Before laying eyes on a single frame of THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017), I read about Guillermo del Toro watching Gill Man (the recently departed Ricou Browning) swimming beneath Julie Adams in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) as a child and the thought he could never shake– “I hope they end up together.” No rhyme or reason, just his immediate and involuntary reaction to what was happening on the screen. And as we all know, GDT’s long-held sentiment resonated with audiences as well, evolving into an Oscar for Best Picture.
All of that to say that I recently experienced a similar moment. The difference being that it was nearly 33 years after the fact and the only association I’ll have with an Academy Award is openly questioning why Toni Collette didn’t receive one for HEREDITARY (2018), but that’s another story.
No, after returning home from an exhausting week of work, we decided to have a bit of an anthology party. Things kicked off with TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) because Scatman Crothers and John Lithgow always hit the spot, with another terrifying television turned silver screen selection as chaser that had somehow eluded me all these years — TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990).
How I’d missed it all these years I don’t know, because my family used to watch the show on (if I recall correctly) Sunday nights back in the day. Regardless, Debbie Harry and the kid who preferred noogies from PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) guided us to “Lover’s Vow” and I was immediately transfixed.
Without fail, James Remar understands the assignment and no matter how much praise she receives, Rae Dawn Chong will always be underrated to me. In other words, we were off to a good start.
The not-so-brief gist of the segment: an artist (Remar) struggling for inspiration meets his agent at a bar to buy time and get his hands on some cash but said agent (Robert Klein) dumps him saying he can’t live off of “ten percent of nothing.” Distraught, Remar gets hammered alongside a couple of buddies, but when they stumble into the alley to call it a night, one of those buddies is eviscerated by a gargoyle come to life that had been perched above said alley moments before. A stunned Remar gets slammed against a brick wall but spared so long as he can promise to never tell anyone about what he just saw. Of course, he agrees but on the way home, Rae Dawn Chong cascades around a corner. Freaked out about the prospect of the beast returning, Remar grabs her and ducks into a darkened doorway saying someone’s out there, and it isn’t safe. Remar assured Chong he wasn’t going to hurt her, and she says she thought she heard someone too and follows Remar to his place to be safe. SPOILER ALERT (but it’s clear as you watch it): Chong has nothing to worry about because she is the gargoyle in human form testing Remar to see if he’ll keep his promise.
Long story short? (Too late, I know) They actually fall in love, Chong puts Remar in touch with one of the most influential art dealers in the city, reveals that she’s pregnant, and ten years on they have two little ones.
Shorts either split the uprights or sail wide right, there is no in-between, but “Lover’s Vow” is the stuff of Morten Andersen. In a matter of minutes, we see a couple who are not only hot for one another, but have fun together, challenge one another to be the best version of themselves, and protect each other from the fuckery of the world. We believe that Remar is no longer bereft of inspiration and content with his work, that Chong has finally found peace and that life was all bananas and toothbrushes.
Until the night Remar felt compelled to express how much their life together meant to him. He couldn’t find the word to thank Chong for ten years of perfection and reached the conclusion that the only way to truly thank her was to tell her the truth about the night they met.
Remar grabbed a sketch of the gargoyle he’d done after the night that changed everything. When he began with “no one has ever seen this” and I tell you that I literally said “no. No, no, no. Shhh. Stop. You have it all. STOP TALKING!” out loud to the television — know that it’s not an exaggeration.
While I know it was a noble thing for Remar’s character to do–borne out of love and respect–the part of me that needed a happy ending after a shit week at the office and rejoiced in this no-longer-starving artist living the dream (married to Rae Dawn Chong, are you kidding me?!) was desperate for that mistake to not be made.
Alas, the chastising began. “You idiot! You promised!” Chong returned to her natural form as Remar declared his love for her. She responded, “I loved you too, but it’s too late now” and did what needed to be done. A decade on, one of them kept their word.
The segment ended with Chong back upon her perch, their children clutched tightly against her, overlooking the alley where it all began. A constant reminder of happiness discovered and destroyed.
If you’re reading this, I don’t need to explain that horror fans are a different breed, we invite unhappy endings. But every so often the mood is right, a water god feels a connection, or a gargoyle comes to life, and some part of us wants the universe to take the night off and let them dance.