HBO’s Tales From the Crypt was in it’s sixth Season when they started a bold plan to break out into movies. There had been a Tales from the Crypt film in the seventies, but this would be different. Instead of being an anthology film, the Tales from the Crypt movies would tell a theatrical length tale. They assembled a series of scripts, none of which were specifically written for the franchise. This resulted in three films of varying success.
The first up was Demon Knight. It introduces us to Brayker (William Sadler) a man running from a conflict. He arrives at a remote hotel which houses a motley crew of broken people. Brayker is frantic and mysterious, so nobody takes him seriously before Hell literally arrives in the form of Billy Zane…the Collector. Brayker has something he wants.
The Collector is actually a demon who needs a “key” that Brayker is trying to protect. This key will allow Hell to overrun the world. So Brayker tries to keep him out of the hotel. Except, the barriers he erects also depend on the personal strengths of the people in the hotel. If they let the Collector in to themselves, he can use them as fresh demons.
And that is where Billy Zane gets to shine. This is really his movie. The Collector appeals to your hopes or desires. He promises one person love and respect, the two things she does not get in her life. And then he tempts another character as a friendly bartender. Zane has fun with these moments and is highly effective, you understand why characters cave.
The effects are low budget, but effective. The demons are creepy, and the practical effects work really deliver for the story. The characters are easy to root for, most of them having decent qualities, even if rough around the edges. And the film has CCH Pounder. Every film should have her in it.
In spite of the film being outside the typical stories in the Tales catalog (they are usually tales of bad people getting a comeuppance. Demon Knight is a Heroes Journey), it is an effective tale. It is fun, exciting and well told. The film has a strong cast that really sell the situation. This is the best of the three Tales From the Crypt films, and the one truly worth watching.