In 1989 HBO debuted Tales From the Crypt, a horror-anthology show with an unprecedented amount of tits, gore, budget, and bad puns. Based on a variety of titles from EC Comics, the episodes ranged from silly to creepy to horrible. And we’re going to review every single one of them.

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Only Sin Deep (1.04)

TODAY’S ENTRY written by John B.

“Why don’t you watch where you goin, you old, ugly, triflin’ bitch?”

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A vain whore agrees to sell her beauty to a creepy old pawnbroker, only to discover the price was higher than she expected.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

The lead is horribly played by Lea Thompson, who has appeared in 27 movies since Caroline in the City went off the air, and I’ve heard of none of them. The director for this outing is Lea Thompson’s husband, Howard Deutch, most famous for a few seminal 80s teenager movies, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, starring Lea Thompson. His IMDB page shows an almost Shyamalanian plummet in quality. Just when you think he’s found the cellar with the Whole Ten Yards, he lifts a canvas to reveal a Jame Gumb style well, at the bottom of which lurks My Best Friend’s Girl, starring Dane Cook and Jason Biggs. The script is another by Fred Dekker, who wrote the great killer Santa episode from last week, and Robocop 3, new on Blu!



HOW IS IT?

The streak of really strong episodes ends decisively right now, with this bullshit evil hooker yarn. Lea Thompson is Sylvia Vane, a greedy, unsophisticated prostitute with a howlingly bad accent of indeterminate origin (Jersey, I guess she was trying for).  The episode uses the old whore-as-Cinderella motif (popularized one year later by Pretty Woman), with Sylvia scheming to snag a Richard Gere type, mostly so he can buy shit for her. She opens the show by murdering a pimp for his jewelry, which she then tries to unload at a sad little pawn shop.

The pawnbroker, probably the highlight of the episode, is a creepy old fucker played by the well-named Britt Leach, all stained wifebeaters and tea-colored teeth. He rejects her stolen pimp jewels, but offers her ten grand for her ‘beauty’. She figures he’s nuts, and submits to a plaster mold. She then has a 80s-tastic Pretty Woman shopping montage, buying lots of shit and sexying her way into a high society party, aiming to find some Richard Gere type to glom onto and seduce. Which she does handily, by being bitchy and unpleasant.

Four months later, everything is going fantastically. She’s got it all, her whoring life a distant memory, as her not-Gere showers her with all the jewels she wants. But then, horror of horrors, her face starts turning into old age makeup! The creepy old fucker really did steal her beauty! She tries to buy it back, but her ticket expired a mere one day earlier (very crafty, creepy pawnbroker), and she’s forced to raise one hundred thousand dollars or keep her old woman face.

Sylvia does what any violent hooker would. She trashes her not-Gere’s condo, ransacking it for all her precious jewels and cash, pausing to shatter the reflective surfaces in a theatrical grunting rage. When the distaff Gere shows up, he doesn’t recognize her under all the makeup, and she shoots him a ridiculous amount of times, bellowing “Don’t you recognize me! I’m the girl of your dreams!” I don’t think he ever really gets what’s happening.



Upon returning to the creepy pawnbroker, Sylvia discovers he’s using her beauty to keep his wife’s corpse looking young, or some such. We don’t care and neither does Sylvia. She demands her beauty back, but the creepy pawnbroker then shows her a newspaper. Sexy young Sylvia Vane is wanted for murder, and she he has to stay ugly! She ignores him, steals her plaster mold, and races onto the street only to bump into an old whore friend, who doesn’t recognize her and breaks the mold in a whorish fit of rage. Dolly back, and we ponder what we’ve learned.

Just to be clear, this one is really poor. But it’s a decent enough time to bring up the campy awfulness that was occasionally near as entertaining as a legitimately good episode. Hilariously bad elements can be their own fun, and trump Boring and Mediocre ten times out of ten. To wit, Lea Thompson is absurdly miscast in as vicious hooker. Like, Paul Reiser as Blade miscast. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, like your sister in a slutty Halloween costume. But I happen to like when Crypt miscasts celebrities egregiously. It feels like community theater, where you get to see your dentist play Tom in the Glass Menagerie. It’s not a good performance, but everyone’s having fun. That community theater vibe would become familiar on Crypt, where you got to see celebs abandon their established personas to play desperate murderous sleazebags, or romantic comedy directors try their hand at splatter fiend gore. Plus, this frankly isn’t a very good story, so the dumb shit kind of works to its benefit.

HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?

Oh, quite. Gold-digging whores figure prominently. In fact, they’re pretty much the whole show. If you like your women extra materialistic, super backstabbing, and two-faced in every sense of the word, this is the episode for you. Sylvia’s even irrational and kind of dumb, for extra measure. As Patrick put it, the central thesis of this episode is that you can dress a whore in designer clothes and move her into the penthouse, but at the end of the day, she’s a grasping self-interested skank that will murder you for your shit.

ALSO WORTH NOTING:

*The music is an intrusive mix of John Carpenter 80s synth and Last Dragon disco. With whip cracks and cat snarls overlaid electronically.

*It’s an episode about an old lady whore, and never once does anyone, not even the Crypt Keeper, make an ‘oldest profession’ joke. Surely that’s not too clever for them?



WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:

 “Mirror mirror, on the wall, who’s the FEARest one of all?!?!”

Rating:

C

PATRICK SAYS:

After the first three episodes, which range from very good to excellent, the quality drop-off here is pretty astounding. Of course, the quality of director at hand has also dropped off quite a bit, so there you go. I do love how the protagonist is a despicable murderer and still gets a dress-up montage that only the director of the world’s most famous prom movie could make. Most people would play this off as an attempt at black humor, but I feel the truth is that this was the only part of the story that resonated with Deutch.


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