Director: Mark Jean
Writer: Michael Kube-McDowell
Cast: Susan Strasberg, Ben Marley, Judith-Marie Bergan, Gary Hershberger, Jay Scorpio, Chip Heller, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Ken Lauber
Air Date: 12/8/1985
Following a personal injury, artist Kate Collins (Susan Strasberg) develops a talent for manipulating her surroundings. Unfortunately, Kate soon discovers that her powers can be quite dangerous when coupled with a loss of control.
“Effect and Cause” is an incoherent Tales from the Darkside episode. While a consistently dark tone, a strong performance from Susan Strasberg, and an impactful (albeit somewhat cruel) twist ending are present, all positive aspects are undermined by the nonsensical direction of Michael Kube-McDowell’s narrative.
Strasberg’s portrayal of Kate adds credibility to the fantastic, if not downright absurd, premise of everyday household items presenting a grave threat to one’s safety. Especially worth praising are the terrified mannerisms and gut-wrenching pleas made by Kate in the final scene, which, when accentuated by Strasberg’s acting, culminate in a most chilling outcome.
A then groundbreaking science fiction device, the notion of cause and effect occurring in reverse order may intrigue viewers with an interest in theoretical physics. “Effect and Cause” should therefore be criticized for switching gears halfway through, with objects disappearing and misbehaving almost entirely at random. Also problematic, Kate’s “bad karma” is heavily implied to be a consequence of erasing an old painting and not, as the episode’s title would suggest, the result of phenomena happening on a quantum level—a revelation that, while potentially ominous, serves to further muddle an already disjointed plot.
“Effect and Cause” alludes to a fascinating concept, namely that the universe is inherently chaotic except for the order “forced” into it by humans. That being said, Kate’s ability to recognize and modify the true nature of reality is never explored beyond a cursory level.
Marred by a lack of focus, “Effect and Cause” makes utter waste of a thought-provoking subject. Fans of the horror genre may, however, appreciate the haunting implications that stem from the main character’s plight.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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