Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: Tales From the Crypt Season Seven Retrospective (Part 1)

February 23, 2017 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Last year, I started a retrospective on Tales from the Crypt. I expected to have the thing wrapped up by the end of the summer, but it takes more time to watch a seven season series and write about it in detail than I thought, so I spread it out. But we’re finally at the seventh season, which officially brought the show to a close in the mid-90s, which sounds about right. Tales from the Crypt, this incarnation anyway, was the definition of a 90s TV show. I’m still not sure what kind of form it will take with this reboot that’s in limbo, but this version of the show could have only existed in the decade it was in. And yet, it’s also as timeless the comics its based on.

This season, like many before it, will be split into two parts. If you have ideas for other shows to cover, leave them in the comments. I know what I’m immediately covering after Crypt, but everything else is fair game.

With that out of the way, hit the theme song and let’s get started!

Episode 81: Fatal Caper
Starring: Natasha Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Greg Wise, Leslie Phillips, James Saxon
Based on: Tales From the Crypt #20
Written by: Gilbert Adler, A.L. Katz
Directed by: Bob Hoskins
Air Date: April 19, 1996

Greetings, travel fiends! It’s so exciting being here in London. I’m already feeling right at tomb. Care to join me for a little fright-seeing? Or maybe we could find a nice pub and tuck into some authentic flesh and chips. Or we could go check out my English scare-itage. I bet you didn’t know your pal the Crypt Keeper was one of the crowned ghouls, did you, creeps? I’ve got all kinds of skeletons in my closet, which is kind of like the family in tonight’s tale. You could call it, “Father Knows Beast,” but I prefer “Fatal Caper.”

This episode has another actor-turned-director helming this episode, with Bob Hoskins following in the footsteps of Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You may know him best for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Hook. Gilbert Adler and Al Katz wrote several episodes of the show already and will pop up again several more times this season. Natasha Richardson has a lot of mainstream work, but horror fans would know her best from Ken Russell’s 1986 movie Gothic. She sadly passed away in 2009 after a skiing accident.

In this episode, she plays a woman in charge of a man’s estate, which is on the line between two brothers. Eventually she comes up with a plan to have one of the brothers killed, so the other can get everything and she can get a cut. Greed is the easiest way to get killed in the Crypt universe, but things aren’t what they appear in this episode.

The episode starts out slow and a little too typical of the Crypt formula, but I love the constant twist after twist after twist. It’s the kind of thing that if you were reading the comic, you’d keep wanting to turning pages to see what happens next. It plays just as well in the TV show, as every time you think you know the end, it changes things on you. The final twist is right in line with the show’s overall tone and the cast sell it well.

Rating: 8/10

Episode 82: Last Respects
Starring: Emma Samms, Kerry Fox, Julie Cox, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray
Based on: Tales from the Crypt #23
Written by: Scott Nimerfro
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Air Date: April 26, 1996

Greetings, infesters! I’ll be with you in a moment. I was just putting these gross profits away for safekeeping. You see, boils and ghouls, at Crypt Keeper Financial, we can help you get morgue for your money. Whether it’s mutual fiends you want or cold, horrid cash, we can guarantee you’ll coroner the market. I bet you’d be the type who’s interested in boo chips, like tonight’s tale. It’s about three girls who are chopping around fo a tax fright-off of their own in a nasty shock option I call “Last Respects.”

Scott Nimerfro returns for his next episode as a writer on the show, although he was also an associate producer. Director Freddie Francis is better known for his cinematography work on films like The Elephant Man, Glory and Cape Fear. However, he did have a long directing career as well, with this episode being his last project in film. Before that he directed plenty of horror films like Dark Tower, The Doctor and the Devils and…the original Amicus version of Tales from the Crypt!.

I should note that all of the episodes this season have a British flair, as production moved to the UK. All of the episodes have British characters and usually place in the region, with British talent behind and in-front of the camera. If this is why they were able to get Francis on board, then it’s a welcome change. The previous episode had an Amicus feel to it and this one does as well, although it remains to be seen if that carries over to everything else.

Three young women find a monkey’s paw which they hope will turn around their fortunes. If you know anything about a monkey’s paw, however, you’d know that the wishes have consequences and it usually curses the user. The idea of the monkey’s paw makes for fun storytelling and the original short story is a horror fiction classic. They use that story as the basis, with the sisters trying to figure out ways to beat the superstition. Another fun episode.

Rating: 7/10

Episode 83: A Slight Case of Murder
Starring: Francesca Annis, Christopher Cazenove, Elizabeth Spriggs, Patrick Barlow
Based on: Vault of Horror #33
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Air Date: May 3, 1996

It looks like Neptomb has just moved from Virghoul to late Capricorn, which would mean you should avoid any serious romantic enstranglements for a while. At least until the end of the month when Mercury turns retrograde. Something about your horrorscope isn’t making sense. Let me see your hand. I’m not much at bleeding palms, but your future seems rather cloudy, kind of like the woman in tonight’s tale. She’s been contemplating her scar sign, too, in a nasty nugget I call, “A Slight Case of Murder.”

Writer and director Brian Helgeland wrote movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 976-Evil before moving onto directing, helming non-horror fare like A Knight’s Tale and 42. He also wrote the script for L.A. Confidential, which got him an Academy Award. In the same weekend, he won a Razzie for his script for The Postman. So his career can probably be considered a mixed bag.

In this episode, an author is busy working on her latest novel when she’s terrorized by a estranged husband. He accuses her of sleeping around and plans to murder her. Of course, things backfire as they often do on this show, and it’s a battle of wills to see who lives and who dies. Her lover, who’s a little dumb, also shows up to play his part.

This one is played a little more straight although the twist is silly and out of left-field and the episode plays it that way. And before that twist, the entire thing is a little dry, as we’ve seen similar stories multiple times over the course of the show. It’s well-written, but it lacks any real punch until the end.

Rating: 6/10

Episode 84: Escape
Starring: Martin Kemp, Nickolas Grace, Nick Reding, Roy Dotrice
Based on: Vault of Horror #16
Written by: Gilbert Adler, A.L. Katz
Directed by: Peter MacDonald
Air Date: May 17, 1996

Fall in! Did you hear me, maggot? I said fall in! I swear, you must be the sorriest bunch of sad sacks I ever did see. You’re a disgrace to the uniform, all of you! And you call yourself a scare force? What’s your problem, soldier? You some kind of mummy’s boy? That it? I guess you think you’re like the man in tonight’s tale. He’s not much of a soldier either. It’s a nasty little shriek and destroy mission I call, “Escape.”

Peter MacDonald had a lot of various jobs for a lot of films in Hollywood (he was a camera operator on Superman II, for example). As a director, he brought us Rambo III and The Neverending Story III. He most recently worked as a second unit director for Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s also been involved with several war films, which makes him perfect for this episode.

The last time Crypt went into war territory, we got “Yellow.” In this case, a man turns traitor during World War II and is stuck in a prison camp with one of the men he betrayed. That same man threatens to expose who he is to the rest of the prisoners, which can’t be good news. Like “Yellow,” this isn’t really what you’d call a Crypt-style story, but it’s still a good one.

It more plays like a standard prison escape film, only with a complete scumbag in the title role. You want him to be caught so it plays different than following characters you want to see escape. But don’t worry, folks. In typical Crypt fashion, he gets what’s coming to him and then some. This is another good episode, as this season is flying by.

Rating: 7/10

Episode 85: Horror in the Night
Starring: Elizabeth McGovern, James Wilby, Ronan Vibert, Edward Tudor-Pole, Peter Guinness
Based on: Vault of Horror #12
Written by: John Harrison
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Air Date: May 24, 1996

Let’s see…one small step for man, one giant…Oh hello, scar-gazers. You’re just in time. My skeleton crew and I are about to blast off for a little space hacksploration. Care to join us? Good. I hope you’re made of the rot stuff, ’cause we’ll be heading fright years from terror firma, boldly going where no goul has gone before. Hey pal, watch the suit or you’re launch meat. Which is kind of like the man in tonight’s tale. He’s going places, too, except his deathstination is a little more earth-bound. It’s a nasty bit of scare-o-dynamics I call, “Horror in the Night.”

We’re now down to Highlander director Russell Mulcahy’s final episode of Crypt, as he previous directed tales like “Split Second” and “People Who Live In Brass Hearses,” four episodes total. Writer John Harrison also returns, although he has one more episode this season. He previously provided “The Pit” during the sixth season.

This follows a jewel thief who gets himself shot and holes up in a motel for the night to presumably avoid police. When he gets there, he finds that his former associates dont’ remmeber him and there’s a lot of creepy stuff going on. There’s even a woman there that only he can see, which adds to his horrible night. My immediate guess was (I write these as I watch, so you can get my kneejerk reaction) that he’s dead and in Hell.

This one is also dry, but there’s also a nightmarish vibe to this episode that I enjoy. It really does feel like he’s in a constant hell, as he has hallucination after hallucination and they all get progressively more insane. I don’t really like the explaination for everything at the end, as I preferred him just losing his mind or being in Hell. The “ghost” thing is kind of cliche, although I suppose no more so than the options I wanted. I guess it’s just personal preference. It’s still a good episode regardless, with some crazy visuals in the middle.

Rating: 7/10

Episode 86: Cold War
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Jane Horrocks, Colin Salmon, John Salthouse, Willie Ross
Based on: Tales from the Crypt #43
Written by: Scott Nimerfro
Directed by: Andrew Morahan
Air Date: May 31, 1996

Relationships aren’t about who’s right or wrong. Look, do you remember how you felt about each other when you were newly bleds? Do you want to feel the same way you felt at your mrriage scare-emony? Good. Then let go of what you find eerie-tating about each other before it gross too far. Which is the kind of advice the young couple in tonight’s tale should take. They’re fiends and lovers whose relationship is clot between a rock and a horrid place. I call this one, “Cold War.”

Director Andrew Morahan mostly did a lot of music videos and documentaries, although he did direct Highlander III: The Final Dimension. Ewan McGregor’s a pretty big star in Hollywood, and at this time he was just coming off of Trainspotting. In the genre, he’s appeared in movies like Shallow Grave and Nightwatch, although it’s not something he shows up in often.

Ewan McGregor is fun in this episode, but the real show-stealer is Jane Harrocks. She plays a woman scorned by her criminal ex-boyfriend, promising revenge after he shoots her for a laugh. She finds a new partner/lover but that doesn’t work out well. There’s an insane tweet at the end that’s so bizarre there’s no way to see it coming.

This episode is honestly a lot of fun. The performances are great, the special effects are enjoyable and the twist is just crazy enough to work. So far, this season is turning out very well, as this show is showing no signs of slowing down in its final episodes.

Rating: 7/10

Only seven more episodes left of Crypt and then we’re done with the whole show. There will be a poll next week to determine the next show I tackle, although I’ll be hitting the somewhat-related Perversions of Science immediately after season seven. Come back in the next two weeks for both editions and decide what the next topic will be!

Ending Notes:

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Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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