Director: Jerry Smith
Writer: James Houghton
Cast: Eddie Bracken, Bill McCutcheon, Tresa Hughes, Christian Slater, Brent Spiner, Barbara Eda-Young, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Michael Riesman
Air Date: 12/2/1984
While Ma and Jody Tolliver (Barbara Eda-Young and Christian Slater) mourn the loss of Grandpa Titus (Eddie Bracken) over a hot breakfast, the supposedly deceased old man shows up demanding a plate of food. Despite their efforts to talk sense into Grandpa, Ma and Jody ultimately fail to convince their rotting relative that he belongs among the dead.
“A Case of the Stubborns” should appeal to horror enthusiasts for its unique approach to the zombie genre. Likewise, fans of campy humor may appreciate the performances of Eddie Bracken and a young Brent Spiner in their respective roles as Grandpa Titus and Reverend Peabody.
Though hardly comparable to modern zombie make-up, Grandpa’s disgusting visage gives the appearance of progressive decomposition in a most convincing fashion. By combining then state-of-the-art prosthetics with Bracken’s nauseating mastication, this episode should simultaneously gross out and amuse its target audience.
As a gag episode, “A Case of the Stubborns” works quite well thanks to its heavy emphasis on black comedy. In spite of its short runtime, however, this entry suffers from sluggish pacing as a result of its one-note premise.
All goofiness aside, Robert Bloch’s story presents a penetrating, if not terribly subtle, commentary on man’s refusal to recognize mortality as a fundamental aspect of existence. Even when faced with the prospect of putrefaction and rigor mortis while still living, the fetid old fiend in James Houghton’s narrative clings to his fleshly form no matter how unpleasant it becomes for both himself and those around him. Fantastic though this scenario may be, perhaps Grandpa’s circumstances will prompt discussion on the topic of death as a potential release from the perpetual suffering and misery that tend to accompany life’s final stages.
While the corny routine involving Grandpa and his mortified family tends to wear thin after a certain point, “A Case of the Stubborns” should be viewed by Tales from the Darkside enthusiasts for its ghoulish make-up effects coupled with a solid twist ending. Spiner’s rendition of a Southern preacher may amuse those who recognize this actor from his role as the android Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, whereas fans of dark humor will enjoy Bracken’s stomach-churning portrayal of a most ridiculous revenant.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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