Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight
Release Date: January 13, 1995
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Action
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Writers: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris & Mark Bishop
Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, John Kassir (Voice)
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Happy Halloween! We’ve reached the final review for the month of October. As you could tell by now, most of the movies featured on this site were monster movies and anthology movies. This movie that I’m presenting is a little bit of both. It’s a monster movie presented by an anthology series. What could I be talking about? None other than the first Tales From The Crypt movie, Demon Knight which was released in 1995.
The Cryptkeeper goes Hollywood in this first full-length feature from the series. He presents the tale of Demon Knight in which a drifter named Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is being pursued by a man in cowboy attire (Billy Zane) who turns out to be a demon. He is in pursuit of a relic that Brayker carries that once it is in his possession, he would be able to take over the universe. After a car chase which results in a big explosion, Brayker makes his was into a small New Mexico town where he meets a bum named Uncle Willy (Dick Miller) who guides him to a motel in the outskirts. In it contains the motel owner Irene (CCH Pounder), work release convict Jeryline (Jada Pinkett Smith), prostitute Cordelia (Brenda Bakke), postman Wally (Charles Fleischer) and later café worker Roach (Thomas Haden Church). The Collector along with the town sheriff (John Shuck) and his deputy named Bob (Gary Farmer) track Brayker down at the hotel. The Collector takes out the Sherriff and Brayker uses the key to drive The Collector out of the motel. Determined to get the key at all cost, The Collector cuts his own hand spewing out green blood which he splatters all over the dirt which creates other demons to help him. Now Brayker and the rest of the inhabitants must survive the night and prevent the demons from getting the key.
The cast of Demon Knight featured familiar character actors who fit their parts perfect like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Billy Zane as The Collector played it loose but menacing. He brought that soft charm that he is known for but has the skills to manipulate his victims in order to get what he wants. He essentially is the devil in this movie as he temps the survivors with anything they want in exchange for their soul. Few of the characters in the movie succumb to their impulses. Zane played it a little over the top but not in a way that annoys you. Zane has publicly stated this was his favorite part and helped him get the part of the bad guy in Titanic.
William Sadler is a seasonal vet on the show. He appeared in the pilot episode The Man Who Was Death and he appeared in cameo segments as The Grim Reaper (his character from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) and later as a mummy in the second film Bordello of Blood. I couldn’t think of a better actor to play Brayker than him. He’s a man who didn’t ask to become the guardian of the key, but when it was bestowed upon him, he felt a duty of responsibility to keep it safe. When he gets the survivors involved, he does what he can to protect them even though at times they overrule his suggestions. Sadler’s Brayker is reminiscent of a western gunslinger. I don’t think you could convince me that the producers casting Sadler in the role is a coincidence. It felt like the producers gave him a tribute by having him in the second billing.
As for the rest of the cast, I enjoyed their roles especially Dick Miller’s Uncle Willy who played it like a lovable family member CCH Pounder’s Irene who rules her motel with an iron fist and Church’s Roach who was a slimy thick-headed character that was loathsome from the beginning. And I can’t forget about Jada Pinkett as Jerryline. What I thought would be a throw away character turned out to be one of the more important characters to the story. While there’s not much of a background on her except for her being on work release, you see her come into her own during the movie.
The film was directed by Ernest Dickerson whom prior to getting this job directed the movies Juice, which featured Tupac Shakur and Surviving The Game starring Ice-T and Rutger Hauer. He was a unique choice to make this movie, but he did an amazing job creating something that captures the look and style of the television series while getting the maximum effort from the cast and crew. The concept of the movie is easily inspired by the films Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13 since the movie takes place in a central location and you a group that’s trying to storm the location and you have the inhabitants of the location defending it with their lives. The entire film is set in the nighttime which gives it this dark cold look. The use of the green colors for the demon’s eyes and blood along with the red used in the blood barriers that Brayker creates gives it a rave like glimpse. The make up work of the demons was well done despite at times I couldn’t make out the detail since their skin blended with the dark setting. The kill scenes in the movie have a mix of Evil Dead style kills and ones that would see in a Tales From The Crypt episode.
Instead of making an anthology movie like Creepshow or the Tales From The Darkside movie, the producers of Tales From The Crypt elected to present one story that would cover the full length of the movie. The gamble paid off. It’s a roller coaster of a flick. There wasn’t a moment for me where I watched it that I was getting bored. Demon Knight is unquestionably the best film of the three that were released. It’s one that fits in right with the box set of the television series.
I hope you enjoyed these horror movie reviews for the month of October. I’m going to be taking a break from reviewing horror movies and will be focusing on other genres. Have a few movies already in development for future postings. Make sure you’re hitting that follow button to keep tabs on all the updates! Again, I wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween!
- Purposely released on Friday, January 13 because the Tales From The Crypt movies were originally to be tied with traditional “horror weekends” such as Friday the 13th or Halloween.
- Birds had nested in the rafters of the set, which caused audio problems, so before each take the crew would shoot off a blank gunshot to startle and quiet the animals.
- The studio originally wanted Cameron Diaz for the role of Jerryline, but director Ernest Dickerson convinced the producers to cast Jada Pinkett Smith instead.
- The entire set was constructed practically in an abandoned airport hangar in Van Nuys, California. Since the bulk of the film was set over the course of a single night, this allowed the crew to shoot during the day.
- The green slime was taken from Glowsticks which the FX crew disassembled.
- Brayker says he received the key from a soldier named Dickerson, a reference to director Ernest R. Dickerson.
- This movie marks William Sadler’s third appearance in “Tales From The Crypt”. He appeared as the lead character in the pilot episode “The Man Who Was Death” and had a brief appearance at the end of “The Assassin” playing The Grim Reaper, his character in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” He would later appear as a Mummy in the second “Tales From The Crypt” Movie “Bordello of Blood!”
Too Late To Give Them A Ticket
Airbags, You Gotta Love Em
I Think He’s Looking For A Room Of His Own
Town Is That Way
Get That Pussy Off The Table
My Nipples Are Smoking
This Property Is Hereby Condemned
Give Me The Key
Right In The Eyes
Assholes Don’t Have Friends
You’re Gonna Have To Take It From Me
This Is For Four Years And Minimum Wage
You’re Talking Genesis
I’ll Get Back To You
You Wouldn’t Hurt Your Old Uncle Willy Would You Babe?
Come On Out Everybody
They’ll Look Like Last Week’s Leftovers