Director: Dusty Nelson
Writer: Edithe Swensen
Cast: Connie Stevens, Carolyn Clark, Richard Kuhlman, Peter Miller, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Ken Lauber
Air Date: 5/18/1986
Following the death of televangelist Farley Bright (Peter Miller), founder of the Church of the Bright Tomorrow, greedy relatives Jenny (Carolyn Clark), Jonathan (Richard Kuhlman), and Caroline (Connie Stevens) gather for a reading of Farley’s will. To the surprise of everyone involved, Farley himself sends a final message from beyond the grave.
This offering is marred by cringe-worthy antics, dated special effects, and one-dimensional stereotypes of Christian/conservative leaders. There are instances, however, when “The Unhappy Medium” maintains a spooky, haunting atmosphere despite many budgetary/technical constraints.
For generating a layer of claustrophobic tension, “The Unhappy Medium” should be commended by fans of the supernatural horror genre. In addition to confining the protagonists to a state of limbo, for example, this episode benefits from the performance of Connie Stevens, whose expressions of panic serve to accentuate the trapped, desperate feelings of her character.
“The Unhappy Medium” deserves criticism for failing to blend serious horror tropes with tongue-in-cheek references to demonic possession. Especially incongruous are any scenes wherein Farley Bright—the late antagonist of this episode—communicates through Jenny, injecting silly humor into an ominous situation.
Also problematic from a logical perspective, “The Unhappy Medium” never explains how Farley—whose supernatural abilities make little sense given his lack of genuine faith in the divine—succeeds in returning from the afterlife, entering the body of his niece, and trapping his beneficiaries in a netherworld-like dimension.
“The Unhappy Medium” is a poorly written, unamusing satire on sensationalized Christianity. Therefore, this episode should be avoided by Tales from the Darkside viewers and comedy enthusiasts alike.
Overall Quality: 2/10
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