Remembering the Horror TV Series “Tales From the Crypt”

Well in case you haven’t heard within the horror realm lately, Tales from the Crypt is coming back to television. Yes, the classic horror anthology program is heading back to your living room to give you more nightmares and images that’ll be burned in your minds for weeks. Don’t let the fact that M. Night Shyamalan will be the executive producer ruin the fun for you because it’s time for everyone to get excited!

I have spoken about my fondness for horror anthology TV series’ many times before. Of course, I’ve highlighted Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. I may have even mentioned The Twilight Zone in passing once or twice but never the ultra gory scare fest that aired every week on HBO. While AYAOTD gave you the creeps, Twilight Zone spooked you out, TFTC flat out haunted your dreams.

675249-crypt_keeper_large

Tales from the Crypt premiered in 1989. It was conceived from a popular comic book series in the 1950s of the same name which boasted sick artwork and twisted tales. Each episode aired commercial – free and opened with its only consistent character, the talking skeleton known as the Crypt Keeper. After the show’s theme song, composed by Danny Elfman, geared you up for what’s to come, we’d start the program at the Crypt Keeper’s lair where the audience would have to gaze at his hideous appearance while he introduced each episode. He soon became known for his puns and morbid humor. Since the show aired on HBO, a premium network, there was a lot more freedom with what it could get away with. That meant tons of blood, severed body parts, explicit language, and of course, sex. These tales took it to the limit as often as it could.

My very first taste of TFTC was sometime in the early-mid 90s. My father let me stay up late one night and watch it with him. The episode we viewed starred Joe Pesci, fresh off his Oscar win for Goodfellas, as a crook who romances a pair of twin sisters. He dates both of them simultaneously without the other knowing hoping to claim their huge inheritance in the end. Once the sisters catch wind of this, they respond by slicing Pesci in half with a chainsaw. The image of the halves of Pesci in bed with each twin was ingrained in my brain for years. Why the hell was I allowed to watch this horrific series?

Speaking of Pesci, he wasn’t the only major star to take part in this show. In fact pretty much every big Hollywood name both past and present appeared on the show in some form during its run. Some even took their seat in the director’s chair such as Michael J. Fox and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Notable filmmakers Richard Donner and Robert Zemeckis also helmed their own episodes. The one Zemeckis did actually boasted an appearance by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock whose appearance was digitally recreated onscreen.

One of my favorite episodes starred Christopher Reeve and Judd Nelson. Reeve’s character owned an unsuccessful seafood restaurant in New England that suddenly becomes a huge hit overnight thanks to a new steak dish introduced to him by a drifter, portrayed by Nelson, who informs him that the secret ingredient is human flesh. He then blackmails him for a stake (no pun intended) in his business which puts Reeves’ back against a wall. Faced with a moral dilemma, he has to wrestle with what’s more important, his business or human decency. There was a much tamer version of this story on Are You Afraid of the Dark? Where Dr. Vink cooks up a new popular soup at his eatery with the social ingredient of human fear.

tumblr_nx8pcw4Wdn1s9bqq4o1_1280

There was another notable episode that starred Demi Moore, who at this point at her peak in terms of her looks and boy did she look good here. She played a gold digger who marries an aging billionaire in an attempt to gain his fortune. Was she successful?

Sometimes, like most shows of this kind, some of the tales got downright silly. One episode has a basketball-loving teenager going off to live with his bible-thumping uncle after his parents are killed in an accident. His uncle works as a funeral director and has questionable work ethics along with a evergrowing bad attitude. After becoming  aggravated at his nephew’s innocent antics, he coldly murders him and tries to bury him in one of his coffins but it’s too small to hold him. What does Uncle Ezra do now? Why chop his feet off of course. Those same feet come to haunt him later on when his nephew returns from beyond the grave seeking revenge.

fitting2

Tales from the Crypt wound up being a huge success for HBO lasting seven seasons before ending in 1996. Hell, the fun didn’t stop at HBO. Believe it or not, there was a children’s cartoon that aired as a companion piece to the live-action program. Yes, you read that right, there was a cartoon aimed at kids based on Tales from the Crypt. Said cartoon, titled Tales from the Crypt Keeper contained a much less spooky looking titular character who introduced stories much tamer and less traumatic than its predecessor. In some installments, Crypty himself was at the star and several episodes revolved around his adventures. After it was cancelled in 1994, a new animated program, The New Adventures the Crypt Keeper emerged years later and continued the trend.

slide_237811_1207064_free

It’s s up in the air how this remake will play out. Of course the punchline known as M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t inspire a lot of hope but hey, I heard some really positive things about The Visit so if he channels something akin to his earlier work then it could go either way. Originally, it was reported that the Crypt Keeper won’t be making a return to the series but due to fan backlash, it appears that he actually will be apart of the program now. Will he have a new role? What will he look like? How will the success of American Horror Story influence the remake? Will we be getting a recurring storyline each season or its former format with a new story every week? Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see!

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

Leave a Reply