Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tales From the Crypt: Season Two, Part One

Dead Right: While mostly known for more traditional horror, the EC comics often told stories that dialed down the supernatural elements in favor of familiar human cruelty. In this episode, Demi Moore plays a greedy, bitchy secretary who meets a highly accurate fortune teller. She’s given a prophecy that she will become rich if she marries a lonely slob (Jeffrey Tambor in grotesque fat makeup), but the way this unfolds is highly unexpected. This episode has a lot of clever visual touches, but what makes it work is the acting. Moore is highly committed to her anti-heroine – she was a major star at this time, so it’s impressive that she was willing to play such a miserable human being. Meanwhile, Tambor gives a joke character some humanity that gives the final twist a touch of tragedy that usually gets buried by this show’s love of irony. A

The Switch: You’ll never guess who’s in the director’s chair this time. Give up? It’s none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who upstages the Crypt Keeper in this episode’s intro. A rich na├»ve old man (William Hickey) falls for a young woman (Kelly Preston) and seeks out a mad scientist who can make him young again. Schwarzenegger does well with the story’s escalating absurdity right up until an ending that’s pure EC Comics. I’m not sure how good he is with actors, however, both Hickey and Preston give very awkward performances. B+

Cutting Cards: Walter Hill’s back to direct an instant classic episode about two gamblers (Lance Henriksen and Kevin Tighe) who have an epic pissing match you have to see to believe. You might think a game of Russian Roulette would settle things, but what comes next (“Chop Poker”) is even more gruesome. Full of masterful suspense and plenty of macho banter from the two leads, this is probably the best episode I’ve yet seen. The thirty minutes feel like three. A

Till Death: A scumbag developer (D.W. Moffett) needs money to finance a dream land deal, so he turns to a voodoo priestess (Will Smith’s TV mom Janet Hubert) to try and snag a rich bride. But the idiot doesn’t listen to her and gives his target an overdose of the love potion, which leads to all sorts of mayhem. This episode boasts some phenomenal makeup effects, but the first half is somewhat dull and the “gold digger” thing already feels old. B

Three’s A Crowd: Another tale of human frailty. A working class sad sack (Gavan O’Herlihy) competes with his rich friend (Paul Lieber) for the affections of his wife (Ruth de Sosa). Lieber plays his character as such an alpha-male dipshit that you’re practically rooting for him to get killed, but there’s a lot more to this episode than that. In the end, it’s a deeply sad story of insecurity. It’s a bit manipulative for my tastes, but the episode is helped by a vulnerable performance from O’Herlihy and some great direction from David Burton Morris. The lighting in particular is noticeably excellent. B+

The Thing From the Grave: Most of the classic images from the old EC Comics involve the undead – beautifully illustrated panels of corpses covered with maggots as flesh falls off their bones. This seminal moment in horror history is translated beautifully in this episode, as a murdered man (Kyle Secor) comes back from the dead to protect his love (Teri Hatcher) from a psychotic boyfriend (Miguel Ferrer). The veteran character actor owns this episode as the villain, making it all the more fun when this abusive prick gets what he deserves. This one also has one of the more amusing opening bits – the Crypt Keeper is caught looking at a corpse porn magazine. A

There's a lot of Season 2 left to go, but things have already gotten much better. The best ones here channel the vibe of the comics in a way that would do any fan proud. I'm quite excited to get further into it!

No comments: