Director: John Lewis
Writer: Donald Wollner
Cast: Howard Sherman, Anne Lange, Leon Russom, Yeardley Smith, John Ridge, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Richard Einhorn
Air Date: 5/25/1986
Seeking shelter at an Army recruiting station, Arnold Barker (Howard Sherman)—a man who levitates when telling lies—requests protection from Mr. Cooper (John Ridge) and his pregnant daughter Betty Ann (Yeardley Smith), who supposedly intend on capturing Arnold and forcing him into a circus act. Upon arriving at the station, however, Betty and her father reveal their own interpretation of events.
This Tales from the Darkside entry is marred by random plot twists, Z-grade special effects, and cringe-worthy comedic devices. Also problematic is the fact that “Fear of Floating” never develops the illogical premise on which it operates, offering no scientific explanation to justify the concept of a human balloon.
Howard Sherman, known to horror buffs for playing “Bub” in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, deserves praise for his performance. Specifically, the character of Arnold Barker—whom Sherman portrays as an oleaginous but likable young man—succeeds in lying, cheating, and manipulating his way out of a most absurd predicament, adding entertainment value to an otherwise poorly executed story.
Transitioning from one silly concept to the next, “Fear of Floating” may evoke criticism due to its lack of narrative focus and coherence—even by the standards of a low-budget comedy/fantasy crossover sketch.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
“Fear of Floating” should also be noted for its morbid climax, which, despite providing a gory and satisfying death for the main character, seems highly out of place in a lighthearted Tales from the Darkside episode.
In spite of its commendable message on the dangers of evading personal responsibility, “Fear of Floating” suffers from a juvenile execution—an aspect that may prevent the majority of viewers, especially those with a sophisticated sense of humor, from taking seriously the moral commentary presented in this episode.
“Fear of Floating” offers a nonsensical, if mildly amusing, twist on the Pinocchio legend. Casual Tales from the Darkside fans should therefore avoid this installment, which benefits only from the performance of Sherman.
Overall Quality: 2/10
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