Carl the Critic: Talks About The Horror Film "Tales From the Crypt" (1972) [Caution: Contains Plot Spoilers]
"Tales From The Crypt"
"Tales From The Crypt" Trailer
"Tales From The Crypt"
[This was suppose to be done by Halloween, but since I was in a play this is really late.]
Experience/Expectations: Back in the days when I lived in my parents basement I was bored one night and decided to watch T.V. As I was flipping through the channels there was a movie coming on called "Tales From The Crypt" (1972). "But wait," thought the right side of my brain, "'Tales From The Crypt' was a T.V. show from the '80's to '90's with that creepy guy that looks like the mummified remains of Gollum from 'The Lord of the Ring'."
"That's right," replied the left side of my brain "and both that show and this film are based on the controversial EC comic books by William Gaines that were published in the 1950's."
"Oh!" said the right half of my brain, "Wanna watch?"
"Yeah sure," said the left half of my brain.
And so I watched "Tales from the Crypt".
Story: The movie begins with five random strangers exploring the catacombs of... Someone, when they take a wrong turn and find themselves in front of a strange man wearing a hood who reveals each person's story about how they ended up in the catacombs. It turns out that each person has done a sinful deed of some sort.
- The first story is about the only woman in the group named Joanna who kills her husband on Christmas Eve so she can inherit the money from his life insurance. She also has a daughter who is so excited about Santa she can't sleep. But while Joanna is trying to make it seem like her husband died from some accident, there is a report on the radio that there is a serial killer on the loose in her neighbor hood, wearing a Santa Claus Costume. Before you can say "Ho-ho-ho!" The Serial Killer is at Joanna's house trying to break in and kill her because... he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, and he knows if you murdered your husband for his insurance or not. Joanna is trapped because she can not call the police and tell them about the serial killer because then she would expose own crime as well. Joanna's story ends when she finds out that her daughter saw "Santa, and decided to let him in" THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR, and then Joanna is strangled to death by the Serial Killer (which tells us that all of the 5 strangers are dead, but it makes us want to know more about their stories). So then we meet Carl... O_O
- Carl is a man with a wife, child, and... a secret lover named Susan. In this story, Carl is running away with Susan in the hopes of starting a new life with her. He falls asleep in the car, while Susan drives the car, then suddenly wakes up from a nightmare. Susan then gets into an accident by driving off the road in order to avoid a truck coming at them. When Carl wakes up (this is all taking place in a POV shot) from the crash he tries to find Susan but she isn't in the burning car. He tries to hitch a ride, but the driver sees his face, gets scared, and drives away in a hurry. Carl then goes back to his old family that he was about to abandon, his wife answers the door, she get's scared too, and slams the door in his face. It turns out that she remarried too (which is strange considering that Carl just woke up from a car crash that was still on fire, but this does get explained later.) Then Carl goes to Susan's apartment to find out that she became blind from the car crash. She tells Carl that he died two years ago from the crash (again letting a car burn for two years is not good for the environment, nor is it an interesting tourist attraction but what ever, again this does get explained.) Carl looks at his reflection (screaming before he even sees himself) and it shows that he looks like a rotting corpse (that appears in a Michael Jackson music video.) Carl then WAKES UP IN THE CAR NEXT TO SUSAN BECAUSE THIS WAS A DREAM THE WHOLE TIME! So Carl is relieved but then a truck is about to crash into them and the crash sequence happens again. But this is when Carl's story ends...O_O... Moving on.
- The third story (and perhaps my favorite one of the 5) is about a man and his envy for an old man (played by Peter "The Great" Cushing) who spends his time with his dogs, playing and fixing toys for children, and communicating with his dead wife. The old man is Arthur Grimsdyke, and the snobbish bastard who hates such as sweetheart of an old man is James. James doesn't like Arthur because... he lives across the street from him and he makes little children smile and laugh, and is a dog lover, and lives in a broken-down house. So in an attempt to make Arthur leave, James gets rid of everything Arthur enjoyed doing. He has Arthur's dogs taken away, he gets Arthur fired from his job, he tells the mother's of the children that Arthur is a pedophile, but the worst thing he did was write a bunch of horrible Valentine's Day cards telling him to go kill himself:
"Some live in the city,
some live in the town,
would you do us all a service,
jump in a river and..."
James and his father discover that Arthur killed himself, and were so kind enough to pay for the funeral. James feels like an asshole for an entire year, and on the night of Valentine's Day, Arthur rises from the grave to get revenge on James. The next morning Jame's father finds his son a great bloody mess (though to me it looks like some came in a splashed paint on his fabulous blue sweater and he died of shock.) Jame's father reads a note left on Jame's body that reads:
"You were wicked and cruel right from the start,
and now you really have no..."
Jame's father opens up the rest of the message to find James' heart still beating... O_O HOLY CRAP THAT IS AWESOME (it was a cheesy, stupid special effect but IT WAS STILL AWESOME!!!!!!)
- The next story is definitely the weakest in the film, mainly because it's W.W. Jacob's "The Monkey's Paw", which don't get me wrong it's a great story and I highly recommend checking it out when ever you get the chance, but unlike the previous stories where it was pretty clear what the characters did was wrong, Ralph, a ruthless and evil British business man, is never seen doing anything wrong. He does mention that he made some shady business deals in the past in order to be the successful, evil British business man he is today, but when we meet him it is around the time when his ruthless evil British business man tactics failed him, and has to either declare bankruptcy or sell his possessions to pay off his debts (all of this is discussed with his lawyer/friend Charles, with boring dialogue but interesting camera work). Ralph tells his wife Enid about this and she immediately introduces us to a little Chinese figure that, even though Ralph and Enid had it for a while, have just realized that it has the power to grant the owner three wishes. Ralph is trying to remember a book he read when he was a boy called "The Monkey's Paw", but Enid who is very impulsive, WISHES FOR LOTS AND LOTS OF MONEY! Ralph tries to warn her that according to "The Monkey's Paw" she shouldn't have done that but oh well. Ralph then get's a call from Charles about money, and so Ralph goes to Charles's office where he is followed by a mysterious motorcyclist in a Halloween Mask. Charles learns that Ralph is dead and is forced to break the news to Enid (because he is a friend of the family, but I feel like it's too soon for him have gotten over the shock of learning that HIS BEST FRIEND IS DEAD). But in an attempt to cheer her up, Charles tells Enid that Ralph had a large life insurance policy so she is a very rich woman. (The camera at this time pans carefully in front of the Chinese figure with Enid and Charles in the background, just as Enid realizes that her wish for "lots and lots of money" may have caused the accident.) She's about to wish for Ralph back but before she does she asks Charles if he ever read "The Monkey's Paw". Charles seems very knowledgeable about this story as he tells Enid that she shouldn't wish Ralph alive because in the Monkey's Paw, the old couple who wished for their son to be alive again got their wish but in the horrible condition in which he died, AND in the same way, Ralph's body was horribly mangle from the car crash. So because Enid wants to be careful this time she wishes Ralph to be the way he was just before the accident. But that backfires when it turns out that Ralph died from a heart attack... Isn't that just frustrating... So now Enid has one wish left, and unlike an intelligent who would stop wishing on that damned thing, she wants to make one more wish. She wishes that Ralph was alive right now FOREVER AND THAT HE MAY NEVER DIE!!!!! So Ralph is alive, but because he has embalming fluid inside of him so he is in horrible pain. She tries to kill him (forgetting that she wished him alive forever), and it ends with her crying next to Ralph's body... Uh- The obvious solution would be to give the Chinese Figure to Charles so that he can wish that Ralph was dead and buried again, but that doesn't happen and we move on to a better story.
- The last story is about a retired army man named Major Rogers who becomes the director of a home for the blind. Major Rogers doesn't seem to be knowledgeable about anything not Army related and so he cuts off funding for blankets, food, heat, or anything that makes the blind feel comfortable, but is instead living in luxury with his dog Shane. Living for the poor blind men gets so bad that one of them actually dies because he was sick from the cold. The Blind then rebel against the oppression of Major Rogers and elaborately capture his dog Shane and kidnap Rogers himself. They force Rogers to be in a cell for days, while the Blind men make a death trap that would make even Jigsaw impressed. It involves a wall covered in razors, doors opening in the distance, and... BEING EATEN ALIVE BY HIS OWN DOG!!! The last shot of the story is of a Blind Man turning off a light so all we hear are the screams of horror of Major Rogers.
The very ending of the movie tells us that the strange hooded figure is the Crypt Keeper, and that he had brought them all to the crypt to be judged and sent to hell (a.k.a one of the worst green screens ever seen in cinema history.) And it ends with the line, "Who's next?... (Camera moves forward to a close up of his face, as he breaks the fourth wall) Perhaps you?"
Discussion: And so that is "Tales From The Crypt" the 1972 British film that I love so much! I'll admit that it is dated, the blood is clearly red paint, the special effect are cheesy and not the best but that's not why anyone should watch this movie. This movie has elements of a great Horror story, its well structured, it makes you want to know what's the next story's about, the acting is good, all the stories are actually really good in their own way, the cinematography is good (which is no surprise because this is directed by Freddie Francis, a man famous for his great cinematography winning 2 Oscars® for his camera work for "Glory" and "Sons and Lovers"), it's just overall a good textbook film for making horror movies. This film did have a sequel called "Vault of Horror" (another EC comic by William Gaines that was the same deal but different title) but it's not as impressive. "Tales From The Crypt" is a great film to watch if you are interested in making horror films (short or long) and want to know how to use the branching structure successfully. It was because of this film, Stephen King and George A. Romero got together and made "Creepshow" another great horror film that uses the branching structure. The characters are well developed, and are clearly bad people, which is why it is satisfying to see them get what they deserve in an ironic twist of fate and misfortune. This why I think the film and the HBO television show (1989-1996) was so successful, because the stories used a similar formula of Character A being greedy, and commits a horrible deed, and that horrible deed comes back to be their down fall. I highly Recommend checking out this film, and the television show because both are very entertaining, twisted, dark, funny (sometimes, not as much with the movie), and just a classic British horror film that is just fun to watch.
Overall: I gave "Tales From the Crypt" a 9.2 out of 10.
What about you?
If you've seen "Tales From The Crypt" (1972) what did you think?
Check these out!
2 films for the price of one :)
The complete series on Amazon.com for only $106.99, which is a great deal considering that each one alone ranges from $30-50.