Friday, December 25, 2015

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

What do you get when you combine the sensibilities of John Carpenter and Sam Raimi and add the awesomeness of Billy Zane? You get Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), the first feature-length spinoff of the ghoulish HBO series. While not the sort of thing to keep you up all night afraid of the dark, it is terrific fun.

After a brief prologue featuring our old pun-spouting friend the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassir), the movie dives right in with a man named Brayker (William Sadler) pursued by The Collector (Zane) to a ramshackle motel in the middle of nowhere. Brakyer holds a mysterious key, and The Collector besieges the motel with an army of demons to get it. Held at bay by blood from the key, the smooth-talking Collector attempts to tempt the occupants of the motel (CCH Pounder, Jada Pinkett, Dick Miller, and Thomas Haden Church, among others) into giving up Brayker and the key.

Demon Knight is directed by Ernest Dickerson, who got his start as a cinematographer for Spike Lee and who has since made a name for himself in television horror, directing episodes of Masters of Horror, The Walking Dead, and Dexter. Dickerson brings style and energy to the proceedings here: splatter gore, cockeyed camera angles, a fast pace, and tongue-in-cheek humor.

The movie is violent and gory, but it's done in an exaggerated, comic-book style. The demons, which sprout out of the ground like plants, have this reptilian vibe about their look and movements. They are mean and ugly, and they can only be killed by destroying their eyes, resulting in an explosion of green fire, and in one zany shot, the camera follows an arrow as it soars through the air into its target.

At the center of the movie is Zane's performance as The Collector. He's a hoot, clearly having fun being silly and menacing. Some of his dialogue is terrible ("Humans! You're not worth the flesh you're printed on."), but he knows how to sell it. Whether's he's conjuring up monsters (that he kisses like little babies), seducing and corrupting the humans, and even dancing a couple of times, he never gives anything less than 100 percent. He's unapologetically evil, promising Thomas Haden Church's douchebag idiot he won't kill him and then instantly telling him he lied and having the demons rip him apart.

The basic plot is not too original and the characters thin: monsters try to get in as the humans try to survive the night. The backstory is more interesting than the main narrative. The key contains the blood of Christ, and if the demons get it, it will mean the end of the world. There's a nifty flashback showing Brayker in a World War I trench fighting off possessed soldiers and receiving the key from its previous guardian. No prizes for figuring out he'll be passing the key on to a new protector by the end of the movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment