Ready for your deadtime story?
Superman and Batman are famous for their heroic actions and daring heroism in the world of kiddie comic books. Not so in the infamous "Tales From The Crypt" comic series. Everyone's favorite rotting corpse, The Cryptkeeper, would spin ghoulish yarns of beyond the grave revenge and ghastly tales of morbid gore to terrify the reader. In the early '90s HBO produced a weekly TV series featuring the Cryptkeeper, frighteningly funny scripts and Hollywood stars getting their fare share of deadly lessons. In 1995 Universal presented their first feature length "Crypt" movie, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight. Starring William Sadler (Die Hard 2: Die Harder), Jada Pinkitt Smith (Woo), Billy Zane (Titanic) and horror favorite Dick Miller (every Joe Dante film you can think of), Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight is spook-tacular entertainment courtesy of Image Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
When a stranger blows into town carrying a key holding the blood of Jesus Christ, all hell is about to break loose…and the night, the demon night, is about to unfold with hideous results!
Brayker (William Sadler) has been chosen as the guardian of a magical key containing the blood of Jesus. In hot pursuit is The Collector (Billy Zane), a maniacal demon with a wicked sense of humor and a driving desire to posses Brayker's key! After a car accident lands both men in a small town filled with all kinds of backwoods yahoos, Brayker escapes and finds brief refuge in an old, spooky house in the middle of nowhere. Populated with attitude ridden locals such as the spunky Jeryline (Jada Pinkett), the drunken Uncle Willy (Dick Miller), and the two timing Roach (Thomas Haden Church), Brayker and his new "friends" are about to find out that ugly demons in search of Godly treasures aren't the most courteous beasts on the planet. The Collector tries to woo some of the locals into helping him retrieve the key, and when all else fails, he slices his hand and creates earring wearing devils out of his glowing green blood. Yes, as you can imagine, The Collector is very popular at most Halloween functions.
As the night wears on, each man and woman must fight with their lives to stay alive. Brayker has only his wits and the mystical blood to keep them safe. The Collector has his evil minions and a host of terrifying tricks up his sleeve.
Who will survive, and what will be left of them when the dawn breaks on the Demon Knight?
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight ended being a poor way for the "Crypt" film franchise to start. Though the Tales From The Crypt movies are decent entertainment (Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood being the best of the two), they didn't translate as successfully to the big screen as to television.
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight certainly doesn't skimp on production costs. Such high profile filmmakers such as Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away) and Walter Hill (Trespass) lent their talents as producers for both "Crypt" films, promising big budget effects and stars. The premise for Demon Knight has grand possibilities; the idea that the blood of Christ is carried down from generation to generation is the stuff of strange fantasy. Although the film bogs down a bit after it takes a turn into obvious horror movie predictability ("Oh no, we're trapped in an old house at midnight with slobbering beasts!"), Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight still retains a slick, fun quality that usually keeps the consummate horror fan involved. Like the TV show, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight sports all kinds of puns and off beat humor that made the series so successful. The whole thing is book-ended by the Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir) ranting and raving about his latest tale.
One saving grace the film has is its two leads, Billy Zane and William Sadler. I am convinced that Sadler is the best character actor working in movies today. Sadler has honed his chops in everything from villainous action (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) to heavy drama (The Shawshank Redemption) to lightweight comedy (Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey). Here Sadler plays his character with much more skill and professionalism than most horror films utilize. Billy Zane seems to have known that The Collector would be wicked fun to play, and throws himself into the part with unbridled gusto. Zane runs around humorously demented, his performance making Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight much better than it should be. The rest of the cast, led by Jada Pinkitt Smith, fairs well though takes second stage to Zane and Sandler's antics.
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. Though much of the film is dark (as it takes place at night), the overall image is very good. Flesh tones looked very natural, and blacks were effectively dark. Only a small amount of grain was spotted, and no edge enhancement was present. For such a small title, Image is given bonus points for producing an anamorphic version of this film.
Audio includes Dolby Digital Surround in English. The track is decent, though nothing impressive. There was a small amount of hiss present, though nothing that should interfere with the viewing. Dialogue, music and effects were all mixed clearly. No subtitles are included.
Someone over at Image Entertainment hates you, 'cause you ain't gettin' jack in the way of extra features. How you like them apples?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight treads very worn ground. The haunted house theme is like beating a dead horse, and Demon Knight doesn't add anything excessively new to the genre. Some of the performances are funny and fresh, but the story is nothing we've never seen before. With all the original stories that the TV show produced, you'd have thought that the feature film might have retained that same freshness. Alas, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight just goes through the motions, entertaining but never enlightening.
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight is a relatively cheap title, usually found for around $9.99. If you're a fan of these movies, or you're a horror hound with a taste for malicious bloodshed, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight may just make a nice addition to your DVD collection. Though Demon Knight includes no special features, the audio and video portions exceed the price tag.
Free to go, though Image Entertainment would do good to throw a few extra features our way. Until then, hack a good time watching this devilish tale!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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