Just before the TV series went the way of the crypt, there was a plan to make a franchise of Tales from the Crypt movies. That idea fell apart, probably because Demon Knight ruled, Bordello of Blood was okay, and six years later, shoehorning that Jennifer Grey movie Ritual into the series was a travesty in every way, shape, and form. So lets look at the movies from best to worst (aka: the order in which they were released).
DEMON KNIGHT (1995)
It’s impossible to watch Demon Knight and not feel that From Dusk Till Dawn kind of ripped it off a year later.
After opening with the classic Tales from the Crypt theme song sequence and an intro skit featuring the Crypt Keeper and John Laroquette (!), we meet our main man, played by horror veteran William Sadler. He’s carrying a very special vial of red liquid—and keeping it away from evil Billy Zane.
Sadler comes to an old church turned boarding house in Mexico, and joins a fun cast of characters, including horror fave Dick Miller, Thomas Haden Church, Jada Pinkett Smith, and several others. Sadler uses the liquid in the vial to create a barrier against evil around every entrance. Zane calls on a bevy of gnarly demons to terrorize those in the building—and fuck with their minds so they’ll let he and his demons in.
Once Demon Knight gets going, it is gory, campy creature feature fun, with Billy Zane delivering a devilish comic shtick that sets a perfect midnight movie tone for the film. The demons rule, the blood and guts are awesome, and Jada Pinkett Smith totally rox when she steps up to become the final girl. The people in the house begin going all Night of the Demons, upping the good times. There are even a couple of over-the-top fantasy scenes, including Dick Miller surrounded by naked women, Jada and Zane boogeying down on a dance floor, and panels in a comic book coming to life.
One thing I could do without—flashback scenes showing the origins of the vial…during the time of Jesus’s crucifixion. LAME.
BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996)
Bordello of Blood once again features the Crypt Keeper, but he doesn’t get the first word. In the opening scene, a bunch of crypt thieves, led by horror’s most popular little man, Phil Fondacaro, resurrect a powerful female vampire—and then get ripped apart by her. The vial from the first film is involved, and it’s the only thing linking the two movies.
After a standard Crypt Keeper intro, we meet Corey Feldman, who plays an asshole punk. A weirdo at a bar tells he and his buddy about a secret brothel hidden within a funeral home. So they go check it out—and soon learn that the hot naked babes are actually vampires.
When Corey never comes home, his sister hires a private investigator, played by Dennis Miller when he was still funny and not a total douche. Actually, Dennis steals the show here, giving us most of the comedy, including gay jokes left and right.
Bordello of Blood definitely delivers another midnight movie experience, loaded with nudity, gore, and cheesy comedy. It is quite reminiscent of Fright Night at times; even Chris Sarandon is in the film, although he’s not a vamp this time. He’s a televangelist. And honestly, his role is pretty damn stupid and pointless and adds nothing to the film.
Eventually, Corey returns as a vampire, Dennis starts blowing up vampire babes with a holy water gun to the rocking sounds of “The Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet, and even Whoopi Goldberg makes a super brief cameo. Plus, the queen bitch vampire gets all monster ugly for a pretty forgettable final battle. While it has its moments, Bordello of Blood probably won’t leave a lasting impression if you don’t see it as a horny heterosexual teen boy.
Just how messy is this installment of the series? Well, for starters, the idea to make it a Tales from the Crypt movie was canned. So another movie company released it as a standalone film. Then, when it was brought to DVD, a Crypt Keeper intro and outro were slapped onto the film to finally market it as a part of the franchise in order to trick a built-in audience to watch it. And, while John Kassir still voices the creep, the puppet looks like a hurtin’ knockoff you might buy for way too much money at a horror convention.
The film is apparently a remake of the 1943 film I Walked with a Zombie, but it’s mostly a boring voodoo drama that could practically be a made-for-TV piece of crap.
Jennifer Grey, sporting her new nose, plays a doctor who loses her license. So she heads to Jamaica to care for the brother of Nightbreed’s Craig Sheffer. This cute brother is a mess, believing he’s become a zombie under a voodoo curse…even though he doesn’t act much like a zombie. Instead, he, Jennifer, a local Jamaican party girl, Craig, and Tim Curry, who plays a doctor, go swimming, party, eat, drink, etc.
Meanwhile, Jennifer is plagued by voodoo nightmares, anyone involved with one particular estate suffers voodoo attacks, and someone occasionally gets killed at the hands of an unseen human, making this like a boring voodoo/slasher hybrid. But it’s mostly a drama about the conflicts between white rich people and the Jamaican working class. Just for kicks, there’s a twist thrown in at the end.
Ritual offers none of the funny horror campiness present in the previous films or the Tales from the Crypt TV show, and it’s a movie you’ll never have an interest in re-visiting.