Tales from the Darkside:
The Yattering & Jack
Yo, real talk? Most of us don’t actually care about Jesus during the Christmas season. I know I never did as a kid, and becoming an atheist as an adult ensured I didn’t really pay much mind to the ol’ carpenter. I’d venture to wage most Americans (including you, dear reader) treat Jesus as a secondary thought during the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not chastising you for being “heathens.” Christmas hasn’t been about the birth of a Savior in many moons, and that’s perfectly cool. Yet, every season we are inundated with t.v. specials and movies that hector the audience for giving up the Real Reason for the Season. Ironic that multimillionaires, who never have to worry about choosing between buying groceries for the week or putting gas in the car, will give the American public the middle finger for not being warm and fuzzy enough for the holidays.
I think that’s why I like The Yattering & Jack so much – it dispenses with piety, and acknowledges that most of us would gladly bypass all the holly jolly nonsense for something that makes our lives better. Jack Polo (Anthony Carbone) is a friendly, cheerful salesman; the kind I imagine Glengarry Glen Ross’ Jack Lemmon would have been with a modicum of self-esteem. It’s Christmas time, and Jack Polo’s house is filled from floor to ceiling with all manner of holiday chotchkies. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to love Jack, and why wouldn’t they? He’s a gregarious guy; when carolers stop by, Jack and his daughter, Amanda (Danielle Brisbois), give the group money instead of dumping hot oil on them, like I would do.
However, Jack’s happy attitude can feel forced. When mirrors shatter and fireplace utensils go flying across the living room, Jack chalks it up to simple accidents, and not the dwarf demon that pops in and out of existence to antagonize the old man. This is the Yattering, and he’s played by dwarf actor Phil Fondacaro, who’s been in everything from Willow to Evil Bong. Here, his torso is painted red; he has teeny little horns glued to his forehead; he wears a black leather studded collar. The Yattering isn’t scary, appearing to be a stage extra from W.A.S.P.’s last tour that never bothered to take his make-up off.
If he isn’t metal enough for you, then Beelzebub (Thomas Newman) will rock your cock sock off. If Judas Priest’s Rob Halford decided to dress up his grandpa in one of his “Hellbent for Leather” outfits, it would look like this interpretation of the devil. Clive Barker wrote the screenplay, based n his own short story found in the first volume of his Books of Blood. I’m assuming the metal S&M gear were his idea, though they are nowhere near the leather horror of Pinhead and gang. With a bearded face resembling late-life Orson Welles, Newman is an absolute hoot as Old Scratch. With his constant belittling of the Yattering for not breaking Jack’s spirit fast enough, this Beelzebub is less the Master of the Underworld, and more of a satanic Oliver Hardy. These two bicker incessantly, to the point that I began to wonder if they were roommates in Hell. Maybe Beelzebub is annoyed because the Yattering took the last slice of Muenster cheese, and the little shit refuses to go by another pack? Perhaps Beelzebub fucked some greasy escort on the Yattering’s bed, and the stink from their sex has permeated the mattress? I’d be livid, too, especially since I assume Beelzebub throws his notable girth around to intimidate the smaller being. You know what? Fuck Beelzebub; the Yattering needs out of this abusive relationship.
The whole reason the devil wants Jack’s soul has to do with an ancestor that made a pact with the Beelzebub and backed out of it, quickly turning to God for help. Since he didn’t get that soul, Beelzebub is determined to get Jack’s. It is curious that a malevolent lord of the damned would employ a pint-sized demon to perform mundane tricks instead of sending in one of those terrifying creatures from Demon Knight. There has to be an MVP squad of soul catchers; Ned Flanders as the devil was more unsettling than this Yattering. At his best, this lil’ demon can only make a delicious looking holiday turkey fly around and sit on top of the Christmas tree. Low stakes tricks ain’t gonna get a man to renounce God. You know what? Fuck the Yattering; Beelzebub is trying to run his shit right, and this slacker ain’t doing the business any good.
Eventually, the Yattering touches Jack in an attempt to frighten him, a big no-no in the hellbound OSHA handbook. Once this is done, the Yattering becomes the slave of whatever human it touched. This delights Jack, ecstatic that he now has his own whipping boy. The Yattering & Jack is a trifle of an episode, but the revelation of Jack being a greedy shit behind the charming façade makes the tale work. He didn’t give a fuck about Christmas at all; he was merely putting on a show to keep the Yattering at bay. So, now he has a dwarf he can boss around. It’s actually fairly depressing, but the holidays have always depressed me.
Merry Christmas, I guess?