Horror review: Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight

Tales-from-the-crypt-Demon-Knight-Dick-Miller-Jada-Pinkett

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 19, 1995

Take equal parts Night of the Living Dead and Aliens. Mix thoroughly with generous doses of sick humour and state-of-the-art gore. Toss in one shot of kinky sex and a few dozen naked breasts. Flavour with a thrashy metal soundtrack. Colour with a garish, comic book–style palette. Cook it all up and you’ll get something resembling Demon Knight, the first of three feature-length horror flicks to be presented under the Tales from the Crypt banner.

You’ll also have 90 minutes’ worth of twisted, haywire, mind-warping fun, with action and visual shocks aplenty.

In Juice director Ernest Dickerson’s stylish no-brainer for the blood ’n’ guts set, a mysterious renegade named Brayker (Die Hard 2 villain William Sadler) is pursued by the Collector (Dead Calm villain Billy Zane), an easygoing soul-taker in jeans and cowboy boots who is determined to regain possession of the key-shaped talisman Brayker holds. This ancient relic once contained the blood of Christ and has been handed down through the ages from good guy to good guy because it is the final barrier that’s keeping the inhabitants of hell from taking over the universe.

Or something like that.

It doesn’t really matter, because the supernatural whats and wherefores of Demon Knight are quickly forgotten once the flesh starts to fly.

After barely escaping the thrilling opening scene’s fiery highway collision, Brayker takes refuge in a weird boardinghouse inhabited by a strange assortment of lowlifes. When the smooth-talking Collector arrives with two local (read dim-witted) policemen to claim his “stolen” prize, one of the cops intervenes and gets a fist right through his big, dumb head for his trouble. Then things start getting really violent, as the Collector drips neon-green blood from his hand to give birth to a gaggle of gooey, capering, nose-ringed demons.

The remainder of the film sees Brayker and the other humans—portrayed by the likes of genre veteran Dick Miller and Charles “Roger Rabbit” Fleischer—trying to survive by putting everything from bullets to deer horns through the glowing eyes of the attackers.

That’s when the feverish direction of former Spike Lee cinematographer Dickerson and the boggling work of makeup-effects designer Todd Masters combine to turn Demon Knight into a grotesque, over-the-top excursion into the outer reaches of comic splatter.

If you’ve ever chuckled at the grisly black comedy of TV’s Tales from the Crypt, you’ll get a kick out of this. And if the sight of Technicolor disembowelment and flying eyeballs ain’t your cup of tea, there’s always Terms of Endearment waiting down at the video store.

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