Graphic Horror: Tales From the Crypt Season 4
Hello boils and ghouls, it’s Halloween and I’ve come to the end of my current re-watch of Tales From the Crypt with season 4. Ok, technically the day after Halloween, but you get the point. I hope you have enjoyed my romp through the terrorvision episodes and if you would like me to get to the last three seasons before next Halloween be sure to let me know in the comments. While season 4 had a few more weak spots than the earlier seasons especially during the first half of the season, it still had quite a few high points as it made its way through to the last half of the season. There were several episodes this season that felt like they were period pieces, though they often also had a sense of taking place in modern day.
None But the Lonely Heart
Treat Williams plays a black widower who preys on lonely, elderly, rich women. He marries them, kills them, and keeps their money. Unfortunately the gig is up, but he can’t let it go just yet and goes for one more try with Frances Sternhagen who I knew best as Cliff’s mother from Cheers. He starts getting ominous notes from someone who knows what he’s doing and threatens to expose him. He goes on a killing spree going after anyone who he thinks might know what he’s doing, including his partner, the dating service guy played by Tom Hanks, and his current girl’s butler. This was also directed by Tom Hanks and the one choice that really bugged me was the odd way in a couple of the killing moments where it looped a few times like a DVD skipping. It was also hilarious when you find out how much of a sexual appetite his final victim has.
The Twist: It turns out the one sending those notes was the gravedigger, who I didn’t realize until looking it up but was played by Sugar Ray Leonard. But he wasn’t doing it for his own reasons, he was doing it on the insistence of the women who still love Williams even after death. Several of his previous victims in various states of decay come after him for one last chance at love. It was all a little silly, and the death makeups weren’t the best this time around. The ending really just fell a little flat for me.
This’ll Kill Ya
Dylan McDermott plays an asshole pharmaceutical executive who has a tendency to announce his team’s breakthroughs before they actually break through. He also has a very rape-y relationship with his female doctor and can’t inject his own insulin. After announcing their latest breakthrough on a drug or enzyme or whatever that they have yet to figure out how to make it stop once it’s finished with the disease, his team accidentally injects him with the serum instead of his insulin, leaving him with a few hours before he dies. I honestly wasn’t all that fond of this episode, McDermott plays a real creep, but one that I’m not exactly rooting for or against. He starts hallucinating, but it feels way too over the top to be scary, but it’s also not funny.
The Twist: His hallucinations keep getting worse and he thinks he goes to the female doctor’s house where he hears a message that implies that they injected him with the wrong drug on purpose so he goes to enact his bloody revenge and drags the body of the doctor to the police station. The woman comes in and tells him that it was all a prank, they hadn’t injected him with the drug. They just injected him with something to make him feel a little sick for a while, not only that but they had found the solution to their problem and were ready to celebrate. The twist is ok, but it felt like it had been done. And it didn’t help that you never really care about McDermott as a character so it feels a bit hollow in the end.
On a Deadman’s Chest
A volatile metal band gets their own Yoko Ono in the form of Tia Carrere. The lead singer, Danny absolutely hates her and ends up seeing a mysterious tattoo artist at the suggestion of one of his groupies. The artist, played by Heavy D gives him a tattoo of an Asian dragon and the face of Tia Carrere. He starts to go crazy trying to get it taken off, surgical removal doesn’t work, and he gets the idea that killing her will make it go away. It has a lot of the typical “band on the verge of success” alongside “band on the verge of self-destruction”. None of the actors are likable, and they’re all pretty stiff when compared to the usual talent that Tales From the Crypt brings in. This was probably my least favorite episode of the season.
The Twist: Danny goes farther and farther off the deep end, and in the middle of a show, he runs off to his dressing room where he sees the dragon coming alive to attack him. When the rest of the band comes in, they find that he has cut the entire tattoo off of his chest, leaving a bloody hole. It’s really just a visual gag and while it makes sense, it didn’t feel very clever or interesting.
Cathy Moriarty plays a conwoman trying to bilk a rich man out of some money. This is one of those episodes that feels like it should be a period piece, the clothes look like they’re from the ’20s as well as other dates mentioned. But there’s just something about it, whether it’s the way the actors talk, or the way it was shot, that never really sold the ’20s feel of it. Anyway, they are trying to con John Vernon via a story about a bank robber who was sent to prison, then reformed and had a family but secretly invested his stash which grew into a small fortune. When he discovers their ruse, he accidentally falls down an elevator shaft to his death in one of the most unexpected and darkly hilarious moments of the season. The two con artists then decide to go after his blind wife who wants to perform a seance to ask her dead husband about the deal.
The Twist: As she begins to perform the fake seance, they hear the voice of John Vernon. He tosses the suitcase full of money on the table and when it opens, the head of her partner is in it. The lights hit the figure in the distance, and it is the corpse of Vernon who enacts his revenge on Moriarty. The twist is handled very well especially with the reveal at the end. I really enjoyed this episode.
Mimi Rogers plays an aging model who keeps losing roles to her younger and more attractive roommate played by Kathy Ireland. She is furious at how many roles Ireland is getting, so much so that she doesn’t even realize all the roles she has won. Rogers turns a moment of depression into a more violent act as she slips Ireland some sleeping pills mixed with her drink so she can take her place in a mysterious beauty pageant the she has been promised a win. At the pageant, there’s another rival contestant who thinks Rogers is sleeping her way to a win, just as Rogers herself thought that Ireland was sleeping her way into roles. When the tables get turned near the end of the pageant, Rogers once again turns to murder to get rid of her competition.
The Twist: After winning the pageant, things start getting weird with some bad makeup and a syringe full of a glowing liquid. As the MC sings the winning song, the camera pans down to reveal the neon sign “Miss Autopsy 1992” with Rogers peeled open. This is another episode that I wasn’t that fond of. While the tables get turned appropriately, Rogers seems a little too naive and presumptuous to really get behind. And while the exact nature of the twist wasn’t obvious, it was pretty obvious that the winner was going to die in one way or another.
Christopher Reeve plays the owner of a struggling diner that only serves squid. When things start going south with the landlord Chumley played by Meatloaf, his employee played by Judd Nelson steps in and solves their problems in more ways than one. It’s basically an updated version of Sweeney Todd which is something I never really understood because if people tasted as good as stories like this claim, it would be a more common occurrence, especially in less civilized times. Especially as it is presented in this show where they’re just cutting off slabs of meat with no marinade or seasoning or anything, and hopefully this discussion of cannibalism isn’t making you worry about my sanity. Anyway, the restaurant becomes an immediate and blazing success, while Reeve does his best to cope with what he’s doing, and keep it hidden from his wife.
The Twist: As the police get closer to finding out who the killer of Chumley is, Reeve starts to panic. Meanwhile, Nelson carries out a plan to frame Reeve for the murder and keep the business for himself by taking the wife’s gun, then going to her at night and blaming everything on Reeve who is supposedly about to kill himself due to guilt. But when Nelson returns to finish the job, Reeve is waiting for him. Apparently he finally had told his wife, and her gun didn’t have any bullets. When the regular cop comes in, he ends up being on their side as he has developed a taste for the meat and is willing to form a partnership. It’s one of my favorite episodes of this season, Reeve really has a knack for comedy here and the twist at the end works so well and also has a lot of unexpected moments. This was an episode that I either hadn’t seen before, or I just didn’t remember and it was a real treat to watch.
The New Arrival
A radio child psychologist along the lines of a mix between Supernanny and Dr. Phil played by David Warner has been getting poor ratings in favor of the shock jock that airs before him. He decides that a good ratings boost would be to visit the home of a caller with a very troubled child. She is played by the great Zelda Rubenstein who makes the crew begin to think that there is no actual child, and instead is merely a delusion of hers. It has a great haunted house vibe to it, especially when it comes to the hallway filled with years worth of chewed bubble gum stuck to the walls and floor, and the child’s room filled with moving knick knacks. The look of the child, which may or may not be Zelda, is great too with the stark white mask and red polka dot dress.
The Twist: After his producers get killed, Warner is captured and tied up in the attic. He finds out that the child actually is a child, but one that has been dead for forty years. And try as they might, none of the other child psychologists that they have trapped have been able to get through to her. I honestly thought it was a bit of a weak twist, as I would have preferred a more grounded twist instead of a supernatural one. But the rest of the episode makes up for it.
The first western episode, and one written by Frank Darabont and directed by Richard Donner. It’s about an outlaw gunslinger who gets the best of a Texas Ranger that has been chasing him. Afterwards, he spends some time in a saloon where he is confronted by the spirits of all of the men that he had killed in the past. It has a very dreamlike quality throughout the episode, with stylistic cutaways to pounding hooves and a melancholy score. It doesn’t feel too much like a Tales From the Crypt episode because of the western motif, though there are several moments of minor gore as he remembers how he killed everyone he sees in the saloon.
The Twist: The reason why the dead are all there is because he himself is dead, but doesn’t realize it. Instead of going with him, he wants to stay and wakes up when the place is a tourist ghost town said to be haunted by his ghost. He hears about his death by the posse that the Texas Ranger brought with him after he won the one-on-one gunfight. Ready to go, he goes back to reenact his death and ride off with the ranger into the sunset. The moment set in modern day was an interesting touch and the only part that started to feel like a Tales From the Crypt episode. The rest of it was good, but it just felt a little bit off in tone.
King of the Road
This is best known as being the episode with Brad Pitt who plays a rebel street racer who is looking for a legendary racer named Iceman who disappeared after a fatal accident. Pitt tracked Iceman down where he is a police officer where no one knows about his sordid past. Pitt also woos his daughter, and later kidnaps her to force him into one final race where he brings his old car out of retirement. This is another instance where the episode feels like it’s supposed to take place in the ’50s, with the old cars and the ’50s style diner, but it feels like it actually takes place in the modern day. Everyone in this episode is great in their roles, especially Pitt. And though music doesn’t tend to take a prominent role in this show, there’s a great use of “Roll with the Punches” for the climax. It’s also worth noting that this is one of the only episodes that was written for the show without being based on a specific issue of the comics, as it was intended to be used for an anthology movie alongside Yellow and Showdown.
The Twist: During the climactic race between Pitt and Iceman, it ends up being a rigged race as there is a bulldozer blocking Pitt’s lane causing him to crash headlong into it. Rather than just succumbing, he goes out with a bang by dropping his lighter and going out in a giant fireball with a reprise of the song “Roll with the Punches”. It’s a great ending, although I admit to missing exactly why he crashed.
Maniac at Large
Blythe Danner plays a timid librarian who has been there only a short time. She’s frightened by the news headlines sensationalizing a maniac at large while everything happening in the library does its best to increase her fear. From her strict boss, the alcoholic security guard, the creepy patron obsessed with the killer played by Adam Ant, and a weird looking guy banging on the door after close. It goes a little over the top with the tension building, as things are coming at Danner from every direction and her reactions become increasingly frantic while every possible person becomes suspect as the possible maniac.
The Twist: When her boss comes back in with their sandwiches, they bring up the maniac once again and she comments that the maniac could even be a woman. Danner finally snaps and goes after her with a switchblade that she picked up earlier in the episode, thinking that she was the maniac and would not get her “just like all the others”, revealing that Danner herself is actually the maniac that’s been killing people. She then calmly says how she will have to move on again and find a new job even though she was starting to like this place. Excellent end.
Joe Pesci plays yet another conman who comes across a pair of rich twins. Luckily for him as it had always been his dream to make it with a set of twins and he pulls out the charm on the two of them so they end up falling for him. Unfortunately, he also finds out that he can never choose just one of them as they both have a huge temper and are very possessive. So instead, he comes up with a plan where he reveals his “twin brother” who stays in South Africa where they have some important assets and they swap roles a month at a time. Pesci is really the heart and soul of this episode and is what makes it so enjoyable. The twins themselves are ok, but I think it does show that they’re not accomplished actors and were hired because they are twins.
The Twist: One day, while tanning by the pool, Pesci gets an unusual sunburn when the belt of his robe creates a tanline on his back. When the twins are talking about their respective husbands, they realize that he has been playing them for fools, and they also reveal to Pesci what happened to their rich father. They weren’t able to share the one man and so they killed him when they were young. They end up doing the same thing to Pesci, chainsawing him down the middle, starting with his crotch. It ends with a great visual shot of the two of them in bed with the normal halves of Pesci revealed before the camera pans around on one side to see the bloody half of him.
It’s a hard thing to choose between some of the great episodes this season, but I think I have to say that this was the favorite of this year. Donald O’Conner plays a marionette puppeteer similar to Howdy Doody from the golden age of television with his puppet Coco the clown who has settled down with his younger wife. Unfortunately, he is also very possessive of his wife and she has lost all of her other friends and only goes out one night a week for her acting class. When O’Conner gets a letter about a television special about the golden age of television, he decides to bring someone to help him re-do his act. Zack Galligan from Gremlins comes in and even though he’s more involved with animatronics than marionettes, he is willing to learn and becomes a friend to O’Conner despite his wife’s reluctance.
The Twist: Throughout the episode, we see O’Conner talking to Coco, and when he realizes that his wife has been cheating on him he passes out with some vodka. When he wakes up, Coco is missing and he finds him alive and stabbing his wife to death when he has a heart attack and dies. Galligan enters the room with his animatronic controller and reveals that he is the man his wife had been cheating on and the whole thing was a plot to trigger his heart attack. The double twist happens when he realizes that the real Coco is missing and has come to life to kill him and string him up like a marionette. When the police come in to the scene, the camera reveals that Coco’s new face is that of O’Conner. I absolutely love this episode and how well constructed it is. Everything is hinted at so well, from the animatronics background, to the face O’Conner is seen carving early on, to Coco’s eyes moving slightly. Even remembering the twist, this episode is a joy to re-watch.
This is another great episode that keeps you guessing throughout and has plenty of star power with Timothy Dalton and Beverly D’Angelo who play guests at a hotel where guests have been murdered and there is a werewolf hunter in their midst. Throughout the episode, it appears that Dalton is the werewolf hunter looking for the werewolf in their midst but as usual, things aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Dalton is fantastic in the lead, and D’Angelo is just as good as the female ingenue.
The Twist: It turns out that Dalton is actually the werewolf and he has been looking for the werewolf hunter. He finally realizes that D’Angelo is the hunter, but it is too late and he gets a candlestick through the chest as she reveals that she is not only a werewolf hunter, but also a vampire. It reminds me a lot of the season finale of the second season: The Secret, but this episode is done much better and doesn’t have any annoying kids in it.
The season ends with another Superman alum as Margot Kidder and Kevin McCarthy play an elderly couple on a camping trip with another couple. They have been married for many years and argue just like an old married couple. Things go a little off when she overhears that the other man had killed his last wife a year ago and she thinks that she is next, but he actually did it in order to grow a flower that is the secret ingredient in a youth potion. McCarthy and Kidder make a great argumentative couple at odds with each other and the old age makeup is decent though obvious.
The Twist: As the other three come back for the required second dose of the potion, Kidder spikes the brew with alcohol which she had overheard will have negative effects. Before adding the alcohol, she saved a portion for herself to use, but as the others begin to age rapidly, she spills the second half of the potion which the dog then gets to. As the potion begins to take effect, Kidder reverts to a more youthful appearance, but the dog breaks free from his leash and attacks Kidder. Later on some other campers stumble onto the scene and find the dog who is now a puppy while Kidder has been ripped to shreds off to the side. It’s a decent episode, but nothing too special to end the season with.
And that wraps up my look at Tales From the Crypt this Halloween season, I might check back in on a season or two this coming March but for now it’s time to close the book on this series. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun even if I didn’t get the chance to check out as many movies as I would have liked to, I think I made the better choice. There were many episodes that I remembered fondly, some that I remembered not so fondly, and a few here and there that I did not remember at all. I’d love to hear from you, what’s your favorite episode in this season, or in any season? Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.