Star Studded Tales from the Crypt Season 5 remains Memorable.
by Kristin Battestella
The Fall 1993 Fifth Season of Tales from the Crypt is a star-studded season full of familiar faces and frights to remember beginning with Tim Curry (Clue) and Ed Begley, Jr. (She-Devil) in “Death of Some Salesmen.” Our unscrupulous cemetery plot salesman snoops in the obituaries, preying on old widows like Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) with a rural, door to door con as the humorous winks, overalls, and southern gentility contrast the risque sex, bloody secrets, and murderous traps. Headless revelations offer a quirky, if disturbing grain of truth on swindling salesmen getting what they deserve, but the revolting comeuppance had both me and my husband gagging and laughing at the same time. Our Crypt Keeper host is taking calls on KDOA Radio as Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope) suspects young wife Patsy Kensit (Full Eclipse) of having an affair in director Kyle Maclachlan’s (Twin Peaks) “As Ye Sow.” Unfortunately, Adam West’s (Batman) upscale surveillance firm says she does nothing but go to church everyday – to a controversial priest tossed from his last parish. Debates on the church as living organ, throbbing with his flock in his arms provide juicy winks as the power of suggestion has our paranoid husband fearing betrayal and jumping to the wrong conclusion. An unreliable point of view imaging what’s going on in the confessional makes for a controversial mix of sacrilegious horror, but it’s cheaper to hire hit men than get a divorce. War photographers Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) and Roger Daltry (Highlander: The Series) likewise fight over Lysette Anthony (Dracula: Dead and Loving It) in “Forever Ambergris” while The Keeper himself shoots for Vicghoulia’s Secret. Anything can happen during this Central America assignment, and villages contaminated with germ warfare create an elevated dramatic mood amid macho guns versus the camera, mercenaries, and screaming convulsions. Bubbling flesh, oozing blood, squishing eyeballs – what’s a little imbued chemicals once you steal the award winning photographs and get the girl?
In “Two for the Show” bored, adulterous wife Traci Lords (Cry Baby) wants more passion. However, her husband is worried her leaving will make him look bad at the corporate banquet, leading to strangulation, scissors, knife play, and stuffing the body into a bedside chest even if it just won’t fit. Suspicious cops, dismemberment, and a heavy suitcase provide suspense with shades of Hitchcock in the overhead parallels and two shots of men on a train hypothetically debating about killing their wives. The crime has already been committed, yet there’s a classy, potboiler tense to the garbage disposal twists. Of course, the audience is on trial with the barrister wig wearing ‘Honorable Judge Crypt Keeper’ presiding over “House of Horror” as Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Brian Krause (Sleepwalkers), and more eighties teens are all grown up and trying to join the fraternity with paddles, humiliation, kneeling, and scrubbing dog poo with a toothbrush. The sister house is here for their final initiation at a haunted fraternity house with a murderous past, and one by one the plebs must make it to the attic with all the tricks, gags, screams, chainsaws, and turnabouts along the way. Assistant Maryam d’Abo (Bond Girls Are Forever) is unhappy when magician Billy Zane’s (Dead Calm) show isn’t a success in “Well Cooked Hams.” While The Crypt Keeper is taking French lessons for his trip to ‘gay Scaree,’ the turn of the century magic scene is cutthroat and our magician will kill to get ahead when not stealing the Box of Death trick from fellow hunchback illusionist Martin Sheen (The West Wing). Inserted knives, sulfuric acid, burning ropes, and handcuffs add to the magic rivalry and period mood as the disguises, reflections, and smoke and mirrors leave the audience screaming. The difference, you see, is in not when the crowd is aware of the ruse but when they actually believe it. Slick Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club) tries to outwit the mummy legends and sacrificed princesses in “Creep Course,” however his attempt to steal the mid-term answers leads to statues, tombs, torches, and a sarcophagus from the professor’s private collection – courtesy of some grave robbing family history. The jocks versus academia double crossing twists provide gross embalming techniques, through the nose icky, and projectile vomiting for a fun atmosphere with good old fashioned wrappings in contemporary mummy spins.
Big CK is a flight attendant on Tales from the Crypt Scarelines for “Came the Dawn,” but the bimbo in the bathroom and the bloody ax murderer have other dismembering ideas. Good thing suave in his Porsche Perry King (Melrose Place) picks up broke down Brooke Shields (The Blue Lagoon), taking her to his cabin on a stormy night – after stopping for oysters and champagne, of course. Medieval décor with executioner artifacts and weapons accent opera, fireside candlelit dinners, and jewels. Unfortunately, tales of adultery begat black stockings bondage interrupted by an ex-girlfriend shouting at the door. Wise Tales from the Crypt viewers will figure out what’s happening easily thanks to taxidermy and ladies clothing in the closet. However, that obvious doesn’t make the revealing attacks any less chilling. Con artist couple Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba) and Priscilla Presley (Dallas) dig up their buried alive cohort and the money with him in “Oil’s Well That Ends Well” – a fellow con who happens to be the man behind the Crypt Keeper John Kassir in his only onscreen Tales from the Crypt appearance. She wants another con and shows her authority at the rowdy bar, taking on the nasty boys with a great speech on how strong women are called bitches, screwed, fucked, and screwed again. Oil claims help swindle the local rednecks into drilling under the graveyard, with explosions and self-referential quips setting off the who’s screwing whom. More bemusing dialogue mixed with suspense and surreal shootouts elevate “Till Death Do We Part.” Although this is another crime drama and love triangle more about violence than horror, gigolo John Stamos (Full House) and mob dame Eileen Brennan (Clue) provide diamonds, dice, jazz clubs, and saucy betrayals – leading to limos in the woods with guns, bodies in the trunk, rubber aprons, and axes. Crook Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) is just so polite in making the vomiting, fainting lady stand up and watch the quartering! Our KRPT sportscaster Crypt Keeper, meanwhile, is on the radio with the World Scaries featuring the Fright Sox versus the Boo Jays. Which team will keep their winning shriek alive?
This is a short, mostly solid season, however, there are a few less than stellar episodes of Tales from the Crypt such as Ernie Hudson’s (Ghostbusters) “Food for Thought” with its carnival warped, saucy dessert metaphors, and perverted quid pro quo abuses between a mind reading couple. The racial implications among the freaks, conjoined twin ladies naked in the shower, illicit fire eater romance, and a jealous girl gorilla make for fiery consequences, yet the revenge is thin, with most of the circus designs just for show. The fourth and ghoul Crypt Keeper quarterback also can’t save the uneven crimes in director Russell Mulcahy’s (Highlander) “People Who Live in Brass Hearses.” Violent ex-con Bill Paxton (Aliens) and simpleton younger brother Brad Dourif (Child’s Play) are out for revenge, harassing the suspicious ice cream truck driver before bloody hooks, murderous mishaps, gory gunshots, and safe cracking gone awry. There are some twists, but the sardonic humor and quirky characters can’t carry the heist amid unenjoyable outbursts and obnoxiousness. Ghoulish bodies, morgue drawers, and colorful goo open “Half-Way Horrible” and the Keeper is shrinking heads in the dryer at his scare salon while a detective asks Clancy Brown (Highlander) about his chemical company’s proprietary ingredients. These rare herbs were of course stolen in the jungle amid tribal drums, native secrets, and zombie rituals. Voodoo dolls come back to haunt the corrupt chemist, and once again it’s just rich white guys learning the err of their appropriating ways – told from the sympathetic point of view of said rich white guys. It’s not surprising and doesn’t make us feel bad when he gets his due. As The Keeper says, ‘he needed to learn rot from wrong a little fester.’
Fortunately, old fashioned kitchens, cameo jewelry, and country strings accent the rural settings of these tales again based on Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories, and Crime SuspenStories. Cha-ching money sounds, stormy nights, and other audio bells and whistles set off the vintage video, VCRs, old televisions, giant tape reels, transistor radios, huge ass car phones, and hi tech nineties corporate contrasting the old school noir, file folders, and black and white photographs. Warped camera angles, dark lighting, shadow schemes, and colorful touches keep the on location production values top notch amid effective jungle horrors, gross make up, blood, and disturbing gore. Downtrodden circus tents and lanterns provide golden Victorian patinas while haunted houses and cobwebs create congested scares. Train tensions begat outdoor ominous and penultimate zombie gross, and though front loaded with juicy nudity, later in the season the steamy lingerie isn’t as important as the swanky bling, period costumes, or Egyptian motifs. Tales from the Crypt’s horror prosthetics really allow the cast per episode to sink their teeth into the role or multiple roles whether playing to or against type. Tales from the Crypt Season Five starts strong with some of the series’ finest humor and horror with sardonic sexiness and star studded scares. This shorter year shines with relatively few poor outings – a precursor to today’s brief, quickly digestible fall horror and anthology seasons. Tales from the Crypt Season Five is a creepy, fast marathon for Halloween or anytime of year.
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