Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: Tales From the Crypt Season Seven Retrospective (Part 2)

March 2, 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 87: The Kidnapper
Starring: Steve Coogan, Julia Sawalha, Tim Stern, Serena Gordon
Based on: Shock SuspenStories #12
Written by: John Harrison, Scott Nimerfro
Directed by: James H. Spencer
Air Date: June 7, 1996

Oh hello kiddies. I was just warming up for the Wimbletomb Tennis Tournament. Normally I love a bit of stiff competition, but this guy is driving me nuts! Still, the match isn’t over yet. We’re playing beast two out of three. Which brings to mind the man in tonight’s tale. He’s about to play a little die-breaker of his own in a sickening hacks-hibition I call, “Kidnapper.”

Cryptkeeper says “Kidnapper,” episode title says “The Kidnapper.” I don’t know. James Spencer is normally a production designer and art director. This is only one of two directorial projects from him, including a short film. He also showed up as the Elevator Ghost in the remake of The Eye. Steve Coogan’s a fairly popular comedian, appearing in films like Philomena, Hamlet Part 2 and Alan Partridge.

In this episode, he plays a guy who gets a little too jealous of his girlfriend’s baby, so he sets about trying to get rid of it forever. He actually starts out as a nice, if lonely guy so to watch him get more and more delusional and immature as it progresses. Eventually, someone steals the baby and it’s revealed almost immediately after it that he was in on it. It only gets worse from there.

The episode is one that starts out on the slow side, but once you see just how awful Coogan is, you want him to get his comeuppance. In my opinion, what he gets isn’t nearly good enough considering the violent deaths people have had on this show. Coogan was very good though, able to play sympathetic and despicable in the same episode. The story’s pacing was a bit off and it overall wasn’t all that interesting, however.

Rating: 6/10

Episode 88: Report from the Grave
Starring: James Frain, Siobhan Flynn, Jonathan Firth, Gordon Peters, Roger Ashton-Griffiths
Based on: Vault of Horror #15
Written by: William Malone
Directed by: William Malone
Air Date: June 14, 1996

Greetings, hack-riculture fans! I’ll be with you in a moment. I’ve just got to finish with the Artie-chokes. Come on Artie, die already! Now, a little water and some fear-tilizer and before you know it, I’ll be horror-vesting my own little field of screams. You didn’t know your pal the Crypt Keeper had a green thumb, did you? Well I do. And the rest of me is pretty damn moldy, too! Which brings to mind tonight’s tale. It’s about a scientist who’s a bit of a scare-cropper himself. I call this one, “Report From the Grave.”

William Malone has been here before, directing “Only Skin Deep.” He also worked on several horror films, and episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares. James Frain gets a lot of TV work, most recently appearing in shows like Orphan Black, True Detective and Gotham.

In this one, a scientist and his girlfriend go dig up a body to try and connect an experimental device to it and recover its memories. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and the device kills his girlfriend, leaving him obsessed with finding a way to bring her back. So he starts experimenting on corpses in the hopes of doing that.

This is one of the rare Crypt episodes with a completely sympathetic protagonist who in no way deserves the bad things that happen to him. At his worst, he was a little cold and foolhardy, but overall a decent guy. But hey, they can’t all be morality tales. The episode takes no measures to explain its science, particularly with the dead raising or how multiple ghosts can come back at once. I don’t expect a lecture, but some established rules of your story would make sense so I can wrap my head around it. Another episode with a weak story but a strong performance from its lead.

Rating: 5/10

Episode 89: Smoke Wrings
Starring: Ute Lemper, Chris Stanton, Tres Hanley, Daniel Craig, Gayle Hunnicutt, Denis Lawson
Based on: Vault of Horror #34
Written by: Lisa Sandoval
Directed by: Mandie Fletcher
Air Date: June 21, 1996

They tell me Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes. He’s a strange guy. But that’s not why I called this meeting of the five families. The Tahacklias, the Bonettis, the others. The reason I called you all together is this. As Godfather of the Goreleone family, I say it’s time that we in horrorganized crime stopped frighting each other. I want there to be peace amongst us. I want there to be a whole lot of pieces. Which is kind of like the young man in tonight’s tale. He wants a whole lot of something too, in a nasty nugget I call, “Smoke Wrings.”

Daniel Craig’s in this one! He’s actually the second James Bond to appear after Timothy Dalton, way back in season 4’s “Werewolf Concerto.” Director Mandie Fletcher, meanwhile, has directed a lot of TV projects in the UK, including Absolutely Fabulous (which I hear is popular) and Black Adder. Lisa Sandoval has only written this episode, but worked as an associate producer on the entire final season of the show and the script coordinator on thirteen episodes.

Craig plays a young man hired by an ad agency, although he’s actually there in a revenge plot from someone who had the company stolen from him. He also has a fear of rats, which I’m sure will not come to play at the episode’s conclusion in any way. He slowly starts taking over the company with this little device that causes people to give into impulses, but things have a way of backfiring on this show.

Craig’s pretty good and I genuinely did not see the twist coming. Actually the entire cast is great in this one, and it’s a brisk episode that never wears out its welcome. You would think a Crypt episode about ads and chocolate wouldn’t be very interesting but it’s what happens between all that stuff that makes it worth watching.

Rating: 8/10

Episode 90: About Face
Starring: Anthony Andrews, Imelda Staunton, Anna Friel
Based on: Haunt of Fear #27
Written by: Gilbert Adler, A.L. Katz
Directed by: Thomas E. Sanders
Air Date: June 28, 1996

Now I’d like to play for you another little rhythm and booze decomposition of mine. It’s about a man who’s about to make a gored progression of his own in a nasty five-finger hack-cercise I call, “About Face.”

This is the last episode for writers AL Katz and Gilbert Adler, who wrote eleven episodes over the course of the series. Thomas Sanders has only directed this episode, but he still works as a production designer. Anna Friel is best known for Pushing Daisies and is set to star in the TV series version of The Girlfriend Experience. Imelda Staunton, meanwhile, famously played Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies.

In this episode, Anthony Andrews plays a lecherous priest who finds out he’s the father of two teenage twins, both played by Friel. He only seems to care about how to use them for his image, because of course that’s all he cares about. One of the twins is normal and kind while the other is disturbed and as it’s later revealed, deformed.

This one is fun, perhaps the most fun I’ve had in the second half of the season. Anna Friel is really good in her dual role and Andrews as the scumbag. There’s no one who makes it out of this one unscathed and the twist at the end is reminiscent of the earlier seasons. This is a blast to watch and one of my under-the-radar favorites.

Rating: 8/10

Episode 91: Confession
Starring: Eddie Izzard, Ciaran Hinds, Alun Armstrong, John Benfield
Based on: Shock SuspenStories #4
Written by: Scott Nimerfro
Directed by: Peter Hewitt
Air Date: July 5, 1996

I think I see what the problem is. Your eyes are in terrible shape. Probably from watching too much Tales From the Crypt. To fix it we require cohacktive lenses, maybe even radio scaretotomy. Although there is another test I could perform. We’ll start by turning out the lights and making you look at this. It’s a nasty nugget about a writer who’s pretty fear-sighted himself. I call this one “Confession.”

Now we’re down to Scott Nimerfro’s final episode with this one. Like Adler and Katz, he ended up writing eleven stories overall. Peter Hewitt directed a lot of movies that you may remember from your childhood, including Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Tom and Huck and The Borrowers. Stars Eddie Izzard and Ciaran Hinds are both pretty well-known, and they’re playing off each other in this one.

Izzard plays a screenwriter who’s accused of beheading several people, while Hinds is the profiler who’s convinced he’s the one behind it. This episode also makes a mention of IMDb, which I wasn’t aware was even around this early. A quick check reveals that it was, in fact, around since 1990. Anyway, this plays like a Crypt version of a police procedural, which could go either way on paper.

In execution, it’s fun. Hinds is incredibly intense and Izzard plays his role straight. It’s just so much fun to watch two great actors trade lines off each other for a half hour that I honestly wish this script had been turned into one of the Crypt movies. Both guys are certainly capable of carrying their own movie. Anyway, this is another good one, which is good because the season’s almost over.

Rating: 8/10

Episode 92: Ear Today…Gone Tomorrow
Starring: Robert Lindsay, Gretchen Palmer, Richard Johnson, Phil Davis, David Gant
Based on: Haunt of Fear #11
Written by: Ed Tapia
Directed by: Christopher Hart
Air Date: July 12, 1996

Maybe at Doomingdales the ghostomer’s always fright, but not here! Attention all Slay mart choppers! Interested in tonight’s boo light special? It concerns a couple of crooks who are about to learn the benefits of dying wholesale. I call this bit of gash-and-carry, “Ear Today…Gone Tomorrow.”

Welcome to the last live-action episode of Tales From the Crypt. We’ve got one more after this but well, I’ll explain that when we get there. Writer Ed Tapia only wrote this, but he still works as a producer on shows like American Crime. Director Christopher Hart, meanwhile, only one other credit to his name, a sci-fi comedy called Eat and Run.

This follows a safecracker with a hearing problem and a lot of debt finds himself on the wrong side of a criminal and now has to pay back the money in ten days or die. The criminal’s wife hatches a plot to rob her husband with the safecracker’s help. A special surgery will help his hearing but the surgery changes him in other ways.

Honestly, I wasn’t feeling this episode until the bizarre twist that their replacement parts came from animals and the even more bizarre ending really sell it. It makes perfect sense that the season would more or less come to a close with a man being turned into a man/owl hybrid and getting his head cut off.

Rating: 7/10

Episode 93: The Third Pig
Starring: John Kassir, Bobcat Goldthwait, Cam Clarke, Charlie Adler, Brad Garrett, Corey Burton, Jim Cummings
Based on: The Three Pigs
Written by: Bill Kopp
Directed by: Bill Kopp, Patrick A. Ventura
Air Date: July 19, 1996

Son of Dracula…Return of the Son of Dracula…The Son of Dracula’s Revenge…is that all you can do? Vampire movies? I’m afraid that’s not good enough. You have to be a bite more versatile to be on the frighting staff of Tales From the Crypt. Oh, hello creeps. As you cn see, we’ve got an opening for a story dead-itor. I’ve been conducting chop interviews all morning. No one seems to get what I’m looking for. Oh well, let’s see who’s next. Interesting, a brother team. Grimm, I think I’ve heard of them. This has potential, boils and ghouls. It’s a twisted bit of gorytelling about three scaracters you may recognize at first. It’s called…”The Third Pig.”

So, Tales From the Crypt ends with an animated re-telling of The Three Pigs. It’s not just a standard re-telling, either, as it’s definitely an R-rated telling with the standard Crypt flair. I always knew about this episode but I hadn’t actually watched it until now. It’s a weird mix of children’s storytelling, curse words, drugs and gore. I’m not sure what the thought process was, crafting a cartoon, even an adult one, to an audience that likely expected something different.

Honestly, this would have been fine in the middle of the show,but with this being the last episode of the show, it sort of ends things on a flat note. It’s not all that funny, the “shock value” is tame, even compared to the rest of the show and just didn’t work for me. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning for this, but since they moved production to England, maybe they just ran out of budget? I honestly don’t know.

I will say this. It had a lot of work put into it. The animation is great, especially with that 90s-style we all remember. They also show way more gore than they could even get away with on HBO. You also can’t go wrong with that voice cast. Charlie Adler, Cam Clarke and Jim Cummings all did something from your childhood and to hear them in this is bizarre. But at least you know the voice work is top notch.

Anyway, I wish this wasn’t the end of the show, but it is what it is.

Rating: 5/10

That’s it for Tales From the Crypt. I mean, I could look at the animated spin-off Tales From the Cryptkeeper too, but I don’t hate myself enough. It was a long and, if I’m being honest, exhausting ride. It’s one thing to binge a show, it’s another to research and write about each individual episode while watching. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking at shows this way, but it’s very time-consuming. So I’m going to be coming back with a few short-lived shows before tackling another big one.

Next week, we’re going to look at Perversions of Science. It’s a sorta-kinda spinoff of Crypt, in that it had the same format and a lot of the same people behind the scenes, but it was devoted to sci-fi. It only lasted for ten episodes, which we’ll look at next week.

As for the far future, you can pick from the shows below for the next retrospective.

Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook.

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

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