“Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” (1995) is many things, but it is most certainly not a serious piece of “cinema”…and that’s why we still love it almost 25 years after it’s release. Helmed by longtime TV-Director Ernest R. Dickerson and starring an unhinged Billy Zane, genre icon William Sadler, Scientologist psy-op Jada Pinkett Smith and Thomas Haden Church (the dude from “Wings”), Demon Knight throws of any attempts to be taken seriously and goes for broke, gleefully grinding its cast of 90s b-listers to a bloody pulp in a supernatural shooting gallery. A flop on it’s release, Demon Knight was swallowed up in the tide of 90’s teen horror trash and the post-ironic juggernaut that was Scream, only much later finding it’s place as an unabashedly entertaining cult classic.
When the TV adaptation of EC Comics “Tales From The Crypt” became a surprise hit after its 1989 debut, it was only a matter of time before a feature film followed. But unlike “Creepshow” and “Tales From The Darkside“, “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” isn’t an anthology, but rather an entirely original film, a celebration of every trashy late-night cable horror film trope from the 90s packed to the brim with biblical bad guys, blood, boobs and of course … Billy Zane. The screenplay of “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” wasn’t actually adapted from the pages of EC Comics like other stories in ‘Creepshow’ or the television series, but was written in 1987 as a straight-to-video slasher two years prior to the HBO series’ debut, when it bounced around until being reworked as the first in a planned series of spin-off features. That plan was cut short by the disastrous second entry in the series: Bordello of Blood, but the less said about that one the better. What we’re left with as a final note in Tales From The Crypt’s legacy is a glorious monument late-night, cable TV trash packed with tons of fun for those who want something a little silly to celebrate 31 Days of Horror.
The story , such as it is, is simple: Ex-soldier Brayker (William Sadler) is the immortal protector of a mystical key that can unlock a power of tremendous evil; his pursuer, the sleazy but charming Collector (Billy Zane in a scenery destroying role) is the demon who wants the key so he can kickstart the apocalypse. On the run for almost 100 years, Brayker finally stops in at a boarding house in New Mexico where he plans to finally face off against the Collector and his band of ghouls, preventing them from ever seizing the key. Brayker uses blood from the artifact to protect the building and tells the residents they must wait out the night. The Collector assembles a team of demons to attack, but is unable to get in. The Collector uses psychic powers to seduce and possess Cordelia (Brenda Bakke) who turns on the group. They escape through old mine tunnels under the building, where the other townsfolk, under demonic possession, drive them back into the church for another final showdown. That’s it: Story wise there’s nothing in here we haven’t seen in a hundred other bad b-movies, but “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” cranks everything up to 11 and goes completely over the top in the best possible way, as literally everyone dies, comes back and dies again in more and more eye-popping, goo splattering ways.
Releasing right before the tipping point of terrible CGI taking over in horror films, Demon Knight boasts some outstanding practical FX throughout from Todd Masters, on top of Billy Zane’s scene-stealing, ridiculously perfect performance which really carries the entire film. Much in the same vein of Demons (from which it clearly draws a ton of style), if you want to enjoy 90 minutes of ghastly ghouls getting dispatched in increasingly gruesome ways, this overlooked genre gem will get the job done… and then some. Check the trailer below, you can catch “Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight” on Amazon Prime or pick up the awesome Scream Factory special edition on Blu-Ray.
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