I remember going to the movies for Demon Knight. I loved Tales from the Crypt on HBO, and the idea of a movie was cool at the time. My sister and my best friend joined me for the showing. It was treat to watch. I left the cinema thinking of different tales that could come up using some of the elements in this story.
For those unfamiliar with Tales From the Crypt, the show aired on HBO during the late 1980s, and part of the 1990s. Based off of the old horror tales from EC Comics, each episode was a horror story. Unlike Tales From the Darkside, Monsters and Darkroom, Tales from the Crypt had the bonus of being on cable. This meant they were able to get away with more gore and nudity than their prime time counterparts. Perhaps that’s the only real disadvantage with the film. At least with Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, the story could push into darker elements with their restrictions lifted.
As with every episode of the show, Demon Knight is sandwiched between a scene with the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir) greeting the audience with some corny jokes and introducing the story. Frank Brayker (William Sadler – The Mist, Bill & Ted Face the Music) is on the run from The Collector (Billy Zane – Titanic). With his options dwindling and the strange seven-star pattern tattoo on his hand slowly forming a circle, Brayker makes his last stand at a motel with a group of individuals. In his possession is a key shaped vial that has the power to create wards. These wards hold back the army of demons that wish to reclaim the key and bring darkness across the land. Can Brayker make it through the night, while protecting the key and everyone around him? That’s pretty much the plot.
Having previously worked as a Cinematographer for Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson made the jump to directing with 1992’s Juice. Demon Knight was his follow up and for the most part, it’s good. The creature design is interesting, reminiscent of Top Cow’s comic book, The Darkness. The demons are thin and indeed strange to behold, but they mostly take a back seat to Billy Zane’s Collector, who tries to seduce everyone into turning against the rest of the group. Zane brings a lot of humor to the movie with his villain, as does Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways) playing that one guy you’d really like to slug in the mouth. CCH Pounder (Avatar), Jada Pinkett (Collateral), Brenda Bakke (L.A. Confidential), the legendary Dick Miller (Gremlins and just about everything Joe Dante did), and Charles Fleisher (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and Gary Farmer (Forever Knight) round it all out. It’s Sadler’s film to carry, however, and he does a great job here playing the hero.
From a sound/musical standpoint, Demon Knight boasts a interesting soundtrack, which I picked up around the time I first saw the film. Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” seemed like the only song featured in the film, but Ministry’s “Tonight We Murder”, Henry Rollins “Fall Guy” and Pantera’s “Cemetary Gates” are the standouts. The pacing of the film is pretty even, despite being a one shot. There’s not enough of a slowdown to feel bored. Demon Knight is just one regular Tales from the Crypt tale in a longer format. I would have preferred shorter pieces in this larger timespan, but that’s more a nitpick than anything.
Overall, Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight is a fun film to visit around Halloween. Just make sure your doors and windows are locked (and sealed, if possible), when watching.