Warner Bros. // 1993 // 380 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 6th, 2006
That emaciated wordsmith the Cryptkeeper returns for a fifth helping of zombies, mummies and John Stamos.
Season five of HBO's flagship horror anthology brings all the ingredients well-known to the series: dark humor, blood and guts, recognizable faces galore and killer twist endings. This season features 13 episodes, all prefaced by the Cryptkeeper who, at this point, rocketed into pop culture icon status which the producers seized upon, making the beloved -- but fairly annoying -- character even cornier than ever (he portrays an effeminate hair stylist in one episode). The episodes themselves, however, remain as fun as ever.
This is a solid season, packing in the gore and nudity, and features some of my favorites. Here's a gander at the lineup:
* "Death of Some Salesman"
Ed Begley Jr. stars as a sleazy salesman who tries to cheat an eccentric hillbilly family but ends up in over his head. Ba dum dum!
Highlight: Not the opening sex scene with (I hope) a body double for Begley Jr. No, it's all about Tim Curry here, who plays all three family members with inspired lunacy.
* "As Ye Sow"
A man suspects his hot young Irish wife is boinking the local priest and decides to address the problem with lethal force.
Highlight: The ending, which is, frankly, what the rather mediocre episode builds to. But it is satisfying.
* "Forever Ambergris"
A hotshot war photographer (Steve Buscemi) finds himself on the business end of a serious skin infection when he's set up by his rival. But his eyes won't be the only ones spewing blood.
Highlight: This is easily the goriest episode of the bunch and Buscemi's apex of suffering is hugely memorable.
* "Food for Thought"
It's upheaval in the traveling circus freak show when a mind reader (Ernie Hudson) discovers an affair between his wife and a fire-eater. But his mental acumen is misinterpreted and, well, you'll see.
Highlight: A confluence of a darkly humorous twist and some revolting imagery make the last shot a winner.
* "People Who Live in Brass Hearses"
Bill Paxton and Brad Dourif star as two loser brothers looking to shakedown the kindly ice cream man, who's got a secret...
Highlight: Paxton and Dourif are both awesome in every scene they're in. Paxton has a little Private Hudson thing going on.
* "Two for the Show"
A wife (Traci Lords) wants out of her marriage, but the husband has other plans, hacking her to bits and stowing the body in a trunk. When a stranger doggedly pursues the truth, that trunk will be one man's undoing and another's opportunity.
Highlight: Not a whole lot going on here, though the reveal is decent.
* "House of Horror"
Frat boys dare each other to stick it out in a haunted house, but a mysterious new sorority has other plans for the evening.
Highlight: The whole episode is super-fun. Kevin Dillon, playing a great jackass, enjoys a sweet comeuppance, so we'll go with that.
* "Well Cooked Hams"
Billy Zane is a mediocre, but ambitious magician who sees a chance to pilfer a great trick from his competitor (Martin Sheen), though underestimates the extent of the old man's powers.
Highlight: Billy Zane's over-the-top performance, I guess, but truthfully this tale sucked.
* "Creep Course"
When a creepy Egyptology professor plays two of his students for personal gain, the scheme backfires and the poor sap comes face to face with a vengeful mummy.
Highlight: Jeffrey Jones experiences the process of primitive embalming first hand.
* "Came the Dawn"
A man picks up a stranded woman (Brooke Shields) on the side of the road and brings her back to his place. One of them is hiding a secret, though, and it won't end well for the other.
Highlight: Another one of those all-build-up-until-the-payoff deals, so the big twist is likely the highlight, though I wasn't terribly impressed.
* "Oil's Well That Ends Well"
Two scam artists (Lou Diamond Phillips and Priscilla Presley) develop a scheme to bilk some rich hicks in an oil scam. But who's really getting played?
Highlight: Big shocker, but the ending again, though the science of this explosive finale is highly dubious.
* "Half-Way Horrible"
A greedy executive finds a potential fortune when he returns from Brazil with a voodoo-laced preservative. Unfortunately, everyone involved with the trip is systematically murdered and all signs point to zombie vengeance.
Highlight: Easy. Cheech Marin as a whacked-out witch doctor.
* "Til Death Do We Part"
In this nod to that classic sixth-grade read An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, a slimeball gigolo (John Stamos) is forced to choose between his cushy mob lifestyle and the woman he loves.
Highlight: Uncle Jesse dual-wielding handguns, John Woo style.
All in all, this is an enjoyable season, stocked heartily with everything that makes Tales from the Crypt so great. You want gore? Comedy? Plot twists? Pointless nudity? A parade of mid-level celebrities? Season five delivers. The DVD treatment, however, is a bare-bones affair. The transfers are spotty, with some shows besieged by grain and washed-out color saturation. And who made off with the extras? All you'll get is a virtual comic book for "Death of Some Salesmen." Bah.
Another solid entry into the canon of late-night horror-comedy, Season Five features some memorable stories. Yeah, there are a few clunkers, but what are you going to do? The uninspiring DVD presentation leaves much to be desired, though.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 380 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Virtual Comic Book