Tales From The Crypt!

It was the very end of the 80s when the horror anthology series Tales From The Crypt premiered on HBO and the Crypt Keeper quickly established himself as a horror icon. Episodes of greed, deceit, and lust leading to gruesome and often campy outcomes were a joy to watch…for a while. Then the show began to run out of steam, and in its last few seasons the creators seemed to forget they were making a horror show. So I’ve rewatched all my DVDs of all seven seasons to make a list of my favorite episodes.


And All Through The House

The first two episodes premiered on the same night, but the second episode, from massively successful director Robert Zemeckis, was the winner for me…even though it aired in June and it’s a Christmas episode. It’s a remake of the classic killer Santa tale from the original 1972 Tales From The Crypt movie, and Dr. Giggles plays the freaky Santa!

Notable is that for the first episode, the Crypt Keeper was very subdued. He didn’t find his maniacal cackle until this second episode.

Only Sin Deep

Lea Thompson is a vain prostitute who doesn’t believe she’s actually selling her beauty to a shop owner for a large sum of money…until the wrinkles start to appear.

Lover Come Hack to Me

Directed by Tom Holland, this one stars Amanda Plummer as an heiress who just got married to a gold-digging man. On the way to their honeymoon hotel, they are forced off the road by a storm and end up in an abandoned house, and the groom soon finds out there’s a price to pay when marrying for money. This one gets nice and macabre, just the way these tales should be.

Collection Completed

I’m just listing this one as somewhat of a warning to those with pets. After he’s forced into retirement, a man married to Mrs. Roper has to contend with all the pets she’s accumulated over the years while he was at work. It gets very dark…


Dead Right

Demi Moore is told by a medium that she will marry a man who will inherit a lot of money and then die. I won’t give anything away, but this is how you write a twisted anthology short.

The Switch

Arnold Schwarzenegger directs this episode and makes a cameo with the Crypt Keeper! It’s a tale of an old rich man who resorts to extremes to become a hunk to win the affection of a younger woman. How could it possibly backfire? With a twist, of course.

‘Til Death

While on vacation, a gold-digging dude has a voodoo priestess make a love potion for him to score a rich a woman. He had no idea how strong it would be and how long it would last. My favorite episodes are always the ones involving walking corpses.

Three’s a Crowd

This one delivers a classic horror tale twist. A man who is convinced his woman is cheating on him goes mad with jealousy and rage. It all seems to drag out, but it’s worth it for the zinger ending.

The Thing From the Grave

This one comes from the director of The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps. Teri Hatcher is a model with an abusive agent boyfriend, who makes it a habit of killing off men he thinks are having an affair with her. It’s another corpse back from the grave story. Wahoo!

For Cryin’ Out Loud

A rock promoter is stealing charity money and soon starts to hear his own conscience, voiced by the late Sam Kinison. This is a body horror gross out episode involving ear canals. Eek! Iggy Pop appears as himself and Katey Sagal appears as a sleazy leather rocker chick in a minor role.

Four-Sided Triangle

Patricia Arquette plays a young woman who works at a couple’s farm and is preyed upon by the man of the house. At the same time, she begins a romance…with a creepy scarecrow! This one is so sleazy violent.

The Ventriloquist’s Dummy

The director of The Omen brings us a tale of Don Rickles as a ventriloquist who gets visited by a fan who idolizes him, played by Bobcat Goldthwait. Bobcat discovers the horrific reason why Don is such a success while he’s a failure. This is how you do an episode.

Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today

Carol Kane plays a woman whose body gets switched with that of a witch. Some nasty witch action at the end.

Fitting Punishment

This is as crypt as it gets. A funeral director who disrespects the bodies he tends to gets classic horror payback in the end.

Korman’s Kalamity

From the director of Jack’s Back, this one stars Harry Anderson of Night Court in a tale of a Tales from the Crypt illustrator who can bring the monsters in the comic book to life. This one is creature camptastic and also stars Cynthia Gibb of Fame and Jack’s Back.

Lower Berth

The show gets so meta for a second episode in a row. This is a tale of how the fricking Crypt Keeper was born in a side show!

Television Terror

At the end of the 80s, a talk show host named Morton Downey Jr. suddenly came on the scene with a short-lived, Saturday night show that was crude, scandalous, and exploitative, and we ate it up.

In this episode he plays a media host planning to tour a haunted house for shock ratings, but his terror becomes the entertainment.

The Secret

Strong final episode for a season, this one is about an orphan boy who is adopted, after which things enter classic monster movie territory.


Carrion Death

Kyle MacLachlan is a serial killer on the run who ends up handcuffed to a dead cop. Instead of just breaking off the hand (he’s a serial killer, after all), he decides to continue his escape dragging the corpse with him…which attracts a relentless vulture. The payoff is grisly good.

Dead Wait

In this tale directed by Tobe Hooper, a thief wants to steal a precious black pearl. He gets a job on the plantation where it is located and begins making some really bad decisions that lead to freaky voodoo shit and some nasty situations. Vanity and Whoopi Goldberg co-star, which totally gave me good retro vibes, and Whoopi gets a great one-on-one with the Crypt Keeper at the end. Classic.

The Reluctant Vampire

Malcolm McDowell plays a vampire who works at a blood bank so he can spare mortals from dying to satisfy his thirst. Unfortunately, he’s causing a shortage at the blood bank, which could mean a bunch of employees getting laid off. On top of that, there’s a vampire hunter coming for him. This campy tale also stars George Wendt of Cheers and horror icon Michael Berryman and has a delicious twist ending.

Undertaking Palor

This one captures the spirit of 80s Spielberg flicks, especially thanks to the fact that Ke Huy Quan plays one of four boys that sneak into a funeral home and stumble upon a plot to kill people to bring more business to the mortician.

Mournin’ Mess

Directed by the creator of Dr. Giggles, this one stars the subway ghost from Ghost as a homeless man believe to be a serial killer. He offers to reveal the identity of the real killer to Steven Weber, who plays an out of work reporter trying to advocate for the homeless. Weber then gets drawn into a gothic horror nightmare.

Split Second

The director of Razorback brings us a tale of violent jealousy and infidelity starring the killer from Shocker. He owns a lumber camp and married a young bartender…who grows and screws around with one of his pretty boy employees. This has a classic, dark and gruesome twist.


Julie from V – The Mini Series is a bored housewife who lives vicariously through a soap opera because her doctor husband is never home. When the cable guy comes over to hook her up, meta references to cable television start flowing, including the Crypt Keeper popping up on HBO. Anthony LaPaglia plays the cable guy, and he is hunky hot, so they start banging. That’s it. That’s why this one is included on my list of faves. Not very horror, but it does have a campy conclusion though.


None But the Lonely Heart

Tom Hanks directs, and Treat Williams plays a hunk (no surprise) who marries rich old ladies then kills them for the money. As always, I love when corpses get revenge on bad boys, and these corpses are gnarly!

On a Deadman’s Chest

William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame directs a body horror tale of a rock band called…Exorcist! A groupie turns the leader of the band on to a tattoo artist that gives him a design that seems to have a life of its own.

Beauty Rest

This one comes from the director of Elm Street 3, so it’s no surprise Jennifer Rubin makes an appearance. Mimi Rogers plays an aging woman desperate for a chance to shine, so she enters a beauty contest through nefarious means. This has one twisted and macabre conclusion.

What’s Cookin’

Not the most original plot—a failing restaurant starts doing gangbusters after serving human flesh as steak—but this one has a big cast, including Christopher Reeve, Bess Armstrong, Judd Nelson, and Meat Loaf.

The New Arrival

This one comes from the director of The Changeling, and has a great cast, including David Warner, Zelda Rubenstein, Twiggy, and Robert Patrick. A radio psychologist decides to go to the home of a caller with a troubled child for publicity. Soon he and his team are being terrorized and killed by the “child”. This one is 80s horror movie level good.

Maniac at Large

From the director of Prophecy, this goodie takes place in a library. It stars Blythe Danner, Adam Ant, and Clarence Williams III, and there’s a killer on the loose. The episode is very atmospheric, with the shadowy library making for a perfect setting and creepy characters give it a great whodunit feel. It also has a satisfying conclusion.

Strung Love

The director of Hellraiser: Bloodline delivers the goods in this mailer puppet episode with a twist. Stars Zach Galligan of Gremlins.

Werewolf Concerto

This one has the distinction of being co-written by Rita Mae Brown, who wrote Slumber Party Massacre, and has a cast of familiar faces. It’s a classic story in the tradition of The Beast Must Die and Howling V, with a group of people trapped in one place and discovering that one of them is a werewolf.

Curiosity Killed

Starring Margot Kidder, this story of old people who find the fountain of youth is slow going, but the payoff twist at the end rules, especially if you’re a dog lover!


Death of Some Salesmen

The director of Bordello of Blood starts season 5 strong. Lily Munster makes an appearance during the opener in this tale of a sleazy door-to-door salesman who rings the wrong doorbell. Ed Begley, Jr. stars, as does Tim Curry in multiple roles, reason enough not to miss this episode that turns sleazy and gender-bending as a result.

Forever Ambergis

Roger Daltrey and Steve Buscemi star in this super gory and icky story of two photographers, an infectious disease, and the girl who comes between them.

Food For Thought

The director of Idle Hands brings us a circus side-show story, always a haunting theme for horror. Ernie Hudson plays a psychic and therefore knows his assistant/servant starts cheating on him with the hot fire eater who also cares for the circus gorilla. There are enough dangers in that one sentence to give you a sense of where this tale of revenge is going…

People Who Live in Brass Hearses

The director of the 1984 classic Razorback keeps this gory season going with an episode about a convict (played by Bill Paxton) and his brother (played by Brad Dourif) trying to get revenge on the ice cream man that got him thrown in jail. The big fight between them gets grisly good.

House of Horror

Kevin Dillon, Brian Krause, Wil Wheaton, Jason London, Courtney Gains…it’s a fraternity pledge story with boys in undies serving as slaves to other guys who then take them to a haunted house where a massacre took place years before. Yay! This is classic scary house goodness.

Creep Course

In this episode, which originally aired at the end of 1993, Anthony Michael Hall’s acting career finally landed him a role as a college student instead of a high school nerd. He happens to target a girl geek to help him pass a class, but both he and his teacher have plans for the virginal girl, and it involves a horny mummy.

Came the Dawn

This is how you start an episode—an axe murder in a bathroom. Then a rich dude driving in the rain at night picks up a woman stranded on the road…none other than Brooke Shields. He offers to take her to his cabin in the woods. It’s a stormy night, she seems crazy, he seems crazy…and another woman shows up. It’s a classic twist that never goes out of style in the horror genre.

Half-Way Horrible

The owner of a successful chemical company did some shady business in a rain forest, which helped him create a chemical that prevents things from rotting…at least it’s supposed to….


This is where the show began taking a turn for the worse. The episodes move farther away from horror, which is not surprising since everything about the early to mid-90s horror scene was severely lacking. So many duds here, and in some cases the Crypt Keeper intro outshines the episode it bookends.

Only Skin Deep

The director of the House on Haunted Hill remake brings us a Halloween episode! It opens perfectly with the song “Change” by BigElf at a costume party. A violent dude goes to his ex-wife’s costume party and hooks up with a woman in a mask. You just know this can’t be good, and this episode totally delivers on the horror. Plus we get hot Peter Onorati bod.

The Pit

This is a non-horror episode, but what’s of note is that although the episode isn’t about Christmas, the Crypt Keeper’s intro and outro center around Christmas and are clearly a promo for his Christmas album, for he sings his version of “Deck the Halls” a little.

The Assassin

Another non-horror episode but notable for one reason—William Sadler of Bill & Ted reprises his role as the Grim Reaper in the opening with the Crypt Keeper.

Stained in Horror

D.B. Sweeney is a murderer on the run who ends up hiding in a house with an old lady. She tells him she can become hot and sexy if he meets her in the middle of the stairway due to a curse placed on her years before. The twist at the end of this episode leaves an impression.

Surprise Party

This one comes from the director of The Car. A man kills his father to inherit a farmhouse. When he gets there, a party is in full swing. The son is about to find out his father has somehow managed to inadvertently get revenge from beyond the grave.

Doctor of Horror

At this point I’m just happy to have an episode involving dead bodies. Country singer Travis Tritt and Hank Azaria play two security guards at a morgue who buy into a crazy doctor’s scheme to cut open corpses to steal their souls. The finale is dead corpse perfection.

Comes the Dawn

Susan Tyrrell and Michael Ironside? Wahoo! Two ex-military men go into the Alaskan woods to do some unorthodox hunting. They make a gruesome discovery involving a classic night creature threat.


The big deal about the final season of the series is that production moved to England, and many feel it absolutely ruined the series. This season definitely takes the prize for most often not feeling like a horror anthology show at all. Still, I tried my best to pick some highlights.

Fatal Caper

This episode is notable for several reasons. First, Bob Hoskins directs and stars in it. It also stars the late Natasha Richardson. There’s a séance and resurrection element, and there’s a trans element.

Last Respects

This episode is silly and a bit crass, but it takes place in a curiosity shop, features three sisters wishing on a monkey’s paw, and has a classic return from the dead moment like earlier Crypt episodes.

Cold War

Ewan McGregor and Bubble from Ab Fab steal the show as a violent criminal couple, making this campy episode align perfectly with the era of movies like Natural Born Killers and Kalifornia. There’s a good old monstrous twist at the end. Ironically, the very next episode also stars an Ab Fab cast member—Saffy!

About Face

This one gets credit for being one of the few horror tales of the season. A priest learns he fathered twin girls when they show up at his door as grown women. He takes them in, but one of them is deformed and horror ensues.


Women are being decapitated around town, and suspicion falls on a scuzzy horror screenwriter, played by Eddie Izzard. The best part is that there’s a twist with a collection of severed heads. Yay!

Ear Today…Gone Tomorrow

When a safe cracker gets mixed up with a mobster’s wife, he ends up becoming a bit of an animal experiment. This has a nice and bizarre ending.

Perhaps it should have been the final episode instead of the penultimate episode, because the show just completely threw in the towel for its finale…a goofy animated episode based on The Three Little Pigs! Ugh! It’s unbearable to watch and a disastrous way to send off a once great anthology series.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
This entry was posted in Living in the 80s - forever, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.