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.


The Thing From The Grave (2.06)

“What you’re looking at is the money, pussy, and bullshit capital of the western world.”


Tales From The Crypt shrugs its shoulders and shits out this useless piece of nothing.


This piece of smell was directed by Richard Greenberg, a man whose career was primarily involved working with optical effects (including the iconic Goodfellas title card) instead of directing, unless you think Little Monsters is a classic. It was penned by Ross Thomas who wrote Bad Company, and stars Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue), Kevin Kilner (who’s been a steady and forgettable actor on TV for many years), and wastes noted genre character actor Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall).


What do you get when you take an erotic thriller and remove all eros and every thrill? You get a terribly bland and dull chunk of piss called “The Sacrifice.” We’ve reviewed plenty of episodes of Tales From the Crypt in this column, both great and lousy, but one thing they all had in common was that they felt like episodes of Tales From the Crypt. There were elements of the supernatural, a dark sense of humor or, at the very least, some semblance of horror. None of this is present in “The Sacrifice,” which is content instead on presenting a standard “deadly affair” boilerplate with no attempts of style, originality, or even effort. The end product resembles a softcore porn with all the sex cut out, as pointless an endeavor as I can possibly imagine. The writing is horrible, the direction is horrible, the performers are horrible. There’s hardly an aspect of this episode that isn’t horrible, though I will say that I never saw a boom mic in any shots, so at least boom operator Tom Hartig did his job right.

Our episode begins with stock saxophone riff #3 blaring over Various Second-Unit Shots Of LA At Sundown. We get several more appearances by Various Second-Unit Shots Of LA At Sundown sprinkled throughout the episode and, even though it’s obviously a cheap way to pad the running time, I have to say that V.S.U.S.O.L.A.A.S. quickly became my favorite character. Whenever she’s onscreen I can pretend I’m watching The Substitute or something else that isn’t abysmal. From the warm envelope of V.S.U.S.O.L.A.A.S’s womb emerges the mononymous James (Kevin Kilner), a hot-shot insurance salesman who’s taking a trip to the penthouse suite of a fancy apartment building to sell the owner Sebastian Fleming (Don Hood) a life insurance policy. Sebastian is supposedly a multi-millionaire, but he dresses and acts like a particularly misanthropic little league dad, in jeans and a Nike sweatshirt, bragging about how the only things that ever awed him were “money and pussy.”

After a bit of bullshitting Sebastian gets down to brass tacks, stating that he’s friends with James’ boss Jerry (Michael Ironside), and that in return for his business he wants 30% of James’ commission, to which James reluctantly agrees. Later, Sebastian’s wife Gloria (Kim Delaney) shows up at James’ houseboat and engages in some of the laziest seduction ever, pretty much opening the conversation by offering her body to him. She doesn’t even try to break the ice by complimenting him on his houseboat. This leads to a long and completely-safe-for-network-TV sex (featuring stock saxophone riff #4), which leads to pillow-talk where James pitches the idea of offing her husband for the insurance money. The conversation comes off perfunctory, as if they had already agreed to the plan before she ever entered the boat. The idea that Mr. Hot Shot Salesman James has already fallen deeply in love with Gloria is not sold to the audience, but merely presented as fact. I bring this up because I’m not sure what part of this episode was supposed to be entertaining, or interesting, or not terrible, but it certainly isn’t the main characters and their relationship, which is as bland and perfunctory as you can imagine.

When James comes by with the insurance papers to sign, Sebastian suggests that they go to the balcony and drink champagne, which is where they were planning for him to have his accident. I can only assume that he is in on the plan as well. So James awkwardly pushes Sebastian off the balcony to his doom, and then him and Gloria celebrate their victory with another round of tame sex. Apparently what makes their plan so brilliant, they artlessly explain to each other, is that they killed him BEFORE he signed the insurance papers, so the cops will never expect them and Gloria still gets to inherit his wealth. Apparently, if a victim was about to sign life insurance but never did, all other rules of homicide investigation no longer apply. But before their victory sex can go from PG to PG-13, James’ boss Jerry arrives. Jerry it seems, in addition to being friends with Sebastian, is madly in love with Gloria, going as far as renting a condo across the street from him and videotaping their balcony every night, with hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Yeah. That’s plausible.

So Jerry sets his inevitable blackmail demands: He gets to do whatever he wants to Gloria, from dawn ’til dusk. Seems unreasonable, but James accepts, not seeing any other way out. Apparently his code of ethics allows him to murder for money, but not to protect the “love of his life”. At this point we get a horribly edited flashback montage, set to stock saxophone riff #5, that details everything that’s happened thus far, as if they assumed the viewer to be so stupid they need a 22 minute show with no commercial breaks and an incredibly simple story to have such a thing. It’s even in black and white so you know it’s a flashback. So anyway, three months later Gloria is still Jerry’s (though now she’s inexplicably referring to him as “Jasper”) sex slave, and he’s doing all kinds of crazy shit to her, like hiring dirty dirty homeless people to watch them bone.

The whole ordeal is all too much for James to bear and when Gloria next comes to see him on his houseboat he’s committed suicide having swallowed a 48 (yes, he literally tells her he swallowed that specific number) sleeping pills. Not only that, but his suicide note confesses to Sebastian’s murder; he even lies and says that Gloria had nothing to do with it. Gloria reads the note, burns it, leaves the houseboat, and gets into Jerry’s/Jasper’s car. Apparently all of this was part of their plan. What? What plan? How does that make sense at all? In any way? Qui Bono? It’s literally the dumbest plot twist I’ve ever seen in anything, but honestly it’s a relief just to see what is most definitely the worst episode of the series come to an end.


Oh yeah. Gloria’s not merely a double-crossing gold-digging bitch, she’s a triple-crossing gold-digging bitch. Also the episode seems content on making the least likable character, Sebastian, the one who defines it’s moral compass, proving all of his weird misogynistic rants to be true.


*James’ houseboat is called “The Why Not”, which is apt, because the fact that he lives on a boat doesn’t actually add anything to the story or his character. They try to hint that it’s so “he can sail away on ten minutes’ notice, but that aspect never even comes into play. It feels more like a screenwriter’s whim than anything.

*Speaking of half-baked plot points, Sebastian has parrots that mimic every word he says, and the last shot of the episode reveals that that includes his dying words as well. It seems like a half-hearted attempt to make it seem like Gloria and Jerry/Jasper might get caught but, like everything else in this episode, it doesn’t add up to anything.

*This episode is so bad that the Cryptkeeper segments are the highlights. Try to wrap your head around that one.


“At least James’ big finish had a bright side. I hate to see a guy throw his life away without some dame getting a laugh out of it.”

Rating: F

JOHN SAYS: I’d tick it up to a D-, but only because of Kim Delaney’s hilarious po-faced monologue about Ironside hiring homeless people to watch them fuck. It’s very detailed and silly. Make no mistake though, this is as bad as shit gets with Crypt, and the only real enjoyment to be mined from it lies in finding the comedy that something so bland and uninteresting exists at all. And it is a little funny, how little creative energy was spent on any aspect of this. The cast and crew come at this with the enthusiasm of a Burger King employee working an extra shift because someone called out and they didn’t have shit else to do. That final twist really is a big middle-fingered Fuck You too, as it doesn’t make a bit of sense, which is a trend Crypt could be irritatingly comfortable with. The only explanation for this is they must have needed an episode really fast and for no money.

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