Every now and again, life catches me off-guard. It’s times like these I need to turn to contributions from you, the audience. If you’ve ever read the Opinions section of the local newspaper, or the comments of an article on the Huffington Post, you know that sometimes the readers contribute just as much as the established writers. Thus, I present to you the Crank File.
Today’s Crank File entry comes to us courtesy of Monica A. Flink. Enjoy!
It occurs to me that there is something more frightening in the world than nuclear holocaust, the mass genocide of day-walking gingers like myself, or a Rebecca Black greatest hits album. I find that out of everything in the world, I am more horrified by mediocrity being rewarded for being just good enough and the world just accepting that doing just enough to get by is the standard by which we all live in the near future. Which was why I was pleased to come across something that I had forgotten in its previous substandard form.
When I first saw Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, I was rather ho-hum about the entire experience. Perhaps it was because I was wee lass of only thirteen summers when it was first released in 1995, and far too young to be seeing it in theaters without a fake ID and some good make up, or because the first time I saw it a year or two later, it was because it was chopped up for the homogenized swill that Americans call cable television, but I remembered this movie as nothing but run-of-the-mill schlock. But coming across it again in Netflix, I decided to sit down and give it another try, hoping boobies and profanity would do what it does to everything else and of course, make it a whole lot better.
Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, also know just as Demon Knight, was the first spin-off film from the HBO Tales From the Crypt series. Unlike the episodes run on HBO, the story was an original work that was actually drafted two years before the series ever began. The script went through several re-writes, until it culminated in two scripts, one about literal demons, another that was about demonic yuppie bible salesmen, which honestly sounds more frightening to me. The studio decided to put in the money for real demons though, and the script by Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop was put into production.
Glad to see they’re still using Kate Moss for these DVD covers.
The film centers around an ancient artifact called the Key, which when filled with blood turns any person’s blood into that of Jesus of Nazareth, whose blood originally filled the Key. There are actually seven Keys in total, and once collected they can be used to open the gates of Hell. While they were spread around the universe, the minions of Satan have found six of them, the seventh in the possession of a human guardian named Brayker.
Brayker, played by a gritty and intelligent William Sadler, is a man who received the Key from a wounded soldier during World War I. Since then he has been ageless, running and keeping the Key safe from the Collector, a human-looking demon played by Billy Zane. Brayker has an incident with the Collector in the desert, and makes his way to the boarding house in a small town, where he stays for the night. When the Collector shows up at the hotel with the local sheriff and his deputy, Brayker realizes that this night is the last of his life, and it is time for him to pass on the Key to one of the seven people now in the boarding house.
The Collector gets pissed off when the sheriff will not just give him the Key, and ends up murdering the man and calling forth demons from Hell, nothing more than mindless killing machines that follow his every order. Brayker is then trapped within the boarding house with the landlady, a woman who is part of a prison work release program, a hooker, an alcoholic, the deputy, the hooker’s client and a former postal worker.
Well, if smiling like a goof ball won’t get me my way, I’ll just enslave your souls. Think of it as your new Verizon contract.
By doing what demons do best, which is tempt the weakest of the group, the Collector eventually kills them all off until Brayker takes a fatal wound and must pass the Key off to the reforming prison woman and she has a show down with the Collector that reveals his true nature. When the sun rises, we find her ready to pick up her new life as the Demon Knight, and gets on a bus to leave town, followed by a new Collector.
I am the first to admit that this is pretty schlocky. Billy Zane chews the scenery whenever he can, and every character is an exaggerated stereotype, from the hooker with a heart of gold to the postal carrier who has gone insane and was secretly planning to shoot up the local post office. Jada Pinkett Smith plays the work-release prisoner Jeryline with the warmth you want to see in our eventual heroine, and William Sadler, probably best known for his goofy performance in The Shawshank Redepmtion, actually comes up to bat as a grizzled, ageless warrior who knows what is on the line without being endlessly emo about it.
Those are some high waist-band pants.
The director at the helm is Ernest Dickerson, who is not the most prolific of movie directors. He is better known for directing episodes of wildly popular series such as The Wire, ER, Law & Order and Dexter. He did nothing out of the ordinary here, and I am more inclined to believe that Zane and Sadler’s performances were the culmination of their own ideas than anything he directed, but he deserves some credit for the over-all package.
As with most things with the Tales From the Crypt label on them, this has gore in spades, frightening visuals, and more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor to cut through the scenes where people are being disemboweled by possessed hookers in cheap silk robes. It is also book-ended by a scene with the Crypt Keeper (voice by the legendary John Kassir), which would be a gaping hole in this gore-fest if he did not make an appearance. For those of you that care, it also means that there are titties like three minutes into the film.
Lady Gaga really went all out for the 4th of July this year.
So the truth of the matter, was it scary? No, not particularly. I viewed this as a fantasy adventure story, not a horror, and it was not scary except for a few cheap jump scares. But was it mediocre? Not in the least. Excellent actors giving amazing performances in a setting that could have easily become silly or dull with the material given, and a story we actually gave a damn about. I’m sure there were gaping plot holes in places, such as why the hell the Collector didn’t just set the boarding house on fire and reclaim the Key when everyone was dead, but that can be overlooked when taking into consideration that it would have ruined the whole movie, and that the Collector is actually having fun tempting the souls of the people inside.
Demon Knight does its best to cater to the Tales From the Crypt crowd as well as people who are not fans of the 90’s staple horror series, and manages to deliver without being too basic or boring. Black humor is spiced up with danger and a characters that manage to find dimension even while giving their souls to the Beast. I’d like to see Twilight manage that.
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