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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The Thing From The Grave (2.06)

“Why don’t you take this nice long lens of yours, get it nice and covered with Vaseline, and shove it up your fucking ass?”

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A love triangle between a model, her boyfriend, and her photographer turns deadly; then undeadly.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

A star-studded episode if there ever was one. Crypt stalwart Fred Dekker (writer of “And All Through The House” and “Only Sin Deep”) wrote AND directed this episode. It stars such big names as the lovely Teri Hatcher (Adventures of Lois and Clark, Desperate Housewives), the talented Miguel Ferrer (Robocop, Twin Peaks) and the lovely and talented Kyle Secor (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Sleeping with the Enemy).




HOW IS IT?

The 80’s gifted us with a great number of amazing character actors, and Miguel Ferrer is near the top of that list. A miraculous combination of smarmy and intense, he’s a personification of the phrase “hostile takeover”. He speaks with such confidence and forcefulness that even playing a despicable asshole, you can’t help but take his side a little bit. And he never phones in a performance. Above anything else, this episode works because Miguel brings his A-Game, and elevates the admittedly weak material into something compelling and entertaining.

The story begins in media res, with Devlin Cates (Kyle Secor) speeding down a country road, under the impression that full-time model and part-time lover Stacey (Teri Hatcher) is in trouble. When he arrives at his destination, however, it’s not Stacey but her fiance, Mitch Bruckner (Miguel Ferrer). Mitch informs Devlin he knows that Stacey and he have been sneaking around behind his back, and shoots him in both his shoulders (“the shoulders she used to cry on”). Devlin flees into the woods, with Mitch in a casual pursuit, until he stumbles onto an open grave. Then Mitch walks up and delivers one of the best exchanges of Ferrer’s career:

“Hi. Sorry there’s no headstone. The Ten Commandments were carved in stone, you remember those? ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife’ was part of the deal.”
“What happened to ‘Thou shalt not kill?'”
“…fuck it.”

He shoots Devlin in the heart and buries him, repeating “She’s mine! Not yours! Mine!”

We then flashback to Devlin conducting a commercial photo shoot with Stacey modeling in a sexy leather swimsuit. He’s not straddling her a la Blow-Up, but it’s clear that there’s some sexual chemistry between them. So when Mitch crashes the shoot, he detects it too, and starts swinging his dick around, telling Stacey what to do and threatening Devlin before storming out in a huff. Devlin, rightly concerned that Stacey’s dating a total asshole, gives her the key to his apartment because “he’s worried for her safety”. Whether his concern is truly altruistic is debatable, but she shows up that same night anyway. Again, the concern for her safety seems to take a backseat to their sexual passion, until Devlin sees the bruises on her chest. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out an ugly looking necklace with a bit of crystal on it and gives what is probably the weakest bit of exposition of the whole second season: “An old blind lady gave this to me. She said that it was the Mayan God of truth and if you make a promise while you’re holding it, no matter what, you’re going to keep that promise,” and he promises to always protect her, no matter what. On the one hand, it’s a totally half-assed set-up for the later supernatural events, but on the other I kind of appreciate that Dekker doesn’t waste our time with any kind of elaborate mythology. In fact, Dekker seems to rush through most scenes not involving Miguel Ferrer, and while it leaves some parts of the story, like Devlin and Stacey’s romance, a bit anemic, you can’t blame him for knowing what parts of the production really work.



Stacey accepts Devlin’s necklace (and promise), and they embrace in front of the window. But it turns out that Mitch followed Stacey there, and is recording their tryst on video-tape. Since he never reveals the tape to Stacey later, I can only assume that he intends to use it for masturbatory purposes. So, reinforced with the proof he needs, Mitch calls Devlin and tells him she’s in trouble and needs his help, which brings us to our opening. Again, the only reason I can see for the jumbled chronology is to give Miguel Ferrer an opening where he kicks ass, instead one where he shows up unannounced to a photo shoot and acts like a whiny prick. So anyway, Stacey is worried that Devlin isn’t returning her calls and Mitch decides it’s time to call her out, revealing that he knows about her and Devlin. He goes into an impressive monologue that starts off sounding like an apology, but is really designed to chip away at any hope Stacey might have that Devlin is coming back. Ferrer is the master manipulator, and in this moment you really see why a beautiful woman like Stacey would stay with an abusive prick like Mitch.

Even with Mitch’s powers of persuasion, Stacey isn’t convinced (and why would she? She has a Mayan God Of Truth necklace!) so she goes to Devlin’s apartment and finds the message that Mitch left for him, even though Mitch talked on the phone with Devlin, he didn’t leave a message. As if a moth drawn to the lightbulb of continuity errors, Mitch appears behind Stacey and kidnaps her, taking her to the cabin he originally lured Devlin to. After dressing her in some fabulous blue lingerie and tying her to a bed, he casually tells her that her precious lover-boy is buried out in the woods. But it’s just then that Devlin pulls himself out of his grave, moaning and groaning like any good zombie would. Mitch hears this, and when he goes out to investigate and finds zombie-Devlin, he seems more upset at the fact that Devlin had the nerve to come back to life than the fact that he’s a zombie. He runs away, shooting at zombie, until he falls into it’s recently opened grave. Zombie-Devlin chops his fingers off with a shovel and drags him screaming, down into the grave. It’s a pretty weak story, all things considered, but, as I mentioned earlier, everything else takes a backseat to Miguel Ferrer. He’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?

It’s implied that Stacey’s affair with Devlin has as much to do with sexual attraction as protection, but it’s kind of hard to blame a battered woman for seeking comfort outside her abusive relationship. The misogyny quotient for this episode is low to non-existent.




ALSO WORTH NOTING:

*Stacey is a Greek name which means “resurrection”. Appropriately enough, the egomanical Mitch’s name means “like God”.

*The photo shoot at the beginning of the episode is for a Japanese energy drink, and stars a cheesy unnamed celebrity because “they love that guy over there”. Prescient!

WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:

“I would have called tonight’s story ‘A boy meets ghoul’ story, except the boy WAS the ghoul this time!”

Rating: B-

JOHN SAYS: Patrick is correct in saying that this episode comes down to watching Miguel Ferrer take on the howling oblivion of the script all by himself. Personally though, I think Ferrer strives nobly but is ultimately no match for the punishingly generic storyline. He’s a smart, engaging actor and does an excellent job of selling that he and Teri Hatcher have sexual chemistry, but there is literally nothing else this episode has to offer. The story is absolutely as rote and boring as the episode title, and the zombie makeup is the least interesting possible version of a reanimated corpse. Even the kinkier sexual obsession moments are watered down to nothing. Ferrer is legit great, but he deserved a better showcase than this throw away.


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