Welcome back Boils and Ghouls! Today I'm taking a look at not ONE but TWO episodes from one of the very BEST horror anthology television shows ever created! Tales from the Crypt!
"Tales" first showed up on HBO back in '89. It ran for a total of seven seasons and had some of the absolute best horror stories included in its run that I can think of. A lot of people site "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," or "The Death of Some Salesmen" as their favorite episode, and those really are some great ones, but I picked the two that stood out to me the most when I was growing up watching "The Crypt". This show was one of my first baby-steps into becoming a horror hound. Something about knowing the episodes were short and had no continuity to them was inviting. I knew that any stakes I held in the characters were only going to last for about 25 minutes or so. Then they'd be dead, insane, or whatever... but the credits would roll either way.
And then of course there's this guy. The Cryptkeeper! Of course the theme, host, and even most of the stories were all based off of the old EC comic books, but it was the reinvention of the Cryptkeeper from the filthy, but pretty-much-alive, old man with a pageboy haircut we saw in the comics, to this mummified, sadistic, pun-spewing freak that framed each episode of the show that gave the show one of its main points of appeal.
The first episode I want to talk about is one called "Abra Cadaver," and it's not one I hear people mention a whole lot. It's the fourth episode of the third season and it stars Beau Bridges (otherwise known as "not Jeff") and Tony Goldwyn (the bad guy from Ghost) as doctor brothers. It opens up in a sort of flashback scene set in black and white that gives us a bit of background.
Martin (Bridges) and Carl (Goldwyn) are brothers and doctors, and Martin is helping Carl get through med school. Carl is the less talented of the two brothers, and is much more the wild child. Martin is the studious one, and has some very interesting and controversial theories about activity in the brain after the death of the body. While Martin and Carl are studying corpses late one night, Carl pulls a birthday prank on Martin, all in good fun, but ends up triggering a heart attack in Martin. All fades to black. This part of the episode is a lot of fun. I especially liked Goldwyn's mullet to show how young he is. I also find it ironic that he and his brother are arguing over Martin's theories at the beginning of the episode just like Carl has any idea what he's talking about... since he obviously knows little to nothing about medicine and is disagreeing with the guy who is frustratingly trying to teach him some gross anatomy lessons just a few instants later.
When we come back the episode is now over the rainbow and several years have passed. Carl is now a very successful and financially savvy doctor. Martin on the other hand, suffered nerve damage due to the heart attack years earlier and is depending on Carl to keep his research funded. Carl does so out of guilt, but is now getting ready to cut the funds to Martin's research if no results can be shown as to preserving brain activity after the body has died. The interactions between the brothers here are good. The tension between them is really obvious and I think the two of them do a pretty good job acting here.
When carl demands results and Martin responds by opening his computer and revealing a mini voodoo temple where probably a mother board should be or something, it's fun watching Carl's reaction. He wants his brother to give up on this crazy pipe dream and take a position teaching. He gets very perturbed with his brother's interest in witch doctoring vs. "real" doctoring. And then...
Martin straight up poisons his brother. But it's okay. He's going to keep Carl's brain alive so he can torture the ever loving s**t out of him after death. See, he's perfected the drug that keeps the brain alive and active for a period of time after the heart stops supplying it with oxygen. The reason is so that there's extra time to save patients before brain damage sets in. But mostly it's just to torture Carl at this stage of the drug trials.
It is this point, where the drug is administered and Carl is now alert inside his head while his body is dead that the show gets really interesting. We see a lot of the action through Carl's eyes as Martin proceeds to mindf**k his dead brother in every conceivable way.
And. It. Is. HORRIFYING.
First, Martin calls in a rastafarian med student who helps Martin get carl up on a hook in the cooler. I kind of call bulls**t at this point because there is no way I believe they are storing medical research cadavers on hooks in a cooler. 1, it's disrespectful, and 2 it's just not conducive to keeping the bodies in good shape for research... BUT I DIGRESS. It doesn't matter because the point is THEY PUT CARL ON A MEATHOOK IN A FREEZER. That's the point. They aren't going for clinical accuracy here, they want to freak the viewer out... and BOY DO THEY. Then to make matters worse, Carl SLIDES OFF THE HOOK and hits the floor. UGH.
The next morning, the rastafarian shows up and gets Carl off the floor and pops a hose in him, so Carl's body can be exsanguinated. And then heeeeeer'e MArtin! Come to gloat and describe the process of what's going on to Carl. Honestly, a LOT of this episode is on Beau's shoulder's here, as he is the face we see driving the point home over and over again. We can hear Goldwyn FREAKING OUT in the background the whole time, as he describes the feelings of blood settling in his limps, the coldness of his flesh, etc. and this is also effective, but it's mostly what we're seeing through his eyes that's freaking us out.
And then Martin reveals he took the teaching position after all! Martin explains this as Carl realizes he's regaining sensation in one of his fingers. He might not be totally dead after all (even with all of his blood sucked out, mind you...) But then Martin leads a group of med students into the room and starts taking off the top of Carl's skull with a bone saw.
This upsets Carl.
But it's okay! Martin is a prankster too! Suddenly Carl sits up and screams and realizes that his brother was just effing with him the whole time! It was a demonstration of the drug's effects because Martin has indeed been able to keep the brain alive after death! I'm a little hazy on whether Martin actually totally killed his brother an then somehow resuscitated him or what... But the point is, Martin has been messing with his brother this whole time.
Totally NOT the stuff from ReAnimator by the way. Oh but wait! Carl then has a REAL heart attack and it kills him, but not before Martin administers another dose of the wonder-drug, hoping it will assist them in saving his brother.
It doesn't. In fact, all it manages to do is keep Carl alert and aware during his REAL autopsy. So he gets to feel the saw after all. And this is the end of the episode.
This guy. I loved this episode though. It had such a morbid premise and asks that horrible question: Will I be aware of what is happening to my body after I die? And Carl answers this question for us loud and clear several times over during the episode: You better hope NOT.
Alright, moving right along... I had such a hard time picking just one episode of Tales that I decided to go with two for this post. The second episode I picked is actually the very first episode of the show I ever saw. For the longest time,I actually assumed it was the first episode they ever did... But it's actually the ninth episode of the third season, meaning it came out AFTER "Abra Cadaver" which I didn't see until much later. ANYWAY... it's an episode called "Undertaking Parlor" and oddly enough it also has to do with corpses being handled after death. Instead of a morgue at a university, this one takes place in a funeral home in a small town. As you can see the Cryptkeeper is dressed as a movie director above. And this ties into another theme of the episode:
Filmmaking! The story stars four young men who love movies and have interest in making movies.
In fact, as we meet the first three of the quartet, they are leaving the movie theater. We have Jason Marsden (who I will always remember as Eddie Munster from the "The Munsters Today" and as Dah X from "Eerie Indiana") and some random guy who I think kind of looks and acts like Jon Favreau. Then there's Aron Eisenberg, who payed the annoying Ferengi kid, Nog on Deep Space Nine. I am a little disappointed that the kids weren't talking about filmmaking here. Instead they're shaming the fat kid for loving to eat so much, and the fat kid is being shameful by eating SO much that he literally wants to drink the butter from the bottom of the popcorn bucket. So... lost opportunity there. But we are kind of setting these guys up as a little bit Monster Squad... a little bit Goonies... which is nice because...
This kid shows up to scare the sharts out of everybody! This is of course Jonathan "Short Round and Data" Ke Quan. He dresses in black, and covers himself in a black hood with only the glowing red light on his videocamera visible from underneath. There's a bit of a Predator reference in there with some of the shots too, which I liked.
So Eddie Munster convinces Data, Jon Favreau, and Nog to sneak into a funeral parlor to see a real dead body and make a "real" horror film. But once the Goonie Squad gets inside they sneak around for a bit and then realize the undertaker is back and have to scramble to find hiding places before they're discovered!
That's when John Glover, (who I can't NOT think of as Daniel Clamp from Gremlins 2! or Brice from Scrooged... or Lionel Luthor... but mostly Daniel Clamp!) shows up and gets suuuuper creepy with the corpse he's working on. He just wants this lady to smile. He's had a crush on her for a very long time it turns out. And now that she's dead she's all his. But he just can't get her lips to smile!
So he smacks her with a sledge hammer to loosen things up. This is one of the grossest things I had ever seen at the time when I originally saw this episode. This moment hit me the same way the hammer hit the corpse's face. The kids are all repulsed because they all know this lady as the nice woman who used to work at the library.
Daniel Clamp then uses a combination shopvac/ninja blender to suck out the corpse's innards and liquefy them so they'll go down the sink drain. Aaand again I find myself questioning the professional practices of characters on Tales from the Crypt. I have to assume that real funeral homes do not vacuum out their corpses, blend up their innards, and dump them down the sink. But I guess I could totally be wrong.
Daniel Clamp is of course eating pizza and enjoying a frosty beverage throughout. The kids almost get discovered, but are saved by the grace of a visitor showing up before they are found out. All the kids except for Jon Favreau escape at this time. Favreau overhears a conversation between Daniel Clamp and a man wearing crocodile skin shoes. Seems this man works at the local pharmacy, and they have a plot going where the pharmacist tampers with prescriptions and sends work to the funeral parlor! Jon Favreau takes a different opportunity to escape and tells the other kids in the Goonie Squad about what he's overheard. They don't believe him until...
Data (who the Goonie Squad call "Rich Kid") shares the fact that his dad has died of asthma the same night they were in the parlor. Jon Favreau happens to remember that he pharmacist was talking about tampering with some rich guy's asthma medication. And the kids make an oath to bring these bastards down. ON FILM.
The kids set up the two men after discovering the identity of "Crocodile Shoes Man" (whom I will continue to refer to as, since I like it better than his real name anyway) by tricking them into double-crossing each other. The kids fake a medication delivery to Daniel Clamp that is laced with battery acid. They then deliver invoices to Crocodile Shoes Man showing that Daniel Clamp has been giving him much less than his equal share of the take. This really get's things moving along. Crocodile Shoes Man shows up at the funeral parlor with a gun! Data is hiding in the parlor video-taping all that occurs at this point.
Daniel Clamp get's the better of Crocodile Shoes Man and gives him a bit of his own medicine! Ha! Wait... I think they actually used that joke in the show. No I can't remember. Anyway. Daniel Clamo kills this guy too. Then the Goonie Squad swings into action and confronts him!
Turns out all four boys are present and accounted for, and they all have cameras of their own! Jon Favreau tells Daniel Clamp to look at the birdie. Which is kind of clever.
Daniel Clamp is having none of these boys naught shenanigans. He tells them all to give him the cameras and I don't know what he plans on doing then... have them all line up so he can kill them all calmly one by one or something? All he has is a knife.
BUT THEN! He remembers Crocodile Shoes Man's gun and he threatens to shoot Jon Favreau. The kids are stuck! But then Nog and Eddie Munster push the dead librarian into Daniel Clamp's back and knock him right into Jon Favreau who is holding the innards vacuum from before! Oh noes!
Daniel Clamp gets his innards outed and he dies. And the boys look up to see:
GASP! She's smiling!
And then this smug motherf**ker comes back on to make horrible death-themed puns and then we're out.It's no mystery why Tales lasted for 7 seasons. With its production values, celebrity guests, adult content (yes, including nudity), and obviously a real love for the genre it was presenting, Tales from the Crypt stood really stood out. It wasn't as high-brow an affair as say, The Twilight Zone and you won't find many episodes that think further past a simple tale of morality highlighted with some clever twists and jump scares... But "Tales" is a great show for genre fans regardless.
Hoo-boy! That was a post and a half!
But that's all I've got in me tonight guys! I hope you enjoyed my recollections of these awesome Tales from the Crypt episodes as much as I love writing about them! I'll be back soon with more Gory Goodwill Goodies, so until then, Happy Haunting!
Remember, I'm doing this countdown as a part of the official Countdown to Halloween, so be sure to pop over there and look and see who else is participating this year.