Director: Christopher T. Welch
Writer: Jule Selbo
Cast: Lorna Luft, Coleen Gray, Virginia Keehne, Janet Wood, Larry Gilman, and Paul Sparer
Composers: Ken Lauber and Kevin Maloney
Air Date: 2/9/1986
After recovering from a nervous breakdown, Christine Matthews (Lorna Luft) returns home for the first time in years. Christine later discovers that her old bedroom has been turned into a shrine, which serves as a coping mechanism for her mother Celia (Coleen Gray).
By failing to blend poignant subject matter with ominous undertones, “The Shrine” struggles to remain within a consistent genre. Certain viewers may, however, appreciate this episode for its valuable—albeit extremely muddled—lesson on the importance of forgiving others.
Lorna Luft should be commended for her performance, the pathos of which will evoke sympathy for Christine—a woman whose inability to reconnect with her emotionally distant mother could, under more nuanced direction, have stricken a chord with individuals of a sentimental nature.
Chrissie (Virginia Keehne), the younger version of Christine, comes across as a taunting, insufferable little brat—much in contrast to her mature and soft-spoken older self. Audiences may therefore question why Celia would prefer Chrissie’s company over that of Christine, an infinitely more pleasant person than her childhood counterpart.
On a related note, the temper tantrums of Chrissie are often too overplayed to allow for an effective use of the creepy child trope. While seeking attention from her mother, for example, Chrissie sings “Frère Jacques” for two minutes straight, thereby resulting in an irritating rather than frightening impact.
“The Shrine” contains a worthwhile message of reconciliation, especially with regard to the parents of estranged children. The character of Celia is nevertheless portrayed as a selfish, delusional mother from beginning to end (e.g. quietly blaming Christine for suffering a nervous breakdown and immersing herself in a fictional reality, meanwhile ignoring the needs of her own daughter)—an aspect that undermines a potentially moving tale of forgiveness.
Though mildly interesting on a surface level, “The Shrine” never explores the conflicted mother-daughter theme in a manner that will satisfy those of a sensitive disposition. Tales from the Darkside fans may likewise be disappointed by this episode, the horror elements of which are overshadowed by a bizarre, if occasionally touching, drama story.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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