Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Having a blast from the ghast with Tales From The Crypt flicks
One of the great things about a home video library is the luxury of having a movie on hand that you just get the sudden urge to see again. Last night was one of those times for me,as I popped in the DVD for the first Tales From The Crypt movie,Demon Knight. My fondness for this film comes from the first time I saw it at a special
midnight showing sponsored by Fangoria magazine(during one of their now-none-too-frequant-NYC conventions).
I had won some free passes and my cousin,along with his very cooperative wife,joined me at the theaters where one of the actors in the film appeared. It was the late Dick Miller,who plays "Uncle Willy",and he was great. He even shared a Pulp Fiction story with us about how he found out that his scenes in the movie were cut;Tarantino walked up to him just as the movie was about to be screened at a film festival and said"Oh,by the way,you're cut out of the movie." and then took a seat!
The movie itself holds up rather well,even with the hokey humor of the Crypt Keeper intro and end bit,and to me,it represents the early seasons of the HBO series quite well. Yes,there are gruesome gory moments and obvious humor laced with sex and bad puns but beneath the surface is the sturdy bones of a good story. Demon Knight is about a standoff at an isolated motel between Brayker,the protector of a mystical key, and a demon known only as The Collector(delightfully played by Billy Zane)who will use any means to get what he wants. In this scene,The Collector stops pretending to be human and begins his demon swat team throwdown:
There are a couple of strong women in this movie,one of whom becomes essential as the plot goes on. That would be Jeryline,a trying to reform thief with dreams of traveling the world,played by Jada Pinkett who really should do more genre films. Check out one of my favorite scenes as Jeryline is offered a real devil's bargain:
Other actors in this film that have gone on to non horror shows include Thomas Haden Church whose character is named Roach and says charming things like"This whole hell on earth business? Big fucking deal...I've got hemorrhoids." and CCH Pounder as Irene the motel owner who kicks demon ass even with one arm. Ernest Dickerson directed(it was his third movie)and two of the screenwriters,Ethan Reiff and Cryus Voris,went on to create the short lived series Brimstone. If you're looking for a fun fright film,Demon Knight is a great choice.
Too bad the same can't be said about the second TFTC movie,Bordello of Blood. I also heard about this film first at a Fango convention but there was no screening for it set up(did get some swag for BOB,namely a t-shirt and poster). This sorry sequel showcases the flaws that soured the last few seasons of the TFTC show;sloppy writing plus overreliance on bad jokes and gore. There was also a overabundance of big name actors cast who were meant to hold up the weak ends of the plot but wound up being schickmeisters. I think the trailer for the movie sums it up best:
Yes,that was Corey Feldman who looked more like a werewolf than a vampire there and Christopher Sarandon,who was way cooler as the vampire lead in Fright Night. Dennis Miller is a funny guy but totally out of his element in a film like this. The only one who did fit in her part was Angie Everhart as the bloody bordello vampire queen. A real shame,especially for vampire fans like me.
Death Becomes Her,I've always thought of as "Tales From The Crypt:The Movie." It came out in 1992,well before either one of the official TFTC films and even tho it's not connected to them,DBH has the real dark spirit of the EC comics. Even with it's celebrity stars,the story doesn't seem like a playhouse production for them to prance around. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn are dead solid perfect as two frenemies fighting over poor frantic Bruce Willis. The best part of the show is this battle to the undeath:
YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELF!
THAT WAS COMPLETELY UNCALLED FOR!
I HAVE NO PROBELM WITH THAT,DO YOU?
Isabella Rossellini is excellant here,too as immortal portion selling witch,Lisle:
Death Becomes Her wasn't well appreciated in it's day but the movie has a nice little cult following and is really a hoot and a half. Lots of folks didn't like Meryl Streep doing comedy but anyone could see that she did have a flair for the funny,long before the devil donned Prada. If you haven't seen DBH,go for it. You won't be sorry.
Will there another horror film in this style yet again? Right now,the model for fear films is Saw or Hostel(good movies but not for the faint of heart). It would be nice if this brand of funny fright shows came back. Wit and weirdness go well together,especially when you're in the mood for brains as well as guts.
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