Graphic Horror: Tales From the Crypt Season 2
I’m continuing my journey through the Tales From the Crypt TV series first four seasons this October and while the first season was the shortest at only six episodes, the second season is the longest with a whopping eighteen episodes. If you haven’t read my first season roundup, I will be looking at each of the episodes in full, especially the twist ending and how well it works within the episode, so spoilers obviously abound. The second season had a bit of a slow start, but about halfway through went into several of my all time favorite episodes. The budget seemed to be higher, and there’s plenty of recognizable actors like Teri Hatcher, Don Rickles, Bobcat Goldthwait, Michael Ironside, Demi Moore, Jeffrey Tambor, Patricia Clarkson, and more. I had a great time watching these and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for season 3.
This season starts out with a couple notable names as it stars Demi Moore as a potential goldigger who finds a fortune teller who predicts that she will marry a large man who will inherit a large amount of money and then die shortly afterwards. That large man turns out to be played by Jeffrey Tambor under some heavy prosthetics. Moore is a waitress at a strip bar, though surprisingly none of the strippers go past having tassles on their nipples. And Tambor is a regular who won’t take no for an answer, no matter how many derogatory jokes she makes at his expense. While neither character is very likable, they are both such great performances that it’s hard to not enjoy this episode.
The Twist: The inheritance that Tambor earns turns out to be one he gets after Moore wins a big sweepstakes, goes to dump him, and he kills her. He then dies in the electric chair for her murder. It’s such a great twist as it proves that the fortune teller was completely right, but it’s also a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy that wouldn’t have happened if she had never visited her in the first place. I also love the extra touch that Moore’s previous co-worker comes in to visit Madame Vorna at the very end.
Remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger was a noted director? Yeah, me neither. But he was given the chance to direct this episode of Tales From the Crypt which turns out fairly well, even if there’s nothing really inspired about it. It also features the great William Hickey and his iconic voice as an elderly millionaire in love with a pretty young thing who doesn’t know he’s rich. But she very well knows that he’s old and wants nothing to do with him, so he undergoes a series of expensive transplants to make himself look young and attractive so he can win her heart. I’m not very fond of this episode as it is so clear what direction it’s going to go from the very start. Not only that, but the girl he is after is such a one-note character with absolutely nothing to contribute to the story aside from an almost nursery rhyme/classic fairy tale note of “but your _____ is too old!”
The Twist: If you couldn’t guess from the set up, as he spends all of his money on these transplants to look young, the young man is getting richer while looking older. And in the end, the other guy wins the girl by being in the exact position Hickey was in from the beginning as an old man with a lot of money. It’s a serviceable twist that can be seen from the first five minutes.
This was an episode that just had a lot of fun with itself. It has Lance Henriksen playing a modern cowboy gambler and Kevin Tighe playing a rival gambler who favors a casual suit. They have a great friendly rivalry with each other that just continues to escalate where a game of Russian Roulette is only halfway through the episode. There’s not a lot of meat to this episode, but it is quite a bit of fun as the stakes keep getting higher and it’s great to see these two guys go at each other and turn on a dime when their luck changes as it always will.
The Twist: After the bullet in the Russian Roulette gun turns out to be a dud, they move on to “Chop Poker” where the loser of each hand loses a limb starting with their fingers. It ends with the two of them playing checkers in a mental hospital with no arms or legs, moving their pieces with a wad of gum on their nose. It’s not subtle at all, but it’s a very silly end to a fun episode.
It seems like the second season has a lot more light episodes as this is yet another one. There’s a young entrepreneur preppy jerk who’s trying to build a something or other on an African swamp or South American swamp. It’s all unclear but it doesn’t matter as he decides to use a voodoo spell from his ex-girlfriend who he dumped for the sake of his social status in order to gain the love and money of a rich woman. There’s quite a bit of humor here with the woman’s stuck up attitude and British accent along with her change of attitude when he gives her the potion, along with a fun moment when it has a delayed reaction.
The Twist: The twist is pretty obvious when the voodoo woman “warns” him that 1 drop will make her his wife, 2 drops and she’ll be his for life, and of course he gives her about a dozen drops. This kills her, but that doesn’t stop her love for him as she keeps coming for him while she becomes increasingly rotted. And when he tries to take the easy way out, his voodoo woman has none of that and brings him back to life to spend eternity with his rotting love. It’s silly, it’s funny, and it has some of the most impressive special effects makeup and animatronics as she becomes increasingly skeletal. Really the best reason to watch this episode.
Three’s A Crowd
This is one of the episodes that I liked the least so far this season. There’s very little humor, and it’s built around the increasing jealousy of the husband who I thought looked like a more normal looking cousin of Gary Busey. The entire time, his wife and his friend are sneaking around behind his back and he thinks they are having an affair and becomes increasingly unhinged and violent. The suspense is built fairly well, but this is one of those instances where I knew what the twist was and it aggravated me to see how everyone was acting.
The Twist: His wife and best friend weren’t actually sleeping together, they were planning a surprise party because his wife was pregnant! He finds out by dragging his wife’s dead body to the party before she could tell him about it. I will say that the reveal is a great moment of dark humor, but everything leading up to it was just aggravating how they could see how hard he was taking things and they knew he thought they were cheating, but they thought it was more important to keep the party a surprise and let him fall into an alcoholic depression.
The Thing From The Grave
A model played by Teri Hatcher has an overly possessive and abusive boyfriend while her photographer falls for her and wants to save her from her plight. This was one of the better episodes, Miguel Ferrer played a great asshole who looked like he should have been a detective. I knew Hatcher from her role as Lois Lane so it was a bit odd to see her playing the timid model. And once again, like ‘Til Death it had some great special effect prosthetics. There was also a change up as it starts in medias res where we see the boyfriend shoot and bury the photographer at the beginning of the episode.
The Twist: There is an Aztec amulet that doesn’t allow you to break a promise and when the photographer promises that he will always protect the model, he ends up coming back from the grave to protect her when her boyfriend starts going psycho on her. It’s a great ending that also had amazing looking special effects on the animated corpse, complete with wriggling maggots in his eye sockets. It was a great moment of comeuppance as he is dragged into the grave along with the corpse, complete with a message written in blood from his recently severed fingers.
This is one of the better serious episodes in this season so far. There’s very little humor throughout, but it works very well in this context. I would almost consider it a update of the classic noir movie Double Indemnity, although generally just because of the insurance angle. Here, an insurance salesman falls for a rich man’s wife as he decides to take out a new multi-million dollar policy, but instead of collecting on the policy, they kill him before the deal is finished to take the suspicion away from them and merely have his wife inherit his already large fortune. Meanwhile, Michael Ironside comes into the picture to blackmail them with pictures of the murder and the terms are the woman.
The Twist: After months of hearing stories about the sexual exploits she is forced to do every night with Ironside, the insurance salesman kills himself, leaving a deathbed confession to free her from the blackmail. But it turns out that she was working with Ironside the whole time and the salesman was just part of the entire scheme from the beginning. Even though I’m familiar with all of theses episodes and their twists, I always remember this one as one that really came out of the blue. It’s unexpected and it really works with the entirety of the story. A great episode, and a great twist.
For Cryin’ Out Loud
Going from one of the better serious episodes to one of the better silly episodes, this follows a nightclub manager who plans to steal a one million dollar charity fund when his conscience finally decides to speak up with the voice of Sam Kinison, though he puts it off as an ear disorder rather than his actual conscience. When he gets caught by his banker played by Katey Sagal who wants half, he kills her and stuffs her in a drum case. Lee Arenberg plays the manager very well as he is one of “those guys” probably best known for playing Pintel, the bald comic relief pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean. The best part comes at the beginning when he gleefully rushes to the electric chair.
The Twist: As he tries to escape the club, his conscience tries to convince him that the other people can hear him, and he starts to believe as the people in the club all react to everything the conscience says until he finally confesses in front of the crowd before he realizes that he has a bloody cotton swab sticking out of his ear. It’s a great twist with perfect timing, though it’s a lot more noticeable the second time around when you see how oddly they frame it so you only see one side of his face for the entire end sequence.
Patricia Arquette plays Mary-Ann, a woman who was picked up by an old farm couple after committing a crime and forced to work for them or else be sold out to the police. The old woman is abusive, and the old man is a lecher who keeps trying to put the moves on her. After his most recent attempt at getting her, she suffers a head injury and starts talking about “her man” who is the scarecrow out in the field. There’s a great sense of build up in what’s going on and the relationship between the three of them is quite clear in a very short amount of time. One of the great moments is when the old man dreams of sleeping with Mary-Ann when she turns into his wife and he wakes up in a cold sweat.
The Twist: After talking up her “man” for a few nights, the old man gets the idea to play as the scarecrow, but his wife has a temper and goes after him. When she sees Mary-Ann with the scarecrow, she proves he isn’t real by stabbing him in the stomach. When she realizes what she has done, she drops her guard and Mary-Ann takes the opportunity to kill her and secure her freedom. It’s a great setup where you there’s enough going on to make things interesting and you might not know exactly how things are going to turn out. The last moment where she sings Jimmy Crack Corn is a great moment to show that while she was cunning, there might still be a little bit of crazy in her too.
The Ventriloquist’s Dummy
Another great episode with a good combination of dark, twisted humor, a mystery, and some impressive special effects. It stars the great Don Rickles as a retired Ventriloquist and Bobcat Goldthwait as a young ventriloquist who was at Rickles’ last show as a boy and now he wants Rickles to see his first act in front of an audience. But there’s a bit of a mystery behind a fire that broke out after that last performance, and now there’s been a murder and Goldthwait thinks Rickles is behind it all. Rickles is fantastic in this episode as the disenchanted old entertainer and I would have to say that this is probably my favorite episode of the season. Which isn’t too surprising considering that this episode was directed by Richard Donner and written by Frank Darabont who is probably best known for the Shawshank Redemption.
The Twist: It’s hard to tell exactly what the twist is, as there are a couple. First off, it turns out that the ventriloquist’s dummy Morty was never a dummy at all, but was a deformed siamese twin who was attached at the end of his hand. Morty was a bit of a psychopath and Rickles kept him under wraps, literally, for 15 years doped up on morphine. When he comes back around, Rickles finally breaks up the act with a hatchet. Goldthwait corners Morty and gets him into a meat grinder, when Morty works out a deal to join Goldthwait and get back into showbiz. The second twist comes at the very end when Morty starts going off script and when Goldthwait starts turning on him, he takes off the dummy costume to reveal that Morty has started to graft himself onto Goldthwait’s hand. It’s such a bizarre twist, but the special effects really sell Morty as a character, I’m not quite as fond of the final twist though.
Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today
Back to the more comedic of the episodes with Carol Kane who plays the housewife of an imbecilic gun nut when a witch comes to the door peddling cosmetics. The witch ends up swapping bodies and comedy ensues. There were many places in this episode where the comedy just didn’t hit the right places for me, I wasn’t fond of their odd way of playing at British accents now and again, nor did I like the guy being a total chicken when it came to firing his guns. He did make up for being a total idiot throughout the rest of the episode for actually believing his wife in the body of an old woman, and for his plan to trick the witch into switching back to her old body.
The Twist: After they kill the witch and bury her in the basement months pass yet they hang onto the magic charm. One day Judy gets the itch to wear it once again and finds herself back in the body of the rotting witch in the basement. The husband once again shows his cunning in figuring out who the real Judy is before showing his true idiocy when he shoots the witch in Judy’s body. She once again switches back the bodies so that Judy will die in her fatally wounded body. It’s a nice cautionary tale with enough humor so it doesn’t feel overly preachy. I just wish the husband wasn’t such a complete fool.
I always remembered this episode as one of the few that really creeped me out when I was younger. It stars the great Moses Gunn as the skinflint owner of a funeral home where he cuts costs in every conceivable way. From embalming the corpses with water to importing coffins from Taiwan. When he’s stuck with caring for his nephew, he treats him like a burden and a slave, crippling him through abuse before finally killing him. While the nephew was somewhat annoying, Moses Gunn completely takes this episode away with his bible spouting miser who is an absolutely horrible person, and yet someone you could see actually existing in the real world.
The Twist: After killing his nephew over ordering a coffin in the wrong wood, he cuts his legs off at the shin so he will fit in the Taiwanese coffin. Days later, the ghost of his nephew comes back and cripples him before coming down the stairs to finish the job. The twist is actually fairly weak as a typical ghost revenge, but it’s still a great episode with a fantastic performance from Moses Gunn.
Harry Anderson plays Roger Korman, a cartoonist for the Tales From the Crypt comic book who finds out that when he takes his experimental fertility pills, his drawings end up coming to life. Meanwhile he’s trapped in a marriage with a shrew of a wife while falling for the policewoman who is investigating the bizarre occurrences. This is another fun episode and I loved seeing Harry Anderson, I was a big fan of Night Court, and later Barry’s World when I was younger. This was also another opportunity for the show to showcase some great creature effects with several of the monsters that come to life, even though we never get to see the dinosaur in the Volkswagen.
The Twist: It’s rare, but it actually can happen in this show as this episode not only doesn’t really have a twist ending, but it also has a happy ending. Though I suppose the happy ending itself could be considered a twist, as his final monstrous drawing comes to life to kill him but instead turns on his wife as she hurls insult after insult towards it. And Korman goes on to live out the romance comic he drew just before.
In a sideshow, Enoch the two-faced man is the star attraction even though he is treated like an animal by his handler. A gambler comes by and brings a new star attraction, a cursed mummy girl who Enoch falls in love with. But problems arise as it turns out that Enoch is dying and the mummy is stolen. This is a great twist on a Frankenstein type story with Enoch as the misunderstood monster, they even have a moment with a young girl who takes to him and gives him her doll. And while I’ve said this often about this season, the design and effects on Enoch’s two faces are downright amazing.
The Twist: After finding out the curse of the stolen mummy where anyone who takes her necklace will lose their family jewels, Enoch’s handler accidentally kills the gambler and tries to frame Enoch for it. Instead, Enoch finally snaps and kills his handler, stabbing him right in his junk, and runs off with the mummy. A year later the sideshow returns and the owner is led to a cave where Enoch had spent his last days with the mummy which resulted in a baby Cryptkeeper. Such a great meta moment to have this twisted tale end up being the Cryptkeeper’s origin story.
Mute Witness to Murder
Patricia Clarkson plays a woman who happens to see a murder happen across the courtyard, Rear Window style. But instead of being in a wheelchair, she just happened to see it and the trauma made her go mute. When her husband gets the nearest doctor to help her, it happens to be the same man who committed the murder that she witnessed and puts her in his private insane asylum to keep her silent forever. I have to say that aside from Clarkson’s performance, I wasn’t that fond of this episode. It was really annoying that the husband was so completely idiotic that he couldn’t try communicating with her until she had been in the asylum for days when it ends up being too late. The doctor’s heart condition was also an obvious set up for the ending.
The Twist: Clarkson finally gets her voice back shortly before her lobotomy. As the doctor goes in to retrieve her, he has a heart attack and needs his pills. He pleads for help from Clarkson before realizing that she can’t talk. She then answers him, letting him know that she can talk and has the means to save him, but chooses not to, finally ending with a hint of a crazy smile showing that the event likely affected her on a deeper level. Even though it was an obvious set up early on, the payoff works and is the better part of this episode.
Morton Downey Jr. plays a tabloid talk show host who brings his crew to a haunted house that was the home of series of gruesome murders several years ago. He goes in filming with just himself and his cameraman when things start getting weird. It’s one of the few truly frightening episodes of the show that has some great tension building as things start getting weird in the house. It also has some great predictive moments of what found footage horror would eventually become, with many shots from the camera’s perspective.
The Twist: Another episode where the twist isn’t really much of a twist, but a continued progression of what the rest of the episode sets up. As there really are ghosts that are out to get Downey’s cameraman and himself. If anything, the twist is that the producers in the van outside have the opportunity to try and pull the plug and help get him out of the house, but instead choose to let him stay for the ratings bump where he ends up getting chainsawed by the ghost of the old woman and hung out of the window. It’s a great moment in one of the best episodes when his producer makes the cold-hearted decision to let him stay.
My Brother’s Keeper
Timothy Stack and Jonathan Stark play a pair of Siamese twins attached at the butt through a large section of intertwined veins and arteries that would be dangerous to operate on, though they have finally found a doctor willing to attempt the operation. It’s ultimately one of the sillier episodes that plays out like an episode of the odd couple where Timothy Stack plays the good twin who would rather go to the symphony and learn to cook gourmet meals while Jonathan Stark would rather go to bars and pick up chicks. Stack initially resists signing the waiver for the operation until he starts seeing a woman who shares his interests. It’s got a lot of funny moments, though it overplays the odd couple nature of the situation.
The Twist: It turns out that the woman that Stack fell for was hired by his brother to convince him to sign the waiver. But when she ends up falling for him, she tells him not to sign it and is killed by Stark who thinks he can escape prison due to his brother being completely innocent. Fed up, Stack takes a bottle of sleeping pills and alcohol, but before passing out he signs the waiver. When they wake up in the hospital, Stark is met by cops who arrest him for his murder and as they pull him away, he realizes that the operation had already been done and he is going to jail. To top things off, after he exits, Stack shows signs that he is going to end up acting just like his brother after all. It’s a well done twist, but it doesn’t really add anything extra to it.
This has been one of my least favorite episodes of the season especially, but also for the show as a whole. It’s about the oldest orphan at the orphanage who tends to cause trouble and always wears a coonskin cap. He gets adopted by an eccentric, rich couple who don’t spend any time with him and have their servant stuff him full of treats for every meal in a very “to serve man” kind of way. The one saving grace of this episode is Larry Drake as their servant Tobias who I know best as the villain Durant from Darkman. He has a nice little character arc as he slowly warms to the young boy.
The Twist: There are a couple twists, the first one felt rather obvious when the adoptive parents are revealed to be vampires who were filling him full of sweets so his blood would also be sweet and would be the event that allows Tobias to join them in being immortal. The second one is when the boy reveals his secret that he is a werewolf and has a taste for vampires. Even though I love the werewolf as a concept, it just felt like a twist-for-twist’s-sake here. Not to mention that the boy himself was rather annoying and unlikable through the whole episode. It was just a poor way to end the season.
Even though this season had a slow start and a poor finish, it was a nice step up from the first season in terms of quality and budget. There were some amazing special effects makeup on display here and several of my all time favorite episodes. The Ventriloquist’s Dummy is probably my favorite of the season, though Television Terror, Lower Berth, and Four-Sided Triangle are all up there for me as well. While my least favorite episode came to round out the season with the Secret. Join me next week as I take a look at Season 3, until next time this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.