Quite by accident we find ourselves viewing another Ernest R. Dickerson directed horror movie. Bones of course, being the first. I’m not mad at him and I’m getting quite into his hip hop flavoured gory goodness, even if this one doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite demons, Billy Zane’s smuggest smug face and a shit ton of gooey green SFX.
This is a feature length Tales from the Crypt story, courtesy of the small but perfectly formed Crypt Keeper, who’s moved to Hollywood and is now making pictures. In the film, that is – a film within a film sort of thing.
I’m thinking this would have been better had it been a short story but let’s go examine it now.
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
A man on the run is hunted by a demon known as the Collector.
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Starring: Billy Zane • William Sadler • Jada Pinkett Smith
Brayker (Sadler) is an aimless drifter being pursued by the immaculate Billy Zane, who we’ll later come to know as The Collector. After a decent car chase, The Collector (or TC) rams into Brayker’s vehicle and there’s a 90’s action movie explosion. Lucky for Brayker, he manages to extract himself just before the moment of impact and takes off under cover of darkness into the nearest town. TC, also uninjured, stays at the scene of the crime for reasons that will soon become clear.
Brayker is busted trying to steal a car outside a bar but when he bumbles into town drunk Uncle Willy (Dick Miller), who takes pity on him, he’s shown to a local boarding house where he can hide out for a few days. The boarding house btw is set-up in a disused church and run by the wonderful Irene (CCH Pounder). Other long term residents include sex worker Cordelia (Brenda Bakke), weird creep Wally (Charles Fleischer) – and ex-con come employee Jeryline (Pinkett Smith) and her cat. The presence of the cat will later facilitate a hysterical “Get that pussy off my table” joke (delivered by Irene) which is probably my only standout from this movie.
Billy Zane meanwhile, meets with two goofy cops, Sheriff Tupper and Deputy Martel who are drawn in by his tale – that Brayker is a no-good thief who’s stolen something precious to him. When Roach (a very young looking Thomas Haden Church) returns to the boarding house where he’s the chef, he mentions someone has tried to steal a car in town, not realising Brayker’s part in it. Irene however, is a sharp woman and her suspicions lead her to calling the police station (she’s clearly never subscribed to the Snitches get Stitches school of thinking). Her phone call leads the Sheriff, Deputy and Billy Zane to the house.
What Brayker is holding is an ancient biblical looking artifact and Billy Zane sure wants it. The cops make to arrest both men on learning that their cars were stolen but Billy Zane goes and spoils it all by punching his fist through one of the cops heads. Which leads to total pandemonium. In the hubbub, Billy Zane ends up outside while Brayker blesses the residents of the house with a magical concoction (from the artifact) to protect them, sealing Billy Zane on the other size of the door. The Collector isn’t particularly perturbed by this development, though his smarmy exterior slips for just a second.
Well, honestly what horror villain is worth his salt without his own demon army, eh? Billy Zane raises his from the ground and sends them into the house, to wheedle out Brayker and the artifact. This is semi-successful, and there are fatalities but for the most part the residents are willing to muck in. Unfortunately, Billy Zane is a charming demon who knows only too well how to get under the skin of each individual and he’s able to manipulate Cordelia into doing his bidding. She takes one of Irene’s arms and is eventually killed herself. I won’t go into who’s picked off but it’s safe to say it’s a bad scene, man.
Brayker is also forced to tell the story of the artifact which has something to do with seven points, a bunch of demons sent off in all directions and the blood of a crucified Jesus. I didn’t really absorb the details on that one – but needless to say, the artifact is kind of a big deal – and is also the last of seven which is why Billy Zane needs it. Once he has all seven he is basically King of the Demon World and humanity as we know it is toast. The artifact FYI is carried by one person at a time, who for as long as they protect it remains immortal – Brayker has inherited it from his commander in World War I, and each carrier must add their own blood to it, to mingle with J.C’s.
This is dragging a little (a bit like the film) but eventually Brayker chooses the next person to protect the known world and take on Billy Zane. Can you guess who it is yet? The lovely Jeryline falls foul of Billy Zane’s smooth talking when he promises her the world if she’ll give in to him and hand over the goods. But our girl is one of the good guys and she’s not for turning, thankyouverymuch. Will she beat down Billy Zane and find her way out of this godforsaken hellhole of a town before it’s too fucking late?
This has the right idea but unfortunately it starts to drag quite early in and maybe suffers from too many characters. That said and *spoiler* I’m delighted we get a hard as nails final girl and a black woman, no less. I just wish Irene had made it too, she was divine. As I type this I honestly don’t have much to say – Billy Zane plays the same character he’s always played and he plays it well.
Bill & Ted’s William Sadler is actually quite attractive and Jada Pinkett-Smith is pristine as ever, though I must have missed the bit where her trousers fell off during the final battle – she ends up in her underwear which I think would be the last thing you’d want to be caught wearing while fighting to the death. Not that I’m complaining.
The effects are cheap as chips, which make me happy and the Crypt Keeper is wonderful as always. This movie is instantly forgettable, I’m afraid and not one for the classics list. We picked it from a list of Horror Movies by Black Directors which is very short and sweet unfortunately. I’m not mad that I’ve spent £2.49 on this title, I’m just disappointed it isn’t better.
Lol, I also found it extremely male gaze-y that Jada Pinkett was suddenly missing articles of clothing towards the end. Even with the stress of fighting a demon, it’s difficult to misplace the lower half of your wardrobe.
And I was annoyed that Jeryline made a big fuss about her cat on a couple of occasions only for it to have absolutely no bearing on the plot…and she left town without it at the end??? One of many plot holes, I’m afraid.
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Absolutely. That cat deserved way better. It would have been cool if it turned out the demons were scared of cats and the cat saved the day. Also, how Jeryline kept her Calvin Klein underwear set so pristine while she was literally spitting blood all over the shop mystifies me. Good on her though ☺️
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This was one of my favourite films when I was about 13/14. Loved it. Not watched it in years though and would doubt it holds up tbh.
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