Tales From The Crypt rose from its origins as a cult underground comic, to become one of the premier names in anthology horror. It took full advantage of the liberated home of the H.B.O. to deliver far more explicit tales of terror than the likes of The Night Gallery or Tales From The Darkside. Yet, despite some noteworthy British films in the 70s, the series never had a big-screen breakthrough, like other anthologies. In 1995, that all changed as The Crypt Keeper hit the tinsel town with his perfect pun-making panache in The Demon Knight.
We open to a dramatic car chase, one that ends in a fiery blaze, though no fatalities. We learn that the pursued, Frank Brayker, has fled with a mysterious object that The Collector is quite eager to get back. Frank quickly tries to lie low and tries to check in to a former church turned hotel. When this Collector catches up with him, we learn it’s not how it seems; The Collector is a servant of evil. As the charming demon pins down the hotel in an unholy siege, unable to break through due to the object’s powers he sends armies of minions to besiege the place, using his powers to tempt the occupants through their deepest weaknesses. Can they survive the night? Or will the armies of darkness finally have their day?
Billy Zane is charming as The Collector, charismatic to the nth degree, make his subsequent attempts at temptation even more compelling. But the best talents don’t just lie in the army of the dammed however, as Frank Brayker, is played by William Sadler who previously portrayed the comic anti-hero Death, in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is fun here playing against that iconic role. The cast of characters, unfortunately, residing at the hotel is competent, comprising character actors representing a cross-section of characters. We get the likes of Dick Miller, who is characteristically great in practically anything he’s in, and a breakthrough performance from Jada Pinkett Smith, just before her career began to skyrocket.
The soundtrack is very apt for the time, with hits from Filter and other alternative rock anthems to give the film a much-needed edge. The introduction and send-off from The Crypt Keeper are a welcome return, still voiced by John Kassir, still churning out his trademark puns, considering the quality of both the show and this film, The Demon Knight does feel like an elongated episode, only with the big-screen treatment, It sets up its rules clearly, as all good horror should do, that feels just as entertaining as a stand-alone instalment.
The Demon Knight does feel like a slightly more fleshed-out (no pun intended) episode of the classic series. For fans of the show, especially after the dramatically different sixth season, this will come as great news. Keeping the tradition of having big stars, and unique characters engage in campy, yet compelling horror lives on the silver screen, and if this was, you’re first outing with The Crypt Keeper, it serves as a great intro to the series. As big-screen breakthroughs come and go, this one arrives in shining armour, to battle against the sieging army of the dammed.
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