Tales from the Crypt:
Release Date: January 13, 1995
Cast: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson and Gilbert Adler
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Based On The Comic Series but Not Adapted from An Actual Storyline
On January 1st we lost a number of wonderful titles from the Netflix catalog. Struck down in their prime, we can never know when they may return if they will ever return. There were some real classics in this latest Netflix purge: Titanic, Top Gun, Alice in Wonderland, Braveheart, Immortals, Eternal Sunshine of the Spottless Mind, and more. These are the sorts of movies that people will miss, the sort of movies they’ll complain about missing over social media for months to come.
But the two movies I’ll miss the most? Easily Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight and Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
I have so many fond memories of these movies. But my fondness for Killer Klowns From Outer Space will have to wait until another day because today we’re going to talk about the unsung classic that is Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight. Out of all the movies and shows that I knew were going to be removed on January 1st this is the only one I bothered to watch.
Before we begin let me just be honest and say straight up that the four star rating I’ve given this movie is based purely on nostalgia and a so-bad-it’s-good-standard. But what else can you expect from Tales From the Crypt?
I can’t really remember the first time I saw this movie – it was years ago and I was probably ten years old at the most. But it was definitely awesome and for some reason this movie has stuck with me over the years. Maybe it was something about the demon knights and their history of protecting the world from demonic forces throughout time. Or maybe I just had a crush on crazy Billy Zane. Who knows? I just know that whenever this movie showed up on the Sci-Fi Channel (back before it was the SyFy Channel and lame) I was glued to the TV screen.
Years later after rewatching this movie as an adult?
Still awesome. And here’s why.
1. Over the Top Violence and Dark Comedy
Who doesn’t love ridiculous grindhouse style gratuitous violence? If you do, then Demon Knight is perfect for you. I mean, minutes after meeting up with the rest of the cast Billy Zane’s character puts a fist through a cop’s face and then spends the next few minutes trying to get the collapsed in head off of his fist while everyone screams. It’s a thing of comedic beauty to be certain. So is CCH Pounder’s character losing an arm and later flipping Billy Zane off without it. C’mon. How can you not love moments like that? This is a movie with all the unrealistic blood splatter, quirky remarks, and gratuitous demonic possession deformations you could ever want. It’s really everything you could want in a movie. The Cryptkeeper knows how to deliver.
2. An Ensemble of Ridiculous Secondary Characters
So Brayker (William Sadler), early in the movie, tries to take refuge in an old church-turned-boarding-house while trying to escape from the Collector (Billy Zane) who had been hunting him in order to track down the last key needed to unlock the underworld. Or something like that. We meet a surprising number of secondary characters who are really quite likeable. Drunk, broke ‘Uncle’ Willy was probably my favorite if I’m being honest. Him and Jada Pinkett Smith’s character’s aunt. ‘Uncle’ Willy was pretty much the dirty old man you would expect but he was always a kind enough man who was just way to susceptible to the Collector’s demonic charms. Meanwhile Irene powered through until the end as the HBIC. I could have done without Roach and Cordelia though Danny certainly was fun to have around until he got possessed and turned into one of the creepier possessed folks. Granted, creepy possessed kids will always be the creepiest.
3. William Sadler – That Guy in Everything
I love William Sadler. Of course, I didn’t know what his name was until I just looked it up like ten minutes ago. I mean, who knows his name? He’s in practically everything but he’s rarely the lead in anything so he’s not usually getting himself at the top of the cedits, you know? (With the exception, it seems, of Roswell which I should totally watch someday). But oh-ho-ho! In Demon Knight William Saddler plays Brayker, the titular Demon Knight, and his world saving antics basically speak to my inner child who still believes in heroes and roots for the good guy no matter what. I love the character, the backstory, and his hopeless attempt to save himself and all the others from the Collector. Plus I thought Brayker and the Collector played off one another well. There was a real sense of weary, determination in Brayker that – even when faced with the Collector and certain defeat – he still found a way to one up the demons. Whatever. I just really liked Brayker and I have a thing for William Sadler’s face. I’m gonna go see if Shawskank Redemption or the Green Mile is on Netflix…. (Sadly neither of them are at the moment.)
Well now I’m watching Roswell.
4. Jada Pinkett Smith’s Street Smart Jeryline
Yeah, I know, Jeryline does not sound anything like the name of a street smart brawler with a buzz cut but that doesn’t even matter because she’s one of the three most awesome characters in this movie. On work release from prison she’s working for her aunt Irene at the boarding house, cares for her cat, and dreams of getting out of this middle-of-nowhere New Mexico town. She’s got a smart mouth and a quick wit and where others fail to rebuke the Collector’s demonic allure and promises she manages quite well. (In a creepy as shit scene, I may add.) Jeryline is smart. She’s quick to pick up on things. She’s a natural successor to Brayker and she proves her worth through out the movie. Also: she’s hot. Let’s just throw that out there.
5. But Mostly Just Billy Zane
I think my friend Frankie summed this one up best as “the movie that made me want to sell my soul to Billy Zane!” But seriously. I’d sell my soul to Billy Zane in this movie in a heart beat. Whoo, boy. Honestly, though, I don’t think I’ve seen someone look like they were having nearly as much fun in a movie as Billy Zane – or at least his character – seems to be having in this one. The Collector is a great character – better even than Brayker and Jeryline. He’s charming, charismatic, constantly smiling… really, though, that’s probably more just Billy Zane’s disarming allure. Oh, don’t give me that. You know he gets your heart pounding, too. It’s the lack of hair. With hair he’s just the douchebag from Titanic but without it? Panties coming off, yo. Okay, okay. Kidding.
Only not. That said, seriously, the Collector drives this film and he’s pretty much the best thing to ever happen to Tales From the Crypt. Just saying.
So. Are you convinced yet? Want to see it?
I mean, c’mon, you’ve at least got to know how a woman missing an arm can flip someone off with said arm, right? Seriously. That scene is priceless. I love it.
I love so much about this movie it is ridiculous. But hey. Love is irrational, right? Some things just can’t be explained. I tried. But at the end of the day this is an awesomely so-bad-it’s-good movie that everyone should check out. Sadly, it’s no longer on Netflix so that kind of sucks but hey. It’s worth tracking down.
Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight is a fun, campy, and cheesy movie that’s great for watching late at night with friends when you’re bore. If you’ve got time to kill and access to the movie it’s more than worth the time it takes to watch outbid just for Billy Zane’s smile.