Call me the worst horror fan on the planet, but um, I always thought Tales from the Crypt was just the HBO series... I never knew for the longest time that there was an earlier British movie from the 70s of the same name. A girl needs to know these things, people. I know the series is not based on this movie particularly - they're both based on the EC Comics - but I still think I should have seen this earlier in my horror career, just for reference.
With five separate stories, I don't want to get all windy like I usually do in my reviews. So I'll try to keep it snappy - or as snappy as possible. Which means it probably won't be at all. Anyway, the movie starts with a group of people taking a tour of some old catacombs or crypts. Five get separated from the main group and end up in a room where they meet a man in a monk's robe (the original "Crypt Keeper"). The strangers are confused about why they are there and the Crypt Keeper tells each of them what happened to them - specifically, how they died and why they deserve to be there.
"...And All Through the House"
This first tale is of course very familiar to me because it is quite popular as an episode of the Tales from the Crypt television series, which I've seen a few times. Now it's time for the original starring Joan Collins as a woman who kills her husband on Christmas Eve - the same night that a killer dressed as Santa Claus has escaped from an asylum. This story is perfectly creepy and cheeky and should be told every year as the horror fan's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." There's no real explanation for why Joan kills her husband other than money (or why she kills him on Christmas Eve while her daughter is upstairs - harsh, much?) but it makes for a good explanation for why she can't call the police when Evil Santa shows up. I absolutely love that reveal of the daughter ringing the bell through the curtains and saying, "Look, Mommy, it's Santa! I let him in!" The audience is scared of what is going to happen to Joan (and the daughter - seriously, he must have killed the daughter, too, right?) and at the same time thinking that this bitch is getting a good lesson in karma because of her actions. All around wonderful story and wonderfully executed - except for the bad red paint blood when Joan kills her husband. Always hate that.
"Reflection of Death"
The conclusion of this segment made it not so much my favorite, despite some of the smartly shot earlier scenes. Here, a man leaves his wife for a better model and as they are driving together one night, he has a terrible dream of them getting into a car accident, only to wake up and have the accident happen again for real just like in his dream. I liked the bulk of this one simply for the scenes of the man, Carl, wandering around after the dream accident. It's all shot from his perspective and starts to get very strange after people keep running away from him in terror after looking at him. Oooooh, he must look so very disgusting! I can't wait to see it! The reveal of this is nice because in his dream, Carl goes to see his mistress Susan after he's been messed up and she doesn't see him because she was blinded in the accident. Carl sees his reflection in a mirror and screams, which wakes him up from the dream. He doesn't really look like he should after being in a car accident, but more like he had been rotting in the ground for a while - which I guess would go along with what happened in his dream, but I was still a little disappointed. This segment has a lot less shock value and cheekiness than the rest of them. The whole dream-comes-true thing is not that clever but don't worry - the stories get a lot better from here on out!
James lives in a nice, but snobby, neighborhood where a more eccentric older man, Grimsdyke, is ruining their beautiful facade. James tries to push Grimsdyke away - scaring away the neighbor children from going to hang out with him, taking away his beloved dogs, sending him horrible and mean Valentine cards - until Grimsdyke commits suicide. One year later, though, Grimsdyke can still get his revenge! From the somewhat dull first part of this story, you would never expect that the conclusion would be this awesome. Seeing Peter Cushing crawl out of the ground as a zombie was enough to make me very happy. Cushing's makeup is delightful, all dark eyes and sunken cheeks and gray, nasty skin. Total horror fan giggle scene right there (if that made any sense). Then to top everything off, Grimsdyke's revenge includes him leaving James's heart in a valentine card saying "You were mean and cruel right from the start; Now you really have no" and James's actual heart completes the poem. The reasoning for Grimsdyke coming back to life is flimsily explained by a book on the occult on his desk, but for all this awesomeness, I'm not going to complain.
"Wish You Were Here"
A classic short story gets an even more horrific treatment in "Wish You Were Here," with very strange but still satisfying results. Inspired by "The Monkey's Paw," and in fact referencing it several times (as if the audience wasn't smart enough to figure out where the idea for the setup came from), this story follows Ralph and Enid, a couple in financial trouble who stupidly try to solve all their problems by using a Chinese figurine that says that it will grant them three wishes. The story is at first very similar to what happens in "The Monkey's Paw," but there is a horrible twist at the end that had me thinking bad thoughts for the rest of the day. Basically, Enid wishes for money but only gets it because Ralph dies. Then she wishes him back to life, and then she wishes him to live forever. Problem is, Ralph apparently is going to live forever as an embalmed corpse and in immense pain because Enid tried to save him by hacking him up with a sword. Quite possibly the worst fate of anybody I've ever seen in a horror movie. The effects work on Ralph's bloodless innards was quite gross, almost worse than if they had been all bloody because it looks so unnatural and disgusting. I really didn't think Ralph was that bad of a guy to deserve this, so that made his fate hurt me all the more. Should have happened to his wife, the greedy bitch. Anyway, liked this one a lot. Not as many iconic or memorable images (except for the bloodless innards) as some of the other stories but still a nice addition to what is already a pretty kick ass anthology movie. The best is yet to come, however(!)...
And because I always like to slip a Buffy, the Vampire Slayer/Angel reference in wherever I can, I'd just like to point out that the guy who plays Charles in the beginning is Roy Dotrice. Dotrice was in a fifth season episode of Angel where he played Roger Wyndam-Price, Wesley's father. You get that little piece of trivia for free. You're welcome.
Oh my gosh, you guys. I loooooooooved Blind Alleys SO MUCH. Totally the best segment of Tales from the Crypt and the best one to serve as the ending to a very satisfying movie. First of all, I got major excited when I saw Patrick Mcgee, aka the guy I always refer to as the wheelchair guy from A Clockwork Orange. The bushy-eyebrowed, crazy hair man is back in one amazing short story about a cruel superintendent at a home for elderly blind men whose carelessness and neglect ends up costing him big time. Mcgee is the unofficial leader of the other blind men and when one man dies under Major Rogers' supervision, he gets them together to hatch a very deliciously elaborate plan for revenge. Don't ask me how they did it, but the blind guys built a maze for Rogers to traverse from one side of the room to the other - including through a hallway that gets narrower as you go and is lined with razor blades (hell yeah!) - where they eventually release Rogers' beloved dog on him, whom they have been starving for days. Too elaborate to be believable? I DON'T CARE. This short was fantastic, with the acting being really great from all involved - heck, even the dog - and the set up being one of the coolest things I've ever seen in horror flick or revenge tale. Just the anticipation of finding out what the hell those blind guys are doing building stuff (again, don't ask me how they accomplished it) gets the horror mojo flowing, and when Rogers is finally let out into his maze, you've never rooted for the protagonists more! I wanted to actually see this guy's own dog eat him, but sadly, that's mostly left up to the viewer's imagination. Still definitely my favorite! In fact, if I were rank the stories in Tales from the Crypt, it would probably go "Blind Alleys," "...And All Through the House," "Poetic Justice," "Wish You Were Here," and "Reflection of Death."
What's the whole movie about? Bad people go to hell. Even if your own death was revenge for your bad deeds, the fiery pit of Satan's living room is still the only place you are headed, bub. The Crypt Keeper tells everyone at the end that he didn't really have anything else to tell them and that they're all going to hell - that's pretty mean, but apparently they all deserved it. Watching Tales from the Crypt has made me realize just how much I miss the HBO show and how little I remember of the episodes. As soon as my whole Anthology Quest is over (still have 3 more movies planned for review) I might just have to have to devote every spare minute to watching every single episode of that show. Sounds like it could be a really good time for me!