Demon Knight (1995)
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Writer(s): Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, Mark Bishop
Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith
By GOLLY, I was upset when I first heard about this flick. Not just upset, but let down. I was kicking cans in an alley while the Peanuts music played in the background (channeling Arrested Development). Let me explain; as you fine folks know, I’m quite a fan of anthology horror flicks. The mix of simplicity and length of each short-movie-within-a-movie gave so much strength to the horror genre in general. The perfect films to watch with a crowd thanks to the lacking character work that didn’t require much paying attention and the quick cuts of violence that made everyone cheer and/or jeer.
Based off everything I enjoy about anthologies, OF COURSE one would assume I enjoyed the show, Tales from the Crypt! I was quite the fan as I waited patiently for the news to end so I can finally enjoy my short stories of terror from 11 to midnight. The opening sequence alone was fun and creepy while the camera took you through a tour of the mansion where the Crypt Keeper awaits. You go through stairs, tombs, creepy dens, etc. until you reach the final moment, the one you always know is coming but still scares you just a little bit; the Crypt Keeper’s rotted, ghoulish corpse popping up and laughing like a lunatic! With an opening sequence like that, you can expect the show itself to be a special treat. Celebrities (old and current) would pop by every week like familiar friends, just to do an episode where they are either killed off or killing others which was always appreciated. By the time the show closed, with the Crypt Keeper always having one final quip followed by his signature creepy laugh, I felt like the weekend was already well spent.
When I heard a movie was in the works, the cogs already started working in my head about the format. Of course it would be an anthology movie right? So where do they go from here? Do they take existing stories and just make the budget bigger? Do they make three or four original stories and make a solid anthology flick? Man, could they even tell the origins of the Crypt Keeper and how he got to be the immortal evil tale-teller that he is today while weaving in three other tales of terror (note to self: last idea was pretty awesome, get together with the Agents to make this happen)? NOPE. NO. GO F*CK off Kiddo. This was pretty much what I was thinking when I realized it was just ONE movie for a show based off SHORT stories. This could never work right? That was my mindset as I finally gave the flick a try and as the movie started off with its familiar opening sequence, I was relieved, at least they got THAT right. The movie ran and by the end I was flabbergasted; my GOODNESS this was a solid horror movie. I get it now! Tales from the Crypt wasn’t abandoning their short story format, it was proving to the world that with a bigger budget and gigantic platform, it can focus on plot, character development and more elaborate kills to make one of the most SOLID horror movies of my generation.
Where the show gives you bullets of fun horror, the movie expands on a plot involving ancient prophecies and mystic origins. We have our man on the run, Brayker (William Sadler), who makes his way to a dingy hotel occupied by an unsuspecting group of people who are all about to be terrorized by the mysterious man from darkness, only known as The Collector (played beautifully by Billy Zane). Now I remember watching Titanic thinking Billy Zane played a wonderful villain but being a demon master made SO much more sense to me. He stole the show with his maniacal wit and believable cruelty made the stakes higher when he starts to pick off the hotel tenants one by one. The occupants of the hotel is your usual group of horror fodder with the rebel Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith), the prostitute, Brenda Bakke and of course you need the A-hole that questions Brayker at every turn, Roach, played by Thomas Haden Church who has the natural “Dick Face” that all horror flicks need. The Collector is after an ancient artifact carried by Brayker that possesses the power to unleash demons on Earth. The contents of the artifact keep the demons at bay as Brayker tries to fulfill the prophecy by revealing the next protector of the key.
I recommend this flick for anyone who was a fan of the Television series; the movie even ends with the signature quip from the Crypt Keeper which proves once and for all that the goal of this flick was to expand on a story rather than have it short and sweet…I still love my anthologies though.