Produced by Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, and Robert Zemeckis
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Yes, kiddies, it’s time for another dip into the Cryptkeeper’s old vault of horrors. We’ve come a long way from the days of William Gaines and the EC Comics hysteria (if only those crusty Senators lived to see torture-porn in our multiplexes…) yet HBO’s Tales from the Crypt always managed to capture those good old days of shock n’ shlock.
Sadly, Season Six is generally regarded as the point when the show lost its legs. The episodes here aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but in the grand scheme, they’re low on the totem pole. In the show’s later years, the creative talent fell well below par and the best EC comics had already been covered, so the makers resorted to the same old “murder-revenge” formula week after week. The talents of Benicio Del Toro, Miguel Ferrer, and Terry O’Quinn headline this season, but they don’t have much to work with. In particular, episodes like “Whirlpool” (starring Rita Rudner as a failed comic book artist) and “The Pit” (about dueling martial artists) represent the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
There are a few highlights in this lackluster season. The Cryptkeeper segments are great as usual (keep an eye out for William Sadler reprising his Grim Reaper role from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey). “The Assassin” and “99 & 44/100% Pure Horror” are both twisted hoots, while “Comes the Dawn” serves as an interesting pre-cursor to Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night. Robert Zemeckis also inserts Humphrey Bogart and Alfred Hitchock a la Forest Gump into “You, Murderer” (although the hotness of Sherilyn Fenn is more appealing) and while the FX work looks typically awkward, the innovative POV-storytelling makes this episode entertaining as hell.
This season also contains one of the best Crypt episodes: “Only Skin Deep” (not to be confused with Season One’s “Only Sin Deep”) directed by William Malone. With spooky visuals and solid writing, this episode – about an abuser who shacks up with a mysterious masked woman – is a welcome departure from the show’s high camp and showcases Malone as a once-promising horror director. Since then, the Crypt movie franchise tanked and Malone all but killed his career with the ungodly FearDotCom. It’s a shame these two parties don’t team up again. A Malone Crypt flick could be just what the doctor ordered. A fan can dream, right?
Those looking for special features will be disappointed yet again with this set. There’s only one extra: “Whirlpool: The Animated Comic” which is the original EC book narrated by the Cryptkeeper himself. It’s a cool novelty (the comic is better than the lame episode it spawned), but the old print doesn’t exactly lend for good animation. It would’ve been nice to at least see more of the Cryptkeeper on the DVD … but as is, he’s not even on the menus. What gives?
Overall, Season Six is pretty mediocre stuff and signifies the beginning of the end for this classic series. There are still a few juicy morsels that make it worth owning for Crypt completists, but they’re far from the “mash-terpieces” we’ve come to expect.
*cue closing Cryptkeeper laugh*
“Whirlpool” virtual comic book
3 out of 5
2 out of 5
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