer and close you can't help but feel slightly at unease.
Seasons Of Belief is a perfectly creepy episode to watch with all the lights off on Christmas Eve. Just remember not to say the monster's name out loud!
The other episode I'm briefly going to touch onto aired back in 1989 on the television series Monsters.
Monsters was a result of the success and format of Darkside, spinning off into a weekly show featuring ghouls and creatures of the night. On a much lower budget, Monsters didn't exactly pack the punch Darkside did and was quickly overshadowed by the new and up coming HBO series Tales From The Crypt. Airing around the same time as Freddy's Nightmares and Friday the 13th the series. Monsters featured some pretty gruesome episodes. (The Match Game, Jar, The Farmer's Daughter, ect.)
Back in it's first season Monsters featured one of it's most powerful and emotional evoking episodes that truly stood out on its own. Fans still to this day argue that this was one of the saddest stories they ever watched and pulled on their heart strings back when they first watched it.
This episode is called Glim-Glim.
Glim-Glim is about a small mid-western town in which an alien spacecraft has crash landed. The creature inside accidentally released a deadly virus killing off the entire town's population all within just one weekend. Sealing the town off by a force field, the alien takes refuge in the town's library to try and research how to communicate and find a cure for this deadly plague before the force field fails and kills off the entire planet. Experimenting on some of the corpses, the alien worries he'll never see his home planet again and racks his brain on how to find an antidote before time runs out.
Lucky for the creature, only three people from the entire town survived the deadly virus. A crazed young man seeking revenge after his father died, a young father, and his little girl. Breaking into the library's basement to escape the cold, the three of them quickly learn the alien is above and can't understand the noises he's making which are heard through the heating vents.
The young girl, Amy (played yet again by the adorable Jenna von Oy) seems to be the only one who understands the alien seeing him as her friend. Sneaking upstairs, she slowly learns a way to communicate with the creature and calls him Glim-Glim.
Knowing his force field will fail soon, Glim-Glim works with Amy to try and find a way to show the two adults that he means them no harm and that the virus was just a horrible mistake. Trying to work on a antidote, Glim-Glim begins to learn how to write, trying to make a message for the humans to read.
Sadly early one morning the adults wake to find Amy missing. Rushing upstairs with weapons ready they misunderstand Glim-Glim and out of pure fear and panic open fire on the alien making him crash down to the ground. Walking into the next room.\, both men are stunned to find Amy perfectly fine standing near the Christmas tree looking afraid and scared. Asking her father if he hurt her friend Glim-Glim? He's completely speechless. Forgetting that it's Christmas Eve, he stands there unable to find the right words for the heartbroken little girl.
Now that humanity itself is doomed, the last and very depressing shot is a piece of paper in Glim-Glim's hand which reads...
Wow talk about a kick in the face!
Despite the low budget, and very laughable alien suit they had (pretty much a giant green pear with pipe cleaners for arms.) Glim-Glim was a wonderful episode that really showed how ugly humanity can be when backed against a wall and filled with fear.
So instead of watching the same old boring Christmas specials this yea, get some egg nog and find these two hidden gems on YouTube and celebrate the holidays in true horror fashion!
- Stacy Still