Tales from the Crypt: Season Four (DVD)
Starring John Kassir, Christopher Reeve, Treat Williams, Tom Hanks, Judd Nelson, Brad Pitt, Timothy Dalton, Joe Pesci, Zelda Rubenstein, Kevin McCarthy, and Margot Kidder
Produced by Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, and Robert Zemeckis
Distributed by Warner Home Video
The lightning strikes and the music kicks in. The camera sweeps through a spooky mansion, down a spiral staircase, and straight up to a coffin housed deep within the Gothic structure's basement. The lid flies open, and up jumps an all too familiar rotting corpse maniacally cackling with evil glee. What you're watching is unmistakable. The Cryptkeeper is back for his fourth season debut on DVD, and the results are for the most part a bit less visceral than we're accustomed to. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
Rather than rehash every single episode, I'll try and focus on the highlights and lowlights of each disc. If there's one thing that there's an abundance of in this season of Tales, it is some very well placed gore. Splatter reigns supreme on Disc 1 of this three-DVD set.
Kicking things off is a little zombie yarn titled "None But the Lonely Heart". From the title you would think that this episode sounds kind of wishy-washy, no? Well, you're wrong. "Heart" follows the exploits of a young playboy (Treat Williams) who makes his living bilking older widows out of their savings. His partner in crime is insisting that the time is right for them to just take the money and run, but the the greedy Lothario insists that they need one last score. Well, you can score one for the undead as each of these jilted ladies comes back for some good old-fashioned rotting revenge! What better way to start?
Further into Disc 1 you will find this season's gem and, dare I say it, one of the best episodes in the entire series, "What's Cookin'?" The late Christopher Reeve stars as a restaurant entrepreneur looking to make his establishment a success. What's his food of choice? Squid. As you can imagine, this doesn't exactly fly with the public, and before you know it, he's facing eviction. That is until his hired help eviscerates the landlord. The next morning squid is nowhere to be found; instead it's steaks for everyone. I'm sure you can guess where the meat is coming from, and damn if it isn't a hit! Maybe the cannibals out there are onto something. Seeing the normally clean-cut Reeve let himself go and have fun with this particularly ghoulish role is an absolute blast! This coupled, with some seriously sticky splatter, makes for one hell of a good gooey time. Tales has hit the ground running. That is until Disc 2.
Disc 2 features six episodes, but to be honest, only about two of them are worth your time. "The New Arrival" keeps things boiling for horror fans by introducing us to a badly behaved little girl and her equally psychotic mom. Without giving away too much, this particular tale does a lot to creep the viewer out. The last scene has stayed with me for days. Just like "What's Cookin'?", "Arrival" embodies everything that we horror buffs loved this series for. Once the credits rolled, I was all set for more, but then something strange happened. I was met with not one, but three episodes of suck in a row. Truth be told, they were barely even horror related, two of which were based on stories that had appearing in the comic book Two Fisted Tales. After such a good start this radical change in theme really left me on the cold side. The last couple of episodes on the disc did bring things back around a bit, but they certainly were nothing special. On to Disc 3.
Only two episodes to go, and again there's nothing to write home about. Just your basic shlocky silliness without any attempt at substance. Tales from the Crypt: Season 4 is easily the weakest of those now available. It works on two basic levels: hit or miss. While it gets in some truly memorable shots here and there, unfortunately for us most of them miss.
Now what about the extras? If you recall, in my review for Season Three I was becoming a bit panicky about the possibility of running out of good supplements for each set. My fears have been confirmed. There are only two extras to be found here, one being a commentary and the other a quick montage of the stars and sites of Season Four narrated by the Cryptkeeper himself. While these are OK, one cannot help but be a bit underwhelmed.
On the whole Tales from the Crypt: Season Four has a nagging tendency to disappoint. I can't help but feel that had these episodes been arranged differently, it would have helped the package as a whole. My advice is watch them in your own order, savoring most of Disc 1 as if it were a fine wine.
Commentary by the Cryptkeeper (voice by John Kassir), writer Alan Katz, and series chronicler Digby Diehl on the "What's Cookin'?" episode
Stars of Season 4 montage hosted by the Cryptkeeper
3 out of 5