Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) — It’s the Alamo with demons

“Do me a favor? Don’t scream. Just hear what I’ve gotta say… and then scream.”

Justin’s rating: Thanks for reminding me that Thomas Haden Church kind of irks me

Justin’s review: If you were shopping for a horror anthology series in the ’80s and ’90s, there was no shortage of options out there. To get your attention, each of them had a headlining host, but none was ever quite as famous or beloved as the mummified and quippy Cryptkeeper. He made a name for himself meshing together scares and laughs, jumping from HBO to a pair of theatrical efforts in the mid-1990s (Demon Knight being the first and Bordello of Blood the second).

After a brief introduction by our sarcastic host, Demon Knight begins with two figures in a nighttime car chase (which ends, incidentally, with both cars exploding and both people fine). I like that we don’t know for a little while which one is the true hero or the actual villain, especially since the first guy is William Sadler and the second Billy Zane. They were equal opportunity actors back in the ’90s in that regard.

Anyway, Brayker (Sadler) is revealed to be our underdog hero — a long-lived war vet (I won’t spoil which war) who’s guarding an artifact that’s holding back the demonic forces of the universe. His pursuer, The Collector (Zane), is one of these demons. Cornered in the town, Brayker holes up a local boarding house and gradually convinces the few residents to help him hold down the fort for the night.

In many ways, Demon Knight reminds me of the Evil Dead trilogy, what with unholy forces doing everything up to and including possession to infiltrate and conquer a lone stronghold. The Collector may have a lot of tricks — and demons — up his sleeve, but the plucky hostel people aren’t going to give up without one heck of a fight.

What struck me about Demon Knight is how much it’s packed with some very recognizable names. In addition to Sadler and Zane, there’s Jada Pinkett, Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, and John Larroquette. Character actors all, and delightful to watch while romping around a B-movie set.

A lot of people have fingered this as the better of the two Tales from the Crypt films, and I concur. It’s nothing original, but it’s made with a whole lot of gusto, gooey special effects, and welcome moments of black comedy. It’s also filmed in about 50% Dutch angles and 10% flashbacks to the far past, just in case you were in danger of taking this too seriously.

Sadler does a commendable job being our resourceful guardian against evil, and Zane is way too good at being a smarmy demon leader who keeps trying to tempt everyone to change sides. I wish I could say more positive things about the Final Girl, Jeryline (Pinkett), but alas, she delivers every line in the same semi-incredulous intonation.

Ultimately, however, Demon Knight is decidedly average. It’s not doing anything here that hasn’t been done a lot better in the genre, and the humor and characters — as welcome as they are — aren’t pushing this over the top.

Didja notice?

  • Oh man, I do love that theme song and the tour through the haunted house!
  • Great psyche-out opening with a movie-within-a-movie
  • When a flaming car is barreling down on your stalled car, it’s time to bail
  • Some guys like to be electrocuted?
  • “Heads up!”
  • Did he really have to kiss the demon on the head as it was born?
  • “I’m just an old man running out of time.”
  • Even when you lose an arm, you’re still good for running around and cracking jokes
  • The kid’s reading a Tales from the Crypt comic book
  • Don’t trust people who spit sponges out of their mouths

One comment

  1. Yes! This was one of those movies that would pop up on late night Sci-Fi channel often. I enjoyed it a lot more than I should. And for some reason, when I think of Billy Zane, I think of this movie (and to a lesser extent “The Phantom”) over Titanic. Much better than “Bordello of Blood” imo.

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